Tag Archives: Gekko

Can the new tranche of Chinese tech brands take the UK by storm?

drum blog

In recent years, more Chinese brands than ever have broken new ground in Europe and continued to develop outside of their established Asian markets. One of the most immediately recognisable Chinese brands is Huawei and possibly Hisense but have you heard of Haier, Oppo or Xiaomi? Chinese consumer electronics brands have recently launched in the UK and are fast gaining traction in their respective categories since being made available on the UK high street.

We live in a society where global brands are the norm. Whilst we are, or at least believe we are, familiar with many of the brands we are exposed to, there are others that we don’t know so much about even if we buy-into them as consumers. Do we care about a brand’s origins and heritage? Or are consumer purchase decisions driven by a products’ look, functionality, usage, price point and status? If this new tranche of Chinese tech brands doesn’t focus enough on building their brands and resonance with the UK audience, will they be able to compete with their Californian cousins and achieve their full potential in the UK market?

Cleverly Haier, the world’s number one major appliance brand in terms of volume bought Hoover Candy, a traditional stalwart of the Major Domestic Appliance market in the EU which enables Haier to tap into the trust associated with a familiar European brand. Now listed in John Lewis stores, there’s brand reassurance of Haier is being established among shoppers.

Oppo, China’s leading 4G smartphone manufacturer, launched its range of mobile phones into Dixons Carphone earlier this year. With flagship models coming in at under £800 SIM free, the brand offers premium and innovative features at a fraction of the price other brands may charge. Time will tell if the brand has done enough to resonate and take a big enough market share and see a return on investment on their ICC Cricket World Cup and Wimbledon sponsorship.

Xiaomi, pronounced ‘ShwowMee’, is actually the world’s most valuable privately held company, and the third biggest smartphone maker, selling 61 million handsets last year. Xiaomi has been bold with its UK launch strategy and has opened a great new Mi store at Westfield White City. The store is familiar looking, sharing many similarities, all be it on a smaller budget, to that of its Californian cousins.

It sells a variety of products from mobile phones, TVs, smart kettles, electric scooters and other accessories in an environment where you are encouraged to play and explore. Its pricing is competitive and it’s certainly within the budgets of a far wider demographic than other brands but what it lacks is star quality. Star quality on build, packaging and its ability to give consumers that ‘feel good’ factor from an anonymous brand is essential if it’s to mean more to consumers. All possible if its proud heritage and brand storytelling was more obvious.

Tell me what Mi means to the technology industry and I may be persuaded to purchase some of today’s most competitively priced technology and become a brand advocate. Hide from me what Mi is and I may react a bit more suspiciously and feel the brand isn’t the best fit for me. Brands, wherever they are from, should be proud of their heritage and success. A confident, honest and ethical brand will help instil the necessary confidence in consumers to help a brand to gain traction and ‘win’ in a new market.

To read the full article please visit The Drum.

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Making a show of yourself

ert blog

The most successful of retailers that continue to occupy the high streets and retail parks of this great shopping nation do so because they have adapted. Adapted to provide the consumer, of all generations, with an experience that resonates with them. Now I’m not suggesting that this is some magical panacea or that they have discovered the proverbial fountain of retail youth but what they did do successfully is see into the future. An uncertain future in retail has been a dark shadow for several years now, so how did those who failed not get the message and adapt? And let’s face it, we all know that stores that are left bereft of investment do not create a positive experience for consumers.

So who does do experience well? Lush, who have just abandoned social media, knows what it takes to create the theatre and experience needed to entice the shoppers who will undoubtedly spend in their stores. Its ambience is an extension of the brand voice and its interactive nature immerses the consumer in the brand and its products which works irrespective of whether they are familiar with the brand. Its latest store opened in Liverpool last month and is circa 1,380 sqm. the biggest Lush in the World where ‘every detail has been carefully considered to create a fully immersive brand experience’. Some might say that’s bold and brave in the current climate, but I’d suggest it’s a move from a brand confident in its own ability to ‘retail well’.  Because above all the experiential hype, it’s the employees that create the true experience for Lush, something Debenhams perhaps forgot to acknowledge, so busy were they trying to keep the wolf from the door.

Experiential at the point of purchase is nothing without the support of well trained staff to carry the consumer through the journey and ultimately close the sale. The retailers who get this, win. They win by retaining motivated staff who feel valued and customers who having enjoyed the experience may well return in the near future or at the very least refer the retailer through recommendation.

On a recent shopping expedition with my Generation Alpha (under 9) son and daughter I sought to buy my son trainers. The displays were impactful and easy to navigate to what my son wanted but above all, it was the staff. An early 20s Generation Z shop assistant who spoke ‘indirectly’ to my son through his actions suggesting colours and designs. Disaster struck and the trainers my son wanted were not available in his size. Immediately considering another retailer or even going online, the sales assistant jumped in with “you can order these now on line from the store, pay for them here and have them delivered to your home for free”. Without hesitation, I said yes. We walked away all winners enjoying the experience, my son getting his trainers, the store not losing out on a sale and the sales assistant earning the kudos of the sale in his name. That’s omnichannel retailing in its purest form for you. How often has that happened to you?

No matter what you sell or who you believe your target market to be, the experience within your store will either make or break you. Think high end retail, are you kept waiting to be served? Are you unimpressed by the displays, the staging, the cleanliness or the ambience? I suspect the answer to all this is a resounding no. It is therefore unlikely that these stores succeed purely on their brand equity alone and before you all start saying that they can afford to do it, so can every retailer within their budget. At all levels of retail, the ability to create an experience that is worthy of your attention by consumers to entice them to spend is within your capability and budget of a retailers’ imagination and bravery.

For the retailers that succeed, they do so because they consider the experience it offers your customers. Is it engaging? Is it visually appealing? Does it speak to many of the few? Does your staff know how to bring this to life as a sales tool and succeed?

Consider John Lewis, a stalwart in British retail that if you were to base its appeal on its longevity should have failed by now. Having most recently invested £33 million in its new Westfield White City store, it also did it differently. The layout, the decor, the feel and more importantly the staff. Partners, as they are known in John Lewis, are attentive, knowledgeable and in abundance. The store’s secret is its appeal to those with disposable income and to those who aspire to shop there. It enables consumers to linger and take up as much of a Partners time to ask questions and explore a product. It works because they understand not only their audience but also the importance of never underestimating the worth of the shopper.

In hard economic times retailers and brands have to work harder to appeal to an individual’s tastes, requirements and above all budget. When failed retailers pretend not to know why they failed, they are not being honest. They failed to create an experience that appealed to a wide audience and their staff by not engaging with them positively to be the best they can. Ignorance is bliss for directors who don’t shop in their own stores.

The experience within any retailer is borne through your staff and the ability for staff to be brand advocates first and sales assistants second. Make the consumer feel special and they will listen. Keep the consumer informed and they will feel listened to. Keep the consumer engaged and they will shop.

To read the full article please visit ERT.

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Brand collaboration is the key to a high street retail revival

The Drum Blog

The high street is dying, or so we keep hearing from all angles of the media – but is it?

No. But it is evolving to meet the needs of generational shifts in shopping habits which retailers must adapt to in order to give consumers a desirable experience. Those that respond positively to shoppers and adapt, appreciate the increased value this change offers for potential survival.

Retail is no longer there to serve the customer, it’s the customer who decides if retailers remain relevant to the high street.

Those retailers that refuse to listen are deserving of their fate. It’s not a surprise or the fault of external factors when a major retailer, who failed to adapt, calls in the administrators. Social and economic factors are not going to ‘improve’ as they are proving to be the norm – it’s just how life is now – therefore boards of major retailers need to stop procrastinating and adapt fast.

With 89% of UK sales still generated through physical retail, the desire to shop on the High Street is still prevalent, retailers need to adapt creatively to capture a slice of those sales.

To believe that your exact same format which has been successful for decades remains relevant today is wrong. Millennials are bored with the same format. That’s why they’ve abandoned trusted retailers and by doing so, they are clearly stating that “it’s you, not them” that’s the problem.

Clashing styles

From traditional retail chains to independents and pop up stores, the ones that ‘get it’ are doing so to great effect. Whether it be through introducing speaker spaces within the store, to conducting free classes or work zones to encourage consumers to dwell and soak up the atmosphere. By also introducing other brands to coexist alongside your brand, is winning hearts and minds. Retail is changing. Changing positively but perhaps not fast enough to decrease the failures of trusted retail brands and reduce the vacant units on our high streets.

Debenhams tried this by introducing Patisserie Valerie cafes within their stores which proved fatal for both brands, partly due to their incompetence to manage their finances or understand the consumer. You don’t ‘accidently’ misplace £40m neither do you introduce a traditional patisserie into an already stale retail format such as Debenhams, in an attempt to entice new and younger shoppers. The opportunity to revive its fortunes could be taken from its past when it introduced designer names to its stable with huge success. Those designers are now only known by a generation who are 40+ and irrelevant to the shoppers needed to keep the Debenhams brand relevant on today’s high street.

With Arcadia group also struggling reputationally through the alleged actions of its high profile owner and also financially, they have a huge task ahead to transform. Reducing your retail footprint by closing stores to cut costs is not the solution, change is. But is it too late to turn some of Arcadia’s brands around?

Maybe not. The larger ‘flagship’ TopShop stores do it well by adopting shared spaces that offer consumers other brands or services like piercing or cosmetics to create an immersive shopping experience. Unfortunately, Topshop don’t seem to translate this successful format as well across the regions in the UK. Translating this ‘experience’ model across the entire estate is essential to relate to consumers who don’t necessarily have the means or desire to travel to a ‘flagship’ store.

Placing short term profit over evolution is short-sighted as this approach is somewhat ironic, a lack of investment makes you stale rather than revolutionary, making a brand irrelevant to today’s shopper.

Retailers assemble!

Those retailers who are winning have amalgamated, rather successfully, multiple brands under one roof that complement each other and often work in concert, to offer convenience for the shopper. Successful examples include the Argos purchase by Sainsbury’s and introducing Argos shop in shop (SiS) within larger Sainsbury formats and in 11 stores to include the desirable Habitat brand, which was snapped up by Argos several years back and now revived through the Sainsbury’s acquisition. This has enabled Sainsbury’s to continue trading within the non-food category and remain current without distracting from its core grocery business.

As the pioneer of mail order fashion, reimagining retail seems to come easy for Next who have successfully evolved its physical presence with the inclusion of SiS concepts in selected stores. Brands such as Lipsy, Paperchase, Henna and Costa can be found in the Next Oxford Street store and Mamas & Papas in its Bristol Cribbs Causeway store. Unsurprisingly this approach works for both anchor brand and SiS. With a staggering 2,481 stores disappearing off the High Street in 2018, the opportunity to split the overheads in tough economic times impacted by changing shopping habits, this is a successful combination for both retailer and shopper.

Those who complain that they can’t make retail work need look no further than their competition who are getting it right through understanding the zeitgeist. Shopping habits have changed with generational shifts and the glory days many failing retailers harp on about are not going to make a reappearance. It’s up to retailers to carve out a niche and appeal to the generations who now prefer both the physical and online aspects of retail, but are also seeking convenience and above all an experience.

Experience to try, taste, smell, learn, question, dwell to be part of something that transcends generations and the stereotypes of what ‘Retail’ should be. Retail can be whatever you want it to be.

Successful retail evolves to remain current and relevant to its audience. A retail renaissance is what we need.

To read the full article please visit The Drum.

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Re-Discovering the ‘Forgotten Tribe’ of Customer Service Experts

CXM Blog

Retail is buoyant, exciting, and transformative, so what better sector to be in right now?

This was the counterintuitive conclusion of a recent white paper produced by Retail Week in partnership with Manhattan Associates. Based on in-depth interviews with 25 senior retail executives, it showed that despite current obstacles affecting retail, 64 percent expected sales in 2019 to be flat or slightly better than last year. Twenty percent even estimated that sales will be much better than the past year.

Coupled with this, when questioned about the balance they are seeking between cutting costs and driving growth in order to achieve profitability, more than 50 percent cited ‘mostly growth’, indicative of a sector confident in its ability to progress. With 80 percent of shopping still happening on the high street  (ONS December 2018) not over the internet, now’s the time for retailers – especially brick and mortar – to define their future.

There’s been so much conversation about what’s driving retail strategy; innovation in technology driving back and front of store; data driven omnichannel insights providing a single view of the customer; experience rather than transactional stores. But if 80 percent of shopping still happens on the high street, there’s one area that’s being left behind and that’s the ‘people’ strategy to improve customer centricity and drive sales.

Let’s face it, it’s the one part of retail that often seems the weak link. If you are over 40 you may remember the days of ‘are you being served?’. Although somewhat exaggerated it was a real indicator of retail customer centricity – personal, caring, and over the top.

According to the survey, investment in customer service and experience is top alongside ecommerce strategy as a priority for execs in 2019. It is the only differentiator a business has to entice customers into their store environment if they don’t want to buy online and the product is widely available.

Businesses that started online, such as Misguided, are appearing on the high street and brick and mortar retailers are realising the unique benefits of their physical space and making plans to optimise it accordingly – whether that’s a lifestyle destination or concept store. Over the last decade, staff have been like a forgotten tribe: transient, paid the minimum wage, and left to roam the shop floor with little, if any product knowledge or customer training.

But retailers seem to be going full circle in realising the importance of a ‘people-first strategy’. In brick and mortar retail, the team on the floor are the most important asset, they are the ‘brand ambassadors’, the ones face to face with customers who can deliver a personal experience, explain products, give specialist advice, encourage a sale, and give customers that warm, cuddly feeling. But if it’s so important, realising it is not enough – retailers need to invest in and execute a people-first strategy.

So what does a people-first strategy entail? To start with, let’s ditch the word sales assistant – it has a very transactional connotation. Sixty-two percent of execs said one of their biggest challenges is finding the right people with the right skills, and if this doesn’t change, nor will retail.

We’re in new territory where sales assistants are the custodians of the customer’s brand experience and I think we’re getting somewhere here. If you search for sales assistants on job boards, many are being advertised as Customer Experience assistants. And whilst you may think this is a nuance, it’s a huge step forward in transforming the way people think about roles within retail and how retailers recruit.

Face-to-face retail isn’t going anywhere; it’s just changing, mainly driven by the expense of being on the high street, rather than people just buying online. This is presenting a multitude of opportunities for retailers – store within a store, click and try/buy, personalisation, and home delivery. Retailers just need to make sure they can capitalise on those opportunities.

Retail must put people and pay before profit, training before transactions, and nurture talent before staff turnover. This way you’ll have a people first strategy that will entice customers to come and enjoy discovering what it is you have on offer – an experience online can’t replicate. This way, retailers may give themselves a fighting chance of remaining profitable.

To read the full article please visit Customer Experience Magazine.

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Why Google’s launch of Stadia is a game-changer for the gaming industry

Stadia Blog

Google’s launch of Stadia is a game-changer, and a move that will have Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony quite concerned. No downloads, no patches and no console makes this the cloud gamers dream, and Google is delivering this incredible service without compromising on graphics quality. With 2.3bn active gamers globally and 46 per cent of those (1.1bn) spending, the financial impact to the establishment is significant. More so with the forecasted growth of gaming from $137.9bn (£105.3bn) in 2018 to more than $180.1bn by 2021.

Generational changes in consumers have seen Millennials identify with nostalgia, and they recapture their youth through console gaming, just as they have been doing for over 20 years. Back in 1994 PlayStation appeared on the market and having sold 525m consoles. It’s by far the most successful gaming platform ever.

Sony, together with Nintendo and Microsoft, has attempted to evolve the proposition and gaming to a digital platform with some degree of success. The most successful here is again PlayStation, with 80m active users on its PlayStation Network, up from 70m only a year ago.

However, PlayStation 4 Sony’s most up-to-date platform, is now six years old and accounts for a third of the total Sony turnover and profit. It’s no understatement to describe PlayStation as the jewel in Sony’s portfolio and that may just be about to be disrupted.

“A new generation platform”
Enter Google with its Stadia solution. As Phil Harrison VP and general manager at Google stated when launching Stadia: “It’s a new generation platform, rather than a next generation platform” which is what perhaps Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo have failed to achieve. Instead they’re merely evolving the concept of their platforms, rather than recreating them. Stadia will be a tough act to follow, with sharing options via YouTube, which has 63m daily viewers worldwide, Google Assistant built in, 4K resolution games at 60 frames per second with HDR (High Dynamic Range), and a plan to support 8K resolution in the future.

It may be game over for the business of selling hardware and encouraging gamers to ‘upgrade’ to a new console. This is not great for retailers who make a good margin on selling the hardware to eager gamers needing to upgrade to access the dream being sold by the platforms. For the platforms, success relies heavily on the hardware sales as the portal to the business end of the operation, the games themselves. Much like the print industry, brands sell the hardware at little or no margin to acquire users to the platform, tying them in to facilitate access to the gaming titles which deliver the true spoils and profit to the platforms.

Now with Stadia the internet is your store, with the network and data centre as your platform. So perhaps the paradigm is about to shift and the gaming industry will see a new emperor wear the clothes.

Generation Alpha

Consider Generation Alpha, the generation born after 2012, who as future consumers have been born into an era where minimalism in hardware drives digital innovation. This is the generation whom Stadia speaks to in volumes, and it may well turn out to be the only gaming platform this generation ever knows. Given that many 10 year olds become avid gamers, mobile phone, tablet and computer users, with no concept of physical media, this seismic shift could make the gaming establishment obsolete, unless their platforms evolve quickly.

To read the full article please visit Mobile Marketing.

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Happy 20th birthday Bluetooth, my haven’t you grown!

Lovely Mobile Blog

Two decades ago, in 1998, the concept of Bluetooth was born, and little did we realise that this oddly named wireless technology would rapidly become one of the greatest technology enablers of all time.

When the first commercial products started to roll out at the turn of the millennium, I was working at Orange creating training material for the network’s third party retailers and Bluetooth was, like WAP and Wildfire one of many exciting new developments that we hoped to enthuse the channel about. I was lucky to receive from Ericsson a limited edition Bluetooth kit containing a HBH-10 headset and adapter to enable my T28 to hook up to it.

However, despite being impressed at how clever it all was, I was just too self-conscious to go full geek and use it in public!  And whilst those behind the technology probably had a vision for where it could lead, I certainly didn’t think far beyond the wireless Bluetooth headset…how wrong was I?

If you don’t know the history behind the development of Bluetooth, it’s incredibly interesting. The germ of the idea was first pioneered more than half a century before its official launch. Like so many technological breakthroughs, war proved the catalyst. The pioneer was Hollywood actress and part time inventor Hedy Lamarr.

Her war-time invention was for radio communications to ‘hop’ from one frequency to another, so that Allied torpedoes couldn’t be detected by the enemy. Despite not being able to bring it to market, her idea paved the way for both Bluetooth and Wifi.

Fast forward to 1989 and a meeting between Nils Rydbeck, CTO at Ericsson Mobile in Lund, Sweden and Johan Ullman paved the way for the realisation of Lamarr’s vision. The meeting was to establish a mobile specific solution for hands-free headsets.

The development of the “short-link” radio technology, uniting the PC and cellular industries, later named Bluetooth, was initiated in December 1996 where a series of companies got together to form the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG), finally established in 1998.

What the companies (thankfully) understood was that a standardized protocol had to be created so that Bluetooth would seamlessly work across several devices from a multitude of companies. SIG, which started with five companies (Ericsson, Intel, Nokia, IBM, and Toshiba) and 400 members now has more than 30,000.

Most of us don’t think about whether a product is Bluetooth enabled we just expect it to be built in allowing our smartphones to connect seamlessly to all manner of devices such as headphones, wireless speakers and voice enabled assistants.

Eighty-Six per cent of new vehicles now come with integrated Bluetooth, allowing drivers to enjoy their personal streaming services such as Spotify and helping to reduce the number of motorists spotted with a mobile phone clamped to their ear. Without Bluetooth there wouldn’t be voice control in Sky Q remotes, wireless gaming controllers, PC connectivity and devices and whole new categories such as Wearable technology.

It is a great democratising force in technology. And what about the future? The SIG’s Developer Centre provides the opportunity for companies and individuals to create Bluetooth products and take them to market. A whole host of exciting developments are powering new possibilities for the technology.

  • Point-to-point is a network topology used for establishing one-to-one (1:1) device communications. This enables all your devices to talk to each other. It provides optimized data transfers and is ideal for connected device products, such as fitness trackers and health monitors.
  • Meanwhile Mesh is a network topology used for establishing many-to-many device communications. The mesh system enables the creation of large-scale device networks with the ability to connect thousands of devices reliably and securely communicating with one another.

In retail this presents some great opportunities. With traditional retail under enormous pressure, pioneering retailers are already leveraging Bluetooth to enable personalised promotions and way-finding services that connect to smart shelves. Increased customer-centricity enabled by Bluetooth could include Smart pricing, tailored offers, real time data-led category management, all the while creating better shopper experiences for the customer. This in turn will enable retailers to increase sales, boost profit and reduce operating costs.

Bluetooth can play a vital role in enabling planners to connect city infrastructures in ways never before imagined and gather data to guide informed policy making.  As the population grows exponentially, there will be increased pressure on resources, utilities, and council budgets. Smart homes and cities can provide ongoing real time feedback to provide evidence-based decisions based on human need. From where to plan schools, doctors’ surgeries or free bike stations.

As the demands of the Internet of Things (IoT) continue to grow, Bluetooth continues to expand its capabilities. This most strangely named of technologies is set to remain an ongoing but invisible feature in all our lives. Happy birthday Bluetooth! My haven’t you grown.

To read the full article please visit Lovely Mobile.

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The glue that connects all communities

ert blog

By riding a crest of goodwill, utilising new digital channels and tapping into the networks of big brands independent retailers can punch above their weight, boosting sales and awareness.

Independent retailers have long faced competition on multiple fronts. The big threat for many years were the big chains gobbling up the high Street. Now that threat has moved online with digital pure play sites like Amazon eroding market share. The truth is not many customers are particularly sentimental about the plight of some of the bigger chains in trouble. However, the threat to local stores from the likes of Amazon and Omni Channel retailers has been met with much more concern from the public and big brands.

A series of initiatives have sprung up in defense of these traditional bastions of the high street, from independent record store day to independent retailer month. Additionally, reports from organisations like the New Economic Foundation have highlighted the benefits to local communities from spending in independent shops versus bigger stores or online. These messages have cut through. A survey last year by Pure 360 found that consumers are three times more likely to shop in independent stores than large shops in the next five years.

This approach has been noted by large brands who have started to latch onto this trend to boost their own credentials and bottom line by supporting local independent retail. Visa chose to focus its Christmas campaign on local heroes and independent stores. Visa’s focus was on switching the focus of the traditional format of a Christmas marketing campaign, from what people are buying or who they are buying for, to where they are buying things from. American Express did their bit too, with a ‘Shop Local’ campaign that rewarded AMEX customers with a £5 statement credit for shopping in local independent stores.

The digital revolution may represent a major threat to independent retailers in terms of competition, it also represents a huge opportunity in terms of marketing. Independent retailers have always had an intuitive understanding of their customers and this can be bolstered by digital channels. While local newspapers may be closing, local newspaper websites are seeing more growth than ever in readers. The explosion of SMART phones has also led to a huge increase in the figures accessing local radio and content, another great route for independents to get their messages out. This is not to mention social media, both paid and organic with the ability to offer a micro-targeting strategy and hyper local personalisation, enabled by both Facebook and Google. Clued up retailers are seeing the benefit of connecting with increasingly online communities springing up.

In electronics particularly, many product brands are wising up to the opportunity and skill local independents possess. A great example of this is Freeview. The Freeview Retail Development Team are a strategic field team, supporting independent retailers across the UK. The team are unique in that they do not sell a specific product for a specific brand. Instead, the team supports all Freeview (including Freeview, Freeview HD and Freeview Play) enabled products across all brands and stores.

Where some brand teams are selective in their retail support, the RDE team’s brand independence means they can offer the best possible service for independent retailers, cooperating with OEM brands such as Panasonic, Humax, LG and Toshiba to deliver up-to-date training on all products and services.

As well as assisting retailers through training, the Freeview team also supports independents with local marketing campaigns, in the past having managed localised radio, press and social media campaigns supporting selected retailers with a Freeview focus.

Through long-term training support, local marketing campaigns, and regular visits to ensure all staff are knowledgeable on all aspect of the brand, they help to ensure that independents are the destination of choice for Freeview customers. They understand the fact that independents can provide the glue that connects local communities.

By focusing on their strengths, connecting with these bigger brands and tapping into the needs of their customers through targeted local advertising, independent retailers can grow as a destination of choice for customers and become their local hero.

To read the full article please visit ERT Online

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Grab your piece of the action

ERT Blog

With Smart Home product sales set to boom over the coming years now is the time to get in on the action and here, Rupert Cook, Sales and Marketing Director at Gekko, looks at how this can be done.

Here at Gekko we’ve been talking about the Smart Home for over four years now. Back in 2014, we commissioned research into ‘the connected home’ and asked consumers what they thought of having digitally connected devices in their homes. The vibe coming back from the 2,000 respondents wasn’t exactly positive.  When asked about what kind of product they would consider, smart thermostats came top of the list with 44% expressing an interest. Over a quarter said they wouldn’t be interested in any form of smart device.   The principal concerns cited were expense and the technology being deemed as not necessary.

Thankfully for us all, things have moved on from then and the numbers speak for themselves. Analysis by PWC The global market for smart home is expected to be worth $50bn by 2022. Around 30% of people are planning to purchase a smart home device for the home in the next two years and looking at just one product category in the smart home arena, Smart Speakers, further illustrates the potential. In 2017 Amazon sold 33m Echo devices whilst Google dominated selling more than one Home device per second from its launch in October 2017 to mid-2018.

Consumers aren’t only purchasing smart home products; they’re also discussing the merits online. A study by Crimson Hexagon indicates that positive sentiment is growing from 60% to 80% in the last year, another sign that smart home technology sales are poised for blockbuster growth.

So what will 2019 bring for the smart home. Well CES, the annual consumer electronics trade show in Las Vegas, is only just around the corner and a quick search for the subject on their website schedule brings up roughly 100 talks, seminars and events on the topic. Smart home is without a doubt going to be one of the lead stories for many journalists and the category will become more diverse, with new innovations and services coming to the mainstream. Looking beyond just the smart home, it’s worth noting that 5G technology is on it’s way in 2019 as it’s rolled out to certain cities in across the UK. With speeds 20 times faster than 4G, the advance is only going to hasten the Internet of Things and connectivity in general and will in future open up new possibilities for consumers. Everything from refrigerators and window shades to your family car will be linked, while housekeeping robots and next generation digital assistants facilitate day to day activities.

The potential is there for CE retailers to capitalise on the opportunities and as indicated by the ERT Turning Point survey back in October, 45% of respondents have been looking at the Smart Home as a new area for their businesses. There are however challenges that have meant slow consumer adoption. To be successful at selling smart home solutions, retailers need to acknowledge and overcome these barriers.

The perceived complexity of systems is one of the principal hurdles for consumers, so it’s essential that the sales approach simplifies the options available and doesn’t overwhelm the shopper. It’s easy to get carried away and attempt to impress by reeling off the endless possibilities of what can be done; ‘if you buy this, install these, connect it to that, then you’ll be able to get Alexa to run the household…’   The chances are that you’re going to elicit the response ‘Great but I’m never going to do that’.

Our Smart Shopper research from earlier in the year showed that 21% of people love the idea of the smart home tech but were intimidated by the complexities.  Look to address this and you can have these types of customer eating from the palm of your hand.

The idea of complexity isn’t helped by the challenges of market fragmentation. On a typical shop floor, product groups tend to be disconnected – smart lighting, smart speakers, thermostats, security, home appliances etc. all displayed in separate areas. This makes it hard for consumer picture the totality of what’s actually possible within their home. All the shopper can see is competing brands, competing products and competing technologies. There is a general fear that if you buy into a particular brand then you’re on a committed pathway as there is no guarantee you’ll be able to integrate with other devices or solutions.

Retailers must plan, order and merchandise to overcome these inconsistencies and create a conducive sales experience. As an example, the Google Smart Tables in some multiple retailers bring together their devices with compatible third party products such a Philips Hue and in doing so bring the category to life.

Intrinsically linked to the above points is the need for the human touch. For all the great interactive displays that can be installed to bring the concept and possibilities alive in-store, there needs to and effective sales person on hand to guide and advise the customer. Otherwise, what will happen? The shopper will do their own research from the comfort of home before making an online purchase.

In creating effective sales people, the approach to training is obviously fundamental. For retailers, sales teams should be able to present an agnostic solution, understanding the bigger smart home picture rather than focusing on specific product types. Retailers should also tap into the product training on offer from suppliers and take up any offers of seeded or loaned kit, creating users and thus advocates of the products.

Consumer education is the key to expanding the use of smart technology into the modern home and retailers sit on the front lines of that effort. For all the pessimistic talk surrounding physical retailing it should be remembered that it still accounts for 80% of consumer sales in the UK. There’s an opportunity for bricks and mortar retailers to demystify the smart home and become the shop of choice for consumers looking to invest in the tech. And our recently published study shows how shoppers desire great retail experiences, with 81%  claiming the personal touch has disappeared from customer service in modern British retailing. Moreover, a third said that the personal touch is more likely to make a repeat purchase, with a fifth saying it would make them spend more. By offering up a great experience, education, advice, opinions and added value services such as installation, the smart home is certainly a category where you can battle against online retailers.

To read the full article please visit ERT

For more information on our research please visit Gekko.

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Let’s give retail its pride back

rs blog

Whilst technology can provide speed, convenience and even a wow factor, people are still the key to successful retailing and good sales people give shoppers a reason to visit

Looking at all the analysis and commentary relating to the ‘golden’ quarter trading figures, published in January by the UK’s major retailers, it’s clear that after a dismal November, retailers had to play a game of catch up in the closing stages of 2018. Whilst there were some positive stories such as the ‘very strong’ Christmas eve sales at John Lewis, it was less rosy for many other retailers and in 2019 it will continue to be a tricky path to success.
As we are constantly hearing, UK high street retail is taking quite a bashing but are we really surprised? How long could retail sustain so much online competition?

Everywhere you look another coffee shop or restaurant is opening to fill the empty nests left by retailers of old. We’ve seen changing retail patterns before for example during recessionary times, but this feels very different, almost like self-harm. We’re seeing a complete transition in retail in the UK. Brexit uncertainty is damaging consumer confidence and the media isn’t helping the plight of retail when all you hear is doom and gloom. The notion, right or wrong, sinks into the public psyche. Businesses are going bust, estates are shrinking, and consumers are opting to head online. It’s not a pretty picture and there needs to be a considerable amount of effort into halting the slide.

Whilst some retailers are taking an innovative approach to how they engage with their customers on the high street, many appear to need additional inspiration. I’ve read many articles lately that talk about how technology and innovation will transform the in-store shopping experience and save the high street; self-service checkouts; robot assistants; augmented and virtual reality.
However, a recent study we conducted, titled ‘Service not Sci-fi’ revealed that despite living in a world driven by technology, most people don’t want technology at the sacrifice of humans’ opinions and experience. Only 30% said they would like to see ‘smart pricing’ initiatives adopted by retailers, where prices change in real time depending on demand, 22% smart mirrors that show a 360 view of themselves, 16% a virtual reality changing room, 14% augmented reality to help visualise products in the home and 9% a talking robot assistant.

An astonishing 81% of UK shoppers claim the personal touch has disappeared from retail customer service in modern Britain, with almost a third (32%) blaming an over reliance on technology for this decline. And when asked what makes a great bricks and mortar shopping experience, 49% of those polled said it was down to having good staff on the shop floor, staff that know the products (49%) and staff that go the extra mile (47%).

Consumers want to do business with real people and have real conversations. And businesses take heed – a third of Brits say that the personal touch is more likely to make a repeat purchase, and more than a fifth (22%) claim they always spend more money in a shop if they are served by a good assistant, imagine converting that to sales? Over a third (34%) of shoppers stated that a poor experience has driven them to buy from another retailer, not great in the current climate.

So perhaps retailers have got their strategy wrong? Whilst technology can provide speed, convenience and even a wow factor, people are still the key to successful retailing and good sales people give shoppers a reason to visit. If bricks-and-mortar retailing is to thrive it needs to recognise that there is a changing role for stores. There needs to be a shift from transactional retailing to experiential. There needs to shift from till operator to sales consultant. This requires good teams on the shop floor and with all the negative commentary surrounding the high street it is difficult to attract talent but perhaps this is where retailers should focus their efforts?

Retail remains a rewarding career where those involved take pride in the service they provide. This culture should be representative of all retailers, however that’s about culture not proposition. With a change in mindset for both the retailers and their store teams, then it’s possible to bring back the pride in delivering the optimum customer journey and in doing so enhance the experience for all.

To read the full article visit Retail Sector.

For more information on Gekko’s recent ‘Service not Sci-Fi’ study please visit our Research Page.

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Consumers want ‘real people not robots’ from retailers

ert blog

A study launched this week by Gekko, a marketing agency, titled – ‘Service not Sci-fi’ reveals that UK shoppers would rather deal with real people not robots or artificial intelligence when it comes to shopping.

The study found that 81 per cent of UK shoppers claim the personal touch has disappeared from retail customer service in modern Britain, with almost a third (32 per cent) blaming an over reliance on technology for this decline. And half of those polled think that companies in the UK are using technology to save money, rather than improve customer experience.

Despite living in a world driven by technology, most people don’t want technology at the sacrifice of humans’ opinions and experience. Only 30 per cent said they would like to see ‘smart pricing’ initiatives adopted by retailers, where prices change in real time depending on demand, 22 per cent smart mirrors that show a 360 view of themselves, 16 per cent a virtual reality changing room, 14 per cent augmented reality to help visualise products in the home and nine per cent a talking robot assistant.

When it comes to buying online, 43 per cent of UK shoppers have had their screen freeze while trying to make a purchase, so when asked what makes a great bricks and mortar shopping experience, 49 per cent of those polled said it was down to having good staff on the shop floor, staff that know the products (49 per cent) and staff that go the extra mile (47 per cent). Coupled with this, 61 per cent of the nation would prefer to deal face-to-face when complaining, 59 per cent when enquiring or trying to find out more about a product and 73 per cent when getting a refund.

And businesses take heed – a third of Brits say that the personal touch is more likely to make a repeat purchase, and more than a fifth (22 per cent) claim they always spend more money in a shop if they are served by a good assistant, incrementally adding to sales. Over a third (34 per cent) of shoppers stated that a poor experience has driven them to buy from another retailer.

The research also highlights the impact of the decline of the local shop, with a quarter of Brits saying they miss shopping somewhere where people recognise them, 16 per cent confessing they preferred the days when they could talk through a purchase with a someone in-store, and a quarter saying online shopping is less fun than buying something in a real shop. The convenience of a store’s location is also stated as important by 43 per cent of respondents, which means that as retailers consolidate their estates, many will notice the effects, further emphasising the need to carefully consider the experience being provided in-store and the staff needed to deliver the experience.

According to the research we waste almost an hour and a half a month interacting with automated technology, only for a human to have to step in and help. In addition, 47 per cent of shoppers have experienced self-service checkout failure that’s had to be rectified by a shop assistant.

In fact, more than three quarters (77 per cent) of UK shoppers admit they’d much rather use a checkout with a person on it, rather than taking the self-service option.

Daniel Todaro, MD of Gekko, said: “Everyone is talking about technology and innovation within retail, but our research clearly shows that what consumers really want is the human touch. With traditional retail under more pressure than ever and an astonishing 81 per cent of people feeling that the personal touch has disappeared from shopping, businesses need to focus on the customer experience in these tough trading times to help keep the high street alive.”

To read the full article visit ERTonline.

To find out more about our ‘Service not Sci-fi’ research please visit our Research page.

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