Tag Archives: Marketing

How Retailers Can Capitalise On Black Friday and Beyond

With Black Friday upon us, it is vital retailers now maximise the huge sales opportunities that exist. With money to spend, from savings accumulated over lockdown and no holidays, customers are getting ready to go for a bumper spending period up to Christmas.

After all, UK consumers are estimated to have saved around £200bn over the various lockdowns, while 54% of those savers are ready to spend it on Black Friday and Christmas according to a recent survey by Future plc. Furthermore, over 70% of customers suggest that they would have the same amount or more money to spend on Black Friday in 2021 as in 2020 (PPA). Combine this with store doors wide open, we look set for increased customer footfall and sales figures.

However it is important to strike a note of caution, as there are some warnings of issues that could dampen the mood this year. Further Pandemic related problems could arise of course, a fresh wave has broken out across Europe, along with truck driver shortages and global supply chain disruptions that may delay goods arriving to the UK over the next few weeks.

It is the second year in a row where such implications have been highlighted. It is becoming clear that consumers are hearing that call, a recent Ebay survey showed that 41% of shoppers will have aimed to have got their Christmas shopping done before December even begins, as opposed to just 25% last year. Therefore acting now to make the most of the opportunity on Black Friday is critical.

The traditional view of Black Friday is perhaps long queues outside shops and big price drops for retailers. While that has certainly changed during the pandemic, we must not dismiss the benefit of Black Friday’s appeal and hype to lure customers in store/online. Black Friday just needs to be treated a little differently.

Black Friday shouldn’t be simply about heavy discounting – consumers want to be satisfied with the shopping experience (online and instore) and the products they are buying. Last year we were denied physical sale shopping, and with Christmas shopping earlier than ever, retailers should be prepared to come armed with the right product information.

Training is vital for Christmas staff, as is continual reviews of ecommerce sites – to ensure a quality experience not just one based on price point. Price drops on their own will not sustain footfall – but quality, personalised experiences in store and online will.

Retailers should take note of the growth of Singles Day, the way the shopping experience has become a form of entertainment, where social media, ecommerce sites all build up excitement along with key social media influences via live streaming. In the UK, it can be tempting to slash prices on Black Friday or even in the lead up to it and let the price do the talking. But without clever marketing online or in store, relevant and engaging social media and ultimately a smooth online/in store experience – where staff know their products and stock the experience will not be as thrilling.

Customers like a bargain, it may get them over the door, but at a time when every customer matters, it’s important to build brand loyalty and get a repeat visit in the run up to Christmas. Retailers must be aware that while discounts are the foundation of Black Friday, it’s the excitement, marketing, brand experience and ultimately the store or online journey that will sway a customer from perusing to purchase. Once the customer is through the door, or on a retailer website – conversion becomes experience based.

As retailers ramp up their marketing efforts as we approach the peak of spending for the year, consumers are certainly going to have plenty of choice as to where to spend their budgets. Retailers will have to do all they can to make sure they stand out from the crowd. Engaging marketing, whether it be store representatives, training or merchandising activities, can ensure that the consumer knows who you are and why they should be choosing your products. Once that is achieved then loyalty and success will follow.

By Hannah Snoeck, Client Services Director, Gekko

Article originally published by BDaily

Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

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IFA Bis Nachher!

IFA Berlin has been a feature in my calendar for many years, and since 2015 I have been reviewing the event for ERT.
Unfortunately the 2021 incarnation didn’t happen as many brands were pulling out and therefore made the event unviable, but I’m confident that the show will be back with a bang next year!
To quote the organisation itself “IFA in Berlin presents the latest products and innovations in the heart of Europe’s most important regional market. Only IFA offers such a comprehensive overview of the international market and attracts the attention of visitors from more than 130 countries each year”. Looking back to 2019, LG showcased its Roll, the OLED TV that rolled neatly into its own cabinet to disappear from view. Here in 2021, it is now available to buy at a princely price of just over £100,000, which is of course out of the reach of most people. However, an important consideration is, would it have ever been conceived if it wasn’t intended to be a showstopper at IFA? Whatever the reasons LG chose to create this stunning piece of kit, the brand has paved the way for others to now copy the concept and intrinsically bring the average price down to make it the de facto TV form factor for many.
So proof in point that IFA is the innovation hot spot that drives brands to go deeper and further in understanding what consumers may need before they even realise it, creating categories and technology which will in time become commonplace to all.

Smart Everywhere


In 2015 the buzz was the smart home and there were many who huddled around brand displays at IFA gasping at what was possible with connected devices. Each year the innovation developed and today it’s almost nonsensical to consider that any home doesn’t have or want smart devices – from TVs and voice-activated speakers, to security and entertainment solutions – in their possession.
Taking a whistle-stop-tour of the years and it’s a similar story of innovation, but a progressive journey for the Berlin showcase to evolve into something fresh, never boring or the same. Those exhibitors never failed to deliver a great experience and their immense pride in showcasing their new technology was clearly evident.
Surprise and delight did many brands from all categories, and in 2016 it was LG which outdid everybody with its walk-through 4K display tunnel. This took the visitor on a truly immersive journey of LG technology with a beautifully executed experience that became the undisputed talking point of the event that year.


Voice Of The Future


Moving on to IFA 2017, I reported that the ‘vibe’ was one of progress, a move forward, improving what is already available, innovating through integration to bring the smart home closer to normality and Artificial Intelligence (AI) truly recognised by consumers as no longer being the domain of fantasy but reality, with compatibility across more products. This became rapidly more realistic over the following two years.
In 2018, Google’s Assistant was all over Berlin as more and more brands were building voice activation into their products. Assistant-enabled products were popping up across a host of categories. From laundry with Hoover Candy, cooking with Electrolux, to smart watches from TicWatch, thermostats from Netatmo, and doorbells from Ring, the tech also extended to TVs from Toshiba, Hisense, LG and Panasonic. The dominance of voice assistants was most definitely the story that year.
Building on this in 2019 was the prevalence of voice control and AI-controlled products. Almost every brand and category has either one or both of the two leading voice assistants becoming inbuilt and connected, increasing the smart home ecosystem across almost every device, MDA and wearable.
What voice has done to bring AI and smart technology into consumers’ lives is quite possibly one of the most disruptive technologies to have been created, changing how we interact with our technology, its interface and what it can do for us from a social and macro perspective. This was evident in the exhibition at IFA 2020 – which was an extremely smaller, intimate and socially-distanced affair. The event organisers had done a superb job at keeping the CE industries key event open, albeit just to trade visitors and not the general public. The effects of the pandemic were recognised and obvious as a driver of investment in R&D. The key shout-outs last year set a trend for brands seeking to be the first choice for consumers to integrate with their smart home.


See You In 2022!


If you consider that in the five years that I’ve been writing about IFA, excluding 2021, the average attendance per year is 245,000 with an estimated 150,000 coming from trade to visit the almost 1,800 exhibitors. It’s an awesome show on a scale that makes it on par, if not better, than its transatlantic rival.
The need for IFA to return in 2022 in its original format is essential for the industry, however I fear the savings made over two years may encourage many brands to scale back attendance and investment. This approach will inevitably mean a new format and potentially a hybrid event on a smaller scale. The impact of this approach may not only hold back creativity and innovation, but also the ability for start-ups and consumers to be inspired to carry the wave of technological innovation.
Whatever becomes the format for 2022, creating a space like IFA to bring innovation together and measure the reaction of your peers and consumers is key in the evolution of categories – existing and new. What the pandemic achieved for brands was an opportunity to reset, rethink and enhance their proposition to meet the needs of people’s changing lifestyles, which as a result have become ‘normal’. The use of home technology has been impacted immensely, with adapted living spaces supporting various changes in lifestyle. And IFA is crucial to this development.
I hope to see you and maybe several hundred thousand more in Berlin, 2-6 September 2022 at the most inspiring global tech event imaginable!

Article published by ERT

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Mind The Knowledge Gap – New Consumer Research from Gekko

A new consumer survey reveals that retailers miss out on £15bn per year due to poor advice in-store.

1 in 10 shoppers have cancelled a planned considered purchase due to poor instore advice – Gen Z most likely to seek out experts – Gekko urging retailers and brands to implement new ‘experience-centric playbook’


Brands across some of the top retail categories potentially missed out on close to £15bn in instore revenue in the past year, due to poor in-person advice. The finding comes from new research commissioned by field marketing and retail experience agency, Gekko. The study of 2,000 consumers, conducted by OnePoll, looked at what influences shoppers in making a ‘considered purchase’ – purchases that are made with significant financial or emotional thought.

The research revealed 1 in 10 shoppers said they had walked out of a shop due to poor advice relating to a considered purchase they were definitely going to make. This equates to some £15bn in revenue overall over the past year.*

Physical retailing brings benefits

The experiences vary across categories and age groups. Gekko surveyed experiences across several key retail categories including: Consumer electronics, homeware, baby & child, gaming, home improvement, clothing & apparel. Overall 59.8% said they had received ‘excellent or good advice in store’, highlighting the benefit of human interaction and face-to-face sales.

However, £15bn could be a drop in the ocean of additional revenues that could be accrued with better advice. 37% of shoppers in the consumer electronics category revealed they would be prepared to spend more if they received excellent and knowledgeable in-store advice, indicating a golden opportunity for retailers. This compared with 30% of shoppers in the home improvement category and 27% in homeware/ home furnishings and 21% in clothing and apparel.

According to the survey, 50% of Brits made a ‘considered purchase’ in DIY during the pandemic, more than in any other category. However, only 1 in 5 (21%) rated the advice they had as ‘excellent’ in making the purchase. This was compared to 32% for baby and child, 31% for gaming, and 24% for consumer electronics. Meanwhile, 1 in 4 DIY shoppers (25%) were so disappointed by the advice they were put off making an expensive purchase altogether, with 11% pulling the plug on the purchase and walking out of the store.

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. 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.

Joined up retailing appeals

Meanwhile, a conclusive 85% of shoppers are now doing online research before making a considered purchase in-store. 84% of Gen Z, 45-54, and 55-64 categories were even higher at 89% and 90% respectively. Interestingly, 69% said a well synchronized online and offline experience would make them more likely to make a considered purchase.

The timeless appeal of a positive engagement with an in-store expert.

According to Daniel Todaro, Managing Director of Gekko: “Our research highlights the timeless appeal of a positive engagement with an in-store expert. 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. They are consistently the best way to influence and convert a sale of a considered purchase item.

While there is overall satisfaction, our survey clearly shows more can be done and retailers have potentially missed out of billions. Now, this is not to say that all retailers are doing it wrong. Those with a real customer service first mentality are doing it amazingly well. 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 and is not viewed as just another body to ‘deal’ with.”

Bright future with Gen Z

He continued: “Belying the stereotypes, it is also clear the generations who most welcome expert advice are the younger ones – indeed as our research indicates the right advice can lead to younger customers willingly spending more. This is good news for the future of bricks and mortar retail, but it doesn’t mean retailers don’t need to adapt. Our survey also shows that a joined-up and seamless experience online and offline is also now expected with older generations also more likely to research. Brands already know the need to embrace experts and adapt to survive in a changing market, it’s now about making the investment to do so and implement the new experience-centric playbook.”

To find out more about our survey research please visit our website.

About the research
The nationally representative survey of 2,000 consumers was carried out by One Poll in a research project in October. The categories being researched were: Consumer electronics/appliances/technology, Homeware/ home furnishings, Baby & child, Gaming, Home improvement (DIY & Garden), Clothing & apparel/accessories.  

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Know How Now

Now more than ever, enhancing the customer experience is critical to create theatre and ultimately close sales. In order to take the consumer through the varied steps of the journey from demo to sale, you need to equip your staff to be the best they can be – and it all starts with training. A key element of the formula for success in store is the engagement of shoppers with retail sales advisors. Are they proactive, helpful, skilful, knowledgeable, and capable of providing a personalised experience? This is something the online experience can’t replicate and physical retailers need to capitalise upon. Much is down to individuals,
their training and management the retailer provides, but when it comes to talking about a brand and its products it is vital they are informed and motivated… and most importantly advocates.

The Pandemic’s Impact

The training of advocates is often down to brand-led initiatives, and while in the past these experiences were provided in person, the pandemic has forced new innovative methods like virtual training, with face-to-face communication not being possible. For example, this could include, developing or incorporating digital learning and engagement solutions from third parties or even those brands you sell. Working with your brands enables you to talk directly with their training teams to develop your Retail Sales Advisors, allowing them to choose when and how they learn, with tactics ranging from gamification to potential
incentives at no cost to you driving uptake. These digital solutions mean that brands are able to boost their reach, through training many more staff members and therefore having a wider impact. While visiting face-to-face enables greater engagement and brand advocacy – a hybrid model is still a fantastic way of doing business with retailers to help develop categories and brandshare. In some respects, a bit like peoples* changed working arrangement, it’s taken a major event to force through a sensible and more efficient way of doing business.

Introducing ‘Tech-sperts’

While digital methods are helping to train more in-store experts at scale, the digital world can also be utilised to provide direct expert assistance to those making a considered purchase. Curry’s is one brand trying a new approach during the pandemic with the Shoplive service to assist sales. A pop-up appears asking if you need buying advice, but rather than the experience being a frustrating one with a generic chatbot, shoppers can then start a one- way video call with one of Curry’s experts. ShopLive now has over 800 ‘tech-sperts’, aiding customers through their essential tech purchases. Each new expert goes through two days of specialist training to ensure they can help customers with every tech query. While a face-to face conversation with a live product demo will always be the best way of answering any customers’ needs, this certainly can aid the sales process for those who would still rather not venture out, or can’t for
any reason.

A Blended Approach

Despite the atypical nature of the past year, we have seen retail set up in response to the adversity. Namely a dynamic approach with some needed changes and digital transformation taking place that in the long run will only be a good thing for the industry. A lot of the confident retailers have really begun to find their voice and discover a new way to navigate these new uncertain, but exciting waters. Be creative. Be brave and try new ways to educate your teams to better meet the customer life cycle. The future of training and the manner in which we deliver this as a blended approach may be changing, however the need to continue evolving the knowledge base in both technical and soft skills is essential to meet the ever-changing needs of the CE industry and the customers you serve – who are ultimately the pulse of your business.

By Daniel Todaro, Managing Director, Gekko Group

Article published by ERT

Photo by Michal Matlon on Unsplash

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Coming out of the pandemic – Five lessons from an SME in surviving a crisis

When the pandemic first hit, my thoughts were drawn to the here and now. This involved reforecasting and our cash flow, calculating how long the business could survive and employ staff without any income. However once the dust settled it made me realise there was never a better time to embrace new thinking and how necessity is the mother of all invention. The pandemic has forced new approaches and new ways of thinking that can improve how SMEs can do business. From how we engage with staff to our approach to business and people we work with, to the new products we are developing. I think there have been five ways we have mitigated the worst impact of the pandemic that are good lessons for other SMEs in similar situations.

Supporting staff

My key focus was employee support and motivation so whilst we agreed plans with brands, the workforce needed to be supported to deliver these. Lockdown put the nation under very odd circumstances, unique to everyone and all very personal. We therefore began the process of honest communications, support from a work and personal perspective to help develop coping mechanisms and create clear expectations of working patterns and priorities. We increased training, which ranged from soft skills learning and also included employee support curated with external practitioners in each field to assist the workforce as best we could. These initiatives looked to develop life skills delivered virtually for all staff, these included Coping with Covid sessions, Diversity, equity and inclusion discussions, Mental & Physical Health courses which evolved based on employee feedback, all supported by our weekly Fit for Gekko emails that gave useful information, tips and light hearted advice. As the bedrock of the business during uncertain times we needed to make sure they were looked after and could bounce back strongly when the good times returned. 

Develop new innovative services

Even with some restrictions eased at different points, it became impractical and less safe to send people in store to train staff so we moved at pace to pivot to develop new digital services for brands. This included a digital learning management system for retail sales teams. This is something we had been strategising for a while but the pandemic forced us to rapidly speed up the development. The upshot is we have been able to train many more staff than we would have and created a valued new service which will complement our instore activity. For one brand we have trained over 100,000 retail sales advisors virtually since March 2020 through a mix of live streams and one 2 one virtual sessions. It enabled us to increase our reach by 37%. In meeting the needs of the evolved channel, we have helped diversify our business offering. We also created multiple Engagement Portals for staff in areas ranging from virtual education, online expenses, employee management tools. We will continue to focus on increased investment in data and insight and training and employee engagement. 

Invest in insight and truly knowing your customer

With less live activity with clients, we invested in our Data and Insight team to develop our research market trends, economy and shopper habits. This was critical to support the brands we work with and equip our staff to understand the macro situation better and react. In gaining a better understanding of the state of the nation we created a shared understanding of the challenges ahead and how to overcome them. It has set us up in a good place to understand the challenges of the future and to remain more relevant for our partners and clients.

Cementing relationships in difficult time

Given the difficulties we have all faced, this period has been a perfect opportunity to really cement relationships with partners. We all faced the same challenges and it was a time to show loyalty. In some ways the pandemic provided the glue to bring us all closer. Sadly there have been many examples of businesses who have failed in this regard during this time. But my sense is that this will be remembered by customers and suppliers. Short term financial decisions could have long term implications for brands seen as not helping people during this time. Fortunately the majority of our client base were very supportive of our partnership. However with others I had to hold their feet to the fire a bit. It’s interesting to see how some global brands reacted to suppliers, not all were consistent with their ‘corporate values’ and as an SME you have to be brave and stand your corner. With a sustainable cash flow and supported staff we were able to begin the process of pivoting to meet the immediate needs and changes required to support our brands so that they could continue to operate in the channel and compete.

Never underestimate your staff

I remain optimistic for the future and if we can retain and grow our talent organically, complementing this with more flexible working patterns, I believe we can recover in the next two years to bounce back and exceed the 2019 results. I do think this whole period has speeded up innovative thinking, digital transformation and under the heat of the pressure encouraged agile and dynamic thinking such as the development of new products and services ensuring we serve the needs of clients. On a human level it has of course created an enormous amount of stress, pressure and tragedy for so many and we need to be mindful of staff’s mental health as we return to the office. But ultimately it has made me appreciate that you should never underestimate your staff. 

The hidden talents, resilience and ability to adapt were highlighted amongst the team with the vast majority adapting and delivering irrespective of the situation. It’s easy to see your staff as just ‘employees’ but they are more than that, they are the pulse which makes your business beat and adapt better than perhaps you may have wrongly imagined.

By Daniel Todaro, Managing Director, Gekko Group

Article published by SME Business News

Photo by Tim Douglas from Pexels

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How are department stores taking aim at Gen Z shoppers?

In recent years, department stores have increased investment into online offerings, digital marketing campaigns and product collaborations in a bid to target younger shoppers.

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, an independent study estimated that Gen Z’s direct and indirect spending power reached up to $143 billion, a level of financial influence that made brands and retailers alike stand up and take note.

Despite the pandemic hampering the sector worldwide, Gen Z shoppers’ digitally native lifestyle meant their spending wasn’t limited when stores were closed during government lockdowns.

Now that all legal Covid restrictions have ceased across the UK, these younger shoppers are expecting the same digital and interactive elements they have access to online within physical retail spaces when venturing out.

Last month, London’s Selfridges opened its new gaming destination PlayHouse with hopes to cash in on the lucrative gaming market and entice younger shoppers.

The 200sq m store brings together digital and physical experiences with immersive VR experiences and car racing simulators.

Last year Harrods launched and expanded H Beauty, which offers a range of premium and luxury brands under one roof as well as onsite treatments, consultations and demonstrations.

While in July, the luxury department store launched a clothing rental service in partnership with My Wardrobe HQ in a bid to tap into shoppers seeking sustainable fashion options.

This came a month after a new report from Depop revealed that Gen Z’s shopping behaviours are “strongly influenced” by brands commitments to social and environmental sustainability.

When it comes to sustainability, 90 per cent of Gen Z consumers surveyed said they have made changes to be more sustainable in their daily lives and more sustainable fashion practices play a central role.

Melissa Minkow, Retail Industry Lead at the digital consultancy firm CI&T said these recent moves have been smart.

“The department store concept isn’t completely irrelevant in terms of how younger generations shop, but it does need to be updated in order to fully resonate,” she told Retail Gazette.

“Gen Z is a group of social shoppers- they enjoy making shopping a shared experience for themselves and their peers, and department stores structurally haven’t been super conducive to indulging that desire. These efforts will cater to Gen Z’s appreciation of mall culture and destination shopping.”

Oliver Guy, Senior Director, Industry Solutions at Software AG explained that now because Gen Z makes up more than a third of the global population, “Selfridges and Harrods are right to try and attract younger shoppers into stores and retailers who ignore them will face their own peril.

“The key reason for this is that we are in an age whereby consumer habits commence with younger generations and move onto older generations.”

He noted Instagram as a key example as it started with teenagers but now the older generations are also avid users.

“Retailers investing to meet the requirements of Gen Z is not so much about spending power now, but about the generational influence it will have in the future as they lay the foundations for the future of living,” he added.

“The things that Gen Z look for in retail experiences set a high bar and are areas in which other generational cohorts will also desire one day.”

While department stores look to target these younger shoppers, can they do so successfully without alienating older consumers?

Daniel Todaro, Managing Director of Gekko, the marketing and experiential agency said it is possible: “Look at those who do it well with all age groups, the likes of Lush, Urban Outfitters, Apple and any sports brands stores.”

“They offer a little bit of something for all enhanced with great customer service.

“It needs to be somewhere people plan to go, not just need to go. This is especially true for Gen Z, those digital natives who perhaps seek something that their online world does not provide,” he added.

“The introduction of physical ‘pop ups’ in-store or tailored shopping destinations are designed to unite rather than alienate shoppers, and bring them to together in a universal experience which goes beyond ‘just shopping’.

“In a world that has seen the adoption of online shopping increase so rapidly, these experiences are key to entice new customers in store, regardless of generation.

“That said, traditional retailers do need to be wary of not becoming too focused on the interests of younger generations at the expense of older consumers.”

Ed Hill, SVP EMEA at Bazaarvoice explained that these new offerings such as Selfridge’s gaming destination and Harrods’ H Beauty stores will see younger and older shoppers alike opting to visit department stores, which traditionally have been seen to be more exclusive to older consumer groups.

He added that the disposable income available to the baby boomer generation is essential for the luxury market, something the likes of Harrods and Selfridges has built itself upon.

“Older consumers might be more convenience driven, compared to younger generations which are attracted by visuals and engaging experiences, but they all want a smooth and seamless shopping journey which provides the outcome they entered the store looking for,” Ed said.

“All retail journeys and experiences should be optimised to appeal to all generations.”

Alongside the existing new measures department store retailers have put in place, Nikki Baird, VP of Retail Innovation at Aptos emphasised that department stores have to continue giving Gen Z shoppers ample reasons to come to stores.

“Events, education, celebrities, etc. Gen Z is more about experiences than things,” she explained.

“That doesn’t mean they won’t buy things, but it does mean that retailers need to do more to create the events that lead to products. Department stores especially, since many brands they carry are available direct from the brands themselves or pretty much any place you want to look online.”

When asked if department store retailers are simply focusing on experiential retail rather than Gen Z shoppers, Ed Hill explained that department stores have been faced with a real battle for some time, and the pandemic has done nothing to help this.

“Experiential retail has become a focus for retail across the board, particularly as consumers seek heightened social experiences that have been missing for 18 months,” he added.

“There’s no doubt that department stores need to adapt and appeal to Gen Z shoppers, like every retailer does, and partnerships with brands that provide experiential experiences – as seen in Selfridge’s collaboration with Smartech for its gaming PlayHouse  –  can be a vital lifeline for retailers looking to remain relevant amongst younger audiences.”

After the last year wherein digital commerce has been at the fore, what has become clear is that physical retail needs to meet customer expectations and offer them the same interactive experience that they have online.

Nikki Baird said the problem is that many department stores have mistaken their company history for their brand.

“Department stores have a long and storied history, but they have let that history be what defines them to their customers,” she explained.

“That only has relevancy to older shoppers who have that shared history.”

Baird said that in digital-led retailing, “who” the brand is becomes the most important thing, because it’s what is most easily conveyed online.

“‘I have the best brands’ – what most department stores really have as their brand – does not translate,” she added.

“Having the best brands is meaningless when the best brands are literally one tab away in the browser.

“I think even the department stores that have invested in technology to revamp their image have gained some traction with Gen Z because they have cool ways to engage, but none of them have really invested in a true sense of brand or lifestyle that is differentiated from any other brand or retailer, and they will continue to struggle for relevancy until they do.”

Why have department store retailers been behind trends in recent years?

Melissa Minkow explained that because consumers don’t shop as frequently anymore with a specific brand in mind- they shop by category, the way department stores are merchandised doesn’t appeal to current shopping behaviours.

She added that the usual price points found in department stores tend to sit in the mid-range, which has been a decreasingly successful spot for retailers.

“It’s not necessarily that department stores have been behind trends, it’s more that they just don’t offer a value proposition suited to current consumer behaviours,” she said.

“Finally, with the rise of social media, retail has become an extremely quick-turn space for assortment. The Department Store model isn’t meant for this fast-fashion dominant retail culture.”

Lisette Huyskamp, chief marketing officer at Productsup added: “Department stores have undoubtedly struggled to Certain high street retailers have moved towards a successful omnichannel approach but many department stores have struggled to play catch-up in recent years and keep pace.

“While not a department store, a great example of what can happen when things go wrong is GAP. The American clothing company failed to invest heavily enough in its digital offering, resulting in severe job losses and the closure of all its UK and Ireland stores.

“Therefore, the John Lewis and Selfridges of the high street must hone in on what they do best and amplify this across multiple channels to truly offer customers a compelling experience that spans across in-store and online.”

Last month news broke that Amazon was looking to enter into department stores, leading many to ask if the ecommerce giant would disrupt existing retailers, much like it did for grocers across the UK after Amazon Go and Fresh opened doors.

Oliver Guy spoke on Amazon’s recent plans and said the new changes will accelerate how quickly organisations see that reinventing the store is essential.

“Other department stores only have one purpose – transactions,” he explained.

“Amazon’s venture will shake up the industry to provide new offerings and experiences to customers. Retailers will be watching carefully and working out how they are going to adapt to reflect this.”

Melissa Minkow added that department store brands that have been able to survive this rough retail period will likely uncover and borrow some best practices from Amazon’s efforts, while learning from the pitfalls.

“I wouldn’t say this move will revive the sector as a whole, but smart department retailers will learn from both the good and bad that come out of this experiment because Amazon is willing to take risks a heritage sector wouldn’t typically take,” said Minkow.

“In particular, Amazon’s move will force heritage department stores to rethink how convenient and seamlessly shoppable they are for consumers.

“Some of the reasons department stores have struggled- unpredictable inventory, staffing shortages, non-intuitive merchandising- will hopefully end up changing after Amazon executes in an exemplary way against those issues.

She explained that this could spur an overhaul of all current CX-related strategies for retailers such as John Lewis and Selfridges.

By Daniel Todaro, Managing Director, Gekko Group

Article published by Retail Gazette

Photo by Wendy Wei from Pexels

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How retailers can maximise sales in a Golden Quarter like no other

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

From a retail point of view, whether we are ready or not, September means all eyes start looking towards Black Friday and the Christmas Peak period. The importance of this period can’t be underestimated, particularly in 2021 on the back of shops being shut for such long periods during the various lockdowns. Finally we return to a more “normal” period of retail behaviour and holiday festivities with some strong indications the bounce back could be like no other. Let’s explore what some of the forecasts are predicting and how the season is expected to play out this time.

Consumer confidence has been consistently rising through this year and should be closing in on positive territory as we get to the golden quarter. GfK’s trusted Consumer Confidence Index is already up to -8 from the latest August reading, putting it ahead of pre-pandemic levels, and barring any serious economic or public health issues it should keep its momentum.

Absence makes the wallet grow stronger

Within this, there have been big jumps in major purchase indexes too, with shoppers seemingly ready to spend on the right products at any price point. UK consumers are estimated to have saved around £200bn in the various lockdowns, while 54% of those savers are ready to spend it on Black Friday and Christmas according to a recent survey by Future plc.

A big draw for spending that money for most people this year will be the fact that we all missed out in many ways last year. Whether it be seeing more loved ones, a family holiday or a trip to an atmospheric high street to do the Christmas shopping. Those returning will be expecting a positive experience from brands and retailers, and it will be important to consider both shoppers that are part of this group, along with those that remain cautious with the virus still circulating.

Whichever way people behave, it looks like certain patterns are going to come to the fore. Home improvements, fashion, health & beauty, and toys of course are all set to be categories of real growth this season. Although there could be a whole series of sectors that could benefit when it comes to potential sales growth due to pent up demand.

All of this confidence is pointing to optimism for the festive period when it comes to sales forecasts for 2021. Although a slight drop is predicted in total retail terms due to less food sales this year, Retail Week research predicts a 0.5% increase in non-food sales vs Q4 2020, and a 1.7% improvement figure in comparison with 2019. The two year increase largely comes as a result of consumers spending more time at home, and subsequently spending more on home improvements and entertainment.

Retailers primed for the discount season

So when will the spending begin? Last year marked a change for the season and its normal pattern with a much longer promotional season. Consumers were urged to shop early due to the strain on the supply chain, and significantly Amazon positioned its Prime Day in October, a month earlier than Black Friday in November.

Amazon moved Prime Day back to its regular summer slot this year, and it remains to be seen whether they will launch another promotion in October to match its 2020 position. I wouldn’t bet against the ecommerce giant pencilling in another sale for that valuable slot again, whether it is another branded Prime Day or otherwise. If it does, then other retailers will follow suit and we will get another lengthy promotional period like we did last year.

Christmas shopping starting earlier this year

There are some warnings of issues that could dampen the mood this year however. Pandemic related problems could arise of course, along with truck driver shortages and global supply chain disruptions that may delay goods arriving to the UK at all. Reporting by The Observer found that retailers are already warning consumers to get thinking about shopping for Christmas to avoid disappointment. It’s the second year in a row where such implications have been highlighted. It is becoming clear that consumers are hearing that call, a recent Ebay survey showed that 41% of shoppers are aiming to get their Christmas shopping done before December even begins, as opposed to just 25% last year.

Retail as ever will continue to rise to any challenge. 86% said they will enact the in-store safety and hygiene measures they relied on during 2020 in order to protect their customers. Meanwhile businesses are acting now to ensure they have the stock they need for a successful Christmas period. With more consumers in store this year, retailers will need to ensure they are managing any issues behind the scenes. They will also need to ensure that customers on the shop floor are getting the purchasing experience they have looked forward to.

As we approach Christmas 2021, consumers are certainly going to have plenty of choice as to where to spend their budgets, and retailers will have to do all they can to make sure they stand out from the crowd. Engaging marketing, whether it be store representatives, training or merchandising activities, can ensure that the consumer knows who you are and why they should be choosing your products. Once that is achieved then loyalty and success will follow, and not just for Christmas.

By Tom Harwood, Data and Insight Manager, Gekko Group

Article published by BDaily

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Staying afloat in the storm of the century

The past year has seen many firms suffer – but small enterprises have proved surprisingly resilient. Daniel Todaro talks to Business Reporter about how Gekko has innovated to sidestep the pandemic potholes.

Small and medium-sized businesses have suffered grievously during the Covid pandemic. Lacking the depth of pocket, breadth of interests and extent of continuity planning of larger companies, many have had a torrid time, with owners often spending their own savings or taking second jobs just to keep the business afloat.

But smaller firms do have one invaluable advantage over larger rivals: agility. While the corporate CEO is straining at the helm of the oil tanker, the SME skipper can reset every sail and disappear over the horizon.

Even in the hardest-hit sectors, SMEs have found new routes to market, often online. Pre-Covid, field and retail marketing agency Gekko majored on training shop-floor staff, so lockdown was a hammer blow. CEO Daniel Todaro’s response was to go virtual.

“We moved at pace to pivot and develop new digital services, in­cluding a digital learning management system for retail sales teams. We’d been strategising this for a while, but the pandemic forced us to rapidly speed up de­velopment. The upshot is we’ve been able to train many more staff, and created a valued new service [to] complement our in-store ac­tivity. So in meeting the needs of the evolved channel, we’ve helped diversify our business offering.”

For the full article please visit Business Reporter (page 14)

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Is a ‘Shop Out to Help Out’ scheme enough to boost UK retail?

With the vast majority of Covid-19 restrictions lifted, there have been calls for a ‘Shop Out to Help Out’ scheme – in the same vein as last year’s Eat Out to Help Out – to help the embattled retail sector. Retail Gazette speaks to experts to find out it would be enough to help high streets recover.

At the beginning of the month, a petition to introduce a ‘Shop Out to Help Out’ scheme was launched in a bid to help struggling independent high street retailers.

The idea, instigated by membership programme Refundable and in the same vein as the Eat Out to Help Out last summer, calls for customers to be rewarded a 50 per cent 50 per cent rebate when shopping in small or independent retailers that employer fewer than 10 staff.

With over thousands of shops having closed permanently within the last year, the scheme could potentially act as a lifeline to retailers, providing them with a safety net as they emerge from restrictions.

Refundable is currently encouraging both consumers and retailers to sign the petition, with the goal of reaching 100,000 signatures.

While it is clear that smaller retailers need more support during the transition back to normality in the wake of “freedom day” earlier this week, there are still doubts that a scheme of this nature would not be enough to revive high streets.

Polly Barnfield, chief executive of Maybe, a member of the government’s High Street Taskforce, said that “at the moment, all help should be welcomed and embraced including schemes like Shop Out To Help Out”.

However, she stated that while the scheme could provide the short term financial boost that many retailers and high streets need, “there’s more that needs to be done than just that”.

“To sustain longer term recovery and growth, collaboration between retailers is essential to turn our high streets into destinations with a mix of retail and hospitality that shoppers want to go to for the mix,” she explained.

“It’s about enthusing and engaging consumers across social platforms to drive them towards local physical stores rather than ecommerce stores, creating ‘localism on steroids’ so that shoppers are convinced that your local High Street can provide.”

Dr Eleonora Pantano, retail marketing expert at the University of Bristol, agreed: “The demise of physical stores and the high street started long before the pandemic, which has accelerated the decline.

“To really boost retail sectors, retailers need more substantial financial support to help them adapt from being just a place to shop to offering a memorable experience, which gives them a competitive advantage against online options and the chance of winning customer loyalty.

“When the Shop Out to Help Out money runs out, shoppers won’t return unless there is something special to keep them coming back.”

Last year’s Eat Out To Help Out scheme was hailed a success by the hospitality sector with the majority of businesses reporting that it led to a boost in sales. At the same time, it was met with criticism amid accusations that it helped spur on the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic in the UK, during a time when the vaccine was not yet widely available.

Despite this, according to Big Hospitality, over 70 per cent of businesses said they’d like to see the scheme repeated again in the future as more than 100 million meals were claimed by diners under the scheme. In addition, booking for the final day, August 31, was up 216 per cent year-on-year.

While this scheme was successful, could this be replicated with one for retailers?

Helen Ashton, chief executive at Shape Beyond, said Eat Out to Help Out was a success as “discounts on food in restaurants are relatively rare and the timing post the first lockdown was great when people were desperate to get out”.

“Discounting of consumer goods is likely to be less impactful as it is a regular occurrence in the retailing seasonal calendar,” she added.

Earlier this week, England ushered in the so-called “freedom day”, which marked the official lifting of Covid restrictions. So would this be the perfect time to launch a Shop Out to Help Out discount scheme?

Rupert Cook, marketing director at marketing agency Gekko, said that the summer holidays were traditionally a relatively quiet period for many retailers, so it may be more effective to give the high street a boost once the autumn term starts as people would be back from their breaks or back to work as the furlough scheme is tapered off.

He added that for those that like to start their Christmas shopping early, Shop Out to Help Out could provide an added incentive.

“What’s probably more pressing for businesses right now is the Covid self isolation rules that are no longer fit for purpose,” he explained.

“The more people are being pinged and told to stay away from work, the harder it is for businesses including retail, to operate.

“Only this week, the managing director of Iceland stated that he is having to close some stores and have restricted opening at others because of staff shortage – something they never had to contend with through the depths of lockdown.

“We should also bear in mind, that with Covid cases rising daily, there is a real possibility that we may be blighted with further lockdowns.”

Retail Business mentor Ami Rabheru agreed.

“The biggest threat I see facing retail businesses going into the golden quarter is the ‘pingdemic’,” she said.

“If staff of small businesses are being asked to isolate by NHS they have to shut down their bricks and mortar shops or reduce hours for that period of time due to staff shortages which will inevitably hurt their recovery for what is the biggest time of the year for most retail businesses.

“So I think that businesses should spend time and effort on building a better customer journey and experiences between the two channels whilst keeping the customer at the heart of their businesses to move forward with the new normal of retail.”

While there have been concerns that a Shop Out to Help Out initiative could cause a surge in positive Covid cases, Cook argued that we are now in a world where a high proportion of the population has been vaccinated.

He stated that unlike the Eat out To Help Out scheme, a retail version wouldn’t be encouraging people to gather together indoors.

“Shopping is a sociable activity but realistically is a more solitary or selective social activity,” he said.

When originally proposed, the Shop Out to Help Out was meant to target smaller and independent retailer rather than the larger chains. Refundable owner Lee Plaister said in a statement that “independent retailers have had a very challenging year and it’s crucial that the government steps up to assist the recovery”.

However, there are concerns that if implemented, Brits would flock to high street staples instead of local, independent stores.

Colin Munro, managing director of fintech firm Miconex, said: “Both small local shops and larger chains have their place on the high street, and the best initiatives are those that encourage all businesses to work together for the benefit of the community, building vibrant, attractive high streets for the future.”

“A customer may visit the high street for the large chain, but they may then also visit the independent book store and coffee shop.

“Customers want choice in how and where they spend, and any Shop Out To Help Out initiative will be more successful if it takes account of this.”

Article published by Retail Gazette

Photo by Liza Summer from Pexels

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Using The Power Of Insight To Enhance Your CX Proposition As Shoppers Return To Stores

As the country emerges from the worst of the pandemic, it is apparent that we are entering into a new world of retail across all channels. This landscape remains one that keeps changing, and understanding the customer experience at all stages is crucial to success, utilising data and insights effectively can ensure you stay ahead of the game.

For physical retail particularly, in differentiating itself from the rising e-commerce category, the concept of experience is now more at the forefront than ever before as consumers expect bricks and mortar stores to be an experiential destination as well as a point of purchase. First-hand insights from the best available source, the customer themselves, will help ensure those experiences with your business are both relevant and effective.

CX is key to brand loyalty

Loyalty to a brand is no longer dictated purely by price or product, it is now more to do with the overall experience a shopper receives, whether that be in-store or online. How businesses handle their customers is second only to product quality in terms of priority for consumers. Whereas an average conversion rate can sit as low as 1-3% for first time buyers, for a repeat customer it can reach as high as 60-70%, meaning that making that first experience positive is crucial. As a result of this, according to SuperOffice 46% of global business professionals surveyed said that elevating CX was the number one priority for their business over the next 5 years, as all channels realise its growing importance.

Clearly this is a trend that has already gathered pace, and in order to make sure they are at the forefront, brands are increasingly looking into data and insight to help shape their strategies. Being able to make decisions in real time based on changing events has never been more important, and those that find the right balance will build better consumer acquisition and loyalty through positive shopping experiences. 86% of consumers are actually willing to pay more if they receive quality service, and the more expensive the item, the more they are willing to pay.

Insight informing the customer experience

Although knowing just who your customers are isn’t quite enough any more, you need to try to understand exactly what they are looking for in a store visit, what shapes their purchasing journey, and importantly why they might like you in particular. Surveys work well, while face to face interaction with real life representatives can also provide key information right from the customer themselves. This engagement can be benchmarked to provide brands with valuable knowledge with which to react or strategise for. Such first party data (i.e. directly from the consumer) can be both transactional and/or behavioural, and is the most prized form available providing powerful insights that can be used to improve the customer journey.

One in three people will walk away from a brand after just one bad CX. Good insights can fix, or better yet pre-empt, these issues and cut a potential poor experience before it develops. A quick stock fix, product description change, or promotion update can be the difference between sales made and sales lost. In the positive scenario, it is a win-win for all parties, leaving both consumer and brand satisfied. Financially, the rewards for succeeding here are more than worth it, data from Qualtrics shows us that increasing customer retention rates by 5% increases profits by 25%-95%.

Physical retail is back – time to take advantage

Even with the rise of e-commerce over the course of the past year, physical retail is now back and as important as ever. It remains popular because shoppers can physically touch products they are interested in, items can be taken home immediately, and they can get tailored advice from experts. Their journey in store is defined by having an informative CX and a seamless transaction. Effective field marketing can hit both of these parameters head on, while at the same time gathering the direct insights needed to keep driving the consumer journey forward.

As retail continues to open up once more and the industry breathes again, both brands and marketers need data to enrich the CX, which as we know will then garner loyalty and recommendations. The most productive campaigns will be from those who can gather the most relevant first hand information, and are able to then use those insights to keep their customers happy with their experiences. It is this satisfaction that will in turn help your brand succeed.

Tom Harwood – Data & Insight Manager Gekko Group

To read the full article please visit Business Mondays

The photo that accompanies this article is by Burst from Pexels

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