Tag Archives: Opinion

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.

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Five behavioural trends to take note of as the high street re-opens

The Drum Five Behaviour Trends

The latest signs of economic recovery look promising. So promising that Andy Haldane, The Bank of England economist, believes that the UK economy is growing at 1% a week. The V-shaped recession thought to be unlikely just a month ago now seems to be very much on the cards again.

Retail has been a big motor for this mini-recovery. People have been returning to the high street in large numbers with UK retail sales near pre-lockdown levels in June. According to the ONS, the amount of goods sold last month increased by 13.9% in June compared to May. The trend has continued in July as the reopening of shops supports pent-up demand punctuated with the roll out of marketing activity and campaigns to support retail in its reawakening mode.

The worry remains that the recovery may stall due to consumer confidence dipping. Consumers need to also have their safety concerns addressed. A real understanding of new behaviour is critical to maintaining momentum. So what are the key behavioural trends that retailers and brands should take notice of?

Safety is now the top priority

The starting point for bricks and mortar retailing pre-coronavirus may have been expert salespeople, attractive window displays, in-store offers and branding. Today the starting point is safety. Many shoppers still do not want to venture into public spaces without a purpose. In fact more than half of consumers, who would have shopped instore pre-coronavirus, now believe the risk to be high. This poses a serious challenge for many retailers seeking to draw shoppers back to stores. The focus has to be on reassuring these customers and clearly demonstrating your credentials across all your communications touchpoints.

Late adopters have finally embraced ecommerce

With new fears for safety, evidence shows some consumers intend to permanently change their shopping behaviour. This includes purchasing more online due to the continuing risks of infection. Many late adopters are the new converts to online. They have been slow to adopt online banking and shopping but they have done it now. This has not been driven by choice but due to fear about offline shopping. In fact, shoppers are now four times more likely to shift to online in the long term, particularly if they have health concerns. Local lockdowns like that in Leicester will only serve to reinforce the wariness.

In-store consumers are more likely to convert

The good news is that those who like to shop in person will continue to do so to have a decent customer experience. While online retail sales increased to 30.8% in May they are forecast to have decreased by 9% as stores open. In other words, while online is growing it still can’t fully replace the bricks and mortar experience. In response many brands and retailers have adopted an omnichannel proposition, rather than choosing one over the other. The resilience of instore is more evident in considered purchases and in the CE category where we are seeing consumers shopping with purpose. They are travelling and entering retail with a clear determination to purchase. As a result we are seeing a conversion rates of over 40% of product demonstrations leading to a sale. Naturally, this is determined by the experience and engagement they receive in-store. Therefore, a bad retail environment or salesperson pre lockdown isn’t going to change that post lockdown.

The home will remain our new centre of existence

In response to the lockdown, the reality of working from home has meant a likely shift in the workplace dynamic for many on temporary or permanent basis. Therefore, many technology brands in the market have shifted focus to home productivity and accessories. Retail must take learnings from this to support the initiatives and messaging put out by brands. This will ensure they are able to engage consumers looking for technology to support their change in working habits and in turn grow with the trend. As we spend more time also that clear winners throughout and ongoing are food retailers and also home stores with many opting to tackle home improvement projects whilst in lockdown and on furlough.

The rise in demand for appointments

As we are moving from a browsing culture to a purpose driven one, we are going to see the rise of the appointment booking. This will certainly be the case in the considered purchase space. It seems those who commit to the appointment do so with a clear intention to purchase within the set appointment duration. This trend seems to be speeding up the customer journey and increasing much needed sales.

To succeed in this new environment retailers need to be creative, follow the trends and create a customer experience worthy of a sale.

To read the full article please visit The Drum.

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Covid-19 is temporary, but attention to the environment must be permanent

The Drum Covoid is Temporary

We’re living in a society where we’re constantly encouraged to do ‘better for the planet’. And I don’t disagree. But we’re at a point of inflection when a lot of people don’t know what’s best for the planet. From fake news to real news – it’s information overload everywhere you turn.

Recycling your plastic should be simple, but that’s another article depending on where you live and which type of plastic it is. Buy more sustainable products. Shampoo in a block is great if you have the money to buy more expensive products.

And there’s the biggest conundrum for most people when we’re thinking about the environment and greenhouse gas emissions. If I order online for delivery am I burning more carbon than necessary? Or is it more environmentally friendly to go to the shops, buy a less environmentally friendly product but save the delivery van a journey? How we expect people to know the answer, when many of us in retail don’t know it, is beyond me! It’s all rather complicated.

The impact of FMCG

I read an interesting study from the American Chemical Society that looked into the estimated emissions created by UK sales of FMCG goods, typically low-priced toiletries, packaged foods and cleaning supplies. Although shoppers have traditionally bought these items at brick and mortar shops, online sales are increasing.

The study compared the carbon footprints of three different shopping practices: old fashioned ‘bricks and mortar’ shopping and the two main forms of e-commerce, bricks and clicks and pure play (which both have different supply chain configurations). Included in the three models were emissions from transport, warehouse storage, delivery and packaging.

The results showed that the total emmissions per item purchased from bricks and mortar retailers were higher than bricks and clicks vendors in 63% of cases, but lower than pure play in 81% of cases. It appears that more items are usually purchased from bricks and clicks retailers is used and this leads to a smaller carbon footprint per item than for the same shopping trip via a brick and mortar retailer. Another factor is, of course, that one van driver bringing multiple deliveries into one area will create fewer emissions than all those people driving to the shops.

The study made some clear but obvious recommendations for consumers for cutting emissions across all three shopping categories: walking, cycling and trip chaining for brick and mortar; and purchasing from a single retailer and bundling for bricks and clicks and for pure play online retailers. Importantly for pure play businesses – whose share of the FMCG category is on the increase – switching to electric cargo bikes could cut emissions by 26%.

I’ve tried to simplify what is actually a complex study, but it does highlight the dilemma and responsibility we have as consumers and retailers to the planet. In a recent online shopping survey we conducted among 2,000 consumers, 73% said they were concerned about the environmental impact of excessive packaging, 75% single use plastics and 42% multiple deliveries to one address. There is a clear will from consumers to want to do better for the planet but it’s far too complex for them to work out how. So, retailers, trade bodies and governments need to do more to educate consumers so they can make the right choices not just any choice.

Our current Covid-19 situation is only temporary, so my mantra as we come out of the other side of it is just to take a little more time to think before you shop.

To read the full article please visit The Drum.

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Smaller suppliers need the support of big business like never before

Fresh Blog

Small British businesses are facing an existential crisis like never before on the back of COVID 19. Recessions bite slowly and in those circumstances small businesses can see and plan for every eventuality across sales, cashflow, headcount etc, but this virus has hit us like a bolt out of the blue and a lot of small businesses have seen revenue ravaged literally overnight and that’s both consumer and b2b.

So now more than ever big and small business need to work together.  This is no longer about David and Goliath, but the fabric of the business ecosystem that keeps this country afloat and people able to feed their families.  Often small businesses find themselves in situations where they are scared to ask for help or argue with big business in case they lose a contract – but this isn’t the time for self-deprecation, it’s fight for what’s right.

Big brands often have more support and cash to deal with such challenges yet many are pulling deals, campaigns and agreed contracts at a stroke.  And having been in this situation myself here’s my advice when faced with big brands not playing fair.

Practice what you preach:

If you own your own business, you are in charge of your own destiny and the people that work for you.  Rather than shareholders telling you what to do, in these unprecedented times, you do what’s right.  Be proud of the strategies you are implementing and articulate clearly to big business – especially if you’re currently operating not for profit so you can keep your team employed.

Scalability:

If big businesses want to stop contracts overnight, push them with alternative solutions like scaling down spend slowly rather than switching it off immediately, paying a proportion of fees for their next project.

Don’t believe the Hype:

Diageo has this week announced a $1million pot to help its on-trade customers through these difficult times, so it is possible for big business to put people before profit. Don’t be fobbed off, keep working with them on a solution that works for them and you.  They also have a moral duty and it’s incumbent on them to do their bit to support you.

Unscrupulous brands who turn their back on their responsibilities, relationships and partners are the brands that need to be called out. When they act in this manner, they also fail the consumer as the brand values that portray in their marketing are the antithesis of the brand values they trade on.

To read the full article please visit Fresh Business Thinking.

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Why millennials are ignoring the environmental impact of online shopping

The Drum Blog

As high street retail continues to deplete and more people shop online, increasing to 19% of all retail sales in December 2019, a new report by retail marketing experts Gekko shows there’s increasing consumer concern about the environmental and societal impact of this transition and a marked difference in attitude depending on age.

The younger generation may tout their eco credentials but they are more easily lured into wasteful spending and shopping online with over half (53%) of 18-24 and 46% of 25-34 year olds admitting to being tempted into buying things they don’t need online, with just 19% of canny 55+ year olds saying the same.

More than five times as many 18-24 as 55+ year olds admitted to regularly buying goods online that they regret, so return them – 17% versus just 3%. And 45% of 18-24 and 42% of 25-34 year olds also admitted to being wasteful buying items they didn’t want and failing to return them, compared to only 17% of older consumers.

Surprisingly and despite the high profile of Extinction Rebellion and Greta Thunberg, younger shoppers make less conscious choices than some may think about the environmental impact of online shopping versus older consumers. In general, 73% of consumers are concerned about excess packaging associated with online purchase and deliveries and 74% are worried about the amount of single use plastic in packaging.

However, just over a third (38%) of 18-24 and 33% of 24-35 year olds are unconcerned about the use of excessive packaging. This compares to 19% of over 55 year olds. And despite it being such a huge national issue and talking point over the last year, 34% of 18-24 year olds and 31% of 24-35 year olds aren’t concerned about single use plastic, versus 19% of over 55 year olds.

Even the gig economy does not seem to be a problem for the generation arguably most likely to be more exploited by it, with 50% of 18 to 24 years olds unconcerned about online shopping increasing it versus 33% of 55+ year olds. And 44% of 18-24 year olds don’t fret about the impact on the High Street and local economy of online shopping, versus 23% of 55+ year olds.

According to Daniel Todaro, MD of Gekko: “Younger generations spend more time online and are therefore less inclined to resist that impulse buy. They are far more likely to buy things they regret, order more than one size, items they never intend to keep and send the goods back, but this convenience has an environmental impact.

“The future of the High Street is a vital societal component and offers a more ethical approach to shopping. If you can try before you buy there’s less transport, packaging and waste without the need to order multiple sizes or colours of the same item. The High Street sustains the heart of a community, no shops means no point heading to the High Street – there’s only so much coffee a community can afford or want to drink.”

Please visit The Drum to read the full article.

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Do millennials ignore the environmental impact of online shopping?

Bdaily blog

As high street retail continues to deplete and more people shop online, increasing to 19% of all retail sales in December 2019*, a new report by retail marketing experts Gekko shows there’s increasing consumer concern about the environmental and societal impact of this transition and a marked difference in attitude depending on age.

The younger generation may tout their eco credentials but they are more easily lured into wasteful spending and shopping online with over half (53%) of 18-24 and 46% of 25-34 year olds admitting to being tempted into buying things they don’t need online, with just 19% of canny 55+ year olds saying the same.

More than five times as many 18-24 as 55+ year olds admitted to regularly buying goods online that they regret, so return them – 17% versus just 3%. And 45% of 18-24 and 42% of 25-34 year olds also admitted to being wasteful buying items they didn’t want and failing to return them, compared to only 17% of older consumers.

Surprisingly and despite the high profile of Extinction Rebellion and Greta Thunberg, younger shoppers make less conscious choices than some may think about the environmental impact of online shopping versus older consumers. In general, 73% of consumers are concerned about excess packaging associated with online purchase and deliveries and 74% are worried about the amount of single use plastic in packaging.

However, just over a third (38%) of 18-24 and 33% of 24-35 year olds are unconcerned about the use of excessive packaging. This compares to 19% of over 55 year olds. And despite it being such a huge national issue and talking point over the last year, 34% of 18-24 year olds and 31% of 24-35 year olds aren’t concerned about single use plastic, versus 19% of over 55 year olds.

Even the gig economy does not seem to be a problem for the generation arguably most likely to be more exploited by it, with 50% of 18 to 24 years olds unconcerned about online shopping increasing it versus 33% of 55+ year olds. And 44% of 18-24 year olds don’t fret about the impact on the High Street and local economy of online shopping, versus 23% of 55+ year olds.

According to Daniel Todaro, MD of Gekko: “Younger generations spend more time online and are therefore less inclined to resist that impulse buy. They are far more likely to buy things they regret, order more than one size, items they never intend to keep and send the goods back, but this convenience has an environmental impact.

“The future of the High Street is a vital societal component and offers a more ethical approach to shopping. If you can try before you buy there’s less transport, packaging and waste without the need to order multiple sizes or colours of the same item. The High Street sustains the heart of a community, no shops means no point heading to the High Street – there’s only so much coffee a community can afford or want to drink.”

To read the full article please visit BDaily.

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Are millennials ignoring the environmental impact of online shopping?

Retail Times Blog

As high street retail continues to deplete and more people shop online, increasing to 19% of all retail sales in December 2019*, a new report by retail marketing experts Gekko shows there’s increasing consumer concern about the environmental and societal impact of this transition and a marked difference in attitude depending on age.

The younger generation may tout their eco credentials but they are more easily lured into wasteful spending and shopping online with over half (53%) of 18-24 and 46% of 25-34 year olds admitting to being tempted into buying things they don’t need online, with just 19% of canny 55+ year olds saying the same.

More than five times as many 18-24 as 55+ year olds admitted to regularly buying goods online that they regret, so return them – 17% versus just 3%.  And 45% of 18-24 and 42% of 25-34 year olds also admitted to being wasteful buying items they didn’t want and failing to return them, compared to only 17% of older consumers.

Surprisingly and despite the high profile of Extinction Rebellion and Greta Thunberg, younger shoppers make less conscious choices than some may think about the environmental impact of online shopping versus older consumers.  In general, 73% of consumers are concerned about excess packaging associated with online purchase and deliveries and 74% are worried about the amount of single use plastic in packaging.

However, just over a third (38%) of 18-24 and 33% of 24-35 year olds are unconcerned about the use of excessive packaging. This compares to 19% of over 55 year olds. And despite it being such a huge national issue and talking point over the last year, 34% of 18-24 year olds and 31% of 24-35 year olds aren’t concerned about single use plastic, versus 19% of over 55 year olds.

Even the gig economy does not seem to be a problem for the generation arguably most likely to be more exploited by it, with 50% of 18 to 24 years olds unconcerned about online shopping increasing it versus 33% of 55+ year olds.  And 44% of 18-24 year olds don’t fret about the impact on the High Street and local economy of online shopping, versus 23% of 55+ year olds.

According to Daniel Todaro, MD of Gekko: “Younger generations spend more time online and are therefore less inclined to resist that impulse buy. They are far more likely to buy things they regret, order more than one size, items they never intend to keep and send the goods back, but this convenience has an environmental impact.

“The future of the High Street is a vital societal component and offers a more ethical approach to shopping. If you can try before you buy there’s less transport, packaging and waste without the need to order multiple sizes or colours of the same item. The High Street sustains the heart of a community, no shops means no point heading to the High Street – there’s only so much coffee a community can afford or want to drink.”

To read the full article please visit Retail Times.

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Independent retailers: It’s tough at the top

ERT Blog

As all retailers know, seeing in a new year is not the time to put your feet up and relax, it’s a time to reflect on what’s worked, how to survive the January sales without giving stuff away and think about how to keep winning in 2020. There’s a whole heap of independent retailers thriving so let’s take a few moments to sprinkle a little new year magic and hopefully inspire even more to success.

When independent retailers are thinking about customers, store, product and marketing it can be overwhelming, let alone trying to apply innovative thinking to tried and tested strategies. I’ve consciously taken price out of the equation – we all know it’s impossible for independent retailers to compete on price with the behemoths like Amazon – so value for money, reflected in customers, store, product and marketing – not the cheapest should be the mantra of independent retailers. So how do independent retailers do this?

Let’s start with customers. Independent retailers should know their customers better than any multiple retailer ever can. Do you know what they are buying and when and if not, you should be seriously asking yourself why? And if you do know, are you fleet of foot enough to be agile with your merchandising strategy in order to stock the goods that your customers want?

Advanced technology solutions aren’t what’s needed here, your POS will be able to provide basic information about your customers and all you need to do is let your team do the talking and stalking.

Listen, talk to and watch your customers and learn from their behaviour. When was the last time you asked your customers what type of products they’d like to see in the shop? How would they improve the shop? Making the customer feel like it’s their shop is something the larger brands can never do – and use that to increase product sale through. And think about whether your customer service is worth bragging about! Remembering what your customers bought is the start of a rewarding relationship.

Do everything you can to turn your shop into a destination and take inspiration from what the larger brands are doing, especially in their concept stores. Your shop needs to be an enjoyable experience with an element of discovery every time your customers go there. You wouldn’t eat at the same restaurant multiple times if the menu never changed. If you are selling electrical goods, people want your expertise and experience to buy products they know will be fit for purpose.

Sell the solution and impart practical advice rather than just selling products in isolation. Obvious, but something an online experience can’t replicate. Make sure you know your products and the market and that you communicate this intimate knowledge to potential customers – they don’t know what they aren’t told – and provide an environment in which they feel welcome. Even if it’s a small shop, there’s still no reason why you can’t provide two chairs and a coffee machine to encourage people to sit down and discuss with you their needs – again, increasing sale through and customer loyalty.

And then there’s the marketing strategy, and I don’t just mean ‘brand’ – you all know that a consistent brand experience is important for brand re-call. This is where I think independent retailers have an opportunity to think bigger.

We asked 2,000 UK adults if they thought independent retailers should collaborate to come up with innovate ideas like sharing shop space and marketing costs to cut down on their individual overheads and 73 per cent thought it was a great idea. Every shop on the high street is in the same position, yet despite the current challenges each is still operating in silo.

Get to know your neighbours, seek collective advice and behave like a group rather than individual businesses. Collaborate to organise customer events as well as on marketing drives to reach a wider audience. Joint special events, discount schemes and offering a local delivery service and recycling throughout the year, not only at key times, will all help in developing your customer base.

Independent retailers are the beating heart of our communities and have a huge amount to offer. Collectively helping each other to apply some innovative techniques will hopefully improve the fortunes of many.

To read the full article please visit ERT.

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2020 will be a smarter year for retail

PCR Blog

We know that smart home technology has revolutionised the way we live at home and according to PWC’s recent white paper, Connected Home 2.0, £10.8bn will be spent on smart home devices in the UK in 2019. With the increased availability and adoption of 5G in the UK, I predict that the options on offer will only get smarter and extend their reach to every room in the household.

There’s been a lot of hype around 5G – from downloading a full HD movie in under five seconds to making fully automated vehicles a reality – but I believe 5G will be a transformative technology for the home, as it’s spearheading a multi-dimensional world connecting devices, brands and people in real time with its fast bandwidth and reduced latency. Take a look around your home, count up the numerous devices that are connected and smart. It’s only going to get more prevalent in our lives and the places we reside and work in.

Barring any changes as a result of the General Election, the government were supportive of a £530 million proposal from the UK’s mobile network operators for a Shared Rural Network with the potential for it to be matched by a £500 million investment from the government. This would be a world-first deal with all the UK carriers – EE, O2, Three, Vodafone – investing in a network of new and existing phone masts they would all share.

For consumers it means they will be able to rely on their own provider’s network to use their mobile phones wherever they are in the UK. More importantly it will improve connectivity in areas with poor or no broadband. The upcoming 5G rollout is one reason why experts predict that more than 36 billion devices globally will be connected to the internet by the end of 2020, all of them smart.

Away from mobile phones, the connected home covers pretty much every category from AV, including smart speakers to thermostats, lightbulbs, your washing machine, fridge, oven and kettle. You name it and it’s probably smart and will integrate into your life with the tap of a device or command of your voice. That’s why Google has created the Google Assistant Connect programme, which for manufacturers means that they can create custom devices that serve specific functions and are integrated with Google Assistant making more assistant enabled devices available within all categories.

With this mass adoption across multiple CE categories it’s anticipated that the user experience will undergo a significant shift in how users utilise and interact with smart technology and AI.

This would mean a more ‘Multi Experience’ model which changes the manner, usage and approach with our smart devices to shift both perception and interaction to a multisensory experience. For instance, adapting the lighting to a mood that’s personal to you and not generic, or managing your life more personally by telling you how your commute to work will be and what to wear based on the weather forecast before you’ve even thought about it, just by looking at your diary, which of course you’ve integrated or shared voluntarily with your AI device.

All this would happen more seamlessly, without the need to constantly repeat a ‘wake word’ such as ‘Hey Google’ or ‘Alexa’ and instead using the wake word once to continue the instructions with your AI device not only making the usage of AI more beneficial when multitasking but also more of a user centric experience.

And all these devices will need to be connected, and if not by 5G it will be through the development of WiFi 6, which drastically improve wireless communication protocols, increasing download speeds by three times the current WiFi 5 we use today and enabling even more connected devices, which will be more adept at natural language.

The upshot is that we will inevitably utilise smart devices with built in AI to a much greater extent, such as for ordering shopping, which is incidentally predicted to jump globally by 2020 – a blow for traditional retail, especially when you consider that it’s estimated a staggering 85% of purchasing suggestions made by Amazon are effective. It’s no wonder why retailers are torn on supporting Amazon or not. For example, in November, Nike withdrew all its products from sale on the Amazon platform.

It’s true to say that technology in 2020 will give with one hand and take from another, all for the sake of progress and convenience, but for consumers, it’s about choice. The choice to automate much of what we may consider tedious or periphery. The choice to share your data with any amount of organisations, known and unknown (you may wish to read those T&Cs you freely agree to. I know you won’t, nobody does).

There is also the choice for retailers to take on the challenge of selling smart technology effectively in an engaging manner that enables a positive experience for the consumer. More importantly for offline retail to rise to the challenge faced by online retailers and offer more – starting with a better customer journey.

Tor ead the full article please visit PCR.

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