Tag Archives: Opinion

How to create the ‘Feel Good’ retail we all need right now

While the economy has fully opened up after the end of pandemic restrictions, we are faced with fresh challenges. Soaring inflation, ongoing supply chain disruption and the implications of a war in Europe loom large. Against this worrying backdrop many are looking for positive experiences to help us feel good and distract us from the news.

Indeed, the whole concept of well-being and self care is far more prevalent amongst consumers now given the torrid time we have all faced. It is no doubt with this in mind that Selfridge’s recently grabbed headlines by announcing it would offer customers a series of experiences including sex counselling and therapeutic sessions. 

Its ‘Super Self’ initiative is aimed at putting “inner well-being” at the heart of the shopping experience and intended to tempt shoppers back into its store. The immersive experience includes bookable confidence coaching and empowerment sessions, as well as inviting DJs to create “feel-good sounds”.

It’s a well thought through initiative, enabling Selfridges to set the agenda in creative retailing. Positioning itself at the forefront of a retail revival, this service is one of a number to get shoppers ‘back in the habit’ of visiting stores. 

After two years of restrictions, city centres have struggled with the upheaval of lockdowns, stay at home workers, minimal tourism and staffing issues. However the figures for January showed Gross domestic product (GDP) bouncing back in January 2022, increasing by 0.8%. The Wholesale and retail trade grew by 2.5% in January 2022 and was the main contributor to January’s growth in services.

Need to recognise changed behaviours

The lockdowns and restrictions have been long and painful, but a survey we recently commissioned on consumer shopping intentions indicated a strong appetite to return and shop in-store. Only 2% said they wouldn’t be returning to the High Street. But it would be naive to just act as though it was still 2020 in returning to the same plan. 

It is incumbent on retailers to recognise how consumers have changed their shopping behaviours. Successful retailers have always understood the motivators and triggers for different customer groups and then offered an appropriate, tailored approach. This needs to be recognised and acted upon. It is certainly something Selfridge’s have recognised. We are changed and therefore retail needs to change to remain relevant in this new and uncertain world.

Connect with shoppers on a more personal, emotional level

Physical retailers need to emphasise the instore user experience to provide that differentiating factor from the online realm. A good customer experience means your customers will spend more and is something that is a key brand differentiator. The positive approach embraced by Selfridges is an opportunity to connect with shoppers on a more personal, emotional level. 

Positivity provides a welcome break and will help with loyalty and sales. Positivity is an important part of the customer experience mix but it’s more than just that. It’s about appealing to the senses. A sensory buzz of a considered purchase and the need to reconnect with the consumer in this category/space that just can’t be provided online. 

In our survey the top factor in people making a considered purchase was the ability to see and touch a product, according to 58% of respondents. This tactile ability to interact with a product and try before they buy gives people a reason to head into town. 

Stimulate the senses

Retailers should be stimulating the senses and having the right experts instore. Product knowledge and brand advocacy amongst retail sales staff are crucial components to success in retail. It starts with effective product launches and is something that traditionally relies on. Face-to-face engagement and hands-on time with new products. People who truly understand the product, can answer questions and can close a sale. This is something the online world again can not replicate.

To complement the expert, think about presenting those products in an appealing way. You will want to focus on products that have increased in popularity during the pandemic – those supporting lives now more centred at home. Make them visually appealing with great displays and demos. Ensure you have clearly labelled product details, features and benefits and ensure any promotions are clearly highlighted, ie. what it integrates or works well with.

Brand ambassadors are game-changers

The positive engagement with a brand ambassador or retail sales advisor is the game-changer that increases conversion rate and average basket value, achieved either through a higher purchase price or connection sale and, perhaps, an advocate of both brand and retailer. In an environment where inflation is likely to start to bite, people will be more conscious of what they are spending money on and therefore raises the importance of the skill of an expert in helping to guide a sale. 

This is much harder to achieve online and never as gratifying for the end-user as a customer journey that enhanced the individual’s perception of the brand. 

On a bumpy road to recovery and with challenging ongoing news, we all want to feel good. Brands that recognise our changed needs and create the right experience led by the right expert can succeed. 

To read the full article please visit Retail Sector

Photo by Tim Douglas

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How Brands Create an Emotional Connection with Their Customers

The role of the brand in peoples’ lives has changed dramatically over the past few years. Consumers have spent two years decluttering, throwing away, updating, and changing what they need. As they’ve assessed the results, people’s attitudes towards certain brands have also changed. Brands that invented themselves decades ago are not necessarily communicating successfully or coming across in the same way anymore because people have changed and moved on. 

Consumers now want a less transactional and more emotional relationship with brands. According to a recent survey by Motista, customers who have an emotional relationship with a brand have three times higher lifetime value and will likely recommend the company at a rate of 71%, instead of the average 45%. It is this personal approach to building relationships that brands should develop. Like with any personal relationship, it should be built on key psychological principles.

1. Good listening skills

One of the key elements in any two-way relationship is the ability to listen and understand someone’s concerns. We are in a global environment where inflation has become very real and persistent for people everywhere. Therefore, from a brand perspective, you are going to have to work a lot harder to persuade somebody to buy your product. 

As consumers, we have become more considerate in our choices of what we buy and where we want to spend our money. The first question consumers are now asking when considering any product is, do they really need that thing in their lives?

As a brand, are you confident you’re listening rather than just broadcasting your messages? How are you adapting your approach and enthralling your customer over the entire sales cycle? This approach is especially crucial in the considered purchase space. 

The answer is in addressing a customer’s underlying needs state and responding to what they’ve said. Not what you think they need. For example, it’s said that, on average, it takes 12 days for somebody to buy a washing machine. So that’s 12 days from first consideration to researching online to getting to the point of purchase. During that window, consumers have plenty of opportunities to change their mind, especially in crowded categories. Brands that don’t listen and fail to address the shopper’s needs during that journey will lose out.

2. Offering connection

In any friendship group, you will want to feel like you belong – to become part of a tribe. In many ways, a timeless virtue a brand can offer. But this has been given added importance in recent years. When a brand evokes a true sensation of inclusion, we feel a connection.

When we buy into a brand, they are offering us more than products and services, we are buying into a lifestyle. We become part of their tribe. This is a particularly strong trait for technology users. People define themselves by the gadgets and brands they favor – for example, whether they are an iOS user or an Android user. Apple achieved such success by the ability to move technology from the practical to an emotional, tactile, beautifully designed and built piece of hardware product that created the real ‘love’ of users.

In a time where we have perhaps felt more isolated the ability to bond with others over shared interests is crucial. This is something all generations have been yearning for and are looking to experience. 

3. Sharing the same values

We increasingly buy into brands because of their ethics or how they contribute back or give back to society. Also how they conduct themselves behind the scenes or the manner in which they go about developing their products. This is becoming more strong with Gen Z. According to a recent study by Attest, “more than 60% of Gen Z say they’re likely to stop buying from a brand that doesn’t meet their personal values – 42% say ‘likely’ and 20% say ‘very likely’.”

Brands should connect with the values of their audience to build a stronger bond, rather than just perhaps providing them with a product or service they need. People will want to buy into a product because they appreciate they are dealing with a responsible brand that gives something back.

4. Being financially empathetic

Ethics are, of course, important but let’s not be naive. A recent study we commissioned also showed ‘price promotion’ was one of the most important factors in making a considered purchase

Indeed, according to an article by Psychology Today, having compatible financial values is a key predictor of relationship success and is also one of the biggest reasons relationships break down. This also applies to brands. Brands should ensure they don’t lose their customer base because they have a tin ear to their customers’ financial concerns. 

For everyone contemplating buying into a brand, it needs to be at a price point that works for them. In other words, a reasonable price. No one wants to feel like they are being overcharged so that they suffer buyer’s remorse. It needs to be the right product at the right price that does what they need. 

5. Trustworthiness

People want to trust the brands they buy from. In order to be trustworthy, it is vital to be consistent. If brands are saying one thing on their social media feeds about supporting sustainability but then a quick Google search finds they are not following this through, there is likely to be a backlash and a push back. People have more ability to find a brand and hold it to account.  

I think we are moving away from people buying things because it is just a thing to buy. I do genuinely think that people buy products and into brands because there is a genuine need. And if there’s a choice in that category, they will make a considered choice. 

It is also not necessarily about being the most ethical brand on the planet, but about being consistent and honest. There is nothing worse than that disappointing out-of-box experience. When you open a box and you feel like you’ve bought a dud or it’s just not the thing that you had anticipated having due to a brand promise that isn’t then delivered upon.

6. Fun experience

As we look at the more worthy elements of building a sustainable relationship, let’s not forget about the fun. This is the reason so many retailers are moving into ‘feel good’ retail. It is why a brand like Selfridges is offering free therapy and sex counselling alongside DJs providing ‘feel good’ sounds. By creating a climate of enjoyment, people are likely to feel more positively about the brand.

The same applies to car brands Tesla and Genesis, which have created vast immersive experiences in Westfield. The huge cost of these activations is not going to convert that many people. We’re talking about a significant amount of square footage in a serious location within one of the UK’s busiest shopping malls. But it is 100% about the experience. 

In many ways, this isn’t a place you come to transact. This is a place where you come to be immersed in the wonders of Genesis. Whether it is the luxury, the technology, the innovation, and being immersed into the brand – it’s done very, very well. It engages all the senses and creates enjoyment. The fun factor and visual experience is something so many people have missed out on these past two years and brands that proactively bring that back to life can reap the benefits.

Creating an unbreakable emotional bond

In conclusion, brands need to think very hard about a new approach to creating a genuine emotional connection with consumers who have quite a changed perspective. This needs to be beyond solely transactional. Brands need to apply the same principles they would apply to fostering any relationship. This involves focusing on good listening skills, offering connection, showing they share the same values, being financially empathetic, trustworthy, and fun.

If they can get these elements right, they can create an unbreakable emotional bond. According to author Sue Johnson, “Love is a survival imperative we experience from the cradle to the grave. Loving connection is the only safety nature ever offers us.” Brands that want to survive these tumultuous times would do well to follow that advice.

To read the full article please visit Branding Magazine

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

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I See You But I Don’t Hear You

At the time of writing, retail footfall is up 3% week on week to 80% of that in 2019 and while this is encouraging and further increases are anticipated, we must temper expectations for a full recovery simply because of changing consumer habits and their increasing propensity to head online. So the question is, what are you, as a retail business, doing to make yourself heard and adapting to the current market situation? 

In the world of Amazon, things have been going very well. Their latest figures show that its revenues grew by 20% last year in the UK, with sales leaping to £23.6 billion for 2021 from £19.6 billion in 2020, and far ahead of the £13 billion of sales taken in 2019.

While online share of sales has declined over time from its peak during lockdown, Amazon has continued to thrive regardless and it’s a clear indication that if your competitors trade online, they are seeing the value of an omnichannel approach to retail.

The core driver to any retailer’s success is making it clear, through effective marketing, as to what you sell, where you sell it and how you sell it. Doing this effectively will lend itself to drive your footfall and clicks to keep those customers and potential orders coming.

In the MDA and CE sectors, the appetite to ‘upgrade’ and ‘refresh’ remains and growth continues at a pace, so making your store the de facto supplier for the local community, if it isn’t already, is an easily achievable objective that doesn’t have to cost a fortune to realise through local marketing.

Indeed there are some fantastic examples of how ERT Award winners have used Social Media to great effect in their marketing mix. By using Instagram, Twitter or Facebook to run competitions, announce winners, promote new products or communicate promotional savings and be part of the community. Through this approach much can be achieved to target the local consumer. By putting a strategy in place and driving these communication channels as part of your marketing, social media can be a useful tool to create a community-centric voice that lends itself to serve the local community. It’s worth remembering that recent Barclaycard research has identified that nine in ten people who have shopped locally, say they will continue to do so. Don’t lose them.

With this in mind, think about the importance of Google in your marketing mix as it’s increasingly more valuable not only as a service you can utilise for free from Google but also how consumers search. Key findings have been that:

  • 46% of all Google searches are looking for local information.
  • 72% of consumers that did a local search visited a store within five miles of their local.
  • 97% of people learn more about a local company online than anywhere else.
  • 72% of computer or tablet users and 67% of smartphone users want ads that are customised to their city or postcode. (Source: Think with Google)

Springboard expects this year’s retail footfall will remain 10% below pre-Covid levels and this largely relates to pressures on household incomes through increased inflation and the general cost of living.

Retailers and brands need to bear in mind this fact, so while footfall will be impacted, the shopper returning to stores will be more discerning and as such their customer experience will need to be positive and rewarding to encourage them to spend. Using local marketing techniques to attract consumers into your store is critical in harnessing the potential of that 10% gap. So what can you do to help drive traffic to your store or website:

  1. Set up detailed radius location targeting in Google Ads
    1. This is key, as advertising to a broad audience will attract the wrong audience. Using demographics will be much more effective and efficient. It will also have a better return on investment.
  1. Run local Facebook Ads
    1. Most of the population are on Facebook, why not target on that social platform
  2.  Encourage reviews
    1. Shoppers increasingly use reviews as an essential part of their decision making and buying process. So, in addition to visiting your website to see what you have to offer,  potential customers will also use what other people say to get insight on the products you sell and the service you offer. After all, local shoppers are far more likely to be wanting a friendly personalised service from their local retailer. If your business shows up in a directory and there are no reviews, they are likely to turn to a competitor who has reviews. Optimise your local online marketing by asking customers to write good online reviews for these directories and make it easy for them to do so.
  3. Running a contest
    1. As shown by a few of these local businesses selected, competitions, especially for a local business, gets customers interested and involved. Customers like a locally run competition as there’s a higher chance to win as opposed to a big global business with millions of potential contestants etc.

Through targeted marking, it can assist to increase loyalty to your store and does not mean that price is always the deciding factor for loyalty, service and experience can negate the need to always be the lowest in price. Competing on price with competitors, as you are no doubt aware, is never sustainable in the long term as it chips away at your bottom line. With a loyal customer base, you can then concentrate on maintaining a quality service worthy of the price..

In fact, the Gartner Group found that 20% of your loyal customers generate 80% of your profits. Meanwhile, Marketing Metrics found that the chances of converting first-time customers is 5 to 20%, as compared to existing customers which is 60 to 70%. This is where effective local marketing to drive customer loyalty comes into play to increase your footfall, conversion rates and your average transaction value.

Loyal customers are more likely to check your campaigns as they already have experience with your business and are more likely to trust your product and services.

The secret to all marketing is getting the tone right and appealing to a diverse base of potential customers to visit your store, in addition to those who know or shop with you already. 

Use local marketing to talk about what makes you different, your approach, offers and more. Make sure your staff know what you are marketing to enable a seamless journey from what the customer sees and reads and translates into the experience they receive on your shop floor. Train your staff to mirror your local marketing in their approach with customers and set targets with staff to identify those who were attracted into the store through your advertising. Use this intelligence to know what is working effectively and maybe not so, to fine-tune and ensure your tone resonates with your customers.

With more consumers happy to shop locally, this trend will only continue if you offer the products and service that makes shopping local a pleasure and never a chore.

To read the full article please visit ERT

Photo by Rachel Hannah Photo on Unsplash

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The Future of Video Game Retailers

Video game stores have for some years faced the dilemma of how to diversify their offering to stay afloat in a market evolving to become primarily a digital one. Since the launch of the “next generation of consoles” back in 2006, digital downloadable games have been available through the marketplaces of Microsoft, Sony & Nintendo on their respective consoles. However, initially, the list of games available to download was quite limited which benefited retailers as it would not take away business from them. 

Fast forward to 2013 and the next generation of consoles were released. The release of these new consoles brought a brand new, more reliable system in place to download full video games over the internet. The ability to download full games happened on the previous generation however, numerous factors attributed to its rather low popularity as it did not have the stability and the large selection of games as it does on the console’s successor. 

GAME’s game-changing new direction

The PS4 & Xbox One were game-changers in driving interest in digital games. This meant retailers had to diversify their offerings to provide more than just consoles and video games. For example, GAME is now selling Gaming PCs and a lot more accessories for all gaming platforms. On top of this, they provide access in-store to the Belong Arenas which are equipped with all of the latest consoles and gaming PCs with room for around 6 people to game. GAME is a prime example of a company successfully diversifying its business model to become a more experienced/service-based company. This is due to the nature of the video game market and its continuous push towards the all-digital era.

The new direction GAME is taking features a better value proposition. Martyn Gibbs, Chief Executive Officer recently described  BELONG, the Group’s esports and experience-based gaming proposition as “core to our transformation strategy and we continue to expand the business through the opening of larger BELONG gaming arenas while improving our GAME Retail offer to fully capitalise on the strong growth potential in the esports market.” (Waller-Davies, 2018)

This has proven to be successful in driving footfall to their stores with the gaming arenas as proven by the positive recent trading results.

COVID’s accelerating impact on digital transformation

Clearly, a huge impact on the video game retail industry as with all retail was the dramatic impact of COVID. Not solely due to the fact stores were closed, more so due to the change in lifestyle, most people had to adapt to. Logan Plant from IGN described COVID-19 as “not an instigator for the rise of digital media, but simply an accelerator of a trend we’ve seen take shape throughout the last console generation.” (Plant, 2021). Working from home became the norm for 1+ years and subsequently, a lot of businesses had to change how they operated to take advantage of the customers/consumers being stuck at home.

The impact of COVID was a record-breaking year for digital sales of video games. Sony also revealed that nearly 63 per cent of its “full game” sales for the 2020 calendar year came via digital downloads rather than games sold on discs at retail. 

As a result of COVID’s accelerating impact, it is important to reevaluate the current proposition and business direction of video games retailers. The current moves console developers are making into the all-digital era are having a dramatic impact on the performance of bricks and mortar retailers. A significant development happened in 2020 when the latest consoles were released (PS5 & Xbox Series X). These new consoles were released with a cheaper variant; a disk tray-free model with a cheaper price tag available from launch. This highlights the increasing dominance of the digital era and the ongoing decline of physical sales.

Owen Good from Polygon described it in stark terms: “The implication is clear: Video game fans, stuck at home, with the ability to make one-click purchases for entertainment to pass time, will do so in amounts up to the price of a full game.” (Good, 2020)

As an avid Gamer myself who has been a loyal customer of GAME since I could remember my weekends used to involve regular trips to pick up a new game or the latest console at the time. Interacting and talking with knowledgeable staff members was a huge part of the experience.

Embracing an experience-centric playbook

Despite knowledgeable in-store staff that can assist and support the customer journey, the gaming industry has changed to be a primarily digital one. However, despite this reality, there’s still a significant percentage of customers purchasing physical copies of video games. Yet the online giants such as Amazon have further eroded this market, offering next day delivery on the same selection of physical video games that high street retailers offer at a discounted price. 

The same situation is happening with Gamestop, in an article covering which companies would Amazon effect, it stated Gamestop “historically has made its money by serving as the middleman, but the game publishing industry’s move toward downloads and away from discs and cartridges is increasingly making the venue less of a destination for gamers.” (Brumley, 2019).

This of course reduces the need to pop into town and purchase a game. Additionally, on top of the physical video game competitors, each of the gaming platforms also have their own store integrated into the console where you can purchase digital copies of any game on that platform. Digital games usually have a higher RRP, however, they are usually heavily discounted during sales.

In conclusion, it’s clear to see that for retail stores to drive more footfall they need to reposition themselves and expand what they offer as a business. GAME have taken this in their stride and expanded their traditional offering of physical Video Games and Consoles to offer an immersive customer experience including VR, the opportunity to play video games with your friends in the Belong arenas, purchase fully built gaming PC’s along with the necessary accessories and gaming merchandise such as POP Vinyls or plushies. It has been proven that GAME’s new direction has driven footfall and has been profitable for them too. In order to win in the future and remain relevant, it’s time for video games retailers to embrace an ‘experience-centric’ playbook.

References

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Why consumer electronics retailers must develop a new ‘experience-centric’ playbook

The phrase ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’ has certainly proved the case with in-store electronics retailing. The category has faced some unprecedented challenges over the past two years. However reports of the demise of bricks and mortar retailing have proved greatly exaggerated. Experience-starved customers have voted with their feet and returned to stores in droves after the various lockdowns.

In the ‘considered purchase’ space – purchases made with significant financial or emotional thought – there is simply no match for the timeless ability of an in-store experience to engage all the senses and generate sales. This is particularly the case for consumer electronics – a category with such a high spend on key items and technical questions that need to be answered.

Mind the knowledge gap

We recently investigated the pandemic’s impact on ‘considered purchases’ in a research project called ‘Mind the Knowledge Gap’. Gekko surveyed experiences across several key retail categories in a study of 2,000 consumers, conducted by OnePoll. The categories studied included: Consumer electronics, homeware, baby & child, gaming, home improvement, clothing & apparel. 48% of respondents revealed they had made a considered purchase during the pandemic in the CE category. It was second only to DIY with 50%. However the research also revealed there is no time for complacency. The study showed that electronics retailers had lost out on some significant revenue due to poor advice during this period. 1 in 4 (24%) were put off making a purchase they had gone in-store to make, with 11% actually walking out of the store. This equates to £3.3bn in lost revenue for the category over the past 12 months alone. In fact of all the categories surveyed, shoppers in this category reported having some of the worst advice. This of course isn’t to say a poor experience was universal or even the norm. Indeed 60% said they had received ‘excellent or good advice in store’ overall, highlighting the benefit of human interaction and face-to-face sales. But the point is small improvements in advice can lead to big gains financially. With lost sales during the period and rising commodity and transport costs impacting the bottom line, this is an area that is relatively easy to fix.

Golden opportunity

The truth is £3.3bn could be a drop in the ocean compared to what could be achieved. 37% of shoppers in the CE category revealed they would be prepared to spend more if they received excellent and knowledgeable in-store advice, indicating a golden opportunity is there to be grabbed. This compared with 30% of shoppers in the home improvement category and 27% in homeware/ home furnishings and 21% in clothing and apparel. The study also unearthed something of a blueprint for success for electronic retailers. Consumers revealed the top factors driving a considered purchase. Number one was the ‘ability to see and touch a product’, according to 58% of respondents. Price promotion was second, rated important by 56% of respondents. This was followed by ‘great advice’ rated important by 37% of respondents and then an effective product demonstration (28%).

Gen Z

Additionally the research highlights another area for optimism for electronic retailers. That is in the behaviour of the younger generations. 18-24 year olds – known as Gen Z – are more interested in consumer electronics than any other category. 52% revealed they would be prepared to spend more if given better advice. Encouragingly for the future of physical retail, Gen Z are most likely to seek out great advice in store (45%) versus an average of 38% and are more likely to find staff knowledgeable across categories. They are also the most likely out of all ages to appreciate product demos (39%) against a 29% average across all ages. Finally 1 in 2 Gen Z’ers (52%) and 38% of Millennials will spend more for a good experience in store across all categories – crucial for the development of experiential retail. So how to respond? I think there are three key actionable take outs for consumer electronics retailers.

1) Invest in experts

Our research highlights the timeless appeal of a positive engagement with an in-store expert in CE. While we have spent so much of the past year and a half shopping online – it is clear online alone is no replacement for the experience and interaction of trained advisors. This is particularly the case in a category where more of us are prepared to spend more. They are consistently the best way to influence and convert a sale of a considered purchase item. Ensure they are on hand and fully trained to answer any question your curious customers may have. While some are struggling, the retailers with a real customer first mentality are succeeding. Every person that walks through the door should be viewed as a potential customer, an influencer, someone who will talk about you positively through their experience and tell others in person, online or on social media. Not viewed as just another body to ‘deal’ with. The benefits to the business can be significant.

2) Engage the senses and think price

An expert’s role is important but they can’t operate in isolation. As our study showed, the number one factor driving a considered purchase is the ability to see and touch a product. Price promotion and a great demo were also high on the list. So when it comes to physical retail and considered purchases, it is vital to engage all the senses and create a joined up experience leading the customer to the checkout. After all this desire to engage all the senses has only been heightened during the long lockdowns we have all endured with so much mind numbing time spent in front of screens. So creating a real retail theatre is vital. Good lighting, a price promotion clearly on display, ensuring customers can interact with the product when they want and of course having the expert on hand to answer questions. It may seem simple but it is worth revisiting your customer experience strategy. Start with a genuine audit of your brands or retail estate to ensure all the senses are being fully engaged.

3) Joined up brand experience

While the thirst for the physical store experience endures, it is not about going back to 2019. The genie is now completely out of the bottle for ecommerce with even the most hardened luddites now comfortable with online search and discovery. The smart strategy is now ensuring the experience is joined up and that we better understand the drivers of the online/offline experience. In our research a conclusive 85% of shoppers said they are now doing online research before making a considered purchase in-store. Belying any remaining stereotypes, the older age groups were more likely to go online first. 89% of 55-64 would research online first. Interestingly, 69% said a well synchronised online and offline experience would make them more likely to make a considered purchase. Brands need to therefore ensure they have consistency across the full spectrum of online touchpoints, including search, social and display advertising and in-store. How does the experience feel to a customer and how is this then prompting a likely sale? Reports of the demise of in-store retail have thankfully proved premature. But while we have emerged blinking into the sunlight and luckily still standing after this period, the world we now observe is changed. Indeed survival going forward is never guaranteed and really never was in the fast paced consumer electronics category. To succeed we need to develop a new ‘experience-centric playbook’ utilising the best that a joined up in-store experience can offer; the right experts on hand to complement an experience that engages all the senses. One that is seamless and joined up with the online world of discovery that led us to the store. As we look forward to a better year, there’s all to play for. Let’s go for it.

To read the full article please visit PCR

Photo by Michal Matlon on Unsplash

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Carefully consider the customer in this new age of retail

As consumers were forced online, bringing back a sensory experience through a carefully considered customer journey, is where independent retail is amongst the best says Daniel Todaro from Gekko.

It’s been a tough few months for all retailers but we’re back and now more than ever the customer experience is the tool many retailers must be reaching for to recapture shoppers and remind them what they have missed.

Based on findings from the CBI, retail sales have risen above seasonal norms for the first time this year. The reopening of non-essential stores in England and Wales brought relief to the sector. April’s retail sales volumes were viewed as “good” for not only the first time this year but also since June 2018, according to the CBI’s latest monthly Distributive Trades Survey.

After reopening on the 12th April, the early signs suggest that shoppers were particularly eager to visit fashion retailers, and on the day, spending on clothes was double the typical pre-pandemic level. Furthermore, the figures are stronger than when stores reopened after the first lockdown in 2020. The number of people shopping online in the past month fell for the second time in a row, and while it is still strong, the rate is half what it was at the height of the pandemic. The data points to a growing sense that the worst of the pandemic is behind us, and people are becoming more comfortable with venturing out to stores.

Retail will undoubtedly regain its mojo over the coming months and if as hoped we are out of complete restrictions this summer, it should rebound and take full opportunity as the burden of these rules no longer apply. It’s going to be different and it will no doubt continue to evolve but retail as one of the most dynamic industries, has always done this. It evolves to meet the expectations of generations, trends and attitudes. Brands and retailers must therefore work to create more experiences spread across a wider space to offer consumers an immersive experience that makes a customer buy from your store and continues to do so, wanting to visit again based on the experience received.

Since reopening we have already seen a 12% shift from online to the high street in the first two weeks. Whilst the growth will have added to the overall online retail space, consumers are increasingly bored of online shopping just as they are Zoom calls. For the entire nation, lockdowns forced us to shop online whether we liked to or not. If we wanted that thing for that purpose, customers had to go online and research, buy, deliver or collect and in many cases return it because it wasn’t right. Whilst this may have felt convenient for some, this meant that for many the sensory experience was immediately banished to a 2D experience and brown boxes dumped on our doorstep.

Human nature is to be stimulated through a sensory experience and even for those with no real passion for shopping, I suspect they have missed some of the pleasures that physical retail offers. In specific categories, this is enhanced more than others such as considered purchases in the MDA and CE categories. Sustainability is another factor many will be considering now that they have a choice. Our increased carbon footprint created by ordering items that have travelled several hundred miles will once again prick the consciousness of all of us as we look to increase our sustainability initiatives, not increase them with unnecessary additional miles and packaging.

We are gradually coming out of lockdown and consumers continue to be excited about it. Indeed over 85% of consumers from our latest retail survey results claimed that they have already taken advantage of physical shops being open to make purchases. They are emerging with a determined mind-set, using their newfound online skills to narrow down their options before heading to the store to browse and make the final purchase.

The retail environment is changing and has been particularly fluid over the past year. This data is critical to understanding the new trends that have emerged and forming (or re-forming) brand strategies. Insight from Kantar, online shopping fell in April for what was the second time in a row, and Springboard footfall data showed an increase of 88% week on week for the period that non-essential retail reopened after the 12th. All of this points to the fact that there are more shoppers out there than there have been for 14 months, so there is a chance here to connect with them while confidence is high and a (hopefully) high-spirited summer begins.

The online share of retail sales is decreasing, although the benchmark remains above the pre-pandemic figure, settling at about 36% in April vs 23% in 2020. This of course indicates the acceleration of a trend that has been growing for a while, but it does mostly remain product specific, and nothing will ever really replace the experiences that in store shopping can offer. The store should now become more of an experience hub as well as a purchase point. In-store marketing continues to have the power to not only increase actual sales, but also other key factors such as brand loyalty and even helping to drive social media interactions.

When it comes to consumer electronics and large appliances in particular, many consumers will always prefer to touch a product and hear about its benefits first hand rather than reading a specification sheet online. Hearing their input, from questions to reasons for purchase, can then be fed back directly to a brand, enabling them to react and stay ahead of the competition.

In this new age of retail, the smartest businesses will be the ones that can leverage the opportunity to reach consumers at every level relevant to them, and that is where effective brand experience and a carefully curated customer journey can step in to help exceed your customers’ expectations.

To read the full article please visit ERT Magazine.

The photo that accompanies this article is by Artem Beliaikin from Pexels

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A hybrid approach: Five retail innovations the pandemic has speeded up

Every business has been forced to change in the past year, it doesn’t matter the industry you are in. Retail is no different, but unlike others, it has always been a dynamic industry at the forefront of responding to consumer trends and the manner in which people want to consume things. Retailers have always understood they are at the vanguard of that change. This past year has truly focused the mind on this and the need for innovation like never before.

It’s not just about entirely new initiatives. Many trends that were already taking place have had their roll out compressed from years to months. Here are five innovations that the pandemic has speeded up that can offer a pathway to sustained growth to those who take advantage.

1. Click and collect

There is renewed and growing enthusiasm for click and collect. In part that’s linked to the general increase in online shopping but it’s also because of the convenience and importantly the hygienic, social distancing aspects. A pandemic trend that is set to stay, it is now an embedded part of many consumer journeys, especially in grocery shopping, but also increasingly in all non-essential retail. Our own research has shown that over 35% of people want to see this trend continue even after the pandemic. Click and collect certainly appeals to more sustainability-focused customers. These shoppers want to shop online but also have a focus on sustainability with concerns about the environmental impact of the deliveries in terms of the distance travelled and packaging. Retailers should think about how to maximise the opportunity to boost profitability. An obvious example being upselling products in a collection environment.

2. Using Augmented Reality to assist big ticket purchases

As we can see from the figures post-lockdown, physical retail has an enduring appeal with huge pent up demand being realised. However with more consumers having been forced to buy higher ticket items online, smart brands are looking at new technology to fuse the offline and online world and assist sales. Ikea is a brand that has always focused on innovation and disrupting the traditional retail experience. They made a smart play last year, acquiring AR imaging startup Geomagical Labs. The intention was to drive shoppers to purchase more big-ticket items without always needing to visit a store. Its technology allows a user to quickly scan a room using any smartphone, render that into a panoramic 3D picture in a few minutes, remove all the furniture in it and then add in new items to scale, helping shoppers picture products ‘in-situ’. This will be implemented by Ikea into its website and apps to let people start to create accurate visualisations of their spaces, and how they would look with Ikea pieces in them. While the technology remains nascent, other retailers should definitely take note.

3. Joining up the omni-channel experience

Ecommerce has been a big winner from this past year with millions more now comfortable with shopping online. However the experience remains disappointing for many. A recent survey by Ayden found that more than two thirds (68%) of Brits say they will now not shop with organisations if they had a bad experience either online or in store (an increase of 18% since June 2020). Meanwhile, 53% believe retailers need to do more to link their physical and online stores. Invariably the offline and online experience is not joined up and inconsistent. Too often the focus online is based on the ‘what’, product specs, price etc without thinking about the ‘why’ a consumer wants a product. Smart retailers and brands know it shouldn’t be the ‘channel’ that is the focus but the customer experience, which is then realised across all its touchpoints. Starting with an audit across all channels, brands need to ensure they are visible and joined up. The evidence shows brands who are joined up have succeeded over the past year.

4. Training the experts at scale

A key element of the formula for success instore is a shopper’s engagement 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, motivated and most importantly advocates. This is often down to brand led initiatives and while in the past these experiences were provided in person, the pandemic has forced new innovative ways through virtual training being offered with face to face communication not being possible. For example Gekko has developed a new digital learning and engagement platform for brands to talk directly with Retail Sales Advisors, allowing them to choose when and how they learn, with gamification and incentives driving uptake. It’s meant we have been able to train many more staff members and have far more impact. While we will still be visiting face to face – a hybrid model will be our new way of doing business. 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.

5. The advisor’s new domain – the video call as well as the shopfloor

While digital methods are proving successful to train more instore experts at scale, the digital world can also be utilised to provide direct expert assistance to those making a considered purchase. Curry’s are one brand who tried a new approach during the pandemic with the ShopLive service offering expert advice to assist the sales process. A popup 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 their experts. ShopLive now has over 800 ‘tech-perts’, 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 and test 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.

Despite the atypical nature of the past year, we have seen many retailers react to the adversity with typical dynamism. The changes and digital transformation that has taken place will in the long run 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 uncertain, but exciting waters.

To read the full article please visit Bdaily.

The photo that accompanies this article is by Sora Shimazaki from Pexels

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Back to the future: Retailers need a new approach for winning customers

The easing of lockdown measures, although slow and steady, has come as a welcome relief for retailers. We can now work towards rebuilding through the eventual easing of all restrictions.

While the lockdowns have been long and painful, the appetite to return and shop in-store remains strong. But it would be naive to just act as though it was still 2020 in reopening and returning to the same plan. It is incumbent on retailers to recognise how consumers have changed their shopping behaviours.

Successful retailers have always understood the motivators and triggers for different customer groups and then offering an appropriate, tailored approach. This needs to be recognised and acted upon.

We recently took the temperature of the nation with a survey of changed shopping behaviours – with some interesting and encouraging results. The vast majority polled (70 per cent) revealed they were planning on visiting stores as much, or more than pre-pandemic. Only two per cent of respondents said they wouldn’t return to the high street. But digging into the detail we can start to see some distinct trends within this.

Localism remains strong

A new appreciation of localism has been one big factor that has brought our communities closer and changed perceptions that local perhaps meant less choice, as 35 per cent of respondents said they have purchased from a local or independent store that they would not have done pre-pandemic.

Meanwhile, the expectation might have been the very oldest might be the most loyal to the high street; interestingly, 35-44 year olds in our survey were the most loyal.

With the different factors motivating consumers to return to shops, 27 per cent of over-55s said the enjoyment of shopping was the thing they were looking forward to most. But this compared with only 15 per cent of under-55s. 81 per cent of respondents cited convenience as a key factor; this trend was most prominent in 18-24 year olds.

There is potential for physical retailers to target younger consumers with a focus on the unparalleled customer experience in-person shopping can achieve.

Flaws in online

Despite the huge choice online, the idea that consumer behaviour has been entirely different digitally was somewhat dispelled by the research. 49 per cent of respondents said they mainly shopped from the same stores online that they always used to visit offline.

But our research also really highlights the flaws in the online experience. A massive 58 per cent cited issues with ordering as a key disadvantage to online shopping. Interestingly, issues with orders was selected most prominently in people aged 34 and under.

Those most concerned by returns were 55-64 year olds in comparison with 18-24s who were least concerned. This highlights the different ways people have been brought up shopping. Given environmental issues are a concern to younger shoppers, we should perhaps emphasise more the fact physical retail can reduce a consumer’s carbon footprint.

A hybrid approach

Rather than just focusing on one channel now at the expense of another, if the pandemic has taught us anything it is the strength of having a hybrid omni-channel offering – being agile and flexible to respond to changing customer requirements.

Certainly consumers seem adept at mixing and matching their in-person and online shopping. For example, 38 per cent would use new online skills to research an item online and then buy it in-store, and over-65s are the most likely to do this (54 per cent).

This underscores the need for a joined-up brand and retail experience. This is particularly the case with the considered purchase sector; as we came out of previous lockdowns, consumers have shown a willingness to ‘shop with purpose’ in-store for items they have researched online.

As we return to something akin to normality, it is clear just rolling out a 2019/2020 strategy won’t cut it. The desire for physical retail is there, but we need to understand people’s changed realities.

Retail is one of the most dynamic industries, and changing to meet the needs of consumers has been the hallmark of great retailers in the past and will be tomorrow. Let’s get back to the future.

To read the full article please visit ERT.

The photo that accompanies this article is by Amina Filkins on Unsplash

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Boosting your productivity and mental health for home working

While we may have wanted to start the year on a positive footing and ready for the new working year, the latest lockdown has made this a challenging time. For those able to work from home, it can be difficult to differentiate or define mentally and physically the difference between where you work and where you relax. With so many now having to face up to home schooling this adds a further layer of stress on an already tricky situation. But one consolation might be – we really are all in this together.

The New Year remains a good time to develop new positive habits and also recognise the bad habits you may have picked up. Let’s make the best of the situation and work from home productively while looking after our mental health.

Here we have outlined a few tips and tricks Gekko have used with our teams to manage and achieve the best work life balance with all our lives being within four walls.

Create a ‘home office’, however small

You may well have begun the first lockdown with a dedicated home office. Over time you may have witnessed ‘office creep’, increasingly working from the sofa or checking emails in bed. Have a renewed focus on creating a place you can separate from the rest of your home life. This will psychologically create an important distinction enabling you to switch between home working and home living. If you are able to use a separate room, close the door when the working day is over. This will help the active brain switch off from the thoughts of the working day.

However many don’t have the option of a dedicated working space but we can still apply the same methodology. Make sure you switch off the laptop, ipad or work phone and put them in a cupboard or drawer. Having a laptop out of sight will help put it out of mind meaning you can enjoy your evenings without being distracted. Make sure you do it every day to embed this as a habit. This will be your own version of leaving the office at the end of the working day – without the commute to have to contend with.

Support your posture, your lap shouldn’t be your desk

Working from home means it is all too easy to have no barrier between work and playtime. The ‘soft office’ is a phenomena that has developed throughout the country with a couch replacing your chair and your lap becoming your desk. This of course is bad for your posture. Look to find a more sturdy working space one that may emulate your office set up and ensure you have a chair that supports your back properly. One great tool is Upright Go, which can track and train your posture. This app also provides a visual representation of how you look when you are working. This can be eye opening.

One option is a Standing Desk for your Laptop. These are adjustable to suit any height and will bring your laptop to eye level, which is also perfect to present and work at.

For those using a monitor rather than a laptop screen there are great affordable options for a home office out there. Many brands have a range of different size monitors at reasonable price points to suit any task and will help you to lean into your laptop screen less.

Have a test week to monitor your productivity

You may have put boundaries in place when you first started working from home but over time they may have disappeared. These might be languishing alongside those plans to learn a new language or play an instrument. If they have, take some time to figure out out how you feel most comfortable and the ways you work which make you most productive. You might even start off with a test week where you assess your productivity and how long you are spending on different tasks.

One great exercise is monitoring how long tasks take. You can use a laundry cycle to monitor how long you have focused on one piece of work. Activity trackers like Rescue Time or Clockify are great for showing exactly where your time goes. You can even get Alexa or Google assistant involved. Set timers to get them to remind you to move onto another task or manage your workflow throughout the day.

Don’t skimp on breaks – schedule them in

If you have been working from home for a while it is easy to forget what a usual day in the office looks like. In some ways it is harder to take a break without the natural conversations with colleagues etc to break up the day. The day marches on without notice meaning lunch is grabbed on the hoof between calls. Also it is also possible not to see any daylight, particularly in winter months. This can all serve to burn you out, meaning you become less productive.

Combat this by planning your days in the morning. Add in breaks where you may have had them when working in the office. Your Fitbit should come in handy for this. You will be able to set reminders to take a break and track your steps. If you don’t make your 10,000 steps during the day it is the perfect excuse to get back out once the working day ends. One technique to look at is The Pomodoro Technique. This technique uses a timer to break down work into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by a short break. This can help you reset your mood for five minutes with some soothing music or a set time to grab a cuppa or fill up your water bottle.

Boost your mood and steps with on the go meetings

Working from home can certainly feel isolating, particularly for those used to an office environment. However remember your other colleagues will likely feel the same. Schedule times for an all team video call or even walking meetings to catch-up. You can increase your steps and even set team challenges.

If you know you do not need to be in front of a screen for a meeting why not use it as a chance for some exercise? It can be a real win/win. Grab your trainers and ear buds and go somewhere quiet while participating in the meeting. Just make sure it is somewhere you can get good reception and limited background noise, just hit mute when you’re not talking and remember to unmute when it’s your turn.

Working from home may have its positives but it’s not always easy. Remember to not be too hard on yourself while adapting to changes you can’t control. The great thing about lockdown is it creates an opportunity to work ‘your way’, whether listening to your music or taking breaks when you want. Make the best of the situation to embed some positive new habits while working from home, even one change will make a difference.

To read the full article please visit Bdaily.

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Brands Don’t Lose That Human Touch – Time to Get Creative

Brand ‘touchpoints’ are increasingly becoming digital, rather than physical, in a world of social distancing. With physical retail in a cycle of lockdowns and people subject to ongoing restrictions, the world of browsing and the art of touch are becoming lost – a necessity of social distancing and hygiene measures. But this key ‘human’ sense influencing purchase simply can’t be replicated in the information-led, online realm.

Luxury brands immerse a consumer in plush carpets underfoot, theatrical lighting in opulent surroundings in glamorous locations complete with the meticulous attention of an expert who has your undivided attention, making you immediately feel the brand is worth it. But with all of these luxury stores having faced periods of closure, we have seen a large reduction in footfall across major cities globally. The ability to capture the essence of the brand online is compromised. The case in point is Burberry who is perhaps a brand more advanced in e-commerce approach to high-end retail. However, the company saw a decline in profits of an estimated 80% coming in at £42m for the six months to September. Other luxury brands are not immune either, with Mulberry reporting a 29% decline in revenue for the first half of the year, due to store closures.

So how can brands fill the void that perhaps we all took for granted and relied so heavily upon? The role of other ‘touchpoints’ becomes even more vital in creating a customer journey that captures the consumer imagination and creates intrigue in the brand to explore more and make a considered purchase.

The new nature of shopping

When retail opened after lockdown one, we at Gekko uncovered a trend that consumers, starved of retail, were returning back to store and shopping with purpose. The journey was necessary and, on arrival, the budget in mind was set and the expectation to part with money was resolute and implied. We looked at all of our return-to-store campaigns across the considered purchase CE sector, focused on 6 distinct categories of Computing, Mobile, White Goods, TV, Smart Home & Wearables, and measured them week on week. The result was that we saw an increase of 28% in conversion rate from demo to sale and 22% in the average basket value.

Now, the increases can be attributed to consumer behavior but also significantly to the assisted sale element of the customer journey that facilitates the sale. The socially distanced engagement remained personal to the shopper and the ability to ask questions was imperative in not only cloning that sale but also increasing the consumers’ spend.

The best strategy and playbook in this new world to maximize the other senses to really sell a brand’s quality are a challenge. We must, therefore, meet the need to make traditional retail a destination worth a consumer’s time and safety.

The voice

Key to this is voice: A trained sales advisor, who can extol the virtues of a product and close a sale even if this is over the phone with outlets locked down or in person with a shopper making a ‘purpose-driven’ shopping visit. To engage the advisor in training, brands and retailers must adhere to covid-secure protocols, so the approach also needs to be reimagined. By keeping it succinct and energetic, and not like training but more a story with several chapters, some yet to be written but lined up to create excitement. By taking it virtual you can still be engaging if you follow the same approach and have the same energy as being in the same room – as if it’s still personal. Online, it’s a harder sell but call it engagement rather than training and it can become more creative. Gamify the process and link it to rich online content from your website, also advertising campaigns and events.

Product knowledge and brand advocacy amongst retail sales staff are crucial components to success in retail. It starts with effective product launches and is something that traditionally relies on face-to-face engagement and hands-on time with new products. Again, the lockdown has forced us all to think differently about the approach. A virtual approach can enable brands to create genuine excitement for new product launches, engaging retail sales staff and cascading knowledge and know-how to them, again making them more effective in their shopper conversations.

Don’t lose your touch

Touch: Displays of action and demo devices demarcated or constantly wiped down more often than they would probably do if in your possession as your own device. Keep it straightforward and clean. Stand back, encourage play, and keep the conversation flowing using open questions. Learn through specific questions and examples about the customers’ usage habits, likes and dislikes about their current device, and link to features you know are relevant to the user.

When it comes to effectively demonstrating products to shoppers, creative thinking can pay dividends. With some of the limitations indicated above, brands can take the initiative and facilitate the demo experience. Think creatively! Another initiative we implemented was taking the demo to the store and controlling the experience whilst on site. The brand was able to tell the story in their own distinct voice.

Leave a lasting memory

Finally, think about the memory that consumers will be left with. Poor knowledge and advice – when asked for – and an ill-thought-out display will create a negative lasting impression. Missing product information, price tickets, and the devices not being demo-ready will all provide a bad customer experience. The decision to purchase should create a smooth transaction for the customers and, if not in stock, it shouldn’t be a problem. The retail sales advisor should be able to order it online enabling the customer to click and collect or have it delivered. If in stock, the customer should be looked after through to the point of transaction and be on hand to answer any question on set-up and integration of the new device further validating their purchasing choice.

The positive engagement with a brand ambassador or retail sales advisor is the game-changer that increases conversion rate and average basket value, achieved either through a higher purchase price or connection sale and, perhaps, an advocate of both brand and retailer. This is much harder to achieve online and never as gratifying for the end-user as a customer journey that enhanced the individual’s perception of the brand, and worth in relation to their own very personal budget.

As a brand, put yourself in your customer’s shoes and consider what you aspire to achieve, and redouble your efforts. Use this personal approach to enhance the customer journey, engaging in the most effective manner possible with your target consumers. This begins with training that grabs the imagination. Explain creatively how to tell a personal story on the shop floor, that envelopes the consumer, enough to become a customer through informed choice and not merely through distress or promotion. In a world of reduced physical contact, we need to think creatively to ensure brands stay in touch with the needs of their customers.

To read the full article please visit Branding Mag.

The photo that accompanies this article is by Sam Lion from Pexels

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