Despite ongoing inflation, the retail sector in the UK is showing improvement, with like-for-like sales rising 4.9% in March, according to BRC/KPMG. With this extended bank holiday season upon us, there is more of a spring in the step for retailers. A recent survey we commissioned of 2,000 consumers found that 13%, equating to 9 million adults, are definitely planning to hit the physical shops, presenting luxury retailers with a meaningful opportunity for sales uplift
To take advantage of this opportunity, retailers need to create a shopping experience that is truly focused on the customer. 60% of respondents in the survey cited a pleasant environment as an important factor in a great retail experience. Luxury retailers should, therefore, ensure that they offer a pleasant in-store experience, starting from the moment the shopper walks in.
This can be done by creating an immersive journey towards the checkout with creative displays and merchandising. All of this should be backed by product availability, highlighted promotions, and all-around first-class customer service. Staff should be readily available on the shop floor, and queues at the till should be kept to a minimum.
To combat inflation, promotions are vital, with 59% of respondents in the survey agreeing. Luxury retailers should ensure that they are competitive with online channels and have promotions visible and clearly marked up to entice hard-pressed consumers to open their purses and wallets.
In our survey, 42% of respondents cited engaging with knowledgeable shop staff as a key reason for their visit. Luxury retailers should, therefore, ensure that staff is well-trained and ready to answer questions. A well-trained expert can be worth their weight in gold, particularly with considered purchases. This will leave a positive imprint encoded on the memory of customers.
One of the top reasons given for in-person shopping versus online is to try before you buy (47%). Luxury retailers can play to their strengths here by effectively merchandising their products and encouraging customers to engage in a tactile journey of discovery. It is crucial to have the right expert on hand to assist the process, with all the senses of the shopper engaged in a truly immersive physical experience that will lead them towards the checkout.
The modern retail experience is underpinned by sociability, combining a trip with meeting friends and dining. Retailers and brands need to complement this by providing an environment that is sociable and luxurious, offering dining experiences, and other events that are relevant to their luxury brand.
By creating a luxury experience that extends beyond the purchase, retailers can build customer loyalty and enhance the overall shopping experience for the customer.
To read the full article by Dan Todaro, Managing Director please visit Luxury Advisor
Creating an effective online presence is hard and maintaining it is harder still, so why do it? Well, it’s the virtual window to your store and even if it’s a non-transactional site, it’s as important as your store experience.
So when considering your website, always ask what do you want the site to achieve. If you want to drive sales, the site needs to be set up to have your consumers coming to it. You could make the best site in the world but if you don’t attract the right people to it, no one will know it exists, nor will you sell anything.
If you have the luxury of a big budget to launch a major ATL campaign to drive awareness of the site, then great but if this isn’t an option, then you’ll need to get inventive and use your resources wisely. Therefore it is best that you spend as much time on planning the site as defining your consumer base, driving the customers with each click-through to your site. And don’t forget to make it mobile compatible as according to Statista, 59% of all worldwide website traffic is now on mobile devices. According to Hubspot, the industry benchmark for average dwell time is considered somewhere between 2-4 minutes. It usually takes around this time to explore a website and get a feel for the design and your offering.
You will soon know if you have the right audience coming to the site as they will purchase if it’s an e-commerce site or engage if not, the objective is to not let them drop off, never to be seen again. Play to the key strengths of online, with 85% of consumers researching online before a purchase in store, make sure you use the space at your disposal to portray all key bits of information surrounding the products.
Consumers will often be coming to your site for information on pricing product details and reviews, so ensuring all this information is readily available and accurate is key and furthermore, this helps with SEO, helping to push your site up the search rankings.
Everything from pricing, through to more detailed specifications should be easily found and digestible and failing to do so will lead to customer drop-off. People will more often than not be looking for this info with a view to also then go and touch, feel, demo a product with a view to purchase in-store.
If you already have a physical store, make sure the site is aligned with your in-store messaging and values. Too often retailers aren’t aware of how messaging, promotions, experience and brand compliance should transcend from store to site and vice versa. Recent Gekko research found that 69% of people surveyed said that a well-synced online and offline experience would help drive a considered purchase.
The customer journey more often than not starts with a visit to your website. Gekko’s research has shown that 85% of shoppers looking to make a significant purchase will do their research online before actually buying. This shopper journey should be developed, keeping the consumer’s attention, rather than leaving them unmotivated to click beyond the landing page or walk through your physical door. Therefore with dwell times on a landing page recorded as up to 4 minutes, the importance of the look, feel and ease to digest information and navigate their way through your site is therefore the key to a successful site. It’s understood that 88% of online shoppers are more likely to continue shopping on a retailer website that offers a personalised experience, increasing to 96% of Gen Z and 97% of Millennials based on research conducted by Elastic.
It may seem an obvious thing to point out for those of you with a physical retail presence but be conscious of using changing seasons, events and promotions as a worthwhile excuse to update your site. Keeping your site fresh and relevant will make sure you are attracting traffic to the site and driving potential customers to shop with you for special seasonal deals. Ensure that any promotion or event you are running in-store is reflected on your site and perhaps create a call to action. By doing this you can get to understand your customer better so that you can proactively market out to them at a later date. Utilise site analytics to assist you in understanding who your consumers are and how they are using your website. Insights on where users are coming from, which pages shoppers look at the most, plus the effectiveness of any marketing campaigns you have running will all help understand key impacts and help in your long-term strategies for the brand and products.
If you create a site that has independent reviews and rating, which is considered standard, then be prepared not only for the positive feedback but also the less than glowing reviews. The reality is that all retailers will get these from time to time. It’s how you deal with this feedback that matters. According to Review Trackers, 94% of online customers have avoided a business due to a negative review. Therefore for over 9 out of 10 customers, online reviews have become essential to their decision-making online. Whilst 94% may avoid you, it’s claimed by Podium that 93% of customers say they’ve made purchasing decisions based on an online review. What’s more, most customers say they won’t engage with a product or business if they see too many negative reviews or a star rating of less than 3.3. Be mindful of how you position your feedback and its features in Google searches of your site.
It is estimated that 21% of UK retail purchases are expected to take place online in 2023. It’s therefore no surprise that your e-commerce strategy is important. With more customers shopping online, your business can sell more and earn more as a result if you’re running an effective e-commerce site. However, whether your goal via your website is to boost direct sales or only engagement, it’s important to create a strategy that encourages consumers to your site and increases dwell time that elevates the customer experience and begins their journey.
Keeping the site uncluttered is critical as is the need to have relevant imagery that truly represents your business, royalty-free stock photography can work but it needs to be true to your brand. Involving your staff can make it personal too. It makes you real and relevant to the consumer with the added bonus that they recognise a few faces when they drop into your store, increasing your credentials as a retailer that values a personal approach to the customer journey.
To read the full article by Dan Todaro, Managing Director please visit ERT Online
The last few years have seen a series of unprecedented events that have created a new paradigm where consumer expectations and needs have been radically redefined. In this new world, retailers need to respond with a new approach in tune with our changed times.
So how did we get here? Firstly, the pandemic’s cultural legacy has been a shift to a life where many of us continue to work from home, meaning retail businesses need to cater to a new stay-at-home existence. Meanwhile post-pandemic we have seen political instability and huge inflationary pressures impacting many. The climate crisis is also becoming more apparent on the back of record global temperatures and a series of catastrophic natural disasters. This is also feeding into permanently changed behaviour from millions, particularly younger consumers.
For every retail marketer, an evolving playbook is needed for this new age to respond to this evolution of behaviour. Both cultural, economic and environmental. Based on some recently commissioned research with YouGov, we identified five key factors driving behaviour at this time.
This means something different to everyone, but in a recession or a flatlining economy, customers spend differently. So what does affordability mean for your consumer and how do brands accentuate this factor? I recently spoke alongside AMDEA who are the body that represents the white goods industry in the UK, who did some research in relation to the Eco buttons on washing machines and dishwashers.
They revealed it was saving consumers on average £90 a year. They now really highlight this fact to drive consumers to brands promoting this feature either in store or online. Knowing that affordability is a critical criteria for consumers, brands can smartly promote the long term savings they can offer. Perhaps paying back the cost of the appliance within five years. When you multiply this reduction in energy costs across several appliances in the home, you can see how the savings increase.
Furthermore the energy saving ‘eco’ modes can provide a win/ win of appealing to sustainability minded consumers.
2) Essential trumps desirable
We are seeing far more caution in the market for spending on big ticket items in particular. Therefore positioning your products as ‘essential’ items in the psyche of your target audience is important as part of the marketing mix.
Perhaps the days of assuming there is an implied need for your brand are no longer present. Disposable income in all households, even middle earners, is becoming more scarce. They may want your product. That desire may be there. They may covet it. They may feel that they need it, but unless it’s absolutely essential and integral to their life, they are not going to buy it.
Therefore highlighting why your products are ‘essential’ to their needs. It is not so much that it is on offer but more, how does it add genuine value to their lives? Why is this going to be a product they can’t live without? Tapping into the primal needs of the customer in more challenging times is a way retailers can craft their story and resonate honestly with their target audience.
As an extension to being essential, people will need to feel that the item that they are buying is built to last for more than the lifespan of your average reality star. Low down on the list of drivers influencing behaviour in today’s climate are more ephemeral qualities like perceived ‘brand value’.
Rather than offering a lifestyle associated with a brand or product, retailers could focus on the quality of their products. This should be the starting place for a conversation about a brand and how it will last for someone whose budget is going to be squeezed for some time. The hardiness of your products, particularly for those more expensive items in your range, is crucial. No one likes being ripped off but people are far less willing to tolerate buyer’s remorse in a recession.
Indeed we are now in a new reality where brands have to accept quality and durability is delivered at a more affordable price point. Certainly if they want to maintain market share. Losing market share in a downturn can be very difficult to recover from, when times return to being good. Long term thinking needs to trump short-termism.
The longer something lasts, of course the more sustainable it is. Sustainability is a huge driver for younger generations. Far from moving away from this priority at a cash strapped time, consumers are in fact doubling down. Indeed research from SAP revealed that despite the cost of living, over half (52%) of UK consumers aged 18-34 were actively looking to shop more from retailers with strong sustainability credentials last Christmas.
This is not greenwashing but also understanding this generation will do their research about the full life cycle of a product. The good news is the extent to which this isn’t something that needs to sit in isolation to your other brand positioning. If something can save money through assisting less energy use or being more durable it is therefore more sustainable and solves for a number of current consumer concerns.
Think through the life cycle of your products and make sure they stands up and are robust. It is not just a page on your website espousing your values, but should run though your whole business model like a stick of rock (made with ethically sourced sugar).
Finally innovation remains of critical importance. To grow you have to be of relevance tomorrow as well as today. Particularly when there is a real need to stand out from competitors with people less willing to make multiple purchases.
However critically the air fryer answers several other current consumer needs states. We, post-covid are eating at home more and it is a way of getting your family and your friends and getting your kids involved. It is also healthier. This addresses the growing trend for healthier versions of popular meals.
Most crucial to the surging trend though is the value proposition. The money that can be saved through cooking at a time of rising energy costs is significant and of course energy efficient.
In summary, retailers do need to recognise changed behaviour and a new paradigm on the back of a series of interconnected trends and crises. These centre on changed lifestyles that are more based in the home, a growing movement for sustainability and most crucially the need to save money.
Consumers quite simply won’t invest in the way they did before meaning retailers need a laser like focus on their new needs states. The values they need to highlight are: value for money, being essential, durability, sustainability and innovation. The more they can be all of the above, the more customers will respond.
To remain relevant as we face an economically challenging climate is tough. For some, this will require a radical step change.
To read the full article by Daniel Todaro, Managing Director please visit Retail Sector
CES is the annual (notwithstanding Covid) tech industry gathering in Las Vegas that showcases the latest technology and products in the consumer electronics industry. Did the 2023 show present any hope for consumers struggling with cost of living pressures?
Recent Gekko research revealed that the cost of living crisis has had a dramatic impact on consumer spending with 66% slash spending on non-essential considered purchases and 43% on essential items. On a day-to-day basis, the main priority for many is ensuring that the bills can be paid and as a result, a large proportion of homeowners are looking for ways to save money, whether that’s cutting back on the heating or even switching appliances to save on electricity.
So, against this backdrop, we watched with interest for the big reveals and announcements that were coming out of CES in the first week of January to see what might appeal to cost-conscious consumers thinking of investing in money-saving and more efficient solutions for the home.
It’s no surprise that a tech giant like Samsung managed to grab headlines at CES and the updates to their smart home solution certainly presents some tangible savings for homeowners. Samsung’s SmartThings Energy and in particular their new AI Energy Mode which offers support for more devices and regions with even more significant savings. This new update includes 15% more energy consumption savings for compatible refrigerators, up to 20% for compatible air conditions and up to 35% for compatible washers on selected cycles. This update will allow the user to save electricity on these products which equates to savings on the user’s energy bill. The SmartThings Energy service which can be viewed on the SmartThings app available on both Android and iOS can show the energy consumption of the user’s SmartThings products and how much the estimated cost is. You can view this by day, week or month and it will even break down the energy consumption per hour. This app is very handy to keep track of the “Demon Appliances”.
If multitasking is your thing then a desk, bike, and computer combo might just appeal, with the added benefit of saving yourself a bit more money on your electricity bill. The eKinekt BD 3 from computing brand Acer addresses this somewhat niche requirement. They have branched out into the world of fitness with their eKinekt BD 3 exercise bike which is designed to be a desk, where the user can work and exercise at the same time whilst also producing electricity that can power the user’s laptop. Acer stated that cycling at a somewhat leisurely pace of 60 RPM (revolutions per minute) for an hour can generate up to 75 watts of power.
Moving out into the garden, a new solution to tackle water wastage was announced. The Moen Smart Sprinkler Controller can monitor the moisture levels of your soil and tracks local weather conditions. The user can also monitor water usage and estimated savings as well as set up customised watering schedules that take advantage of weather tracking so the sprinkler will not activate if the rain is predicted in the area which in turn will save the user money. Thinking about the UK 2022 summer drought, this kind of solution would certainly help users become more efficient in their use of water, cutting consumption, wastage and cost.
Although not announced at CES, something that has been gathering a lot of momentum recently and will be featured on the spec sheets of many new products revealed at CES is Matter, a new proprietary standard for home automation that has the potential to offer indirect savings for consumers. Matter is essentially Smart Home 2.0. In simple terms Matter is a new wireless standard that should unify the smart home and make operation easier for users. This means that every smart device you may have such as a smart plug or smart light will talk to each other as opposed to how it used to work with each device being locked to that specific manufacturer and then locked to a specific control centre such as Google Home or Apple Homekit. Until now, with non-compatible standards, consumers have essentially been locked into a brand/product’s ecosystem if they want full functionality. However, now the user will be free to mix and match and not worry about losing the functionality of their products because they’re mixing manufacturers, this, in turn, will save the consumer money as they can take advantage of sales rather than having to wait for that one specific product to drop in price as there are always alternatives for every smart home product.
This is by no means a conclusive list of products that can help consumers save on their household utility bills but rather some of the notable ones that we saw coming out of CES2023. There are of course other products either already available or coming onto the market that can assist with saving on energy consumption. From smart plugs that can be turned on and off remotely so helping users cut down on energy consumption to readily available smart light bulbs, which being LED, offer immediate tangible savings over traditional light bulbs.
CES 2023 was a step in the right direction for sustainability and pro-consumerism, with a lot of companies focussing on the overall sustainability of their products and ensuring that energy consumption is kept to a minimum as in these current times saving money on the electricity bill is a must. This all ties in with the increased industry focus on home appliances and energy saving. In the UK trade body AMDEA is educating the home appliance retail sector on how consumers can make savings when using products as part of its highly successful Know Watt’s What campaign in helping combat energy price rises.
In terms of pro-consumerism, one of the most important updates to come from CES 2023 as mentioned earlier is Matter which opens up the opportunity for consumers not to be tied down to specific manufacturers and allows full Smart Home Freedom. Expect smart home brands to be increasingly vocal about their Matter integration and compatibility.
You can read more by Callum Puffett, Marketing Executive by visiting Gekko News Photo by CES
Daniel Todaro, managing director at creative customer experience marketing agency Gekko, advises readers on what is driving consumers during these difficult times and how brands might best react.
We are living in an era of significant disruption, requiring an updated approach to brand communication in sync with our times. The question is do brands need to redefine their raison d’etre to stay relevant to appeal to very changed consumers?
A new paradigm
The pandemic’s cultural legacy has been a shift to a life where many of us are at home more and need products and services that cater to a new stay at home existence. Meanwhile, the aftershocks of the pandemic have caused huge inflationary pressures impacting many. This has created a new economic reality where affordability trumps desirability.
In a recent research study we carried out with YouGov we interviewed a cross section of consumers throughout the country to understand what is now driving purchasing behaviour. We uncovered five key motivating factors driving purchasing behaviour at this time. Brands need to respond to these if they want to remain front of mind for modern consumers.
1) Value for money In a world of soaring costs and stagnant wages, consumers revealed that one of their key reasons for making a considered purchase was the value for money a product offered. Brands should react by smartly promoting the long-term savings they can offer.
For example, AMDEA, the body representing the white goods industry in the UK, did some research in relation to the Eco buttons on washing machines and dishwashers. They revealed it was saving consumers on average £90 a year. They now really highlight this facet to drive consumers in store to purchase their members’ products.
2) Essential trumps desirable Positioning your brand and products as ‘essential’ items in the psyche of your target audience is a second key factor, also borne out by our research. The days of assuming there is an implied need for your brand are no longer present.
Disposable income in all households, even middle earners, is becoming scarcer. The ONS has estimated the biggest fall in living standards in 2022/23 since records began. Consumers may want your product, but unless it’s absolutely essential and integral to their life, they are not going to buy it. So why is this going to be a product they can’t live without?
3) Durability As an extension to being essential, people will need to feel that the item that they are buying is built to last for more than the lifespan of your average reality star. Low down on our list of drivers in today’s climate are more ephemeral qualities like perceived ‘brand value’.
Rather than offering a lifestyle associated with a brand, a brand should focus on the quality of their products. This should be the starting place for a conversation about a brand and how it will last for someone whose budget is going to be squeezed for some time.
4) Sustainability The longer something lasts, of course the more sustainable it is, and this is a huge driver for younger generations in particular. Far from moving away from this priority at a cash strapped time, consumers are in fact doubling down. Brands should be wary of greenwashing and understanding this generation will do their research about the full life cycle of a product.
5) Innovation Finally, innovation was identified as the fifth key driver of consumer purchasing behaviour in the current climate. This is why Google has attracted new customers with both the value of their Pixel phone but also its innovative Magic Eraser functionality.
Indeed, innovation plus value has also been a key driver of the demand for air fryers. According to research by price comparison website PriceRunner, demand has soared by 3,000 per cent since 2021. The money that can be saved through cooking at a time of rising energy costs is significant and of course energy efficient.
The air fryer also answers several other current consumer need states. We, post-Covid, are eating at home more and it is a way of getting your family, your friends and your kids involved. It is also healthier.
It is crucial that brands adapt to remain relevant. For some this will require a radical step change. As author Mandy Hale put it: “Change is painful, but nothing is as painful as staying stuck somewhere you don’t belong.”
We live in extraordinary times. While conventional wisdom pointed to a significant economic recovery after the challenges of the pandemic, a different picture has emerged as we look to the Autumn. The cost of living crisis is impacting everyone and has dramatically impacted the willingness of consumers to engage in discretionary spending.
Recent events have proved that markets can shift in an instant, and reacting to these effectively can be the difference between keeping or losing customer loyalty. It means working harder than ever to understand the trends that are impacting behavior. But after the horrors of lockdown, retailers with the right smart strategies can emerge from this bumpy road back to a more normal trading environment.
It is key to utilise opportunities across store and ecommerce to ensure your offering is ahead of the game as we look forward to the golden quarter. So what are we seeing that is worth consideration? I think there are five key trends impacting behaviour in the second half of the year.
1. The Inflation Era Shows No Sign Of Abating
We are living in an era with the highest level of inflation since the 1970s. This has been driven by pent-up consumer demand after the pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. According to the most recent BRC-NielsenIQ Shop Price Index data, shop prices hit their highest point of inflation since 2008 as the balancing act between supply chain costs and a cost conscious consumer continues. For July, Shop price inflation soared by 4.4%, up from 3.1% in June,
Consumer concerns regarding the cost of living cannot go ignored by retailers and brands. Intelligent pricing strategies are a key priority, as well as ensuring your customer journey is quality enough to capture a consumer willing to shop around.
2. Customers Being More Canny With Considered Purchases
In this inflationary world consumers are needing to think very hard about big ticket items. Particularly when looking ahead to further energy price rises in the Autumn. This is having a noticeable impact on existing sales. There was a 4% MoM decline in global smartphone shipments according to the latest Counterpoint research market review. This represents the second consecutive month of MoM decline, along with being the 11th consecutive result showing YoY sales decline.
Despite many ongoing success stories, the overall market has yet to reach pre-pandemic levels. While component shortages have been partially sorted; inflation, a slowdown in China, and the war in Ukraine have all affected recent demand.
With smartphone upgrades being a discretionary purchase it is incumbent that retailers focus on the value of any big ticket items. For appliance manufacturers emphasising the ability to help save energy and costs can be key. With running costs becoming of more interest, consumers will be looking at eco-credentials for new appliances, as well as potentially opting for better quality units that will stand the test of time.
3. Personalisation and Experience Key to Driving Return Visits
There is also an expectation of quality customer service and personalisation. Something that will please consumers and drive up the chances of a return visit, whether that is online or physical store. Research commissioned by Gekko last year found that the top factors driving sales were experience related. This includes the ‘ability to see and touch a product’, and expert, tailored advice.
Empowering the consumer through increased personalisation is vital, particularly as 80% say they would only shop with a business that embraces it. It is the ability to differentiate in today’s environment that will mark out success from failure.
People now have an elevated expectation of their shopping experience, looking for curated, one-to-one engagements at various stages of their journey. Such interactions breed brand loyalty and recognition, meaning you can count on people coming back for more if they enjoy their time with you. Recent research by MoEngage found that only 25% of retailers currently personalise their communications with their customers, so there is a real opportunity to get ahead of the curve.
4. Embracing Omnichannel and New Tech
2022 has seen a return to steady growth for ecommerce in conjunction with the full return of bricks and mortar footfall. With both channels set to grow sales this year after the end of lockdowns, it becomes more important than ever to ensure your omnichannel presence is informative and engaging.
The proportion of retail sales online was 26.6% in May 2022 and remains substantially higher than the 19.7% in February 2020 before the coronavirus pandemic. Research we commissioned last year also showed 80% of consumers would now research online before buying an item instore. It is crucial to ensure you have a seamless and joined up journey across your various touchpoints.
5. Sustainability and Ethics
This continues to be a top consideration for consumers when it comes to choosing both how they shop and who with.
According to Deloitte’s latest Sustainable Consumer research, environmental awareness amongst UK consumers has rocketed in the past year with 85% now making more sustainable lifestyle choices. The findings revealed a strong desire to adopt more circular practices, such as buying products in sustainable packaging.
Credentials need to be backed up and also authentic, an increasingly savvy market will disengage otherwise.
So the road ahead may be bumpy but with the right map retailers and brands can navigate through the difficulties. Understanding the consumers’ specific needs is key to ensure retailers can be back in the driving seat for the second half of the year.
To read the full article by Rupert Cook – Marketing Director Gekko Group, please visit Talk Retail
The events of the past couple of years have accelerated the pace of change in the retail industry. Retailers have simultaneously had to react quickly to events out of their control, while also embracing the ongoing trends that were clear even before the pandemic hit.
The role of the physical store has been one of the biggest topics in the spotlight. The absence of stores during lockdowns created two slightly paradoxical trends. Firstly their importance was maintained and even strengthened in certain ways.
With the growth of ecommerce during the lockdown era, some feared that the writing was on the wall for traditional bricks and mortar retail. These concerns, however, were short lived as shops re-opened their doors and visitors flocked back.
Yet at the same time, the need for change in the industry was also apparent. Ecommerce was embraced by everyone, even the most hardened luddites, meaning physical retail needed to redefine its purpose.
According to ONS figures, online share of retail has consistently fallen since its peak back in February 2021. Still far higher than the pre-pandemic level of 19.9%, but with the balance restored somewhat by the opening of the high street. So the demand remains strong yet evolution is required to keep up with the pace of this new retail world environment.
The return to prominence has been so strong that the idea of growing a bricks and mortar presence has become a priority for both existing and new entrants to the market. Many previously online only retailers are developing ambitious plans to expand their portfolios. Amazon itself is reportedly planning on rolling out 260 Amazon Fresh stores across the UK over the next few years in a challenge to the existing grocery hegemony and an effort to make a physical imprint in the market.
So with more stores on the agenda for many, and occupancy rates back on the up as footfall gradually rises once more, how do they need to adapt to succeed in this current retail landscape?
Play to their strengths
Consumers have grown more used to utilising both online and offline channels when shopping. Our own research found that 85% of people now research online before heading to a store to purchase. As a result, they are looking for a shopping journey combining the ease of online browsing, with the added ability of being able to try things for themselves and ask for real advice when needed.
Retailers need to ensure they have the most in demand products on display, with all the relevant information at hand, so customers can enjoy getting to know their potential product with ease. Better yet, have knowledgeable brand advisors on hand to answer any questions and demonstrate useful features.
This part of the store experience should be built upon by retailers and the brands they stock as part of wider omnichannel improvements. Invest in improving these elements for the customer in order to create a positive shopping journey, playing to the true strengths of the store. This includes ensuring they truly understand what makes your retail space both an efficient and enjoyable place to be.
Incorporate your online channels
Store expansion does not mean you can forget about the online channel, in fact customers are now expecting their interactions between the two to be seamless.
Consumers should be able to look on your website or app and see product availability in the store they are heading to. Offering an immediate connection to the store keeps the customer on side and more likely to remain loyal in their hunt for an item.
Physical retail can also now play a huge role in online order fulfilment by being a base for deliveries and click and collect orders. Complement this with accessible pick up points so that online customers are satisfied with their entire omnichannel shop, while also helpfully adding to your footfall figures.
We have already touched on how technology might help create a better shopping experience, but there remain many opportunities to embrace it in physical retail.
For example, utilise your app to connect users to their store experiences through better personalisation, stock locations, or further product information.
One brand who are great advocates of this approach is H&M, which has started to roll out tech-enhanced shopping experiences in its COS stores. With seamless payments, personalised recommendations, and even a smart mirror that allows customers to request further items without leaving the changing room.
Offering these convenient elements will help the customer feel empowered, valued, and much more likely to make a repeat visit, while also giving you insightful data. Be forthcoming with the information that matters to them, otherwise shoppers will disengage and look elsewhere for it.
Stores have the ability to excite and energise in real life better than any other channel, which is why we are seeing collaborations, new events, and online retailers joining in the physical experience.
Online star Bloom and Wild has been opening up a series of pop-up shops around the UK, utilising a bricks and mortar presence to give customers a real view of the plants on offer, with experts on hand to guide and advise. In terms of real engagement, the value of physically promoting your brand in a busy retail area cannot be underestimated.
The idea of the store ‘as an experience’ has grown to such an extent that it expands beyond just individual stores and into entire areas. The new Battersea power station shopping district will be just one example of the new type of retail district. A hybrid of Apple offices, event spaces, shops and hospitality. The combination of which looks to be the key to a bright outlook on high streets and shopping centres.
The physical store has an exciting future and the possibilities are near endless for those that embrace change. Creating a multidimensional space that compliments rising ecommerce, along with shining in its own right, will create a space customers will yearn to return to.
To read the full article by Tom Hardwood, Data and Insight manager please visit Branding Magazine
With the annual January sales melee almost over what does the rest of 2022 hold in store for the retail sector?
It’s a sector that’s weathered the global pandemic, huge changes in consumer attitudes and a spike in technology, not the least of which is the buzzword of the moment – metaverse.
So we asked Tom Harwood, Data and Insight Manager at retail field marketing and customer experience experts, Gekko, for his take on what trends are likely to impact retail in 2022…
Having adapted to the hurdles they have faced so well over the past 18 months, it’s clear that this year retailers must keep innovating in this changing market to ensure their omni-channel and consumer experiences are exceptional, while also embracing the interests and topics on the mind of today’s shopper.
Here are five key factors impacting retail that businesses should take note of to thrive in 2022.
Supply and demand
The well documented supply chain issues that have impacted retailers and other sectors across the country have been a tough hurdle to overcome and it is likely that into 2022 we will still be feeling the knock on effects in some quarters.
It has, however, highlighted a positive for the industry in that it is clear there is consumer demand and the appetite to shop has returned with consumers in the market to purchase back to pre pandemic levels, and in many cases more than.
Even while most restrictions have been lifted in the UK, there is still an element of pent up seasonal excitement across the sector, particularly as those same issues have limited certain stocks, leading to increased hype within certain product categories.
The importance of forecasting for your peaks in 2022 and planning inventory accordingly is critical and effective early planning will make sure that you are ahead of the competition at the most important times.
Retail stores and customer experiences
It is well known that the e-commerce share of the retail market was greatly accelerated by the pandemic.
However it consistently fell after physical stores reopened in April 2021 and is now hovering at the 27% mark as of October according to the ONS.
For this year, the return of bricks and mortar retail does not mean it can afford to rest on its laurels when it comes to innovating to reflect the new normal and fully embracing the omni-channel concept.
In-store experiences can be re-imagined in a multitude of ways.
In our recent consumer research, we found that 85% of shoppers are now doing research on a product or brand before heading into store, so ensuring the online and offline integration is faultless has never been more important.
Even if a customer has decided to buy online, the physical store can still act as a collection or returns hub, importantly still drawing more footfall and further positive brand interactions.
We are now at a stage where the store itself can serve as a portal to e-commerce, as well as a place where customers can interact with a brand’s products.
With 58% of shoppers saying that it is important to them to be able to see and touch a product before a purchase, the significance of the store shall not diminish.
It is just that the spaces themselves will evolve into more experiential experiences for consumers.
This experience is not only about how the store presents itself, but also the staff within it.
Our survey found that 45% of Gen Z customers will seek out great advice in-store, bearing in mind that this is a knowledgeable generation, particularly when it comes to tech products, and the importance of having knowledgeable staff on hand to engage with this valuable demographic is clear.
In fact, 37% across all ages were willing to spend more on an electrical product if they experienced excellent service in store.
In 2022, stores can be more than just what the customer needs it to be. They can offer truly memorable, loyalty-gaining experiences that drive engagement and, most importantly, are fun to visit.
Sustainability and retail
We move onto the wider issue of sustainability, and this year it will continue to hold an increasingly prominent place in the mind of the consumer.
The fact is that meeting this criteria with shoppers is not quite as simple as it was before, so for success in this field for 2022, there are certain areas that should be addressed.
Along with climate related goals, consumers also continue to look for purchases that have the power to give back to their local communities or charities.
According to NielsenIQ, “Do I need this?” will be one of the pivotal questions among shoppers for 2022, with gifts that offer positive experiences or donations on the up.
Retailers would do well to keep their eye out for local initiatives they can partner with their customers in order to show support and solidarity.
Actions are positive, but communication also needs to be on point, as sustainability is such a broad topic there are often more questions than answers, but brands that are clear with their objectives and true to their core principles will resonate best with consumers.
While not the most exciting aspect of the shopping experience by any means, it is predicted that returns will increasingly be one of the key differentiating factors between retailers this year.
Retailers that want to be at the forefront of this will need to invest in the processes that make this a positive experience for consumers.
For example, according to research by Forrester, three in five consumers prefer retailers that offer free return shipping.
This quality of life offering encourages people to purchase safely in the knowledge that there will be a stress-free experience in case the product isn’t quite what they were anticipating.
If a return does happen, it is important that the process collects relevant information at all stages, the data from which can help reduce the overall issue in the long run.
The metaverse and in-store technology
Facebook’s recent announcement that it is moving to a “metaverse” focus has pushed the term into the public eye and comes as part of a wider conversation about technology within retail.
We have already seen an increasing amount of collaborations between brands or celebrities with gaming platforms, for example Travis Scott’s virtual concerts within the Fortnite gaming world caught the imagination of many and opened up his music to a huge audience.
It is likely that this year we see further iterations of retail services within metaverse spaces, no doubt with the world’s largest brands vying to assert the most influence from the beginning.
New technology will also help those on the shop floor.
As we have seen, 37% of customers are specifically looking for knowledgeable assistance in stores, and with access to the right technology, staff will be able to assist in the customer journey across all channels and have the data at hand to make it a personalised journey.
Having been successfully reactive during the pandemic, it is time for businesses to look forward and find the opportunities to exceed consumers’ continually evolving needs.
The brands that manage to do this seamlessly across all channels, while embracing fresh insights and new technologies, will be on the front foot this year and beyond.
Video game stores have for some years faced the dilemma of how to diversify their offering to stay afloat in a market evolving to become primarily a digital one. Since the launch of the “next generation of consoles” back in 2006, digital downloadable games have been available through the marketplaces of Microsoft, Sony & Nintendo on their respective consoles. However, initially, the list of games available to download was quite limited which benefited retailers as it would not take away business from them.
Fast forward to 2013 and the next generation of consoles were released. The release of these new consoles brought a brand new, more reliable system in place to download full video games over the internet. The ability to download full games happened on the previous generation however, numerous factors attributed to its rather low popularity as it did not have the stability and the large selection of games as it does on the console’s successor.
GAME’s game-changing new direction
The PS4 & Xbox One were game-changers in driving interest in digital games. This meant retailers had to diversify their offerings to provide more than just consoles and video games. For example, GAME is now selling Gaming PCs and a lot more accessories for all gaming platforms. On top of this, they provide access in-store to the Belong Arenas which are equipped with all of the latest consoles and gaming PCs with room for around 6 people to game. GAME is a prime example of a company successfully diversifying its business model to become a more experienced/service-based company. This is due to the nature of the video game market and its continuous push towards the all-digital era.
The new direction GAME is taking features a better value proposition. Martyn Gibbs, Chief Executive Officer recently described BELONG, the Group’s esports and experience-based gaming proposition as “core to our transformation strategy and we continue to expand the business through the opening of larger BELONG gaming arenas while improving our GAME Retail offer to fully capitalise on the strong growth potential in the esports market.” (Waller-Davies, 2018)
This has proven to be successful in driving footfall to their stores with the gaming arenas as proven by the positive recent trading results.
COVID’s accelerating impact on digital transformation
Clearly, a huge impact on the video game retail industry as with all retail was the dramatic impact of COVID. Not solely due to the fact stores were closed, more so due to the change in lifestyle, most people had to adapt to. Logan Plant from IGN described COVID-19 as “not an instigator for the rise of digital media, but simply an accelerator of a trend we’ve seen take shape throughout the last console generation.” (Plant, 2021). Working from home became the norm for 1+ years and subsequently, a lot of businesses had to change how they operated to take advantage of the customers/consumers being stuck at home.
The impact of COVID was a record-breaking year for digital sales of video games. Sony also revealed that nearly 63 per cent of its “full game” sales for the 2020 calendar year came via digital downloads rather than games sold on discs at retail.
As a result of COVID’s accelerating impact, it is important to reevaluate the current proposition and business direction of video games retailers. The current moves console developers are making into the all-digital era are having a dramatic impact on the performance of bricks and mortar retailers. A significant development happened in 2020 when the latest consoles were released (PS5 & Xbox Series X). These new consoles were released with a cheaper variant; a disk tray-free model with a cheaper price tag available from launch. This highlights the increasing dominance of the digital era and the ongoing decline of physical sales.
Owen Good from Polygon described it in stark terms: “The implication is clear: Video game fans, stuck at home, with the ability to make one-click purchases for entertainment to pass time, will do so in amounts up to the price of a full game.” (Good, 2020)
As an avid Gamer myself who has been a loyal customer of GAME since I could remember my weekends used to involve regular trips to pick up a new game or the latest console at the time. Interacting and talking with knowledgeable staff members was a huge part of the experience.
Embracing an experience-centric playbook
Despite knowledgeable in-store staff that can assist and support the customer journey, the gaming industry has changed to be a primarily digital one. However, despite this reality, there’s still a significant percentage of customers purchasing physical copies of video games. Yet the online giants such as Amazon have further eroded this market, offering next day delivery on the same selection of physical video games that high street retailers offer at a discounted price.
The same situation is happening with Gamestop, in an article covering which companies would Amazon effect, it stated Gamestop “historically has made its money by serving as the middleman, but the game publishing industry’s move toward downloads and away from discs and cartridges is increasingly making the venue less of a destination for gamers.” (Brumley, 2019).
This of course reduces the need to pop into town and purchase a game. Additionally, on top of the physical video game competitors, each of the gaming platforms also have their own store integrated into the console where you can purchase digital copies of any game on that platform. Digital games usually have a higher RRP, however, they are usually heavily discounted during sales.
In conclusion, it’s clear to see that for retail stores to drive more footfall they need to reposition themselves and expand what they offer as a business. GAME have taken this in their stride and expanded their traditional offering of physical Video Games and Consoles to offer an immersive customer experience including VR, the opportunity to play video games with your friends in the Belong arenas, purchase fully built gaming PC’s along with the necessary accessories and gaming merchandise such as POP Vinyls or plushies. It has been proven that GAME’s new direction has driven footfall and has been profitable for them too. In order to win in the future and remain relevant, it’s time for video games retailers to embrace an ‘experience-centric’ playbook.
The phrase ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’ has certainly proved the case with in-store electronics retailing. The category has faced some unprecedented challenges over the past two years. However reports of the demise of bricks and mortar retailing have proved greatly exaggerated. Experience-starved customers have voted with their feet and returned to stores in droves after the various lockdowns.
In the ‘considered purchase’ space – purchases made with significant financial or emotional thought – there is simply no match for the timeless ability of an in-store experience to engage all the senses and generate sales. This is particularly the case for consumer electronics – a category with such a high spend on key items and technical questions that need to be answered.
Mind the knowledge gap
We recently investigated the pandemic’s impact on ‘considered purchases’ in a research project called ‘Mind the Knowledge Gap’. Gekko surveyed experiences across several key retail categories in a study of 2,000 consumers, conducted by OnePoll. The categories studied included: Consumer electronics, homeware, baby & child, gaming, home improvement, clothing & apparel. 48% of respondents revealed they had made a considered purchase during the pandemic in the CE category. It was second only to DIY with 50%. However the research also revealed there is no time for complacency. The study showed that electronics retailers had lost out on some significant revenue due to poor advice during this period. 1 in 4 (24%) were put off making a purchase they had gone in-store to make, with 11% actually walking out of the store. This equates to £3.3bn in lost revenue for the category over the past 12 months alone. In fact of all the categories surveyed, shoppers in this category reported having some of the worst advice. This of course isn’t to say a poor experience was universal or even the norm. Indeed 60% said they had received ‘excellent or good advice in store’ overall, highlighting the benefit of human interaction and face-to-face sales. But the point is small improvements in advice can lead to big gains financially. With lost sales during the period and rising commodity and transport costs impacting the bottom line, this is an area that is relatively easy to fix.
The truth is £3.3bn could be a drop in the ocean compared to what could be achieved. 37% of shoppers in the CE category revealed they would be prepared to spend more if they received excellent and knowledgeable in-store advice, indicating a golden opportunity is there to be grabbed. This compared with 30% of shoppers in the home improvement category and 27% in homeware/ home furnishings and 21% in clothing and apparel. The study also unearthed something of a blueprint for success for electronic retailers. Consumers revealed the top factors driving a considered purchase. Number one was the ‘ability to see and touch a product’, according to 58% of respondents. Price promotion was second, rated important by 56% of respondents. This was followed by ‘great advice’ rated important by 37% of respondents and then an effective product demonstration (28%).
Additionally the research highlights another area for optimism for electronic retailers. That is in the behaviour of the younger generations. 18-24 year olds – known as Gen Z – are more interested in consumer electronics than any other category. 52% revealed they would be prepared to spend more if given better advice. Encouragingly for the future of physical retail, Gen Z are most likely to seek out great advice in store (45%) versus an average of 38% and are more likely to find staff knowledgeable across categories. They are also the most likely out of all ages to appreciate product demos (39%) against a 29% average across all ages. Finally 1 in 2 Gen Z’ers (52%) and 38% of Millennials will spend more for a good experience in store across all categories – crucial for the development of experiential retail. So how to respond? I think there are three key actionable take outs for consumer electronics retailers.
1) Invest in experts
Our research highlights the timeless appeal of a positive engagement with an in-store expert in CE. While we have spent so much of the past year and a half shopping online – it is clear online alone is no replacement for the experience and interaction of trained advisors. This is particularly the case in a category where more of us are prepared to spend more. They are consistently the best way to influence and convert a sale of a considered purchase item. Ensure they are on hand and fully trained to answer any question your curious customers may have. While some are struggling, the retailers with a real customer first mentality are succeeding. Every person that walks through the door should be viewed as a potential customer, an influencer, someone who will talk about you positively through their experience and tell others in person, online or on social media. Not viewed as just another body to ‘deal’ with. The benefits to the business can be significant.
2) Engage the senses and think price
An expert’s role is important but they can’t operate in isolation. As our study showed, the number one factor driving a considered purchase is the ability to see and touch a product. Price promotion and a great demo were also high on the list. So when it comes to physical retail and considered purchases, it is vital to engage all the senses and create a joined up experience leading the customer to the checkout. After all this desire to engage all the senses has only been heightened during the long lockdowns we have all endured with so much mind numbing time spent in front of screens. So creating a real retail theatre is vital. Good lighting, a price promotion clearly on display, ensuring customers can interact with the product when they want and of course having the expert on hand to answer questions. It may seem simple but it is worth revisiting your customer experience strategy. Start with a genuine audit of your brands or retail estate to ensure all the senses are being fully engaged.
3) Joined up brand experience
While the thirst for the physical store experience endures, it is not about going back to 2019. The genie is now completely out of the bottle for ecommerce with even the most hardened luddites now comfortable with online search and discovery. The smart strategy is now ensuring the experience is joined up and that we better understand the drivers of the online/offline experience. In our research a conclusive 85% of shoppers said they are now doing online research before making a considered purchase in-store. Belying any remaining stereotypes, the older age groups were more likely to go online first. 89% of 55-64 would research online first. Interestingly, 69% said a well synchronised online and offline experience would make them more likely to make a considered purchase. Brands need to therefore ensure they have consistency across the full spectrum of online touchpoints, including search, social and display advertising and in-store. How does the experience feel to a customer and how is this then prompting a likely sale? Reports of the demise of in-store retail have thankfully proved premature. But while we have emerged blinking into the sunlight and luckily still standing after this period, the world we now observe is changed. Indeed survival going forward is never guaranteed and really never was in the fast paced consumer electronics category. To succeed we need to develop a new ‘experience-centric playbook’ utilising the best that a joined up in-store experience can offer; the right experts on hand to complement an experience that engages all the senses. One that is seamless and joined up with the online world of discovery that led us to the store. As we look forward to a better year, there’s all to play for. Let’s go for it.