Tag Archives: Social Distancing

Brands Don’t Lose That Human Touch – Time to Get Creative

Brand ‘touchpoints’ are increasingly becoming digital, rather than physical, in a world of social distancing. With physical retail in a cycle of lockdowns and people subject to ongoing restrictions, the world of browsing and the art of touch are becoming lost – a necessity of social distancing and hygiene measures. But this key ‘human’ sense influencing purchase simply can’t be replicated in the information-led, online realm.

Luxury brands immerse a consumer in plush carpets underfoot, theatrical lighting in opulent surroundings in glamorous locations complete with the meticulous attention of an expert who has your undivided attention, making you immediately feel the brand is worth it. But with all of these luxury stores having faced periods of closure, we have seen a large reduction in footfall across major cities globally. The ability to capture the essence of the brand online is compromised. The case in point is Burberry who is perhaps a brand more advanced in e-commerce approach to high-end retail. However, the company saw a decline in profits of an estimated 80% coming in at £42m for the six months to September. Other luxury brands are not immune either, with Mulberry reporting a 29% decline in revenue for the first half of the year, due to store closures.

So how can brands fill the void that perhaps we all took for granted and relied so heavily upon? The role of other ‘touchpoints’ becomes even more vital in creating a customer journey that captures the consumer imagination and creates intrigue in the brand to explore more and make a considered purchase.

The new nature of shopping

When retail opened after lockdown one, we at Gekko uncovered a trend that consumers, starved of retail, were returning back to store and shopping with purpose. The journey was necessary and, on arrival, the budget in mind was set and the expectation to part with money was resolute and implied. We looked at all of our return-to-store campaigns across the considered purchase CE sector, focused on 6 distinct categories of Computing, Mobile, White Goods, TV, Smart Home & Wearables, and measured them week on week. The result was that we saw an increase of 28% in conversion rate from demo to sale and 22% in the average basket value.

Now, the increases can be attributed to consumer behavior but also significantly to the assisted sale element of the customer journey that facilitates the sale. The socially distanced engagement remained personal to the shopper and the ability to ask questions was imperative in not only cloning that sale but also increasing the consumers’ spend.

The best strategy and playbook in this new world to maximize the other senses to really sell a brand’s quality are a challenge. We must, therefore, meet the need to make traditional retail a destination worth a consumer’s time and safety.

The voice

Key to this is voice: A trained sales advisor, who can extol the virtues of a product and close a sale even if this is over the phone with outlets locked down or in person with a shopper making a ‘purpose-driven’ shopping visit. To engage the advisor in training, brands and retailers must adhere to covid-secure protocols, so the approach also needs to be reimagined. By keeping it succinct and energetic, and not like training but more a story with several chapters, some yet to be written but lined up to create excitement. By taking it virtual you can still be engaging if you follow the same approach and have the same energy as being in the same room – as if it’s still personal. Online, it’s a harder sell but call it engagement rather than training and it can become more creative. Gamify the process and link it to rich online content from your website, also advertising campaigns and events.

Product knowledge and brand advocacy amongst retail sales staff are crucial components to success in retail. It starts with effective product launches and is something that traditionally relies on face-to-face engagement and hands-on time with new products. Again, the lockdown has forced us all to think differently about the approach. A virtual approach can enable brands to create genuine excitement for new product launches, engaging retail sales staff and cascading knowledge and know-how to them, again making them more effective in their shopper conversations.

Don’t lose your touch

Touch: Displays of action and demo devices demarcated or constantly wiped down more often than they would probably do if in your possession as your own device. Keep it straightforward and clean. Stand back, encourage play, and keep the conversation flowing using open questions. Learn through specific questions and examples about the customers’ usage habits, likes and dislikes about their current device, and link to features you know are relevant to the user.

When it comes to effectively demonstrating products to shoppers, creative thinking can pay dividends. With some of the limitations indicated above, brands can take the initiative and facilitate the demo experience. Think creatively! Another initiative we implemented was taking the demo to the store and controlling the experience whilst on site. The brand was able to tell the story in their own distinct voice.

Leave a lasting memory

Finally, think about the memory that consumers will be left with. Poor knowledge and advice – when asked for – and an ill-thought-out display will create a negative lasting impression. Missing product information, price tickets, and the devices not being demo-ready will all provide a bad customer experience. The decision to purchase should create a smooth transaction for the customers and, if not in stock, it shouldn’t be a problem. The retail sales advisor should be able to order it online enabling the customer to click and collect or have it delivered. If in stock, the customer should be looked after through to the point of transaction and be on hand to answer any question on set-up and integration of the new device further validating their purchasing choice.

The positive engagement with a brand ambassador or retail sales advisor is the game-changer that increases conversion rate and average basket value, achieved either through a higher purchase price or connection sale and, perhaps, an advocate of both brand and retailer. This is much harder to achieve online and never as gratifying for the end-user as a customer journey that enhanced the individual’s perception of the brand, and worth in relation to their own very personal budget.

As a brand, put yourself in your customer’s shoes and consider what you aspire to achieve, and redouble your efforts. Use this personal approach to enhance the customer journey, engaging in the most effective manner possible with your target consumers. This begins with training that grabs the imagination. Explain creatively how to tell a personal story on the shop floor, that envelopes the consumer, enough to become a customer through informed choice and not merely through distress or promotion. In a world of reduced physical contact, we need to think creatively to ensure brands stay in touch with the needs of their customers.

To read the full article please visit Branding Mag.

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Four positive signals of a happy new year for retailers in 2021

The resilience of retail has been a remarkable success story of 2020 in the face of continuing huge challenges. The pandemic has forced new ways of trading, from the obvious ways of ensuring COVID-safe spaces to rethinking how to target consumers spending the majority of their lives at home. For the retailers left standing, this period of dramatic change will have stiffened their sinews and made them lean, adaptable and ready for when the good times return. There are encouraging signs and we’ve looked at some recent data that provide four signals for real optimism about 2021.

Retailers embrace an omnichannel strategy
The first lockdown came as a hammer blow to the industry. With retail outlets shut throughout the country, consumers shifted rapidly online and overall sales fell sharply . Despite this, the growth in ecommerce couldn’t make up for the volume lost through the doors of physical retail. While the first lockdown was a shock to us all, this time retailers have been far better prepared. The BRC-ShopperTrak footfall monitor for November revealed that footfall across all UK shopping destinations fell by 65.4 per cent compared with the same month last year, due to England’s lockdown. According to the ONS, retail sales volumes last month were 3.8 per cent lower than in October, ending a six months of growth. However the drop was smaller than analysts had expected and sales remained 2.6 per cent above February’s level, in the year to November. This was all the more impressive given lockdown forced many shops to close during the month. Indeed Dixons Carphone’s recently released half year results indicating a strong performance despite the challenges.

This shows the ongoing resilience of retail with retailers coming up with the right enticing offers to encourage spending. They had adapted to the changed circumstances and ensured they could reach consumers instore or at home. In 2020 the old online/ offline dichotomy has become more irrelevant with all brands and retailers needing an omni-channel strategy to ensure they can best respond to the needs of customers. This is the best way to remain relevant and operate in the future.

Pent up demand for physical retail experience
Despite online retail’s undoubted increase of the share of the cake, reports of the death of physical retail have been greatly exaggerated. After each lockdown there has been huge pent up demand in evidence whenever retail has been allowed to operate. This is despite uniquely off putting circumstances for consumers to venture out. Recent data shows a bigger picture of the return to stores following the lifting of lockdown 2, with footfall increasing by over 19.9% as determined consumers returned to stores ready to purchase after weeks away. High streets and shopping centres have been the real drivers of growth, having suffered the most in November.

Our own analysis of consumer behaviour based on in store behaviour, the G-Index,  has continually been updated post lockdown and we now have over 200 responses from around the country in various stores. 47% remain happy coming into stores, while there has been an increase in those feeling cautious. With that in mind, 90% of retailers have staff on the door managing footfall amongst many other measures designed to maintain a safe environment for all customers. They have impressively reacted to ensure they are COVID safe and have made sure they have communicated this to their shoppers. They have responded in a responsible and agile manner and generated enormous good will that will stand them in good stead for the future. After all if people are still wanting to venture out during a pandemic, we can be guaranteed they will flock to stores when we have the vaccines rolled out and no longer have to be scared of strangers.

Capitalising on the new trend of ‘shopping with purpose’
One real trend we have seen during the pandemic is ‘shopping with purpose’. This is consumers wanting to make less journeys out but when they do, not returning empty handed.Our own analysis for December is showing a healthy growth in conversion rate of 51%. This was due to pent up demand and people returning to stores with a real purpose to buy. This is particularly the case with categories like consumer electronics with higher ticket items and people less willing to buy online. We may be less willing to venture out but when we do we want to make it count. Smart brands and retailers have realised this and have really focused on making the most of these opportunities for engagement. A great retail environment and well thought through customer experience is always crucial but never more so than now. Additionally a recent IDC Retail Consumer Insights Survey found that 59% of global customers are likely to shop elsewhere if they can’t buy online and pick up in-store. In comparison, 48% said they’d find another retailer if they can’t see in-store availability online.

The rise in prominence of the trusted sales expert

As we have been beset with Amazon packages we have realised something very crucial through absence, namely the importance of a trained expert to provide guidance and advice. For big ticket items, we simply haven’t been able to get the advice we need with information online perhaps answering the ‘what’ a product does and ‘how’ it works but is never able to respond to our unique reasons of ‘why’ we need it. This has been demonstrated by the impressive conversion rates we have witnessed of demonstrations leading to sales. When parting with a significant sum on considered purchases we want to speak to a human who can understand a product’s role in a customer’s life and make recommendations. A further investment in these experts will represent a smart strategy for the next year.  Of course this advice can also be given on the phone in a world of social distancing and many brands have invested in staff in call centres to answer more specific questions about how products can fit into changed lives.

While the vaccine offers the promise of a return to a more normal life, we will all be changed by this experience. Despite the tough times, retailers have shown the strength and adaptability to respond to customers’ changed needs. As the clock chimes midnight this New Year’s Eve perhaps we can be confident we can mean it this time when we say ‘Happy New Year’.

To read the full article please visit Retail Sector.

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