Tag Archives: retailers

Re-Discovering the ‘Forgotten Tribe’ of Customer Service Experts

CXM Blog

Retail is buoyant, exciting, and transformative, so what better sector to be in right now?

This was the counterintuitive conclusion of a recent white paper produced by Retail Week in partnership with Manhattan Associates. Based on in-depth interviews with 25 senior retail executives, it showed that despite current obstacles affecting retail, 64 percent expected sales in 2019 to be flat or slightly better than last year. Twenty percent even estimated that sales will be much better than the past year.

Coupled with this, when questioned about the balance they are seeking between cutting costs and driving growth in order to achieve profitability, more than 50 percent cited ‘mostly growth’, indicative of a sector confident in its ability to progress. With 80 percent of shopping still happening on the high street  (ONS December 2018) not over the internet, now’s the time for retailers – especially brick and mortar – to define their future.

There’s been so much conversation about what’s driving retail strategy; innovation in technology driving back and front of store; data driven omnichannel insights providing a single view of the customer; experience rather than transactional stores. But if 80 percent of shopping still happens on the high street, there’s one area that’s being left behind and that’s the ‘people’ strategy to improve customer centricity and drive sales.

Let’s face it, it’s the one part of retail that often seems the weak link. If you are over 40 you may remember the days of ‘are you being served?’. Although somewhat exaggerated it was a real indicator of retail customer centricity – personal, caring, and over the top.

According to the survey, investment in customer service and experience is top alongside ecommerce strategy as a priority for execs in 2019. It is the only differentiator a business has to entice customers into their store environment if they don’t want to buy online and the product is widely available.

Businesses that started online, such as Misguided, are appearing on the high street and brick and mortar retailers are realising the unique benefits of their physical space and making plans to optimise it accordingly – whether that’s a lifestyle destination or concept store. Over the last decade, staff have been like a forgotten tribe: transient, paid the minimum wage, and left to roam the shop floor with little, if any product knowledge or customer training.

But retailers seem to be going full circle in realising the importance of a ‘people-first strategy’. In brick and mortar retail, the team on the floor are the most important asset, they are the ‘brand ambassadors’, the ones face to face with customers who can deliver a personal experience, explain products, give specialist advice, encourage a sale, and give customers that warm, cuddly feeling. But if it’s so important, realising it is not enough – retailers need to invest in and execute a people-first strategy.

So what does a people-first strategy entail? To start with, let’s ditch the word sales assistant – it has a very transactional connotation. Sixty-two percent of execs said one of their biggest challenges is finding the right people with the right skills, and if this doesn’t change, nor will retail.

We’re in new territory where sales assistants are the custodians of the customer’s brand experience and I think we’re getting somewhere here. If you search for sales assistants on job boards, many are being advertised as Customer Experience assistants. And whilst you may think this is a nuance, it’s a huge step forward in transforming the way people think about roles within retail and how retailers recruit.

Face-to-face retail isn’t going anywhere; it’s just changing, mainly driven by the expense of being on the high street, rather than people just buying online. This is presenting a multitude of opportunities for retailers – store within a store, click and try/buy, personalisation, and home delivery. Retailers just need to make sure they can capitalise on those opportunities.

Retail must put people and pay before profit, training before transactions, and nurture talent before staff turnover. This way you’ll have a people first strategy that will entice customers to come and enjoy discovering what it is you have on offer – an experience online can’t replicate. This way, retailers may give themselves a fighting chance of remaining profitable.

To read the full article please visit Customer Experience Magazine.

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Consumers want ‘real people not robots’ from retailers

ert blog

A study launched this week by Gekko, a marketing agency, titled – ‘Service not Sci-fi’ reveals that UK shoppers would rather deal with real people not robots or artificial intelligence when it comes to shopping.

The study found that 81 per cent of UK shoppers claim the personal touch has disappeared from retail customer service in modern Britain, with almost a third (32 per cent) blaming an over reliance on technology for this decline. And half of those polled think that companies in the UK are using technology to save money, rather than improve customer experience.

Despite living in a world driven by technology, most people don’t want technology at the sacrifice of humans’ opinions and experience. Only 30 per cent said they would like to see ‘smart pricing’ initiatives adopted by retailers, where prices change in real time depending on demand, 22 per cent smart mirrors that show a 360 view of themselves, 16 per cent a virtual reality changing room, 14 per cent augmented reality to help visualise products in the home and nine per cent a talking robot assistant.

When it comes to buying online, 43 per cent of UK shoppers have had their screen freeze while trying to make a purchase, so when asked what makes a great bricks and mortar shopping experience, 49 per cent of those polled said it was down to having good staff on the shop floor, staff that know the products (49 per cent) and staff that go the extra mile (47 per cent). Coupled with this, 61 per cent of the nation would prefer to deal face-to-face when complaining, 59 per cent when enquiring or trying to find out more about a product and 73 per cent when getting a refund.

And businesses take heed – a third of Brits say that the personal touch is more likely to make a repeat purchase, and more than a fifth (22 per cent) 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 per cent) 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 the local shop, with a quarter of Brits saying they miss shopping somewhere where people recognise them, 16 per cent confessing they preferred the days when they could talk through a purchase with a someone in-store, and a quarter saying online shopping is less fun than buying something in a real shop. The convenience of a store’s location is also stated as important by 43 per cent of respondents, which means that as retailers consolidate their estates, many will notice the effects, further emphasising the need to carefully consider the experience being provided in-store and the staff needed to deliver the experience.

According to the research we waste almost an hour and a half a month interacting with automated technology, only for a human to have to step in and help. In addition, 47 per cent of shoppers have experienced self-service checkout failure that’s had to be rectified by a shop assistant.

In fact, more than three quarters (77 per cent) of UK shoppers admit they’d much rather use a checkout with a person on it, rather than taking the self-service option.

Daniel Todaro, MD of Gekko, said: “Everyone is talking about technology and innovation within retail, but our research clearly shows that what consumers really want is the human touch. With traditional retail under more pressure than ever and an astonishing 81 per cent of people feeling that the personal touch has disappeared from shopping, businesses need to focus on the customer experience in these tough trading times to help keep the high street alive.”

To read the full article visit ERTonline.

To find out more about our ‘Service not Sci-fi’ research please visit our Research page.

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Are retailers wasting money with their big budget Christmas TV campaigns?

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When your local supermarket, department store or specialist retailer breaks a brand new above-the-line ad in November, you know the silly season is upon us. With so much revenue and profit generated in this quarter you can understand why the stakes are high. Ads increase exponentially in prime time slots to lure us and retailers live off the hope that the shopping public will spend their hard earned cash through their cash registers. Production values go up, a memorable ditty is sung and a plethora of celebrity smothers the campaign, but do retailers really need to spend so much on the celebrity endorsement? As a marketer, I fully embrace the necessity of advertising and I understand the value in it. I agree that prime time advertising slots are a must if you want to make an impact, as are production values, but based on the criticism lauded on the lacklustre impact Marks & Spencer’s “Leading Ladies” campaign, can retailers justify the expense?

In August Annie Leibovitz shot and featured 10 leading ladies from Oscar winning actress Helen Mirren and artist Tracey Emin to drive sales of ladies fashion (pictured). Did the campaign need to be so “high budget”? Beautiful and well produced was the advert, but I can’t help feel that the garments the ladies were selling were somewhat lost in the foray of the campaign. It was not great fashion and to be honest I doubt many women felt drawn to the concept that these leading ladies really dress in M&S, felt comfortable in what they were told to wear or really engaged with consumers to convince that M&S was back on trend. After all, they’re usually sporting the latest designer labels down the red carpet. With Marks & Spencer posting its ninth consecutive quarter of falling clothing sales, the results certainly don’t live up to the celeb hype. Therefore, you’d believe a rethink was in order for Christmas Peak but not so. Rosie Huntingdon Whitely, David Gandy and another Oscar winner Helena Bonham Carter feature but I reserve my judgment on whether this will truly resonate with the average M&S shopper this time round.

From Waitrose to Debenhams to John Lewis with its just released Lily Allen advert singing the Keane song Somewhere Only We Know, retailers will spend according to market analyst Nielsen, an estimated £390m on advertising over the last three months of 2013. That’s £128m more than one retailer M&S reported in profit for the first 6 months trading. But then John Lewis reported record sales last Christmas, so ads can work but you need the quality products to help close the loop.

Brands in crowded categories may require celebrity endorsement to drive advocacy, however some do it better than others. Do retailers really need to drive our emotion to shop in their stores with the glamour of celebrity wearing, eating or commenting on the quality, style and taste of what are really just run of the mill products? What’s more, how much of the campaign is devoted to the celebrity? I can’t imagine that the aforementioned Oscar winning actresses are inexpensive; on the contrary, they are eating into an already squeezed margin. And do celebrities themselves truly embrace the brand enough to tap into its target audience? I doubt the M&S leading ladies of the summer are donning M&S’ A/W collection, even when they pop out for a pint of milk.

Some of the heavyweights have ditched celebrities this Christmas. Asda has slashed investment in its Christmas advertising campaign and blasted rivals’ “celebrity filled” ads. The grocer has cut its budget by 10% and put value at the heart of its festive messaging.  It has also been announced that the Tesco ad will not be celebrity-focused either. We shall see if they turn their savings this Christmas into profit.

Brands are increasingly defined by experiences, so the use of celebrities has to perpetuate the story and allow consumers to visualise the products as part of their lives. Celebrity ads have become ubiquitous. Marketers often scrap over celebrities for a chance to use their name. The need for standout means marketers are exploring new approaches to maximise the celebrity’s appeal. Some work, others fail, some are unproven. Regardless of approach, the ad has to be credible and authentic.

For brands, often such deals give advertisers a direct line to celebrities’ fan followings via their personal Twitter accounts and Facebook pages. However, the true asset is a star’s relevance, buying a marketer the kind of buzzy exposure that only a Hollywood headliner can bring. The choice has to be right. So why tech brands have enrolled the world’s biggest stars to endorse cutting-edge tech products is anyone’s guess. Kevin Bacon for EE, Robert Downey Jr for HTC and David Beckham for Motorola back in the day; I really can’t see the connections here – please tell me if I’m wrong. Brand recall is vital but let’s not forget the goal here, revenue, and whilst Beyoncé may drive me towards buying Pepsi, do I care which retailer I purchase it in?

No one will argue more than me that ATL campaigns are crucial. But I shall enjoy critiquing from my sofa the raft of celebrity appearances and voiceovers, which will grace my TV screen over the coming months. Perhaps I will be congratulating my choice in viewing via Freeview+ to allow me to pre-record and fast forward past the ads to my favourite Christmas special. Then again I may just hold out for John Lewis’ much lauded Disney –inspired masterpiece.

Read the full article at http://wallblog.co.uk/2013/11/12/are-retailers-wasting-money-with-their-big-budget-christmas-tv-campaigns/

Daniel Todaro is Managing Director at field marketing agency Gekko.

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Marketing key to capitalising on back to university rush

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Daniel Todaro, MD of field marketing agency Gekko, shares his views on what retailers and resellers can be doing to maximise their sales to students and universities.
 
The yearly appearance of autumn leaves signal two things for retailers: it marks the end of summer, but it also signals the annual back to school rush.
 
With children of all ages preparing for the new school or university year, thousands of parents will be charged with the task of effectively equipping their offspring with the equipment necessary to navigate the upcoming year. Recent research shows the back to school bill for the UK totals £1.3 billion alone, but to believe this investment is purely made in stationary and PE kit would be a grave mistake.
 
Following the school rush, thousands of teenagers will be making the pilgrimage back to university too; a journey that could not possibly be made without the latest technology. While the parents will be the ones inevitably opening their wallets, many are allowing their offspring to take increasing ownership over the purchase decision-making on high ticket electrical items. Now, more so than ever, it represents a significant opportunity for retailers and brands to drive sales.
 
This time of year is always accompanied by a surfeit of advertising targeting parents to make their purchases for the inevitable return to school. The effectiveness of this advertising is not in question but it cannot work in isolation. Advertising serves to drive customers through the door but it doesn’t necessarily guarantee that footfall will translate into much needed sales.
 
Without help, consumers will naturally gravitate towards value and promotions; which for brands can result little more than a sales roulette – particularly with frugal parents looking to limit their losses with their free-spending children.
 
The largest impact will inevitably be made at point of sale. However, like TV, this cannot act in isolation. What is crucial is a robust through-the-line marketing approach; a seamlessly joined up experience characterised by a strong narrative through the line, from the TV to the in store.
 
Having staff that are correctly trained to deliver the messages communicated in the advertising is pivotal. Staff should be able to communicate the messaging effectively and consistently; able to deal with any question. This human element is pivotal, and what many consumers visit the store for – the ability to have a real conversation with an expert and receive guidance in making a decision. After all, no one wants to speak to a robot(or buy the wrong product!).
 
Empathy is crucial, particularly in a category where consumers are not likely to be experts on the products and fearful of making the wrong choice and wasting money. However, compliance – which is often overlooked, is equally important. A brand may spend millions on artistic ATL, but this can be for nothing if the product and promotion is not displayed accurately in store.
 
Back to school is a gift to retailers, especially retailers specialising in technology. With a ready-made calendar hook to fuel footfall retail outlets need to put the work in only to convert this into sales. Retailers must ensure that they implement a through-the-line approach to convey a seamless message in-store where every available touch point is utilised to maintain the brand experience and drive sales with a higher average basket value.
 
Daniel Todaro is from field marketing agency Gekko

Read the full article at http://www.pcr-online.biz/news/read/opinion-marketing-key-to-capitalising-on-back-to-university-rush/032029

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