Tag Archives: Retail marketing

Could collaborative retail save our high streets? Independent retailers should merge to avoid closure

The Drum Blog

The Collaborative Retail report from Gekko looks at how independent retailers can think more innovately to avoid struggling on the high street.

The survey has revealed that independent retailers should think more creatively and work together to avoid going bust.

The report interviewed 2,000 UK adults, with nearly three quarters (73%) admitting that they thought independent retailers should collaborate to come up with innovate ideas like sharing shop space and marketing costs ad cutting down on their individual overheads.

Independent shoe and clothing retailers were among the most popular types of shops for collaborations (favoured by 71% of consumers), followed by book shops and cafes (68%) and bakeries and greengrocers (65%).

Reasons for these collaborations included consumers wanting to support the high street (64%), wanting to support local businesses (63%), by choice (56%), convenience (52%) and an enhanced shopping experience (48%).

Alongside these collaborations, nearly 90% of consumers thought it was important that large national retail brands renovated their store designs and opened up concepts in new regions rather than just in major high street destinations. Over fifty per cent (56%) said they would visit their local high street more if brands did this.

Nearly three quarters (70%) of consumers said they were concerned about the impact of online sales on the high street and the local economy, but felt that the high street still had a major role to play such as it meant consumers could try items before they buy (62%), browse leisurely (55%), buy an item and take it home immediately (51%) and visit multiple shops in one go (40%).

Daniel Todaro, MD at Gekko, said: “We cannot just sit back and watch our high streets continue to degrade. Our research clearly shows that UK consumers are worried about the future of the high street and the impact its demise will have on their communities.

“They would love to see more independent retail collaborations and believe this is a very exciting way to inject life back into the high street and it does make sense. However, this approach to retail requires new and imaginative ideas from Government that support the legal and financial infrastructure of such initiatives. Our high streets do have a lot to offer so Government and retailers need to work together to make it an enticing proposition and lure people back.”

To read the full article please visit The Drum.

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Making a show of yourself

ert blog

The most successful of retailers that continue to occupy the high streets and retail parks of this great shopping nation do so because they have adapted. Adapted to provide the consumer, of all generations, with an experience that resonates with them. Now I’m not suggesting that this is some magical panacea or that they have discovered the proverbial fountain of retail youth but what they did do successfully is see into the future. An uncertain future in retail has been a dark shadow for several years now, so how did those who failed not get the message and adapt? And let’s face it, we all know that stores that are left bereft of investment do not create a positive experience for consumers.

So who does do experience well? Lush, who have just abandoned social media, knows what it takes to create the theatre and experience needed to entice the shoppers who will undoubtedly spend in their stores. Its ambience is an extension of the brand voice and its interactive nature immerses the consumer in the brand and its products which works irrespective of whether they are familiar with the brand. Its latest store opened in Liverpool last month and is circa 1,380 sqm. the biggest Lush in the World where ‘every detail has been carefully considered to create a fully immersive brand experience’. Some might say that’s bold and brave in the current climate, but I’d suggest it’s a move from a brand confident in its own ability to ‘retail well’.  Because above all the experiential hype, it’s the employees that create the true experience for Lush, something Debenhams perhaps forgot to acknowledge, so busy were they trying to keep the wolf from the door.

Experiential at the point of purchase is nothing without the support of well trained staff to carry the consumer through the journey and ultimately close the sale. The retailers who get this, win. They win by retaining motivated staff who feel valued and customers who having enjoyed the experience may well return in the near future or at the very least refer the retailer through recommendation.

On a recent shopping expedition with my Generation Alpha (under 9) son and daughter I sought to buy my son trainers. The displays were impactful and easy to navigate to what my son wanted but above all, it was the staff. An early 20s Generation Z shop assistant who spoke ‘indirectly’ to my son through his actions suggesting colours and designs. Disaster struck and the trainers my son wanted were not available in his size. Immediately considering another retailer or even going online, the sales assistant jumped in with “you can order these now on line from the store, pay for them here and have them delivered to your home for free”. Without hesitation, I said yes. We walked away all winners enjoying the experience, my son getting his trainers, the store not losing out on a sale and the sales assistant earning the kudos of the sale in his name. That’s omnichannel retailing in its purest form for you. How often has that happened to you?

No matter what you sell or who you believe your target market to be, the experience within your store will either make or break you. Think high end retail, are you kept waiting to be served? Are you unimpressed by the displays, the staging, the cleanliness or the ambience? I suspect the answer to all this is a resounding no. It is therefore unlikely that these stores succeed purely on their brand equity alone and before you all start saying that they can afford to do it, so can every retailer within their budget. At all levels of retail, the ability to create an experience that is worthy of your attention by consumers to entice them to spend is within your capability and budget of a retailers’ imagination and bravery.

For the retailers that succeed, they do so because they consider the experience it offers your customers. Is it engaging? Is it visually appealing? Does it speak to many of the few? Does your staff know how to bring this to life as a sales tool and succeed?

Consider John Lewis, a stalwart in British retail that if you were to base its appeal on its longevity should have failed by now. Having most recently invested £33 million in its new Westfield White City store, it also did it differently. The layout, the decor, the feel and more importantly the staff. Partners, as they are known in John Lewis, are attentive, knowledgeable and in abundance. The store’s secret is its appeal to those with disposable income and to those who aspire to shop there. It enables consumers to linger and take up as much of a Partners time to ask questions and explore a product. It works because they understand not only their audience but also the importance of never underestimating the worth of the shopper.

In hard economic times retailers and brands have to work harder to appeal to an individual’s tastes, requirements and above all budget. When failed retailers pretend not to know why they failed, they are not being honest. They failed to create an experience that appealed to a wide audience and their staff by not engaging with them positively to be the best they can. Ignorance is bliss for directors who don’t shop in their own stores.

The experience within any retailer is borne through your staff and the ability for staff to be brand advocates first and sales assistants second. Make the consumer feel special and they will listen. Keep the consumer informed and they will feel listened to. Keep the consumer engaged and they will shop.

To read the full article please visit ERT.

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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 Drum – ‘Regrexit’ or not, smart targeting never been more important for retailers

Regrexit blog

As much as I might want to avoid the subject, it is impossible to look at retail predictions for 2019 without looking through the lens of Brexit. As the uncertainty continues over a possible deal, I want to try and think about the effect it will have on retailers in 2019, what is probably concerning them and what if anything we can do to brace ourselves.

I watched the fascinating Channel 4 live debate show, Brexit: What the Nation Really Thinks, which aired in November. Polling and market research agency, Survation interviewed 20,000 people online across the UK from 20 October to 2 November 2018 in the biggest ever independent Brexit opinion poll. If you didn’t see it, according to the poll if the referendum was re-run, there would be a swing toward remain at 53% to 47% – but that’s neither here nor there right now!

What was interesting, with my retail hat on, was how attitudes to the overall economic outlook of the country and people’s personal finances by age group would impact retail strategy planning their 2019. Overall, the study found that 44% think Brexit will be bad for the economy, versus 31% thinking it will be good. This deteriorating consumer confidence is already being played out on the high street where we are seeing a continuing stream of store closures – not just because of Brexit, but certainly not helped by it.

When you start to delve deeper into the demographics there is a clear picture emerging among the different age groups – as the age group increases attitude to Brexit, economic outlook and effect on personal finances get more positive. While 45 year olds and younger now overwhelmingly have a negative view of the economy post-Brexit, for 55-64 year olds it is much tighter (34% think it will be good, versus 40% bad) and for 65-74 year olds it swings to positive (42% think it will be good, versus 35% bad).

A clear majority of consumers aged 54+ also think Brexit will either be good or make no impact to their personal finances. There are two factors behind this. Firstly, they are after all ‘Generation Wealth’, with more assets and financial independence so therefore less likely to feel they will be adversely impacted. Additionally, as a majority wanted to vote leave anyway, they were clearly unimpressed by what they see as ‘project fear’ from the remain side about some of the reported negative financial impacts.

However, for worried millennials a far different picture emerges. Just 24% think Brexit will be good for the economy versus 50% bad. Meanwhile 44% think it will be bad for their finances, against 18% good. Not surprising when you consider their careers started after the financial crash and they are less secure in their jobs.

So, what does this mean for retailers in developing marketing strategy? Insulated from any of the more negative personal financial impact of Brexit and with more confidence in the country’s future could we see the baby boomers create a mini retail boom?

However, for millennials, worried about their personal financial security as well as the economy, retailers will need to entice them to shop. Millennials seek out experiences which also applies to the way they shop. Retailers need to engage with this audience through the customer journey making any purchase a positive experience. What is the USP versus Amazon for this digital, increasingly disenfranchised demographic?

Having a distinct strategy for the different demographics and understanding their mindset, spending power and intention will be key. Also, being agile and flexible and able to react quickly to the market and buying signals. Just as the outcome of the negotiation won’t satisfy all political parties or a now fractured population, neither will a one size fits all retail strategy. Start planning now to remain relevant to your customer base as we move into unpredictable 2019.

To read the full article visit The Drum.

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Back to school: a lesson in brand relations

 

Back to school in my youth was always met with a heavy sigh when my parents calculated the uniform costs and I wanted the latest pencils and rubbers. These days, trends have changed. Thanks to the competition among discount supermarkets like Aldi, Lidl and Asda we’ve seen uniform costs and stationary prices plummet, giving consumers a far greater choice at more reasonable prices often using ‘event’ advertising campaigns increasing footfall into store and bolstering revenues in other areas of their business.

There’s one category that’s changed everything as it becomes a staple of the ‘Back to School’ event, particularly in higher education: consumer electronics – to be precise computing – adding a whole new layer of cost parents must budget for. While retailers should consider an all-year-round back-to-education strategy, back to school begins to increase in prominence from August, especially in the technology category. The value of the back-to-school market in the UK is estimated to be worth around £1.45bn and while uniforms and stationery will make up a large proportion of this market, the increasing requirement for technology in the classroom means that edu-tech continues to be a growth opportunity for retailers.

Every school, college and university around the UK differs, but they all require some level of ‘technology’ input and expense from parents. As government budgets for school funding continue to decrease, this need will only get bigger and more expensive. It’s a costly exercise and therefore something no parent or student wants to get wrong. A bring your own device (BYOD) policy is becoming common place and enables the market to grow to support this with the right advertising, marketing and in-store execution. As a considered purchase – and for many their first computer that they don’t have to share – the need to try before you buy is important. It’s a seminal moment for most teens. The look, the feel, the height and size are vitally important to most, especially in our streaming culture where the device is both for work and play.

Not everyone is tech literate and understands what product is best for their child and, yes, some schools have preferred suppliers, but often parents are sent out into the big wide world to get a lap top or a PC and the choice is overwhelming and confusing. This often leads to a whole host of questions: what hardware and platform do I opt for? What software will I need to buy? What about security? Is it going to be out of date before the end of the school year? Is it robust enough? Am I spending more than is necessary?

For teenagers going to University this is a chance to upgrade their old ‘shared’ kit and start fresh with new equipment that has the functionality to assist them in delivering their course and honing their tech skills ready for the workplace. This is a great opportunity for brick and mortar retailers to position themselves as the advisor – the place to go when you’re inundated with choice, don’t know what to buy or where to go to experience the products to touch and feel and work out if they’re right for you.

The ability to choose from a range in an environment geared towards making this decision is crucial for university and tertiary education students; different courses will require the technology to have specific functionality. Retailers need to be inquisitive and understand the student’s lifestyle to match the product to their needs. Technology purchases are not just about the one product these days, they are multi-functional lifestyle solutions, so in-store staff have to be trained to ask the most pertinent questions: What will you study? Is design (weight and size) a primary consideration? How do you consume media and home entertainment? What’s the budget?

Amazon will be a key back-to-school destination – especially for the 30% of Brits that now have Prime membership – but this is something Amazon and other online retailers can never do as effectively when a personal approach to a considered purchase is needed by a brand and retailer.

Never underestimate the first consumer interaction with your brand – an emotional connection that shouldn’t be undervalued. Not only is it a great opportunity for a brand to bring a new customer into their portfolio and up-sell them through their product ecosystem as their needs and lifestyle changes; it is also the chance to create an advocate and customer for life. Brands invest heavily in extra activity around back-to-education including Fresher’s Fairs and NUS affiliated marketing. Paying attention to planning and implementing in-store strategies within retail is an essential part of any back-to-education marketing strategy.

Daniel Todaro is managing director at Gekko

Read the original article on The Drum

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Are retailers providing an experience that’s worth the trip?

Save the shops! A mantra I’ve heard numerous times having worked in retail for the last 20 years. Yes, consumers love shopping online, but there’s no doubt they want to preserve the ‘real’ shopping experience especially for high-value tech/electrical products.

Whether they are looking to upgrade an existing device, buy into a new product category such as the smart home, or make a distress purchase to replace a product that has failed, consumers are looking for a solution to a lifestyle problem. As a retailer, it’s within your power to provide this solution, offering consumers the right product for their needs and, in doing so, reinforcing why traditional retail is still the best platform to buy technology products.

I think there’s a big disconnect between what consumers need from retailers and the experience they get. We’ve recently seen the news that Maplin has collapsed into administration, yet the sale of tech/electrical goods is on the increase – one of the fastest growing categories. Consumer electronics retailing lends itself like no other as a tool for retailers to be more dynamic in showcasing solutions and brands to lure consumers.

The information gap

Let’s look for example at the popularity of streaming and how it’s driving the sale of hardware. Streaming is becoming increasingly the norm for many, curating the music, TV and media that’s preferred at a time that suits consumers’ lifestyle. Netflix revenues have increased 36% year-over-year and Apple’s purchase of Shazam for $400m shows the market is continuing to evolve.

These brands are the new media giants, beating down the once dominant studios who are now consolidating to survive. But without hardware and devices, none of this is possible. I’m ensconced in this world and most of the consumers we speak to have very little understanding of what hardware to purchase and want help and advice.

This is where retailers can win, but they are not making the most of their assets – the team on the ground. These people are the face of a retail brand, interacting with the customer, the first port of call, the golden ticket to success, the ones that can transform your business but only if appropriately trained – and therein lies the problem.

Make the most of being face-to-face

That first face to face interaction is critical; sales staff should be asking key questions of consumers to discover why they are in the store and their needs, budget and motivations.

Are they looking to buy new, upgrade a device or has something broken down and needs replacing? What do they currently have? What specific features do they require? Where will it be used? How often? Is it a primary or secondary device? What is their preferred price range? A customer wants reassurance that the product will meet their needs and solve their ‘problem’.

It is important to ensure your staff can demonstrate the product, are trained on core ranges and brands so that they can explain the benefits to shoppers and don’t make the mistake of ignoring what the shopper has told them so that the features link naturally to the customer’s lifestyle or specific needs. This could make all the difference to their decision to purchase, helping to close the sale.

Shoppers need to know how the product will solve their unique ‘problem’ so that they walk away satisfied and hopefully come back for more. Online will never be able to provide this level of service so retailers need to take control of their destiny and provide consumers with an experience that was worth the trip.

Click here to read the article on The Drum

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