Tag Archives: Shopping

What do the Tory candidates policies mean for the high street

LLB BLog

In the blizzard of spending splurges promised by the two candidates to be our next Prime Minister has been some announcements that could be very significant for High Street retailers. Boris Johnson, the clear favourite, has announced that he wants to introduce 100% business rate relief on free-to-use ATMs to keep as many as possible open in town and city centres to ensure shoppers can withdraw money. He has declared that he wants to curb the closure of Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) that has followed the surge in contactless payments.

While this may appeal to shire Tories of a certain vintage the trouble is the Boris approach is as feasible as owning a unicorn. In a contactless world, less and less people are drawing out cash when you can tap a card or your phone. The subsidies he is proposing would not allow for the cash machine to be free as it still needs to be maintained, filled, connected and bank charges apply which make the model loss making for any operator especially if it is used infrequently. More poppycock from the master of poppycock.

Johnson also talks about wanting ‘a range of bureaucratic and legal barriers to business to be swept away’ to allow high-street shops to flourish. This includes an ‘overhaul of town and country planning laws that mean converting one form of premises ie. a shop, cafe, pub or hot-food takeaway, to another can be a lengthy process’.

One option being considered by Johnson’s team is introducing a new “A” class business category covering shops, financial and professional services, restaurants and cafes. The measure would allow existing shops to easily offer additional services.

He also called for the immediate unlocking of a £675m government fund earmarked for sprucing up high streets around Britain. If he becomes prime minister, he plans to announce this summer the towns that have been successful in bidding for shares of the cash.

Although on paper the overhaul of planning laws looks attractive, the problem is planning laws relating to change of use are not in his power to change, neither will £675m go far and how does he propose to choose which towns are more worthy of the fund? As ever with Johnson’s announcements rhetoric trumps reality.

Meanwhile Jeremy Hunt has pledged to exempt hundreds of thousands of small businesses from business rates if he becomes Prime Minister. Hunt intends to scrap taxes for nine out of 10 high street shops in a bid to save the high street. The claim is the move will save newly exempted businesses up to £6,500 each and will scrap taxes on 24,500 businesses based in Birmingham (5,000), Manchester (8,000), Leeds (6,000), Newcastle (2,000) and Bristol (3,500).

Hunt said that his government would reform the current Retail Discount rate, so that businesses which qualified for the discount would see their entire business rate bill cancelled. At present, those with a ratable value below £51,000 are eligible for their bill to be cut by one third.

Additionally, one of Hunt’s best trailed policy announcements has been a promise to cut corporation tax from 19% to as low as 12.5%, a policy which has been costed at £13bn a year. His generous spending pledges have seen him receive some flak from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS).

Hunt the self-proclaimed entrepreneur is certainly more progressive in his thinking and his ideas may just work to support independent traders on the high street who are being strangled by inflated taxes. The corporation rate cut will pay for itself making Britain an attractive base and undoubtedly bring more corporates to base themselves in the UK and with a No Deal Brexit in site, more initiatives like this is what the UK needs to survive.

The trouble is according to all the polling, Hunt has little chance of getting in. Just like the rest of us, it seems High Street retailers had better batten down the hatches as Tory Party members take the ultimate gamble in installing Johnson in to Number 10.

To read the full article please visit London Loves Business.

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Disruption will lead to innovation in our high streets

The Drum Blog

Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright announced in May 2019 that a new £62 million fund will breathe new life into historic high streets across the country. Really? What’s £62m going to do? Unless there’s a momentous shift by Government regarding the business rate issue no £62m fund is going to fix anything or impact the dire straits we find our high streets in.

But here’s the conundrum. Across the country, people still enjoy going shopping. Shops are not going to disappear and 89 percent of UK sales are still generated through physical retail.

Consumers want high streets and businesses want to be there. We can’t give up on our high streets, but we need to fundamentally disrupt the existing model with ideas that address business rate costs head on.

Reigniting imagination on the high street

We need traditional brick and mortar retailers to be imaginative and visionary to make retail work for them and their customers. We haven’t seen enough of this. There’s been some successes where traditional retail chains have introduced successful in-store experiences, from speaker spaces to free cookery classes, to encourage consumers to dwell and soak up the atmosphere.

We’ve also seen successful buy outs where we see anchor brands amalgamate multiple brands under one roof such as Sainsbury’s and Argos (Store within a Store concept – SiS). This has enabled Sainsbury’s to continue trading within the non-food category and remain current without distracting from its core grocery business.

Brand collaborations appear to work well, and this is where I think independent retailers need to deploy more disruptive strategies. Surely independents sharing space makes sense from a financial and marketing perspective and works for all collaborations, whether it’s an anchor brand and SiS or two brands in equal partnership.

Let’s take my local high street, where there is a bookshop with a coffee shop, and this unsurprisingly works well. So why don’t we see such partnerships more often with, say, independent clothes and shoe shops hooking up, cook shops and delis collaborating and complimenting one another and butcher’s, bakeries, greengrocers and florists joining up.

With so many consumers now on a personal quest to do what’s good for the planet, collaborations can really work to bring purpose to the fore and give consumers more choice.

The rise of the ethical high street

For people who are ethically minded, they may prefer to visit collaborations that have similarly aligned values for example, butchers, delis and bakeries that are fully ethically sourced or organic or shoe and clothes shops that won’t use unethical material. Delivering a positive, convenient and alternative shopping experience for people for whom these things are a driving factor in their purchasing decisions will provide an incredible customer service and experience that’s missing right now.

I’ve been in the industry over twenty years so I’m not naive enough to think this is easy, but retail is the most dynamic of industries and it needs to do something before it loses its confidence and high streets forever. I believe it requires a major re-think of the whole supply chain from landlords to legal and introducing new innovations like retail matching services. A service that pairs up independent retailers who are looking for high street shop spaces in particular areas.

There are all sorts of challenges – what happens if one brand is doing well, and the other isn’t, if one wants to sell and one doesn’t? But we’re at an impasse where something drastic needs to happen for us to re-imagine the high street. And drastic means disruption and innovation not more of the same.

To read the full article please visit The Drum.

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Retail Renaissance

ipm blogs

The high street is dying, that’s what we keep hearing from all angles of the media but is it?

No, its 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 as it did then, is wrong. Millennials are bored with the same format and Generation X, Z or Alpha are not ignorant to poor retail. This belligerent approach only serves to insult your existing and potential customers. 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.

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 ‘accidentally’ 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 Arcadias 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.

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, re-imagining 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 ipm Bitesize

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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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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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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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Brits want ‘service over sci-fi’ from retailers

The Drum Blog

A study published today by marketing agency Gekko – ‘Service not Sci-fi’ – reveals that UK shoppers would rather deal with real people over robots or artificial intelligence when it comes to shopping.

The study finds that 81% of UK shoppers claim the personal touch has disappeared from retail customer service in modern Britain, with almost a third (32%) blaming an over reliance on technology for this decline. Half of those polled believe that companies in the UK are using technology to save money, rather than improve customer 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% smart mirrors that show a 360 view of themselves, 16% a virtual reality changing room, 14% augmented reality to help visualise products in the home and only 9% in favour of a talking robot assistant.

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

A third of Brits say that the personal touch is more likely to 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 the local shop, with a quarter of Brits saying they miss shopping somewhere where people recognise them, 16% 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% 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 – which is 17 hours a year, the equivalent of more than two days at work – interacting with automated technology, only for a human to have to step in and help. Bug bears include getting someone to rectify a problem with the self-service checkout, and ringing customer services and dealing with a recorded voice, only to repeat the details to the person you end up talking to.

Little wonder, then, that 51% of Brits have slammed the phone down during an automated call, as the system didn’t recognise what they were saying. And 47% 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%) of UK shoppers admit they’d much rather use a checkout with a person on it, rather than taking the self-service option. More than 4 in ten (43%) British shoppers would rather speak to a person than an automated system when making a phone enquiry, with almost a quarter (23%) ending up having to complain on social media when their query hasn’t been responded to via the automated service.

Daniel Todaro, managing director 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% 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.”

The survey was conducted by Ginger Comms in December 2018, speaking to a sample of 1,500 shoppers aged 18+ and representative of the UK population.

To read the full article visit The Drum.

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

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Real people not robots is what consumers want from retailers

Robot Shop

The study found that 81% of UK shoppers claim the personal touch has disappeared from retail customer service in modern Britain, with almost a third (32 percent) 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 percent said they would like to see ‘smart pricing’ initiatives adopted by retailers, where prices change in real time depending on demand, 22 percent smart mirrors that show a 360 view of themselves, 16 percent a virtual reality changing room, 14 percent augmented reality to help visualise products in the home and 9 percent a talking robot assistant.

When it comes to buying online, 43 percent 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 percent of those polled said it was down to having good staff on the shop floor, staff that know the products (49 percent) and staff that go the extra mile (47 percent). Coupled with this, 61 percent of the nation would prefer to deal face to face when complaining, 59 percent when enquiring or trying to find out more about a product and 73 percent 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 percent) 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 percent) 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 – which is 17 hours a year, the equivalent of more than two days at work – interacting with automated technology, only for a human to have to step in and help.

Bug bears include getting someone to rectify a problem with the self-service checkout, and ringing customer services and dealing with a recorded voice, only to repeat the details to the person you end up talking to.

Little wonder, then, that 51 percent of Brits have slammed the phone down during an automated call, as the system didn’t recognise what they were saying.  And 47 percent 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 percent) of UK shoppers admit they’d much rather use a checkout with a person on it, rather than taking the self-service option.  More than 4 in ten (43 percent) British shoppers would rather speak to a person than an automated system when making a phone enquiry, with almost a quarter (23 percent) ending up having to complain on social media when their query hasn’t been responded to via the automated service.

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

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Retailers, It’s time to be relevant to consumers

Retailer Blog Photo

What’s happening to the British High Street? It is facing record levels of store closures in the first half of 2018. According to research by PWC, on average, 14 stores a day, 4,400 in the first 6 months, are closing their doors with 85,000 jobs lost in the first 9 months of this year. The industries most affected by the closures are fashion and electrical stores. Not far behind them are pubs and restaurants. There are few brands that haven’t been affected with coffee Shops and ice cream parlours accounting to the small amount of store openings.

As a nation of shoppers, why are we turning our back on the high street?

It is predicated that due to the large amount of choice now in the consumer’s hands the way they shop will change. Online shopping is predicated to account for 25% of non-food sales by 2022 which is a 5% increase on what it is today. The consumer now has the ability to shop across a variety of platforms from the high street, e-commerce, m-commerce and social commerce.

The choice to shop this way will increase through generations that grew up with the internet at their fingertips coming of age, working and having disposable income to spend. The generation that grew up with ordering something in the evening and having it delivered to their door the next day may not see the attraction of the high street. As shops close their closest functioning high street might get further away and less appealing to travel to when after a few clicks their product is brought to their door. The impact of online is a self-fulfilling prophecy and once the heart of a community is gone, it’s very difficult to entice it back as many councils are finding Public Houses, Restaurants are also affected due to digitisation – if you can order Italian food to your door are you going to leave to go to a restaurant? In-Home Leisure – If you have a huge TV/Projector, top of the line speakers, streaming service are you going to pay £30 to go to the cinema? Or go to watch the Football in a pub? Supermarkets interestingly do not seem to be affected at the level, perhaps due to people buying their own food to cook at home in line with changing dietary trends and therefore becoming more conscious of eating out?

The impact of the changes being posed may be too late. So what’s being done?

The introduction of a review for all retailers in England with a rateable value of £51,000 or less, intended to cut their business rates bill by one third is a positive step realising an annual saving of up to £8,000 for up to 90% of all independent shops, pubs, restaurants and cafes.

In some locations this is perhaps too late when you consider the vacant properties on the diminishing high street. The PWC research highlights that London has the highest change between closures and openings with Wales having the lowest. The numbers might be big for London but when you consider the size of some of the high streets in Wales compared to those in London -22 shops could be the closure of a whole High Street.

It also does not help those retailers, multiple or independent, with a larger footprint. For stores which anchor the high street such as Debenhams, HoF, M&S etc. the reduction in business rates for these retailers by local authorities, delivers a longer term tangible wealth to the community.

“This government constantly refers to a ‘dividend’ for all, which is used entirely in the wrong context, as there’s no dividend for communities whose high street have already been decimated and resemble ghost towns.”

What can retailers do for themselves?

The industries that were least affected by the closures such as Ice cream parlours and coffee shops could be down to the public still enjoying the little pleasures in life. It could also be that the brands have realised that consumers are now looking for personalised experiences. Millennials seek out experiences and value experience over material items. Those retailers serving the Instagram generation are offering them locations, products and experiences that are picture worthy and have bragging rights. Acknowledging these trends and the new way people shop are perhaps the key differentiators that have kept them from closure and continue trading successfully.

Although the numbers, for many, paint a negative picture for considered purchases there is still time for them to turn it around. Our research has highlighted that over a third of shoppers still prefer to go to bricks and mortar shops to buy their technology. There are still consumers who want to feel and touch products before purchasing. They are also looking for advice from staff and an immersive experience which some retailers do recognise however sadly many do not and are destined to failure unless they acknowledge and change soon. The investment made in retail by many brands is treatment to this consumer desire.

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Focus on Streamlining the In-Store Experience for Customers to Return

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Marks & Spencer (M&S) once again is in the news and is poised to close 60 poor-performing stores and increase its food presence due to falling fashion revenues and profit. Let’s not forget, this retailer has never placed itself as a high-fashion retailer, but one with a broad appeal for which it must cater. David Gandy, Rosie Huntington-Whitely, and the latest conscript Alexa Chung, who is yet to be measured for success, are fine brand ambassadors which have attracted new customers to the store — at least once. Therein lies the issue: let’s be honest here, ambassadors are not the problem and in most cases, depending on your taste, the fashion isn’t that bad or of poor quality either — it’s the experience.

Walk into an M&S and you’re greeted with a confused retail environment akin to a Poundland. There is harsh, bright lighting that bounces off the laminate flooring and awful graphics are festooned across the store. Images of middle-aged men in casual slacks will not make me go deeper into the M&S environment if that’s what I’m greeted with immediately on entry.

The fashion is laid out in a manner that speaks to no one in particular, big and small sizes, man-made and natural fibres, knits, pleats, and high neck lines share rails with garments for a totally different and diverse customer. There is no differentiation between ages and sizing in its merchandising, making it harder for shoppers to buy on impulse and instead expecting you to ‘browse’.

As a nation of shoppers we like to browse, but only for certain items. Or on the rare occasion, we see an item in the window and nip it to buy it there and then. At this point we may be enticed by the environment to stay a bit longer, browse, and become a true customer encouraged to visit again. Unfortunately, M&S has little linger appeal due to its stark and clumsy environment and merchandising, which doesn’t even reflect the 2016 Christmas campaign with Mrs. Clause. The message of a Christmas filled with love is immediately diminished on entering into store.

The solution? Bring them in with great food and great ambassadors to entice them deeper into a store with defined zones and a warmer, friendlier environment that makes customers feel comfortable rather than awkward. Differentiate soft mixed with hard zones, and group fashion by age, audience, and size so you know where you are in the store. Stop arranging shoes on shelves like tins of baked beans, and merchandising must-have fashion items next to shortbread and lavender draw liners.

The traditional M&S shopper has changed, while the new shoppers M&S attract through endorsement and ATL are put off by the environment. It’s imperative that every retailer makes their customer experience appealing, clearly defining where in the store they should be, and not approaching fashion retail as a one-size-fits-all.

Shoppers are intelligent and if you want customers to part with their hard-earned cash, you need to make it appealing, appropriate, and rewarding to your audience. Does anyone you know brag about the ‘joy’ of shopping in M&S due to its in-store experience or similarly about the items they bought? I suspect very few do, therefore by changing perceptions and carrying your ATL message TTL via social and the retail space may facilitate the love M&S desires as a fashion retailer.

 

Read more at: http://www.brandingmagazine.com/2016/12/05/focus-on-streamlining-the-in-store-experience-for-customers-to-return/

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