Tag Archives: Opinion

Can the new tranche of Chinese tech brands take the UK by storm?

drum blog

In recent years, more Chinese brands than ever have broken new ground in Europe and continued to develop outside of their established Asian markets. One of the most immediately recognisable Chinese brands is Huawei and possibly Hisense but have you heard of Haier, Oppo or Xiaomi? Chinese consumer electronics brands have recently launched in the UK and are fast gaining traction in their respective categories since being made available on the UK high street.

We live in a society where global brands are the norm. Whilst we are, or at least believe we are, familiar with many of the brands we are exposed to, there are others that we don’t know so much about even if we buy-into them as consumers. Do we care about a brand’s origins and heritage? Or are consumer purchase decisions driven by a products’ look, functionality, usage, price point and status? If this new tranche of Chinese tech brands doesn’t focus enough on building their brands and resonance with the UK audience, will they be able to compete with their Californian cousins and achieve their full potential in the UK market?

Cleverly Haier, the world’s number one major appliance brand in terms of volume bought Hoover Candy, a traditional stalwart of the Major Domestic Appliance market in the EU which enables Haier to tap into the trust associated with a familiar European brand. Now listed in John Lewis stores, there’s brand reassurance of Haier is being established among shoppers.

Oppo, China’s leading 4G smartphone manufacturer, launched its range of mobile phones into Dixons Carphone earlier this year. With flagship models coming in at under £800 SIM free, the brand offers premium and innovative features at a fraction of the price other brands may charge. Time will tell if the brand has done enough to resonate and take a big enough market share and see a return on investment on their ICC Cricket World Cup and Wimbledon sponsorship.

Xiaomi, pronounced ‘ShwowMee’, is actually the world’s most valuable privately held company, and the third biggest smartphone maker, selling 61 million handsets last year. Xiaomi has been bold with its UK launch strategy and has opened a great new Mi store at Westfield White City. The store is familiar looking, sharing many similarities, all be it on a smaller budget, to that of its Californian cousins.

It sells a variety of products from mobile phones, TVs, smart kettles, electric scooters and other accessories in an environment where you are encouraged to play and explore. Its pricing is competitive and it’s certainly within the budgets of a far wider demographic than other brands but what it lacks is star quality. Star quality on build, packaging and its ability to give consumers that ‘feel good’ factor from an anonymous brand is essential if it’s to mean more to consumers. All possible if its proud heritage and brand storytelling was more obvious.

Tell me what Mi means to the technology industry and I may be persuaded to purchase some of today’s most competitively priced technology and become a brand advocate. Hide from me what Mi is and I may react a bit more suspiciously and feel the brand isn’t the best fit for me. Brands, wherever they are from, should be proud of their heritage and success. A confident, honest and ethical brand will help instil the necessary confidence in consumers to help a brand to gain traction and ‘win’ in a new market.

To read the full article please visit The Drum.

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Could Game of Thrones’ dark cinematography style boost TV sales?

tv blog

We’ve been warned time and time again that the night is dark and full of terrors, but I don’t think we realised just how dark things were going to get…

Episode 3 of season 8 of Game of Thrones aired this weekend, and it was quite the spectacle. Without writing a bunch of spoilers, let’s just say it was 82 minutes of genius writing and acting. I laughed, I cried, I cheered, and I squinted… I squinted a lot.

Set at night-time, and in amongst an abundance of fog, there was no doubt that it was going to be dark and mysterious. But along with the 70,000 other fans who complained on Twitter, I was unable to see a damn thing during certain scenes.

I found myself pausing the show and desperately fiddling about with image settings on my TV. I checked my internet connection, I turned all the lights off, I closed the blinds, but it didn’t matter what I did, there seemed to be some problem with the cinematography.

Or was there?

“No, it wasn’t a technical hitch, it was intentional, as the showrunners and director wanted the episode to be dark and forgot to tell viewers that it should be watched in a dark environment,” Dan Todaro, MD of Gekko Field Marketing told PCR.

Sure enough Fabian Wagner, the show’s cinematographer, insisted that his filming wasn’t to blame for the issues and HBO’s compression of the episode was to the problem. However, despite all the back and fourth finger pointing, it’s not really any one group’s fault.

“The GoT cinematographer is claiming that the pixelation and muddy dark colours that fans encountered on their TVs and mobile devices were due to HBO’s compression of the episode, made worse if being viewed on a streaming service with a weak connection,” said Todaro.

“However, is this more a case of technology overtaking consumer demand? Not everyone has the technology to view in UHD either on a device or TV yet flagship ‘big budget’ productions are using today’s technology. Compound this with a splash of creative licence and run the risk of upsetting die-hard fans, as happened with this episode.”

This is the same conclusion that I came to. My TV is almost 7 years old. Is it technically MY fault that I don’t have the right technology in my home to enjoy such advanced cinematography? And if so, how many other people are having their entertainment ruined by simply continuing to use their current devices?

“Interestingly, over half of British consumers buying a new TV are doing so because they are replacing an existing, working set (44%) or buying an additional set (16%),” pointed out Todaro. “The HDR feature is particularly important to those upgrading or buying an additional product indicating that not everyone has the capability to enjoy content as intended by producers.”

If that’s the case, Game of Thrones’ dark cinematography style could possibly contribute to a boost in TV sales – something retailers should be taking advantage of.

“When purchasing a new TV, bricks and mortar stores are still a dominant influence in the final decision making process. Analysts expect to see more 65 – 80 inch models and the first 8k sets from several brands become standard ranging in 2019,” explained Todaro.

“Was this episode a rare example of content overtaking technology and consumer demand? Maybe, but for those savvy brands and retailers, it’s an opportunity.”

To read the full article please visit PCR.

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Brand collaboration is the key to a high street retail revival

The Drum Blog

The high street is dying, or so we keep hearing from all angles of the media – but is it?

No. But it is evolving to meet the needs of generational shifts in shopping habits which retailers must adapt to in order to give consumers a desirable experience. Those that respond positively to shoppers and adapt, appreciate the increased value this change offers for potential survival.

Retail is no longer there to serve the customer, it’s the customer who decides if retailers remain relevant to the high street.

Those retailers that refuse to listen are deserving of their fate. It’s not a surprise or the fault of external factors when a major retailer, who failed to adapt, calls in the administrators. Social and economic factors are not going to ‘improve’ as they are proving to be the norm – it’s just how life is now – therefore boards of major retailers need to stop procrastinating and adapt fast.

With 89% of UK sales still generated through physical retail, the desire to shop on the High Street is still prevalent, retailers need to adapt creatively to capture a slice of those sales.

To believe that your exact same format which has been successful for decades remains relevant today is wrong. Millennials are bored with the same format. That’s why they’ve abandoned trusted retailers and by doing so, they are clearly stating that “it’s you, not them” that’s the problem.

Clashing styles

From traditional retail chains to independents and pop up stores, the ones that ‘get it’ are doing so to great effect. Whether it be through introducing speaker spaces within the store, to conducting free classes or work zones to encourage consumers to dwell and soak up the atmosphere. By also introducing other brands to coexist alongside your brand, is winning hearts and minds. Retail is changing. Changing positively but perhaps not fast enough to decrease the failures of trusted retail brands and reduce the vacant units on our high streets.

Debenhams tried this by introducing Patisserie Valerie cafes within their stores which proved fatal for both brands, partly due to their incompetence to manage their finances or understand the consumer. You don’t ‘accidently’ misplace £40m neither do you introduce a traditional patisserie into an already stale retail format such as Debenhams, in an attempt to entice new and younger shoppers. The opportunity to revive its fortunes could be taken from its past when it introduced designer names to its stable with huge success. Those designers are now only known by a generation who are 40+ and irrelevant to the shoppers needed to keep the Debenhams brand relevant on today’s high street.

With Arcadia group also struggling reputationally through the alleged actions of its high profile owner and also financially, they have a huge task ahead to transform. Reducing your retail footprint by closing stores to cut costs is not the solution, change is. But is it too late to turn some of Arcadia’s brands around?

Maybe not. The larger ‘flagship’ TopShop stores do it well by adopting shared spaces that offer consumers other brands or services like piercing or cosmetics to create an immersive shopping experience. Unfortunately, Topshop don’t seem to translate this successful format as well across the regions in the UK. Translating this ‘experience’ model across the entire estate is essential to relate to consumers who don’t necessarily have the means or desire to travel to a ‘flagship’ store.

Placing short term profit over evolution is short-sighted as this approach is somewhat ironic, a lack of investment makes you stale rather than revolutionary, making a brand irrelevant to today’s shopper.

Retailers assemble!

Those retailers who are winning have amalgamated, rather successfully, multiple brands under one roof that complement each other and often work in concert, to offer convenience for the shopper. Successful examples include the Argos purchase by Sainsbury’s and introducing Argos shop in shop (SiS) within larger Sainsbury formats and in 11 stores to include the desirable Habitat brand, which was snapped up by Argos several years back and now revived through the Sainsbury’s acquisition. This has enabled Sainsbury’s to continue trading within the non-food category and remain current without distracting from its core grocery business.

As the pioneer of mail order fashion, reimagining retail seems to come easy for Next who have successfully evolved its physical presence with the inclusion of SiS concepts in selected stores. Brands such as Lipsy, Paperchase, Henna and Costa can be found in the Next Oxford Street store and Mamas & Papas in its Bristol Cribbs Causeway store. Unsurprisingly this approach works for both anchor brand and SiS. With a staggering 2,481 stores disappearing off the High Street in 2018, the opportunity to split the overheads in tough economic times impacted by changing shopping habits, this is a successful combination for both retailer and shopper.

Those who complain that they can’t make retail work need look no further than their competition who are getting it right through understanding the zeitgeist. Shopping habits have changed with generational shifts and the glory days many failing retailers harp on about are not going to make a reappearance. It’s up to retailers to carve out a niche and appeal to the generations who now prefer both the physical and online aspects of retail, but are also seeking convenience and above all an experience.

Experience to try, taste, smell, learn, question, dwell to be part of something that transcends generations and the stereotypes of what ‘Retail’ should be. Retail can be whatever you want it to be.

Successful retail evolves to remain current and relevant to its audience. A retail renaissance is what we need.

To read the full article please visit The Drum.

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The glue that connects all communities

ert blog

By riding a crest of goodwill, utilising new digital channels and tapping into the networks of big brands independent retailers can punch above their weight, boosting sales and awareness.

Independent retailers have long faced competition on multiple fronts. The big threat for many years were the big chains gobbling up the high Street. Now that threat has moved online with digital pure play sites like Amazon eroding market share. The truth is not many customers are particularly sentimental about the plight of some of the bigger chains in trouble. However, the threat to local stores from the likes of Amazon and Omni Channel retailers has been met with much more concern from the public and big brands.

A series of initiatives have sprung up in defense of these traditional bastions of the high street, from independent record store day to independent retailer month. Additionally, reports from organisations like the New Economic Foundation have highlighted the benefits to local communities from spending in independent shops versus bigger stores or online. These messages have cut through. A survey last year by Pure 360 found that consumers are three times more likely to shop in independent stores than large shops in the next five years.

This approach has been noted by large brands who have started to latch onto this trend to boost their own credentials and bottom line by supporting local independent retail. Visa chose to focus its Christmas campaign on local heroes and independent stores. Visa’s focus was on switching the focus of the traditional format of a Christmas marketing campaign, from what people are buying or who they are buying for, to where they are buying things from. American Express did their bit too, with a ‘Shop Local’ campaign that rewarded AMEX customers with a £5 statement credit for shopping in local independent stores.

The digital revolution may represent a major threat to independent retailers in terms of competition, it also represents a huge opportunity in terms of marketing. Independent retailers have always had an intuitive understanding of their customers and this can be bolstered by digital channels. While local newspapers may be closing, local newspaper websites are seeing more growth than ever in readers. The explosion of SMART phones has also led to a huge increase in the figures accessing local radio and content, another great route for independents to get their messages out. This is not to mention social media, both paid and organic with the ability to offer a micro-targeting strategy and hyper local personalisation, enabled by both Facebook and Google. Clued up retailers are seeing the benefit of connecting with increasingly online communities springing up.

In electronics particularly, many product brands are wising up to the opportunity and skill local independents possess. A great example of this is Freeview. The Freeview Retail Development Team are a strategic field team, supporting independent retailers across the UK. The team are unique in that they do not sell a specific product for a specific brand. Instead, the team supports all Freeview (including Freeview, Freeview HD and Freeview Play) enabled products across all brands and stores.

Where some brand teams are selective in their retail support, the RDE team’s brand independence means they can offer the best possible service for independent retailers, cooperating with OEM brands such as Panasonic, Humax, LG and Toshiba to deliver up-to-date training on all products and services.

As well as assisting retailers through training, the Freeview team also supports independents with local marketing campaigns, in the past having managed localised radio, press and social media campaigns supporting selected retailers with a Freeview focus.

Through long-term training support, local marketing campaigns, and regular visits to ensure all staff are knowledgeable on all aspect of the brand, they help to ensure that independents are the destination of choice for Freeview customers. They understand the fact that independents can provide the glue that connects local communities.

By focusing on their strengths, connecting with these bigger brands and tapping into the needs of their customers through targeted local advertising, independent retailers can grow as a destination of choice for customers and become their local hero.

To read the full article please visit ERT Online

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Customers want service not sci-fi from high street retailers

Blog

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

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

Despite living in a world driven by technology, most people don’t want technology to sacrifice human opinion and experience. Only 30% said they would like to see ‘smart pricing’ initiatives adopted by retailers, where prices change in real time depending on demand, 22% would like to see smart mirrors that show a 360 view of themselves, 16% desire a VR changing room, while 14% want AR for visualise products at home and 9% seek a talking robotic assistant.

When asked what makes a great brick and mortar shopping experience, half of those polled said it was down to having good staff on the shop floor; staff that know the products (49%) and staff that go the extra mile (47%). Coupled with this, 61% of the nation would prefer to deal with someone face-to-face when complaining, while 59% liked a human interaction when enquiring or trying to find out more about a product and 73% wanted to see someone when being issued with a refund.

And back to the impact on the bottom line – a third of Brits say that the personal touch is more likely to encourage them make a repeat purchase, and more than a fifth (22%) claim they always spend more money in a shop if they are served by a good assistant, incrementally adding to sales. Over a third (34%) of shoppers stated that a poor experience has driven them to buy from another retailer.

The research also highlights the impact of the decline of local retailers, with a quarter of Brits saying they miss shopping somewhere where people recognise them and 16% confessing to preferring talking through a purchase with someone in-store, while a quarter reveal that online shopping is less fun than buying something in a real shop. The convenience of a store’s location is also important according to 43% of respondents which means that retailers should consolidate their estates. Many will notice immediate effects. This only emphasises the need to carefully consider the experience provided in-store and whether their staff can deliver the expected experience.

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

To read the article please visit The Drum.

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

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First steps for Mothercare: will it save the troubled brand?

Mothercare blog

A couple of weeks ago British retailer Mothercare released its first significant ad campaign in a decade entitled ‘First Steps’ intended to capture those first moments parents experience. This campaign comes following the news that the retailer will close 50 of its 139 stores by June 2019 with 900 potential job losses. This decision is driven by the fact that the longstanding brand experienced pre-tax loss of almost £73 million for the financial year to March 2018 and it’s just announced blooming half-year losses. So will the First Steps campaign assist to turn the retailers’ fortunes round?

The campaign must be applauded for being very ‘real’ -using images and models which resonate perfectly in the ‘real’ world. Avoiding the Instagram perfection and clichés many may be led to believe are indicative of motherhood and parenting, it has a comforting reality of life across any demographic and nationality. However, for me, it doesn’t speak to a wider audience and as a ‘turnaround’ campaign, the message needs to be broader to attract all pockets to come and spend in-store.

The ads are articulated beautifully, drawing on the raw emotion of being a parent and it will resonate with parents or those expecting, no doubt drawing them into or back to the brand. However, the ad seems to have forgotten people who aren’t in the same position, perhaps an aunt, uncle, godparent or friend who has not yet or has no desire to experience parenting, whom therefore may not share the same emotional connection.

They are also potential shoppers, some may argue with more disposable income, who also need to be attracted to the brand to spend. The wider the appeal of the ad, the more it increases the odds to attract shoppers of any kind. Surely, this should be the objective of this desperately needed turnaround campaign which is all about increasing sales.

In the UK the average annual birth rate is 670,000 births (Office of National Statistics) and the market value for this sector is £7.3bn and estimated to grow by 2021 +2.3% in clothing and 4.4% in Footwear (Euromonitor) and research from 2017 indicates that 64% of shoppers prefer to touch and feel products in this category, 48% prefer to research products in-store resulting in 58% of sales created in physical retail (Pragmarket). The opportunity for growth is therefore evident for any retailer in this sector, especially an established brand like Mothercare, as while it’s unlikely that the nation will stop giving birth, people can be influenced where we shop.

The customer experience must reflect the emotional journey the brand takes its audience through in these ads and translate it onto the shop floor. The creative and sentiment that’s applied to the ad, the real and caring traits it communicates must be applied to staff, the store layout, its ranging, staff training and the advice they give to a new and likely tired parent or complete novice when shopping for infants.

A clear message which translates from ATL to the in-store experience is crucial to ensure a clear measurement of ATL and to convert awareness to revenue. A successful ATL may well bring customers back but a poor customer experience may make that crucial first hello, the last.

And here’s the real dichotomy for Mothercare, do they invest more money in the remaining estate to make the shops a truly engaging experience and destination for people or leave them wondering what their role is in the ‘real world’ – I know which strategy my money is on!

For the full article visit The Drum

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Wearable tech could be very lucrative with the right execution

Image

Britain is a country with a passion for the latest technology. Consumption figures are huge with Britons spending £9billion on new tech devices. Clearly, this underlines just how present gizmos and gadgets are in our daily lives. What this figure also represents is a healthy sector that is ripe for the picking and one that technology and electronic retailers operate in. However, with the dawn of another year new tech trends are making themselves known and retailers must be abreast of them in order to get a slice of a lucrative market.

At the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas many new devices made an appearance. One of this year’s stars looks to be a Bluetooth-enabled toothbrush from Kolibree, which will tell your phone how “efficiently” you’ve been brushing your teeth, and for how long.

Technology by its very nature is an ever evolving sector, with the new quickly replacing the old and all but the most tech-adverse consumers wanting to keep abreast of what is coming on to the market. This desire to have what’s hot and new is one of the reasons why 2014 looks like it will be the year of wearable technology products. Beyond the constraints of the typical mobile phone or tablet, wearable tech means products that are not only portable, but are hands-free. Think of Google’s Glass or Samsung’s smartwatch. Much more than a straightforward time keeping device, the smartwatch is a transportable tech hub giving users access to all their data points, conveniently located on their wrist. In essence, its convenient aspect complements the general rhythm of the wearer’s everyday life.

This lifestyle-based approach is often targeted towards the health conscious. Personal health and wellbeing will be important factors in all wearable devices as consumers try to rationalise buying ‘gadget bling’ under the pretext of it improving their health and fitness. Take the Fitbit Force, a newly released wristband that learns your daily activity, calories burned, your sleeping patterns and weight. The brand understands that to be successful, wearable tech must not only chime with consumers’ lifestyle needs but also present a level of desirability. The consumer must genuinely want to buy the product and that usually means presenting it more as a lifestyle item and less like a complicated piece of technological innovation. CES has also shown that wearable technology and the connected health category now even extends to your pets, with US tech firm Voyce announcing a smart collar for dogs.

There is also a significant trend to manufacture tech with a more obvious focus on fashion and style. There were clear examples at CES to demonstrate that tech companies are starting to think about fashion and design. The Netatmo June bracelet is made with Louis Vuitton and Camille Toupet-designed jewels that track your sun exposure. There was also the MetaWatch, designed by ex-Fossil engineers and made with expensive metals and classic leather wristbands. However, the most noteworthy wearable at CES was the Pebble Steel smartwatch. It’s designed to be worn with either a stainless steel band or a genuine leather strap, forgoing the ostentatious sportiness of the original for a modern, sleek look – essentially embedding a level of customisability to match its style nous. Its designer Steve Johns said that the new design was influenced by both traditional watches and modern technology like mobile phones. This is a balancing act that may prove difficult, but will ultimately be what the consumer is looking for.

But what does this mean for the retailer? Clearly the fashion-focused watches represent the apogee of interactive but stylish consumer technology. However, it also represents that the more accessible, wearable tech items are of primary interest to the retailer. These devices that have a strong consumer lifestyle element mean that retailers are in the privileged position of being able to sell big-ticket items that have an inherent level of desirability. This means that these products are relatively simple to sell; retailers just need a structured through-the-line approach with multiple touchpoints in order to exploit them. Get the execution right and this new trend could turn out to be very lucrative indeed.

read the full article at http://www.pcr-online.biz/news/read/opinion-wearable-tech-could-be-very-lucrative-with-the-right-execution/033011

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