Tag Archives: Marketing

How 5G will boost the smart home market

PCR Blog

Over the last few years, smart home technology has revolutionised the way we live at home and according to PWC’s white paper, ‘Connected Home 2.0’, £10.8bn will be spent on smart home devices in the UK in 2019. But despite this, a recent survey we carried out into the connected home highlighted consumer frustration with smart home technology, with consumers citing that they can’t get their smart home technology to connect to each device and talk to each other, they have no idea how it all works, they are worried about security and there’s little perceived benefit or value.

Whilst this may sound negative, this presents a huge opportunity for 5G to boost further device adoption and showcase the future possibilities in the home.

There’s been a lot of hype around 5G – from downloading a full HD movie in under five seconds to making fully automated vehicles a reality – but I believe 5G will be a transformative technology for the home, as it’s spearheading a multi-dimensional world connecting devices, brands and people in real time with its fast bandwidth and reduced latency. Take a look round your home, count up the numerous devices that rely on a strong wireless connection to stream, to work, to secure, to survive – tablets, mobiles, TVs, voice assistants, PCs, thermostats, light-bulbs, alarms, cameras, and gaming right through to connected appliances. Without a good connection, they can all come to a grinding halt.

Stadia by Google is an example of where 5G and gaming complement each other. 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% of those (1.1bn) spending, the financial impact to the establishment is significant. 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. Now with Stadia, the internet – accessed increasingly via 5G – will be your store, with the network and data centre as your platform.

The innovation that is 5G will provide an alternative to fixed wireless internet making things connect quickly, faster, nicely and simply. From rural areas where broadband speeds are poor to urban areas where speeds can suffer from congestion, 5G will enhance the possibilities for entire communities and not only the smart home.

This will pave the way for 5G enabled fully integrated living spaces that adjust to the needs of each member of the family, changing the way people entertain, consume media, use their utilities, communicate and cook. Virtual assistants like Alexa and Google Home are only the start and we’ve seen just a fraction of what personal assistants are capable of. Google announced at CES earlier this year that it wants to make its assistant the focal point of a consumer’s life; in the home, in the car and on mobile devices. 5G will be that enabler.

Layer on top of this the possibilities of 5G enabled in-home augmented and virtual reality for cooking. Imagine at the touch of a button, Delia or Jamie standing next to you showing you how to cook one of their recipes. Sit down with your friends and family to watch a tennis match and image real time sports data appearing over tennis players as they hit the ball. 5G will make smart homes even smarter by unshackling developers from the speed restrictions and other issues that exist with today’s solutions where devices rely on Wi-Fi networks or Bluetooth connections.

For those who feel security could be an issue, the good news is that mobile operators are ensuring security is built into the fabric of their 5G networks and there’s no reason for 5G networks to be any less secure to use than 4G. When connecting a device to a 5G network the same protocols you’d apply to security software, passwords etc. should be applied as normal, however it is worth noting that all data sent over 5G is encrypted and 5G devices will offer increasingly advanced security options. Interestingly, according to research from Ericsson, 29% of people would like DNA authentication to be a biometric security option.

The reality is that 5G can provide a more consistent approach, making things easier to setup and thus encouraging product development through to subsequent consumer adoption and increased usage of the vastly developed Internet of Things. With inbuilt future proofing, one of the most interesting effects will be the societal impact 5G will have for our ageing population, assisting those who are fit but may be less able to manage themselves. This may blur the lines between hospital and home. For many, it’s more effective to manage the healthcare of patients who require the most resources from home rather than via our currently overloaded NHS. In addition, its adoption can reduce loneliness and speed of response in the event of an emergency.

We’ve already seen how sensor operated smart home tech can alert families to movement, so they know their elder relatives are up and about in the house and not lying there injured. There are also remote surgeries where doctors see patients by video call, however buffering is often an issue in remote locations, which makes the service more difficult for vulnerable people to use. The implementation of 5G will take this to a whole new level; real-time remote monitoring of medication usage; food intake levels and exercise; connecting the vulnerable to seamlessly operated telehealth services and tracking indicators from sleep to blood pressure and insulin levels.

It can help power personalised, preventative and smarter care capabilities and elevate connected medicine to an unprecedented level, helping elderly people live fulfilling and productive lives on their terms. This is exciting times for a growing societal issue here in the UK but let’s not underestimate the understanding we need of the health ecosystem and what it will take to implement the systems to connect to these technologies.

The opportunities 5G technology offers all generations extends beyond the home and to the streets through autonomous vehicles, traffic management and the smart monitoring of the environment around you, telling you in real-time, for example, where best to avoid pollution on your daily run. Moreover, everything you would currently expect to be able to access or control in the home will be available to you wherever you are, without any comprises imposed on you by being away from regular Wi-Fi based connectivity.

Ericsson forecasts that by 2024, 5G subscriptions will reach 1.9bn, and that coverage could blanket up to 65% of the world’s population.

The UK’s largest network operator, EE, was the first to launch 5G in the UK on 30th May, 2019, beaten by the Swiss who launched in April. Service started in London, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Belfast, Birmingham, and Manchester, with several other cities joining before 2020. Vodafone also launched on 3rd July 2019 in seven cities with 12 other cities to be included before 2020. Three will join the 5G race in August in London. A total of 25 other locations will get 5G in the UK via Three before 2020. Lastly O2, with no published launch date, announced its plans to roll out its 5G network in 2019 in Cardiff, London, Belfast, and Edinburgh to start, with more areas getting 5G in 2020.

Whilst the UK is already partially 5G enabled, devices are limited and we’re not that far ahead of the vast majority of developed nations whom all plan to launch in 2019/2020 such as Germany, Italy and Norway all behind Vodafone Spain who are ahead of all EU nations having launched on 15th June in 15 cities.

To read the full article please visit PCR.

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For Conscious Generations, Will Luxury Brands Become Irrelevant?

Branding Blog

With a market of over £200B globally, the luxury fashion brand sector is significant; you only have to look at conglomerates such as Richemont, LVMH Group, and Kerring which within their stables boast, Alexander McQueen, Balenciaga, Chloe, Cartier, Dior, Fendi, Gucci, Saint Laurent, and Stella McCartney to name a few.

Whilst in China, the market share is set to increase with 14% by 2025, it is set to contract by 8% in Europe and the US. However, the global trend of luxury consumerism seems to be on the increase, with 43%. It is forecasted that within the next decade Generations Y and Z will represent approximately 55% of the luxury fashion market up from 32%, offsetting the sales decline among older generations. But can perceived ‘luxury’ brands be so sure that their mass appeal can extend beyond the superficial?

Is fashion, in general, no longer tribal? The vast majority of Gen Y, Z, and Alpha, the less ‘well off’ generations, seem to adopt a more fluid approach to fashion as they may do to gender, sexuality, technology, socializing, etc. That sees an anything-goes approach in fashion, focused less on brand and more on individualism.

Long gone is the need to conform to a stereotype, or compete with others. The fashion I see is an eclectic mix of second-hand clothes – let’s avoid the pretense that it’s ‘vintage’ and be realistic – combined with fast fashion which is naturally, ethically sourced to create a look. A look that’s unique to a persona and voice, occasionally punctuated with luxury brand items to complete the style.

So will this approach to high-end fashion make the luxury sector grow in particular for the brands that ‘get it’ or contract with perhaps some brands becoming obsolete to generations X, Y, and more importantly Alpha? After all, this generation which may be on a budget, won’t necessarily be in a decade’s time and if they have no aspirations to own luxury branded items, they may choose to share the budget more sparingly with brands that speak to them – investing in brands that resonate with the zeitgeist, not tradition, and demonstrate a social conscience in manufacturing, environment, sustainability, and how they give back a proportion of their vast profits to society.

Some high-end brands are already evolving to appeal to the upcoming generations, Supreme and Balenciaga have adapted to meet the needs of their new consumers. From their collectible, Instagram ‘like-worthy’ pieces to the gender-fluid online shops, the brands are listening closely to their audience and are adjusting accordingly, seeing them become more popular than the traditional stuffy luxury brands.

With both ‘luxury’ and ‘fast fashion’ known to be a considerable contributor to global greenhouse gasses, water and air pollution, combined with poor working conditions, we are seeing a conscious effort by many people to change their fashion habits. These changes include a ‘less is more’ strategy, buying second hand, opting for natural fibers, and researching brand practices, often cajoling them to share the manufacture process and provenance.

According to Oxfam, over eleven million items of clothing end up in the landfill. The charity has launched its Second Hand September campaign, with artists who performed at Glastonbury 2019 donating stage outfits for auction or win. Its purpose is to change habits and encourage people not to buy new apparel for one month and thereafter wear clothing more often and not throw away unwanted clothing.

In contrast, the recent ‘willy-waving’ that was the ego-inflating philanthropy towards the drive to rebuild Notre Dame topped $700M with the billionaires behind these luxury giants pledging $339M. Without question, this landmark is culturally worthy and should be rebuilt, however, some may argue that these donations serve to demonstrate that the priorities of the owners of luxury brands may not be in tune with the market they will be designing and marketing to in less than a decade and beyond. With the Energy Agency estimating that by 2030 the planet will require 50% more water and 50% more energy, scarcity of natural resources will be a known factor forcing every brand to change. No one is immune.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, fashion retailer H&M has reported an 11% increase in net sales to 57.4B in Swedish kroner (£4.8B) in its Q2 results (July 2019), compared with the sales rise of 2% seen during the same period last year. It is the fifth straight quarter of consistent sales growth for the company, but despite the increase, shares in the retailer dropped by 1.8% in early trading in July, with H&M saying “hard work and many challenges still remain.”

Developments in the Luxury sector are slow compared to ‘fast fashion’ and with a year-on-year decline in revenues and profitability, there are not only economic factors at play but also the way that Generation Alpha consumer will be more selective and conscious. From 2025, it is estimated that Generation Alpha will be over 2 billion-strong and anticipated to start spending their own cash. Therefore, the change in narrative and approach ‘brands’ chose to market to a growing generation, needs to begin now.

Much like those brands who were considered too big to fail, is the end in sight for many luxury brands who continue to focus their attention on a dying generation?

To read the full article please visit Brandingmag.

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What do the Tory candidates policies mean for the high street

LLB BLog

In the blizzard of spending splurges promised by the two candidates to be our next Prime Minister has been some announcements that could be very significant for High Street retailers. Boris Johnson, the clear favourite, has announced that he wants to introduce 100% business rate relief on free-to-use ATMs to keep as many as possible open in town and city centres to ensure shoppers can withdraw money. He has declared that he wants to curb the closure of Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) that has followed the surge in contactless payments.

While this may appeal to shire Tories of a certain vintage the trouble is the Boris approach is as feasible as owning a unicorn. In a contactless world, less and less people are drawing out cash when you can tap a card or your phone. The subsidies he is proposing would not allow for the cash machine to be free as it still needs to be maintained, filled, connected and bank charges apply which make the model loss making for any operator especially if it is used infrequently. More poppycock from the master of poppycock.

Johnson also talks about wanting ‘a range of bureaucratic and legal barriers to business to be swept away’ to allow high-street shops to flourish. This includes an ‘overhaul of town and country planning laws that mean converting one form of premises ie. a shop, cafe, pub or hot-food takeaway, to another can be a lengthy process’.

One option being considered by Johnson’s team is introducing a new “A” class business category covering shops, financial and professional services, restaurants and cafes. The measure would allow existing shops to easily offer additional services.

He also called for the immediate unlocking of a £675m government fund earmarked for sprucing up high streets around Britain. If he becomes prime minister, he plans to announce this summer the towns that have been successful in bidding for shares of the cash.

Although on paper the overhaul of planning laws looks attractive, the problem is planning laws relating to change of use are not in his power to change, neither will £675m go far and how does he propose to choose which towns are more worthy of the fund? As ever with Johnson’s announcements rhetoric trumps reality.

Meanwhile Jeremy Hunt has pledged to exempt hundreds of thousands of small businesses from business rates if he becomes Prime Minister. Hunt intends to scrap taxes for nine out of 10 high street shops in a bid to save the high street. The claim is the move will save newly exempted businesses up to £6,500 each and will scrap taxes on 24,500 businesses based in Birmingham (5,000), Manchester (8,000), Leeds (6,000), Newcastle (2,000) and Bristol (3,500).

Hunt said that his government would reform the current Retail Discount rate, so that businesses which qualified for the discount would see their entire business rate bill cancelled. At present, those with a ratable value below £51,000 are eligible for their bill to be cut by one third.

Additionally, one of Hunt’s best trailed policy announcements has been a promise to cut corporation tax from 19% to as low as 12.5%, a policy which has been costed at £13bn a year. His generous spending pledges have seen him receive some flak from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS).

Hunt the self-proclaimed entrepreneur is certainly more progressive in his thinking and his ideas may just work to support independent traders on the high street who are being strangled by inflated taxes. The corporation rate cut will pay for itself making Britain an attractive base and undoubtedly bring more corporates to base themselves in the UK and with a No Deal Brexit in site, more initiatives like this is what the UK needs to survive.

The trouble is according to all the polling, Hunt has little chance of getting in. Just like the rest of us, it seems High Street retailers had better batten down the hatches as Tory Party members take the ultimate gamble in installing Johnson in to Number 10.

To read the full article please visit London Loves Business.

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Disruption will lead to innovation in our high streets

The Drum Blog

Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright announced in May 2019 that a new £62 million fund will breathe new life into historic high streets across the country. Really? What’s £62m going to do? Unless there’s a momentous shift by Government regarding the business rate issue no £62m fund is going to fix anything or impact the dire straits we find our high streets in.

But here’s the conundrum. Across the country, people still enjoy going shopping. Shops are not going to disappear and 89 percent of UK sales are still generated through physical retail.

Consumers want high streets and businesses want to be there. We can’t give up on our high streets, but we need to fundamentally disrupt the existing model with ideas that address business rate costs head on.

Reigniting imagination on the high street

We need traditional brick and mortar retailers to be imaginative and visionary to make retail work for them and their customers. We haven’t seen enough of this. There’s been some successes where traditional retail chains have introduced successful in-store experiences, from speaker spaces to free cookery classes, to encourage consumers to dwell and soak up the atmosphere.

We’ve also seen successful buy outs where we see anchor brands amalgamate multiple brands under one roof such as Sainsbury’s and Argos (Store within a Store concept – SiS). This has enabled Sainsbury’s to continue trading within the non-food category and remain current without distracting from its core grocery business.

Brand collaborations appear to work well, and this is where I think independent retailers need to deploy more disruptive strategies. Surely independents sharing space makes sense from a financial and marketing perspective and works for all collaborations, whether it’s an anchor brand and SiS or two brands in equal partnership.

Let’s take my local high street, where there is a bookshop with a coffee shop, and this unsurprisingly works well. So why don’t we see such partnerships more often with, say, independent clothes and shoe shops hooking up, cook shops and delis collaborating and complimenting one another and butcher’s, bakeries, greengrocers and florists joining up.

With so many consumers now on a personal quest to do what’s good for the planet, collaborations can really work to bring purpose to the fore and give consumers more choice.

The rise of the ethical high street

For people who are ethically minded, they may prefer to visit collaborations that have similarly aligned values for example, butchers, delis and bakeries that are fully ethically sourced or organic or shoe and clothes shops that won’t use unethical material. Delivering a positive, convenient and alternative shopping experience for people for whom these things are a driving factor in their purchasing decisions will provide an incredible customer service and experience that’s missing right now.

I’ve been in the industry over twenty years so I’m not naive enough to think this is easy, but retail is the most dynamic of industries and it needs to do something before it loses its confidence and high streets forever. I believe it requires a major re-think of the whole supply chain from landlords to legal and introducing new innovations like retail matching services. A service that pairs up independent retailers who are looking for high street shop spaces in particular areas.

There are all sorts of challenges – what happens if one brand is doing well, and the other isn’t, if one wants to sell and one doesn’t? But we’re at an impasse where something drastic needs to happen for us to re-imagine the high street. And drastic means disruption and innovation not more of the same.

To read the full article please visit The Drum.

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Wearables for all: How the decade’s most hyped technology has found its groove

PCR Blog

There was much talk of wearable technology in the early part of this decade and in what can only be described as a media frenzy. Google launched its hotly awaited Google Glass in 2012. It was everywhere, Diane von Furstenberg used the product on the catwalk at New York Fashion Week, while Virgin Atlantic tied up with the brand for flight crew to check in passengers on selected trans-Atlantic flights. Whilst available to a selected group of subscribers, it unfortunately never made the shelves but set the pace as the pioneer.

The sale of smartwatches and trackers such as the Jawbone UP and Fitbit Flex accelerated in 2013 and things started to evolve rapidly. Then in 2015 we saw the launch of the first Apple Watch. While there has been commentary on the demise of the whole category with Jawbone already defunct, smartwatches are still the only product where we’ve seen continued sales and enhanced innovation, with luxury brands like TAG Heuer launching a range of Google Wear OS devices. According to Statista, global wearable technology sales in 2018 were 123 million units, with trackers making up 15 million and smartwatches 80 million. Watches are still growing faster than any other category and forecasted by CCS Insight to reach 142 million units worldwide in 2019 and a staggering 260 million units by 2023.

There’s little doubt we’ve come to a point where the market is less about the consumer tech and gadgets that we might see in store and rather more about the application of wearable technology – driven by trackers and smartwatches – into other fields such as health and wellbeing that are having a real and valuable impact on people’s lives.

Wearables are evolving. Motiv’s smart ring won Breakout of the Year at the Wearable Tech Awards 2018, but the jury is still out on its success. Looking at the exhibitors at 2019’s Wearable Technology Show, it indicates that there’s more than just smartwatches, but many innovations are being driven by health and wellbeing.

Looking at the impact automated insulin delivery has on patients and parents of children with severe diabetes, WELT is well documented and was one of the most talked about pieces of tech from CES 19. The new SMART belt from Samsung, launched at IFA 2018, can help tackle one of the biggest health challenges of the 21st century, rising obesity. The belt can monitor weight, walking speed, sitting duration and eating habits. Another interesting application of wearable tech is Quell 2.0. This over the device wearable from Neurometrix uses advanced neurotechnology to stimulate sensor nerves sending neural pulses to the brain and blocking pain signals. The device is designed to block multiple types and sources of pain.

Innovation in wearable technology is as big as manufacturers dare it to be and wearable tech used today has evolved to be practical and convenient to make our daily lives more efficient. For resellers it’s interesting to note that it’s claimed that one in ten wearable owners have two or more devices, with those who don’t currently own a wearable stating that they are in the market for one. Research shows that fitness devices and smartwatches are equally wanted to aid in health, detect calorie intake, assess overall fitness and provide stress measurements.

Advances in nanotechnology, batteries and microprocessors have meant the devices can be small and lightweight. It therefore looks to me like the future of wearable tech is in the sublime not the ridiculous. Tech companies that succeed will be the ones that understand consumer behaviour and are solving real world customer needs or problems, rather than just focusing on ‘what’s possible’. Linked to real time data and tapping into human needs, its potential now does seem potentially revolutionary, with applications in health being a particular game-changer for the wearables category.

This decade’s most hyped of technologies has found its groove, enabling not just athletes to monitor wellbeing and lifestyle but for all manner of consumers and in a variety of exciting form factors.

To read the full article please visit PCR.

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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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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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Customers want service not sci-fi from high street retailers

Blog

We all know the 2019 outlook for brick and mortar retail looks troubled and indeed it’s barely a month into the year and we’ve already seen Patisserie Valerie collapse into administration. Are we surprised? You only need to look at the makeup of the high street to see the extraordinary amount of competition facing a business like this coupled with the fact that the business hadn’t changed much since its launch. It needed to adapt and if brick and mortar retailers focus on aligning their strategies to current market conditions and take on board what customers say, a one size fits all decline isn’t inevitable.

We recently conducted a survey ‘Service, not Sci-Fi’ that looked at the reasons people were turning away from retailers but also how they might turn back. While cost cutting and staff consolidation might be the first response to disappointing figures, our survey showed this could have an immediate detrimental impact on sales. Our study found that 81% of UK shoppers felt that personal touch had disappeared from retail customer service in modern Britain. Almost a third (32%) blamed an over-reliance on technology for this decline. And half of those polled thought that companies in the UK use technology to save money, rather than improve customer experience.

Despite living in a world driven by technology, most people don’t want technology to sacrifice human opinion 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% would like to see smart mirrors that show a 360 view of themselves, 16% desire a VR changing room, while 14% want AR for visualise products at home and 9% seek a talking robotic assistant.

When asked what makes a great brick and mortar shopping experience, half 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%). Coupled with this, 61% of the nation would prefer to deal with someone face-to-face when complaining, while 59% liked a human interaction when enquiring or trying to find out more about a product and 73% wanted to see someone when being issued with a refund.

And back to the impact on the bottom line – a third of Brits say that the personal touch is more likely to encourage them 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, incrementally adding to sales. Over a third (34%) 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 local retailers, with a quarter of Brits saying they miss shopping somewhere where people recognise them and 16% confessing to preferring talking through a purchase with someone in-store, while a quarter reveal that online shopping is less fun than buying something in a real shop. The convenience of a store’s location is also important according to 43% of respondents which means that retailers should consolidate their estates. Many will notice immediate effects. This only emphasises the need to carefully consider the experience provided in-store and whether their staff can deliver the expected experience.

With traditional retail under more pressure than ever and an astonishing 81% of people feeling that the personal touch has disappeared from shopping, businesses need to focus on their customer experience strategies to keep people coming back for more.

To read the article please visit The Drum.

To read more about our Service not Sci-fi research please visit the Gekko website.

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