Tag Archives: tech

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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GIVE THEM A RETAIL EXPERIENCE THAT’S WORTH THE TRIP

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You will convert more customers if you sell them a ‘solution’ that solves their problem rather than a product at a price that may be cheaper online anyway, says Daniel Todaro, managing director at field marketing agency Gekko

Let’s be honest, it’s a challenge out there in retail and every one of us shudders when we see superb businesses like Maplin hanging up the ‘closing down’ signs.

It’s now more important than ever to offer a solution-based sales model to your customers, converting as many as possible of those precious shoppers who take the time to visit your store.

Whatever their motivation for coming into your store, 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 reinforcing why traditional retail is still the best platform to buy consumer electronic products.

Overall online sales were up 13.9 per cent year on year in January, with footfall down 6.6 per cent and it was almost 12 per cent down in London and the South-East.

When you look at the CE category, this was only up 4.4 per cent online, suggesting that shoppers are more hesitant to go online for big-ticket, considered purchases.

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, their needs, budget and motivations, in order to create the foundations of a solution-sales approach.

Is your shopper looking to buy new, upgrade or has something broken down? What do they currently have? What features do they require? Where will it be used? How often? Is it a primary or secondary device? What is their preferred price range? Do they need it installed? A customer wants reassurance that the product will meet their needs.

It is important to ensure your staff can demonstrate the product and explain the benefits. And don’t ignore what the shopper tells you, so that the features link naturally to their needs. This could make all the difference to their decision to purchase.

If shoppers can see how the product will solve their unique ‘problem’, they will go away satisfied and 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.

Gekko’s OnePoll ‘influencer’ research has conclusively proved that ‘50 per cent off’ shoppers still want to head to a store to see, touch and experience a product in person. Now you’ve got them in your store, you should also know that our research showed that 35 per cent are influenced by recommendations from shop staff.

So the training you give your staff is possibly the most important part of achieving effective solution-based sales. Imagine how great it would be to convert that 35 per cent. If a shopper has confidence in a salesperson who focuses on their needs as a whole, rather than just on a particular product, they are more likely to purchase. You will instil confidence in your shopper and also build that all-important relationship that converts them into a customer who will keep coming back.

If you don’t believe me, the research also showed that that only 10 per cent of customers were influenced by celebrity endorsement, or 15 per cent by bloggers, etc. This is because there is no tangible engagement with, or as much trust in, these opinions to create a meaningful relationship. Compare this with the 71 per cent who are influenced by word of mouth from friends and family. The back-and-forth conversation needed between shopper and salesperson for solution selling is vital for building the trust needed to buy based on their recommendation.

This underlines the importance of having well-trained staff that know the products inside out and the lifestyle issues that each product helps address. We work with our brands to understand what strategy works by measuring sales before, during and after. One example from a connected-home partner confirmed that the number of units sold in three store groups in the 10 days after a briefing and merchandising campaign increased by 45 per cent. But 10 days later, sales dropped marginally, as staff didn’t continue the solution-selling techniques they’d been trained in.

The need to retain and continue the solution-based approach highlights the need for regular training and is proven to convert your shoppers into customers today, tomorrow and long into the future.

Visit ERTOnline to view the original article

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Women of Silicon Roundabout

This week Gekko enabled one of our senior field team members to experience an inspiring centrepiece event for women in the tech industry, namely the Women of Silicon Roundabout conference at ExCel London. #wintechseries #womenintech #tech #gekko #fieldmarketing

Here is Katy’s superb review of her experiences from the conference:

Women of Silicon Roundabout is a two-day event held at London’s ExCel, designed to bring together women in the tech industry. Beginning with one small event two years ago and is now the centrepiece of a global series, the Women In Tech Series (WinTechSeries) runs across the USA, Australia, mainland Europe and the UK (and is growing).

Exhibition stands packed out the hall; from high street retailers and online services, to banks and investment firms.

Workshops, seminars, skills labs and inspirational speakers took to the stage across several breakout rooms, a huge auditorium and speakers’ corners.

Whilst the event is designed to inspire, educate, network and build technical skills; the exhibition area was a hive of business showcases with most companies also targeting talent for potential recruitment.

I attended several seminars and watched some speakers. Here are my top takeaways:

 

PwC and the #techshecan Charter – Robyn Stephenson and Sheridan Ash

PwC launched The #techshecan Charter back in February. The Charter is designed to bring together organisations to tackle the root cause of why women are in the minority in the tech industry. PwC have identified that STEM education in schools is not appealing to young girls, therefore they drop the subjects in favour of something they feel they are more suited to.

Gender norms and societal pressures at such a young age is fuelling under-representation in the tech careers – not only gender based, but other minority groups such as BAME and LGBTQ. This was a really interesting seminar, and I applaud their efforts to increase the diversity mix at PwC by going right back to the root cause and potentially waiting 15-20 years before we see any of the talent come through the education system and into employment age.

#techshecan collaborates with organisations to make the shift in education at a government level – working to reduce the amount of stereotypical representation children see and learn about during their early years education. In short, the Charter aims to change education from a young age so that girls feel that it is a career they can not only get into, but excel at.

 

The importance of building advocacy for ourselves – Helen Hunter, Group CDO of Sainsbury’s Group

This was my favourite seminar. Helen has a very candid way of speaking about her accidental career into data and technology. She surprised herself given that she has “an innate fear of maths”-  as she put it. Helen also has a family, and is incredibly passionate about self-promotion and supporting parents returning to work following a new addition.

On the topic of self-promotion, or “building organisational advocacy – both in private and in public”, Helen uncovers the mystery some employees experience when they see their colleagues being promoted ahead of them. She used the Johari Window method (ref here)- one which is decades old – to deliver useful tools to the audience for when they return back into the workplace.

Organisational advocacy is so important, yet so many misunderstand it’s power and how to correctly influence i.e. if you’re producing such great work, make sure people know! Build your personal brand, prove your worth and ensure that you check your “blind spot” regularly.

An interesting fact about feedback given by managers when an employee seeks it out and how it differs between men and women: Broadly speaking, men are given feedback on how they can enhance their business decision making skills and women are given feedback on behaviours. Helen’s point was not to complain that this is wrong, but to encourage the women in the room to ensure they probe for better feedback in order to support their development and careers.

The day was inspirational, thought provoking and educational. It was great to meet lots of people from other networks and find common ground, have debates and discussions. Oh, and there was a massive robot!

We have work to do in the tech industry to grow diversity. We need to be representative of the communities we are serving. That was a phrase repeated several times by many different speakers. They’ve got a point right? If the people writing the algorithms are over-represented by men, then we will likely be served up products, services and information that is skewed surely? Diversity in all of it’s senses means stronger workforces, more intense creativity and better business outcomes.

Growing your own advocacy and personal brand is key for anyone – not just women and not under-represented groups. As individuals, we don’t work on this anywhere near enough as and employers would certainly benefit from building this methodology into their development plans.

We all have a responsibility to the next generation that every single child feels that they can do anything they want to. The sad thing is a lot of children only get to see such a small percentage of what’s on offer out there, and then become disengaged because “that’s not for girls” or “you could never do that”. It’s time to smash through these ceilings and change the world.

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SMART HOME: SEE THE LIGHT

The smart home is an area where indies can excel with their knowledge and service. Daniel Todaro, MD of field marketing agency Gekko, suggests how to move into this growing sector

Last year ERT’s Turning Point survey  identified that 38 per cent of independent electrical retailers didn’t think the smart home was right for their customers. Can you honestly say that reflects consumer demand in 2018 and is a commercially sound position to take?

The positive news is that techUK has identified that 39 per cent of people agree that connected technologies offer an attractive proposition, up 10 per cent year on year. With the appetite for smart products on the increase, energy supplier E.ON UK has reported that 73 per cent of households have already invested in some form of smart technology.

This is a huge indicator that the ‘connected home’ is a category with opportunity for all – and if you’re still in doubt, take advice from management consultancy Accenture. Its research shows that the connected home offers energy suppliers a potential £2 billion in revenue by 2020, driven mostly by adjacent smart markets, from connected kitchenware to smart sensors, and clearly defines the smart home to be a lucrative market.

It was also no surprise that the smart home really dominated CES, in particular smart speakers and voice control, which at present are gaining ground in the UK, where the market is expected to grow threefold from its recorded three per cent penetration. This UK growth will contribute to an industry with an estimated global worth of £225bn by 2020. That’s only two years into the very imminent future and to gain from this multibillion-pound category, ranging for any CE retailer should be a serious consideration.The breadth of current and potential future smart appliances that retailers will all be ranging, and the scale of business opportunity to package services from third parties around them, suggests smart homes will need to be a significant category in any independent’s range planning.

Following some extensive web ‘scraping’ by the Gekko team, the appeal of smart home is obvious, with retailers such as John Lewis, Currys and even Very.com ranging more connected-home products across all category segments. This includes home monitoring, home heating and smart speakers – all increasing average prices 47 per cent year on year.

So how do you tap into this market?

Relevant

It’s up to retailers to bridge this gap between desire and knowledge, offering consumers a choice complemented by a personalised service. This is an area where independent retailers can excel.

For those that are still sceptical, why not start small, ranging products that require limited investment, but can have a huge lifestyle impact for consumers. Smart plugs, such as those from Hive and TP-Link, allow users to control their appliances from any smart device. From turning on a lamp to making sure your hair straighteners are turned off, smart plugs are an inexpensive and easy to install smart home solution, and a great way to introduce customers to the category.

Likewise, ranging at around £70, smart light bulbs such as Philips Hue, Hive or LIFX are a great smart-home product, allowing consumers to switch on their lights or change the colour depending on their mood, occasion or décor. In addition, these products link to a device such as Google Home and Amazon Alexa.

If you want to impress shoppers, this functionality can easily be set up in your store to provide a live demo and experience to your customers, but make sure you have a strong wi-fi connection to avoid disappointment. Awareness of connected home innovations is in the top three of current technology trends as published by techUK, which established that 77 per cent of those surveyed had some knowledge, but only one in 10 ‘know a lot’ about it.

Once you’ve established the category, move on to other areas, such as thermostats from the likes of Hive and Nest, which have seen ownership increase to eight per cent since 2016 and are set to grow with a recorded 32 per cent who say that they are interested in buying in the near future.

Consider the opportunity for independents to fill this gap in the category by offering customers solutions, such as professional installation or even additional training in-store from a staff member. Become a solution provider and make your store the destination for smart-home shoppers.Smart security products, such as the Ring Video Doorbell, Nest Cam and Hive View are also on the increase, up four per cent, and with the range of these devices from many brands at appealing price points, it’s becoming affordable. These products are the next step for those delving deeper into the connected home, with an average basket value of £173. However, the lifestyle benefits of these smart-home solutions will appeal to consumers, who are estimated to be activating an average of 8.7 connected home devices in any one household.

With all smart products, a general description of how they work may not suffice for customers. Before buying, many need to see it working just as it would in their own home, and experience the potential benefits to their lifestyle.

Aim to have a demo-ready model of each product to demonstrate their functionality to shoppers. Equip staff with a wi-fi-connected tablet. Even turning a lamp on and off remotely, will bring the product to life.

Don’t confuse shoppers with technical jargon. Make sure your staff are communicating what the smart home offers each individual, be it peace of mind when leaving their home for a long period, the money-saving benefits of a smart thermostat, or even the convenience of a smart assistant.

Equally, make sure that, when demoing a smart home product, your staff have been thoroughly trained how to do so effectively and are able to answer any questions posed.

This is where your staff training is really key. Give your customers that experience of the smart home and inspire them to upgrade all their appliances to create a smart home for themselves.

And with the prospect for additional or repeat purchases, if you get your range right and your staff trained to create a connected-home experience, the smart-home category can become a cornerstone of a CE retailer’s business.

Read at ERTOnline

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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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VOICE CONTROL: THE SOUND OF 2018

Smart home sales will dominate 2018, driven by voice control, and wireless headphones still present a huge opportunity, claims Gekko managing director Daniel Todaro

What does 2018 have in store for consumer electronics? The trends all seem to be pointing in the same direction and I have been saying throughout 2017 that it’s no secret – the smart home is set to dominate 2018.

With a sharp increase in products available in mass distribution in 2017, increasing 14.5 per cent year on year and gaining popularity among consumers, including technophobes, the smart-home category is going to grow, with more choice and greater integration to establish AI interfaces as the norm for many.

The smart home is the connected home and includes smart speakers, such as Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home, which is estimated to be a $13 billion business by 2024, fuelled by the increase in network connectivity and a rise in demand for connected-home devices, such as thermostats.

The home automation element of smart living is expected to grow – especially when you consider that it’s not just thermostats that you can manage from your smart speaker, but also lighting, security cameras and door bells to name a few. This creates an increased opportunity in a category that’s still growing and definitely not stagnating. In fact, it’s estimated that consumer spending on smart-home technology is expected to grow 29 per cent year on year.

Evolving

The market is, of course, evolving and 2018 will be the year that the marketplace starts to get a lot more crowded, as the category develops from Amazon and Google offering their own range of speakers in a variety of form factors.

Google and Alexa Assistants are also being integrated into products from other hardware brands, such as Sonos, which has already released the Sonos One – with Alexa. It also hopes to integrate Siri and Google Assistant soon.

Apple’s HomePod will hit homes in 2018 and will, of course, garner attention, but its Siri solution offers some weak competition. Audio brands such as Yamaha, Libratone and Ultimate Ears all announced Alexa-driven smart speakers at IFA this year, with Sony, Philips and LG adding Google Assistant integration to their smart products.

So how do you choose between one solution and another? Well, research conducted by Stone Temple indicated that when 5,000 of the same questions were asked to Google Assistant, Microsoft’s Cortana, Siri and Alexa, it was Google Assistant that came out on top with 68 per cent of questions answered, compared with 21 per cent for Amazon’s Alexa.

In selling the smart home, we know that in many instances it will require an assisted sale to do the category justice. This is important to consider, as retail value is expected to reach €5.11 billion (£4.5bn) worldwide this year.

More importantly, the opportunity in 2018 is that 44 per cent of shoppers don’t know whom to trust to install their smart-home devices.

So, consider what has been discussed in ERT as part of the Turning Point debate, and look to exploit the trends and develop the opportunity into profitability by starting to focus on smart home installation. Products that come with installation, like Hive by a British Gas engineer, could gain an edge over products like Nest, where the homeowner would normally have to source their own installer.

Consumers welcome a full-service solution, and with 35 per cent of smart-home sales in 2018 expected to be for energy management and with 19 per cent for home-security, there’s plenty of opportunity for the switched-on retailers. So why not create a solution that assists in the install and integrates every smart-home device as and when a consumer adds to their connected-home environment?

Another major trend is the growth in wireless headphones. Although currently only accounting for less than 20 per cent of all headphones sales in the UK, a seismic change is expected over the next 12 to 24 months. By 2021, they will become standard, with worldwide sales projected to reach 206 million units, up 96 per cent on this year’s anticipated figures.

Phenomenal

This phenomenal upsurge is driven by the increasingly rare 3.5mm jack in premium smartphones. This growth will be reflected across a wide spectrum of price points and brands, meeting the needs and expectations of younger generations who demand no ‘wires’.

Retailers will need to be able to match this trend in their ranging and also consider compatibility for iOS or Android devices, as not all headphone products may work on every device.

Trends in retail execution are also set to change further in 2018, as identified by Barclaycard, whose research found that shoppers want new and engaging high-street experiences, such as in-store events, and are spending more when they find them. Those UK retailers who are tapping into this demand have seen annual turnover increase by an average of 14 per cent, according to Barclaycard research.

Retailers who are already investing in such events are now planning to double this investment over the next two years, as more than a third (36 per cent) now host events in-store, from classes and courses to exclusive sales previews. The research also showed that decision-makers are planning to increase investment for in-store theatre by a further 113 per cent over the next 24 months, suggesting that some retailers, maybe your competition, now view this kind of marketing as key to driving footfall and boosting sales.

With a lack of innovation from some CE categories, keep on top of those ‘growth’ categories and retail trends in 2018 to be top dog.

Read the article at ERT Online

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Identify the problem

Consumer electronics retailing lends itself like no other as a tool for retailers to be more dynamic in showcasing solutions and brands for consumers.

Retailers are experiencing growth across all categories, including a 1.5 per cent sales uplift in major domestic appliances expected through to 2021, of which 20 per cent of sales are made in the independent sector. Likewise, the UK small domestic appliance market was worth £976 million in 2016, and is expected to grow further this year.

Whether they are looking to upgrade an existing device, enter into a new product ecosystem, 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. The question is: what is the best approach to take for ‘solution selling’?

The problem

Ensure that sales staff know the products and services inside-out. Having an authoritative voice on the shopfloor to reassure consumers is the first step to completing that considered purchase.

Aside from this, a successful salesperson needs to employ a range of skills, including questioning, listening and demonstrating empathy with the customer.

Identifying the problem is the first step to finding a solution. Sales staff should be asking key questions of consumers to discover their needs, budget and motivations. Find out why the shopper is in the store. 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 it will be used? How often? Is it a primary or secondary device? What is their preferred price range? Asking these questions will give your staff the necessary information to start the sales process in line with your store sales approach, using the customer’s needs to tailor their approach to products and brands that will suit them and their lifestyle.

It’s often too easy for sales staff to make assumptions about what is best for the customer, rather than asking questions. Equally, applying your own spend versus value opinion is not identifying with your customer, as value is in the eye of the spender, not the salesperson. To avert a hard sell, avoid these pitfalls and ensure your staff are fully qualifying shoppers before moving on to a demonstration.

Offer the solution

Once the customer’s needs have been established, sales staff can advise on the best product and brand specifically for the individual shopper. For retailers, selling the solution is all about the customer experience, and how the customer is introduced and immersed into the product and brand.

Your showroom environment should offer consumers the opportunity to experience a product or brand before they decide to make a purchase, allowing them to immerse themselves in the features and benefits of the product first-hand.

With the assistance of a knowledgeable staff member, your customer wants to be reassured that the product will meet their needs and solve their ‘problem’. To achieve this, have a working demo model to show customers how the device would function in their own home. Even if it’s something simply, like demonstrating the load capacity on a washing machine using a bag of T-shirts, this gives customers an extra bit of information that could make all the difference to their decision to purchase, helping to close the sale.

Above all, ensure your staff are trained on core ranges and brands so that they can explain the benefits to shoppers. Don’t make the mistake of ignoring what the shopper has told you, so that the features link naturally to the customer’s lifestyle or specific needs. Shoppers need to know how the product will solve their unique ‘problem’.

Personalise the sales approach. If your customers can see the product working, imagine it in their home, and be sure that it will fit their lifestyle, listen and tailor your responses accordingly and they’re much more likely to make a purchase.

Upgrade the solution

To upgrade from a standard sales approach to a ‘solution selling’ approach, the sales staff need to identify and enquire about the bigger picture, identifying opportunities and sweeping their customer up with a great shopping experience.

On top of offering a solution during the sales process, staff have the opportunity to ‘level up’ the sale by showing customers how much more they can achieve from their purchase by increasing their budget, in some cases marginally.

Having established the customer’s needs and advised on a product to suit their lifestyle, take them one step further by offering attachment sales that can enhance or protect the product. A good example is TV, where many shoppers will be looking for a perfect set-up to upgrade their home. Having decided on a TV, why not introduce a soundbar to the sale, demonstrating the superior sound quality offered and how that can enhance the user experience.

Gekko is expert in delivering this sort of training to retail staff, achieving an average 33 per cent soundbar attachment rate on TV sales. These sorts of high-value attachments benefit both your customers and your bottom line by increasing your average sale value. With this sales approach, Gekko was able to increase average sale value by 41 per cent over the entry-level smart TV.

When completing the sale, think about other questions you can ask the customer. For example, to get the most out of this smart TV, the customer will need an internet connection. Do they have good wi-fi in the living room? No, then how about some wi-fi range extenders? That could also include a cover plan or installation service. In this way, you’re demonstrating to the customer why they were right to come in-store and experience the product in a way they could never have done if they had simply shopped online.

This approach to solution selling is positive for both customer and retailer. The customer has a solution to their purchasing ‘problem’, having been advised and immersed in the best product and brand for their needs by a knowledgeable staff member.

Equally, the store benefits from up-selling and attachment sales as a result of this more considered approach to sales. The key focus though is the customer experience – if shoppers are given a ‘glimpse into the future’ – imagining themselves using the product and how it can fit into their lifestyle – they are much more likely to make that decision to purchase there and then.

They may also come back to expand a set-up, buy that matching MDA or simply choose your store for every future ‘technology’ purchase, because they know they will be listened to, offered solutions, given a service they appreciate and will enjoy the experience.

 

Read more at: http://ertonline.co.uk/opinion/identify-the-problem/

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Take control of your destiny

ERT  has taken the brave step to look at how independent retail can be supported and survive, marking the start of a ‘Turning Point’ in the future of independent electrical retail.

Rent and rates increases and the Living Wage are just a few of the challenges retailers must combat. They can do this with a smart approach and by giving consumers what they desire, either in-store or online as an omnichannel approach.

One of our leading retailers, Robert Hughes, states that “personalisation and localisation is relevant” – sound advice from an independent group that is growing successfully.

Reliance on manufacturers to ‘do more’ is old-fashioned and misplaced. Manufacturers do not have a responsibility to reinvigorate electrical retail – it’s a collective responsibility.

With a falling pound, lower margins and greater competition in crowded categories, waiting for a brand to invest sufficiently in you is unlikely. Retailers need to be in control of their destiny and reinvigorate their model to appeal to all. Get brands to support you on training, promotion and display. Ask your buying group for those valuable generic soft skills that give you the ability to develop the categories that work for you.

Independents need to look for new opportunities for growth. The most obvious is the smart home, which is going to be linked to almost every category within the sector. With Gartner suggesting it could become a global market worth $38.35 billion by 2020 – that’s only three years away – the smart home is the future of electrical retail.

Independents have an opportunity to offer consumers a shopping experience not found in large multiples.

In the TV/AV category, 62 per cent of shoppers are between the ages of 30 and 49. One-in eight are male. This is an increasingly important statistic and, to quote Sony sales director for specialists Roy Dickens, the growth opportunity is “crossing the threshold into the consumer’s home” to install a solution, increasing attachment by offering a service that provides an end-to-end solution.

In domestic appliances, 70 per cent of shoppers are between the ages of 30 and 49. More than half (55 per cent) of shoppers in the category are female. This demonstrates the existence of ‘generation rent’, who don’t own their own homes and would be more inclined to rent MDAs.

Although shoppers with disposable income are in the older age brackets, don’t discount younger audiences. Many categories are more relevant to a younger audience – a prime example being audio. With just over half (52 per cent) of 16 to 24-year-olds regularly streaming music online, increasing your range helps to broaden your store’s appeal.

The omnichannel approach is an important part of the strategy and should be embraced as a method of attracting customers in-store whether, virtually or in person. The experience they encounter is what makes a shopper become a customer.

Retailers must ensure their staff can sell the benefits of high-value products. This can only be done through staff training, display, promotion and experience by retailers, supported by manufacturers, to achieve the combined approach needed to influence that ‘turning point’.

 

Read more at http://ertonline.co.uk/opinion/take-control-of-your-destiny/

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Smart staff for a smart sale

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The smart home has arrived, the Internet of Things is gradually making its way into everything from kitchen appliances to thermostats, and you’ll soon be able to control most things in your house from your phone.

The global market for smart-home appliances is expected to be worth $38.35 billion (£28.9bn) by 2020, and is only expected to grow further as our homes become more and more ‘connected’.

In the UK, sales of smart-home technology have increased by 81 per cent year on year, according to John Lewis. Although 66 per cent of UK consumers agree that the smart home is an appealing concept, many retailers are experiencing problems when trying to train their staff to sell this category, which presents some major challenges.

Despite technologically aware customers showing interest, there is still a lower level of demand for smart-home products over conventional ones, meaning that sales staff have limited opportunities to talk ‘smart home’. In some cases, this leads to apathy when it comes to investing time into training. This is not helped by the fact that many staff still believe that this type of technology is the future rather than the present.

It is critical that sales staff understand that they need to educate themselves and develop an interest in this emerging category.

As predicted, virtually all products will become connected over the coming years, so any purchase of a smart product is a safe bet for the future. With 3,427 smart products on the market (from 439 brands) – an increase of 61 per cent – the market is growing.

Another major challenge for retailers is that many consumers struggle to understand the concept of the smart home and its benefits. A quarter of UK consumers cite a ‘lack of knowledge’ as their main reason for not purchasing a smart-home product. Many customers, once given an explanation, understand how the smart home works, but still struggle to see how it will improve or enrich their lifestyle.

Staff need to be trained on how to sell the benefits of the smart home, giving shoppers some context as to how the technology may fit into their lives. A lack of hands-on experience with smart-home products means it is hard for store staff to explain the real-life uses for this technology. It’s no coincidence that higher sales come from those staff that own the product, as they are able to give practical examples of how the connected home has benefited them.

To overcome these barriers, it is perhaps helpful for retailers to move away from selling the ‘technology’ itself and instead outline for customers how the tech interacts with their lifestyle and delivers real, tangible benefits.

Sales personnel should ask more pertinent questions of the customer to establish their wants and needs in order to demonstrate the relevant connected-home product that will enhance and improve their life.

Currently, sales colleagues tend to focus too much on the broadband internet connection, app or other technology involved, which for many shoppers, while essential to know, is still a baffling science and serves to create unnecessary confusion.

A change in approach is vital for retailers to sell the smart home – focus on the benefits rather than the technology itself. Early adopters already understand the technology, but if these products are going to become truly mass-market, it is necessary to make the category simple and relevant to every consumer.

The smart-home landscape is changing as it becomes more sophisticated and reliable. More products will be smart-enabled, as demonstrated by SoftBank with its recent purchase of semiconductor IP company Arm Holdings.

IFA 2016 will without doubt exhibit significantly more innovation from more brands for the smart category. It’s the brave that will survive in this ever-changing market.

 

Read more at http://ertonline.co.uk/opinion/smart-staff-for-a-smart-sale/

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Smart Move

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The connected home is now reality, not a fantasy. The global market for smart-home appliances is expected to be worth $38.35 billion by 2020, and will only grow as demand and consumer interest in smart appliances increases. Shoppers will be looking for smarter appliances, but these can be balanced with regular models depending on a consumer’s desire to have some or all of their devices connected.

Some categories are clearly just jumping on the bandwagon, such as a connected SDA, which is in most cases an expensive and underused version of a regular appliance.Yet when considering the connected home from a long-term financial and time-efficiency perspective, some are valid purchases, once you’ve weighed up the cost against its potential long-term worth. Many of these domestic appliance products are, however, costly and there’s a good chance that if you could afford a kitchen and utility room full of connected devices, you’re perhaps not going to be the one cleaning or cooking and directly using the connected devices.

For retailers, the margins on smart appliances are evident, however this must be weighed up against unit sales, which may mean a lower margin than your bread-and-butter range could achieve if it were occupying the same space in your store. While the investment in ranging smart appliances may not be attractive at the moment, remember that sales in John Lewis stores in the smart-home category increased by 81 per cent year on year from 2014 to 2015. This is a growing trend that will likely spread to independent retailers, as smart appliances become increasingly more mainstream.

Having a select range of smart appliances gives your store an aspirational product and proposition for shoppers to consider when looking for a new washing machine or fridge. It’s worth considering that many shoppers looking to purchase a new appliance are doing so as a ‘distress purchase’. These consumers will be looking for a reliable device, not necessarily one with smart features.

However, a demonstration from a knowledgeable staff member connected via a tablet or smartphone, to explain the benefits of the smart system, may persuade many shoppers to purchase for the long-term benefits. These include compatibility with future smart appliances they may add to their home.

My advice is to pepper your range with connected devices, but don’t forget the mass-market appeal of traditional appliances and offer choice at all price points and functionality.

Read more at http://ertonline.co.uk/opinion/smart-move/

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