Tag Archives: Technology

Carefully consider the customer in this new age of retail

As consumers were forced online, bringing back a sensory experience through a carefully considered customer journey, is where independent retail is amongst the best says Daniel Todaro from Gekko.

It’s been a tough few months for all retailers but we’re back and now more than ever the customer experience is the tool many retailers must be reaching for to recapture shoppers and remind them what they have missed.

Based on findings from the CBI, retail sales have risen above seasonal norms for the first time this year. The reopening of non-essential stores in England and Wales brought relief to the sector. April’s retail sales volumes were viewed as “good” for not only the first time this year but also since June 2018, according to the CBI’s latest monthly Distributive Trades Survey.

After reopening on the 12th April, the early signs suggest that shoppers were particularly eager to visit fashion retailers, and on the day, spending on clothes was double the typical pre-pandemic level. Furthermore, the figures are stronger than when stores reopened after the first lockdown in 2020. The number of people shopping online in the past month fell for the second time in a row, and while it is still strong, the rate is half what it was at the height of the pandemic. The data points to a growing sense that the worst of the pandemic is behind us, and people are becoming more comfortable with venturing out to stores.

Retail will undoubtedly regain its mojo over the coming months and if as hoped we are out of complete restrictions this summer, it should rebound and take full opportunity as the burden of these rules no longer apply. It’s going to be different and it will no doubt continue to evolve but retail as one of the most dynamic industries, has always done this. It evolves to meet the expectations of generations, trends and attitudes. Brands and retailers must therefore work to create more experiences spread across a wider space to offer consumers an immersive experience that makes a customer buy from your store and continues to do so, wanting to visit again based on the experience received.

Since reopening we have already seen a 12% shift from online to the high street in the first two weeks. Whilst the growth will have added to the overall online retail space, consumers are increasingly bored of online shopping just as they are Zoom calls. For the entire nation, lockdowns forced us to shop online whether we liked to or not. If we wanted that thing for that purpose, customers had to go online and research, buy, deliver or collect and in many cases return it because it wasn’t right. Whilst this may have felt convenient for some, this meant that for many the sensory experience was immediately banished to a 2D experience and brown boxes dumped on our doorstep.

Human nature is to be stimulated through a sensory experience and even for those with no real passion for shopping, I suspect they have missed some of the pleasures that physical retail offers. In specific categories, this is enhanced more than others such as considered purchases in the MDA and CE categories. Sustainability is another factor many will be considering now that they have a choice. Our increased carbon footprint created by ordering items that have travelled several hundred miles will once again prick the consciousness of all of us as we look to increase our sustainability initiatives, not increase them with unnecessary additional miles and packaging.

We are gradually coming out of lockdown and consumers continue to be excited about it. Indeed over 85% of consumers from our latest retail survey results claimed that they have already taken advantage of physical shops being open to make purchases. They are emerging with a determined mind-set, using their newfound online skills to narrow down their options before heading to the store to browse and make the final purchase.

The retail environment is changing and has been particularly fluid over the past year. This data is critical to understanding the new trends that have emerged and forming (or re-forming) brand strategies. Insight from Kantar, online shopping fell in April for what was the second time in a row, and Springboard footfall data showed an increase of 88% week on week for the period that non-essential retail reopened after the 12th. All of this points to the fact that there are more shoppers out there than there have been for 14 months, so there is a chance here to connect with them while confidence is high and a (hopefully) high-spirited summer begins.

The online share of retail sales is decreasing, although the benchmark remains above the pre-pandemic figure, settling at about 36% in April vs 23% in 2020. This of course indicates the acceleration of a trend that has been growing for a while, but it does mostly remain product specific, and nothing will ever really replace the experiences that in store shopping can offer. The store should now become more of an experience hub as well as a purchase point. In-store marketing continues to have the power to not only increase actual sales, but also other key factors such as brand loyalty and even helping to drive social media interactions.

When it comes to consumer electronics and large appliances in particular, many consumers will always prefer to touch a product and hear about its benefits first hand rather than reading a specification sheet online. Hearing their input, from questions to reasons for purchase, can then be fed back directly to a brand, enabling them to react and stay ahead of the competition.

In this new age of retail, the smartest businesses will be the ones that can leverage the opportunity to reach consumers at every level relevant to them, and that is where effective brand experience and a carefully curated customer journey can step in to help exceed your customers’ expectations.

To read the full article please visit ERT Magazine.

The photo that accompanies this article is by Artem Beliaikin from Pexels

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A hybrid approach: Five retail innovations the pandemic has speeded up

Every business has been forced to change in the past year, it doesn’t matter the industry you are in. Retail is no different, but unlike others, it has always been a dynamic industry at the forefront of responding to consumer trends and the manner in which people want to consume things. Retailers have always understood they are at the vanguard of that change. This past year has truly focused the mind on this and the need for innovation like never before.

It’s not just about entirely new initiatives. Many trends that were already taking place have had their roll out compressed from years to months. Here are five innovations that the pandemic has speeded up that can offer a pathway to sustained growth to those who take advantage.

1. Click and collect

There is renewed and growing enthusiasm for click and collect. In part that’s linked to the general increase in online shopping but it’s also because of the convenience and importantly the hygienic, social distancing aspects. A pandemic trend that is set to stay, it is now an embedded part of many consumer journeys, especially in grocery shopping, but also increasingly in all non-essential retail. Our own research has shown that over 35% of people want to see this trend continue even after the pandemic. Click and collect certainly appeals to more sustainability-focused customers. These shoppers want to shop online but also have a focus on sustainability with concerns about the environmental impact of the deliveries in terms of the distance travelled and packaging. Retailers should think about how to maximise the opportunity to boost profitability. An obvious example being upselling products in a collection environment.

2. Using Augmented Reality to assist big ticket purchases

As we can see from the figures post-lockdown, physical retail has an enduring appeal with huge pent up demand being realised. However with more consumers having been forced to buy higher ticket items online, smart brands are looking at new technology to fuse the offline and online world and assist sales. Ikea is a brand that has always focused on innovation and disrupting the traditional retail experience. They made a smart play last year, acquiring AR imaging startup Geomagical Labs. The intention was to drive shoppers to purchase more big-ticket items without always needing to visit a store. Its technology allows a user to quickly scan a room using any smartphone, render that into a panoramic 3D picture in a few minutes, remove all the furniture in it and then add in new items to scale, helping shoppers picture products ‘in-situ’. This will be implemented by Ikea into its website and apps to let people start to create accurate visualisations of their spaces, and how they would look with Ikea pieces in them. While the technology remains nascent, other retailers should definitely take note.

3. Joining up the omni-channel experience

Ecommerce has been a big winner from this past year with millions more now comfortable with shopping online. However the experience remains disappointing for many. A recent survey by Ayden found that more than two thirds (68%) of Brits say they will now not shop with organisations if they had a bad experience either online or in store (an increase of 18% since June 2020). Meanwhile, 53% believe retailers need to do more to link their physical and online stores. Invariably the offline and online experience is not joined up and inconsistent. Too often the focus online is based on the ‘what’, product specs, price etc without thinking about the ‘why’ a consumer wants a product. Smart retailers and brands know it shouldn’t be the ‘channel’ that is the focus but the customer experience, which is then realised across all its touchpoints. Starting with an audit across all channels, brands need to ensure they are visible and joined up. The evidence shows brands who are joined up have succeeded over the past year.

4. Training the experts at scale

A key element of the formula for success instore is a shopper’s engagement with retail sales advisors. Are they proactive, helpful, skilful, knowledgeable, and capable of providing a personalised experience? This is something the online experience can’t replicate and physical retailers need to capitalise upon. Much is down to individuals, their training and management the retailer provides, but when it comes to talking about a brand and its products it is vital they are informed, motivated and most importantly advocates. This is often down to brand led initiatives and while in the past these experiences were provided in person, the pandemic has forced new innovative ways through virtual training being offered with face to face communication not being possible. For example Gekko has developed a new digital learning and engagement platform for brands to talk directly with Retail Sales Advisors, allowing them to choose when and how they learn, with gamification and incentives driving uptake. It’s meant we have been able to train many more staff members and have far more impact. While we will still be visiting face to face – a hybrid model will be our new way of doing business. A bit like peoples’ changed working arrangement, it’s taken a major event to force through a sensible and more efficient way of doing business.

5. The advisor’s new domain – the video call as well as the shopfloor

While digital methods are proving successful to train more instore experts at scale, the digital world can also be utilised to provide direct expert assistance to those making a considered purchase. Curry’s are one brand who tried a new approach during the pandemic with the ShopLive service offering expert advice to assist the sales process. A popup appears asking if you need buying advice, but rather than the experience being a frustrating one with a generic chatbot, shoppers can then start a one way video call with one of their experts. ShopLive now has over 800 ‘tech-perts’, aiding customers through their essential tech purchases. Each new expert goes through two days of specialist training to ensure they can help customers with every tech query. While a face to face conversation with a live product demo and test will always be the best way of answering any customers’ needs, this certainly can aid the sales process for those who would still rather not venture out or can’t for any reason.

Despite the atypical nature of the past year, we have seen many retailers react to the adversity with typical dynamism. The changes and digital transformation that has taken place will in the long run only be a good thing for the industry. A lot of the confident retailers have really begun to find their voice and discover a new way to navigate these uncertain, but exciting waters.

To read the full article please visit Bdaily.

The photo that accompanies this article is by Sora Shimazaki from Pexels

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Getting ready for the post-covid retail boom

From being in the grip of the second wave in a bleak mid-Winter two months ago with so much uncertainty and anxiety there really has been a remarkable turnaround due to the determination of all to fix this situation. A majority of the population have been vaccinated and sunnier days are here literally, well almost, but also metaphorically. The Bank of England say the economy is all set to bounce back quickly, driven by a boom that will dwarf predecessors in its intensity and size, predicting that Britons will spend around 5% of the estimated £250bn of savings accumulated over the past year. Others predict nearer 20%, which would still be £50bn.

It is already time to start predicting what will be the key drivers for growth in this transitional period. The roaring twenties were brought about after hardship which triggered a rebound in consumer spending and prosperity. Even if what is to come doesn’t quite last as long, there will still be a heightened passion to enjoy a return to normality and indulgence in the things consumers have missed out on the most. Whilst the 1920’s was more than a lifetime ago, most of us remember the 90’s. The latter part became ‘cool Britannia’ creating a wave of confidence which undoubtedly became the precursor for the shared will and determination to be ourselves today and do it with swagger.

So how do brands and retailers plan for this, project their swagger and reward customers who have remained loyal? Gekko has pulled together some key insights and trends to consider with retail doors open once again.

Consumer confidence is back

Research by McKinsey & Company shows that optimism regarding the UK’s economic recovery is at the highest recorded level during the COVID-19 crisis. Despite different generations experiencing decreased household income and/or increased savings, optimism has also led to an increase in spending. Forty-seven percent of consumers showed an intent to splurge in 2021 to reward themselves for the trials and tribulations of the past year. Younger consumers, especially Gen Z, 71% are indicating a higher intent to spend or treat themselves, and are keen to get back to enjoying themselves.

The rise of localism

It is likely that a significant proportion of pent up spend may continue on local businesses which have found plenty of support during the pandemic. YouGov found out last year that 64% of people want to support local businesses and buy local products. This has been borne out by our own recent survey of predicted consumer behaviour post-lockdown. 35% of respondents said they have purchased from a local or independent store that they would not have done pre-pandemic. Meanwhile 52% of men, and 49% of women have been more loyal than not to their high street stores. While the expectation might have been the very oldest might be the most loyal to the High Street, interestingly 35-44 year olds were the most loyal, with 74% professing loyalty to their High Street. This shows the strength of multi-age support we have had for the local businesses who have so supported us during this time.

Although the trend may quieten once all stores reopen, local share of business will remain higher than it was pre-pandemic, and is an area to utilise for retailers. The personal experience and convenience of local can be tapped into. With most people still working from home, local shopping is set to continue this year and beyond to meet the needs of its immediate community.

Innovations led by physical retail are set to continue

An encouraging aspect of the past year has been the ability of smart retailers and indeed physical businesses of all description to pivot and adapt to survive. While there have been some high profile casualties, the reality remains those who have been nimble have seen the benefit. It has also shown up the myth that all innovation occurs within the digital realm. It is likely that more than a few of the innovations will last in this new retail era which continues to evolve. For example there is renewed and growing enthusiasm for click and collect, due to the convenience and hygienic aspects. It is now an embedded part of many consumer journeys, especially in grocery shopping, but also increasingly in all non-essential retail. Our own research has shown that over 35% of people want to see this trend continue even after the pandemic. Retailers need to react to those continuing to want to use this method. An obvious example being upselling products in a collection environment.

There will be a continuing overlap of online and offline in some purchasing journeys. In response, retailers should make sure they offer a slick omnichannel experience which will appeal to all generations. Click and collect will remain a great way to appeal to Generation Z. This is an audience that wants to shop online but also have a focus on sustainability with concerns about the environmental impact of the deliveries in terms of the distance travelled and packaging.

Customer experience is crucial

With online shopping now fully embedded, physical retailers need to emphasise the instore user experience to provide that differentiating factor from the online realm. A good customer experience means your customers will spend more. In fact, 86% of buyers are willing to pay more for a great customer experience. The more expensive the item, the more they are willing to pay, according to a research from PWC. CX also influences on-the-spot purchasing too, as 49% of buyers have made impulse purchases after receiving a more personalized experience. A Walker study found that at the end of 2020, customer experience had overtaken price and product as the key brand differentiator. This becomes increasingly more important amongst those generations that intend to spend more than they’ve saved.

Looking at our research, when asked what makes people want to return to the High Street, the experience was the thing that was really missed. 62% said it was the ability to see, hold and try a product. while 52% miss the ability to browse. The same number, 52% reported the sheer enjoyment of shopping as a key factor in returning.

Retailers should react by stimulating the senses and having the right experts instore. People who truly understand the product, can answer questions and can close a sale. This is something the online world can not replicate. To complement the expert, think about presenting those products in an appealing way. You will want to focus on products that that have increased in popularity during the pandemic – those supporting lives now more centred at home. Make them visually appealing with great displays and demos. Ensure you have clearly labelled product details, features and benefits and ensure any promotions are clearly highlighted, ie. what it integrates or works well with.

Prepare for the megapeak!

As we bounce back from these long months closed, retailers have the opportunity to make up for lost time with a real focus on peak trading times and trends. We may not all be going on holiday but we will be taking holiday and enjoying summer as best we can. This year peak trading times will return like no other year. In Q4 2020, we saw the advent of what could be described as a 10 week ‘mega peak’ that upended the usual promotional strategies of the season. Average spend went up to £86.06 (+£7.22 vs 2019). The goalposts were shifted once Amazon announced that Prime Day would move into October from July. Black Friday and Christmas plans that have become retail tradition saw this newcomer arriving earlier and reacted by also shifting their strategies accordingly, leading to an extended mega peak. The expectations are now set for this year, and it is unlikely that Amazon will give up its new slot without a fight. Wunderman Thompson predict it will again aim to be the one to kick off the festive promotional period.

Others will need to get their operations ready to counter, the right marketing, offers, and consumer experience will be vital. At least this time they have more notice. We may have changed in many ways but the propensity of shoppers to spend as a key way back to normal life looks certain.

Retailers need to be ready as we look forward to the boom and continuous change.

To read the full article please visit Retail Sector.

The photo that accompanies this article is by Amina Filkins from Pexels

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Get back to where you once belonged – IFA 2020 Review

IFA 2020 is a much smaller, intimate socially distanced affair in Berlin. The event organisers have done a superb job at keeping the CE industries key event open all be it, not to the general public.

I am here as a guest to sit through keynotes from the industries great and good however more exciting is the next gen events running alongside these.

The Corona effect has impacted the industry at a global level and as we come out of having spent quite possibly the longest continued time than normal in our own homes, consumer’s desire for new technology to enhance their space has grown. The industry knows this and my business has seen this since retail reopened with an average conversion to sale of over +60% and ABV increase by +10%.

Drivers to purchase range from distress to replacement but also upgrade, desiring the latest in smart CE to complement the extra time we are now spending at home but also just in case we are forced to spend another lengthy lockdown in our cribs.  

One of the long-term effects of lockdown has been that people are now spending more time at home, by choice, centred around the kitchen meaning that more of what we consume needs be made or prepared using technology. This extends to how we wash not only those pots, pans, crockery etc. but also how we clean our clothes and our homes, in addition to working from home and socialising. Brands within the category have jumped to call of more innovation, more integration, and more space. The design of the home is evolving faster due to Coronavirus making consumers keen to enhance their quality of life at home through smart technology whilst not compromising on aesthetics.

A brand that seems to have designed to meet this challenge post lockdown is BSH, which has added not only smart technology to its range but also a third shelf in its dishwashing range. It’s also increased the size of its freezers with an extra 26cm of cubic space. Its neat invention, Connected Cookit, is a multifunction food processor with cooking functions that cooks up to 200 degrees. It’s a slow cooker, but not as you know it – it makes it, cooks it and connects to your voice assistants and your smart devices so you can control it remotely. This connectivity extends to BSH ovens, dishwashers etc. from your Fitbit whilst you venture out for a run meaning that you can still be in the kitchen, when you’re not.

Innovations include changing hues of ambient lights on hoods, dishwashers etc. to match your mood or interior and also programming your coffee machine to make the perfect cup of coffee just as you, your family and your guests like it, bringing the barista out in you.

Investment in R&D are the key shout outs this year across all brands showcasing at IFA this year. Amongst the largest was $100bn from Huawei’s who are committing to developing technologies encapsulated in an initiative called ‘1+8+N seamless connected living’ on which Huawei is in the first chapter and that enable a connected future for all. In reaction to the US sanctions imposed on Huawei and those who worked with the brand, Huawei have risen to the challenge admirably engaging directly with almost 460m monthly active users, 33m in the EU alone. The App Gallery is the third largest app store globally, increasing 76% YOY naturally due to the loss of Google services meaning Huawei users have limited choice but to do so. Petal search, the new search engine from Huawei, now has over 100m users with 81,000 apps integrated. Relevant apps are on the platform meaning that whatever the USA government tried to do to dampen Huawei has backfired and served to make the brand stronger in the market. 

The investment extends into retail, where others fear to tread, Huawei are leading the charge and opening eight flagship stores across major cities such as London, Paris, Milan which will be complemented by 42 experience zones that offer a user experience unrivalled so they claim. This initiative is close to my heart as the need to engage consumers in the considered purchase space is so important to achieve meaningful sales, market share and create advocates of your brand if not for life, certainly for the next five years.

Another Chinese brand making significant noise is Haier, which also owns Hoover, Candy and GE Appliances wants to be 100% connected throughout its portfolio of products. Currently they have 18 families of products that they are developing through app and voice connectivity, “democratic connectivity” according to the CEO Zhang Ruimin. With a three brand strategy of Candy delivering Value, Hoover as the core and Haier as premium. Candy, positioned in the market by its parent company as ‘affordable, smart, Italian’ claims to have 1.2 million paired products and 30% active users which in 2019 it recorded that 21% of Candy users were launching a washing cycle using its smart home facility, a multiple of 3 YOY and still growing.

Nova by Candy is a fully connected washing machine powered by your smartphone. The first of its type with one single button to control the MDA but also learning about your usage and making recommendations to enable consumers to wash smarter and ecologically.

Impressively it is claimed by Hoover that they sell globally a stick vacuum every minute. The new range will also be connected. H-Wash will scan your label via your smartphone and your connected Hoover H-Wash 500 will select the best program for your laundry. Now that means anyone can do the laundry.

H-Habitat air purifier, connected of course, will assess the quality of air in your home, the weather forecast, pollution stats, pollen count and adapt your purifier to react according to the need within your home. Gathering internal and external air data through the H-Scanner, which activates the robotic vacuum to clear dust and the air purifier to adapt the air quality in your home.

Positioning Haier as a premium brand and claimed to be the fastest growing premium brand (in this category) through creating innovations such as antibacterial laundry and five door cooling each with adjustable temperature zones. Did you know that Haier makes wine storage solutions? They are linking with the Vivino app to help you with how you should store any bottle of wine. By scanning the label, the app will automatically update the temperature of the storage to suit your choice of wine.

The trend at IFA 2020, it would seem, is that every brand is seeking to be the first choice for consumers to integrate with your smart home. It’s fair to say that the big news came predominantly from the MDA sector amongst others.

LG – “For us, this is a milestone of foundational significance because with this level of digital integration, we’re really beginning to build an evolving, connected and open ecosystem of smart products and services that can deliver so much more than the sum of its parts – going above and beyond device-level thinking to unlock a whole new world of potential at the system-level.”

Dr. IP Park, President & CTO, LG Electronics (Watch the summary of his speech.)

BSH – “We at BSH want to be the first company in our industry to neutralize the direct carbon dioxide emissions of all our locations worldwide.”

Matthias Ginthum, CMO BSH Hausgeräte (Watch the summary of his speech.)

TCL – “Our mission is to make life intelligent with innovative technology to make our customers’ lives easier and smarter.”

Frederic Langin, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, TCL Europe (Watch the summary of his speech.)

Haier – “Haier will introduce new solutions based on an ecosystems built from the Internet of Things for turning the group vision of Smart Home and Smart Living into reality.”

Yannick Fierling, CEO Haier (Watch the summary of his speech.)

Schneider electric – “The need to start to make homes not only smart but also sustainable and the urgency of the same has increased with the current crisis. (…) We are now linking the electric world and the digital world. This is Wiser.”

Manish Pant, CEO & Executive Vice President Home & Distribution Division Schneider electric (Watch the summary of his speech.)

Beurer – “Experience the power of the sea at home with maremed®. The patented technology creates a natural-identical seaside climate.”

Georg Walkenbach, Managing Director, Beurer GmbH (Watch the summary of his speech.)

Miele – “The Miele Group has coped quite well with this challenging year so far. In fact, at the midpoint of the year our sales were actually almost 2 per cent higher than those in the first half of 2019.”

Dr Reinhard Zinkann, Executive Director and Co-Proprietor of the Miele Group (Watch the summary of his speech.)

Hyundai – “You know we are making strategic investments in smaller fast-moving companies that will help Hyundai become more of a tech company rather than just a car company.” Michael Cole, President and CEO Hyundai Motor Europe 

HONOR – “Today, I am pleased to announce that we are bringing our all scenario smart life strategy to the next level. We will upgrade your productivity, creativity, connectivity and entertainment experiences, expand your smart life” and “From outdoor watches to all-rounder PCs, we are empowering young people to reinvent their smart life and expand the way they approach fitness, creativity, productivity and everyday entertainment”

George Zhao, President of HONOR Global (Watch the summary of his speech)

Now, with a handful of brand booths and three days of press conferences also IFA Business, Retail & Meeting Lounges, the highlight was the cross-industry innovations at SHIFT Mobility meets IFA NEXT. Here many ranging from start-up and established brands were showcasing new emerging technologies and there were in my humble opinion three worthy of note:

Heatle

When we boil water to make that cup of tea we boil more than we need. This device will boil whatever the amount, whatever the liquid. It is the easiest, fastest and most sustainable alternative to traditional ways of heating liquids benefiting our environment and does so free from limescale. It claims to save up to 60% energy per cup but you can’t have one just yet, as there’s a waitlist to own one.

Meater 

A wireless Bluetooth enabled meat thermometer that helps you never overcook that special cut of meat and cook it to perfection. It’s the first wireless smart meat thermometer that will estimate how long to cook your food to get perfect results which can be used on all types of cooking equipment to gage a temperature. As you would expect its wireless using a Bluetooth connection and app to permanently measure the internal and external temperature of the food. The app provides real time information on the cooking status of the meal, including resting time. Available in 3 versions: The Original MEATER and MEATER+ has a 50 metres Bluetooth range, ideal for the BBQ and for the Masterchefs amongst you. The MEATER block with 4 temperature probes boasts unlimited range and integrated OLED-display

Visseiro 

It is a ‘Smart Care Cushion’, which it claims allows reliable, continuous and contactless measurements of vital signs. The simple pillow effortlessly tracks elderly’s health and stores data in an app that can be checked regularly and sent to your doctor, if needed. Currently still in development but you could become a test user to aid its development.

It is these products that make IFA the destination event to experience innovation from established and start up brands. However this year, IFA as we know was sadly missed and whilst the event was skilfully orchestrated, I’m sure all will welcome the mass of brands in every category coming together as normal to enthralling and engaging media and consumers again next year at IFA2021 3rd – 7th September. Save the date.

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Smart Watches, Smart Choice

Daniel Todaro, Gekko’s managing director discusses the growing trend in smart watches, as we all look to monitor our health more closely and the wider acceptance these devices are gaining in the wake of COVID-19

Lockdown turned the attention of many to fitness and general wellbeing to make the most of the limited options available to exercise our bodies and minds. Therefore, what easier way to monitor this than through a Smartwatch, to give us that additional incentive or red flag to get up and be active within the constraints we all encountered. As a result, the market experienced a 20% surge in sales for Smartwatches during the H1 period that included lockdowns across much of the globe. The Wearables market is forecasted to grow in 2020 by 27%, with average selling prices dropping 4.5% but increasing to be a market worth over £18 billion.

It is fair to say that the popularity of smartwatches has been driven by advances in miniaturisation, through smaller and smarter sensors enabling ergonomic product design in devices. In fact, research and advisors, Gartner, are predicting that 10% of all wearables may be discreet and nearly invisible in the near future.

Beyond the hardware, is the trend in development of apps and services to complement wearables. Apple’s recent announcement of Fitness+, Amazon’s new Halo, and Fitbit’s Fitbit Premium, connect users with health and fitness content giving consumers guided workouts, coaching and diet advice, while incorporating data from their wearable device. For many this creates greater advocacy towards a brand’s ecosystem, making the software equal to the hardware when consumers make a choice on which wearable is right for them.

You will not have missed that Apple launched the 6th incarnation of its watch, which over its product lifecycle has contributed considerably to the smartwatch market. Indeed, Apple holds the largest share of a category that shipped a staggering 92.4 million units in 2019. Fast-forward to Q1 2020 and the increased popularity in the Apple Watch saw 4.5 million units shipped, holding a 26.8% share of the market. Whilst not to undermine this impressive lion share of the market that Apple holds, it’s important to note that there are other equally as good, if not better, wearable brands and devices available on the market. In total, all brands contributed to global sales across the category and in some instances shipping more than Apple when you include all Fitness wearables from Trackers, Body Sensors and Smart Wristbands.

The other significant market leaders in the smartwatch category are Fitbit, who shipped 2.5 million units in the q2 2020, as well as Samsung who held a 10.8% share in the first quarter of 2020. Other more sports focused brands, such as Garmin, extend the Smart watch category towards the pro athlete types that would never consider any mainstream or ‘lifestyle’ brand. Also, let’s not forget the many ‘challenger’ brands that are impacting on the market and chipping away at the category leaders share. These include the Chinese company Xiaomi, whose Mi Band fitness tracker has been witnessing great success creating a market share of 20.4% in Q2 2020. Put all these brands together and the category is forecasted to grow having already successfully shipped across all brands 33.7 million devices in Q2 2020.

The value of this market has developed 34% year-on-year as more consumers adopt smart devices for health and leisure reasons.

The integration of smartwatches into our lifestyles has become ‘normal’ to many across all generations who now couldn’t live without these devices. This growth in popularity and acceptance across all demographics and wider markets will see the category grow further and ship a forecasted 156 million units in 2021, an increase of 14.4%.

This increase will certainly see the smartwatch landscape potentially change with shifts in operating systems as Google’s planned acquisition of Fitbit enables it to bolster its health and fitness offerings. As you can imagine, an aggressive acquisition strategy is likely to be on the cards adding more OEM manufacturers to its list of Google Wear OS providers. The competition will undoubtedly get fierce with Samsung’s Tizen also looking to gain share with its own fitness-focused Galaxy watches. Therefore, the need to innovate and compete against challenger brands becomes even greater and adoption will be greater if the integration and compatibility of your smartwatch fits in seamlessly with your other devices.

Fitbit, who you could argue created the category, has recently launched the Sense product that responds to the growing desire from consumers to better understand their lifestyle and increase wellbeing. Features include Stress Management, Compatible ECG App, Skin Temperature Sensor and Sleep Tools for Better ZZZs. All bundled up in a competitively priced and design-led product that is compatible with all iOS and Android devices and can be customised to mix and match with colours and accessories to broaden, not only compatibility, but also its appeal.

Pre-empting this battle is perhaps the reason why Apple has launched the lower priced Watch SE that sits between its premium and entry-level legacy devices. This will enable the brand to benefit from the growth, to be stimulated through an aggressive land grab dominated by Google, Fitbit, Samsung and challenger brands such as Xiami and Huawei. It is widely recognised that the market for basic smartwatches and bands will benefit from the youth market whom these challenger brands offer a cost effective entry into the category and perhaps also those late adopters to the category.

With the gifting season upon us, against the backdrop of Covid-19 and people not being able or perhaps opting not to go to gyms, the options for smart health to increase its reach are obvious. Extending this to the older generation who perhaps value the peace of mind of understanding vital statistics without the need to book appointments and venture into surgeries may increase forecasted growth.

What we do know, it is the established users who remain an important sector, as they demand that their smartwatch does more and we are less coy about wearing these daily in place of a traditional timepiece. In fact, according to market research from Kantar, British consumers are not shy in admitting they use a fitness tracker, with 15% happy to claim publically to owning a smartwatch. Adopting them as a lifestyle choice to be used more widely across families and friends, thus increasing acceptance and contributing to the wearables success story.

To read the full article please visit PCR.

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Smart at the home heart

Gekko’s managing director, Daniel Todaro reports from IFA 2020 in Berlin on the latest in smart tech home appliances and the evolutionary trends in IoT

IFA 2020 is a much smaller, intimate socially distanced affair in Berlin. The event organisers have done a superb job at keeping the CE industries key event open all be it, not to the general public.

The Corona effect has impacted the industry at a global level and as we come out of having spent quite possibly the longest continued time than normal in our own homes, consumer’s desire for new technology to enhance their space has grown. The industry knows this and my business has seen this since retail reopened with an average conversion to sale of over +60% and ABV increase by +10%.

Drivers to purchase range from replacement to upgrade, desiring the latest in smart CE to complement the extra time we are now spending at home but also just in case we are forced to spend another lengthy lockdown in our cribs.

One of the long-term effects of lockdown has been that people are now spending more time at home, by choice, centred around the kitchen meaning that more of what we consume needs to be made or prepared using technology. This extends to how we wash, not only those pots, pans, crockery etc. but also how we clean our clothes and our homes, in addition to working from home and socialising. Brands within the category have jumped to the call of more innovation, more integration, and more space. The design of the home is evolving faster due to Coronavirus making consumers keen to enhance their quality of life at home through smart technology whilst not compromising on aesthetics.

Designing f or the new normal
A brand that seems to have designed to meet this challenge post lockdown is BSH, which has added not only smart technology to its range but also a third shelf in its dishwashing range. It’s also increased the size of its freezers with an extra 26cm of cubic space. Its neat invention, Connected Cookit, is a multifunction food processor with cooking functions that cooks up to 200 degrees. It’s a slow cooker, but not as you know it – it makes it, cooks it and connects to your voice assistants and your smart devices so you can control it remotely. This connectivity extends to BSH ovens, dishwashers etc. from your Fitbit whilst you venture out for a run meaning that you can still be in the kitchen, when you’re not.

Innovations include changing hues of ambient lights on hoods, dishwashers etc. to match your mood or interior and also programming your coffee machine to make the perfect cup of coffee just as you, your family and your guests like it, bringing the barista out in you.

Investment in R&D is the key shout out across all brands showcasing at IFA this year. Amongst the largest was $100bn from Huawei who are committing to developing technologies encapsulated in an initiative called ‘1+8+N seamless connected living’ on which Huawei is in the first chapter and that enable a connected future for all. In reaction to the US sanctions imposed on Huawei and those who worked with the brand, Huawei have risen to the challenge admirably engaging directly with almost 460m monthly active users, 33m in the EU alone. The App Gallery is the third largest app store globally, increasing 76% YOY naturally due to the loss of Google services meaning Huawei users have limited choice but to do so. Petal search, the new search engine from Huawei, now has over 100m users with 81,000 apps integrated. Relevant apps are on the platform meaning that whatever the USA government tried to do to dampen Huawei has backfired and served to make the brand stronger in the market.

The investment extends into retail, where others fear to tread, Huawei are leading the charge and opening eight flagship stores across major cities such as London, Paris, Milan which will be complemented by 42 experience zones that offer a user experience unrivalled so they claim.

Another Chinese brand making significant noise is Haier, which also owns Hoover, Candy and GE Appliances wants to be 100% connected throughout its portfolio of products. Currently they have 18 families of products that they are developing through app and voice connectivity, “democratic connectivity” according to its CEO, Zhang Ruimin. With a three-brand strategy of Candy delivering Value, Hoover as the core and Haier as premium. Candy, positioned in the market by its parent company as ‘affordable, smart, Italian’ claims to have 1.2 million paired products and 30% active users which in 2019 it recorded that 21% of Candy users were launching a washing cycle using its smart home facility, a multiple of 3 YOY and still growing.

Nova by Candy is a fully connected washing machine powered by your smartphone. The first of its type with one single button to control the MDA but also learning about your usage and making recommendations to enable consumers to wash smarter and ecologically

Impressively it is claimed by Hoover that they sell globally a stick vacuum every minute. The new range will also be connected. H-Wash will scan your label via your smartphone and your connected Hoover H-Wash 500 will select the best program for your laundry. Now that means anyone can do the laundry.

A breath of fresh air
H-Habitat air purifier, connected of course, will assess the quality of air in your home, the weather forecast, pollution stats, pollen count and adapt your purifier to react according to the need within your home. Gathering internal and external air data through the H-Scanner, which activates the robotic vacuum to clear dust and the air purifier to adapt the air quality in your home.

Positioning Haier as a premium brand and claimed to be the fastest growing premium brand (in this category) through creating innovations such as antibacterial laundry and five door cooling each with adjustable temperature zones. Did you know that Haier makes wine storage solutions? They are linking with the Vivino app to help you with how you should store any bottle of wine. By scanning the label, the app will automatically update the temperature of the storage to suit your choice of wine!

The trend at IFA 2020, it would seem, is that every brand is seeking to be the first choice for consumers to integrate with your smart home. It’s fair to say that the big news came predominantly from the MDA sector amongst others.

To read the full article please visit PCR.

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Five behavioural trends to take note of as the high street re-opens

The Drum Five Behaviour Trends

The latest signs of economic recovery look promising. So promising that Andy Haldane, The Bank of England economist, believes that the UK economy is growing at 1% a week. The V-shaped recession thought to be unlikely just a month ago now seems to be very much on the cards again.

Retail has been a big motor for this mini-recovery. People have been returning to the high street in large numbers with UK retail sales near pre-lockdown levels in June. According to the ONS, the amount of goods sold last month increased by 13.9% in June compared to May. The trend has continued in July as the reopening of shops supports pent-up demand punctuated with the roll out of marketing activity and campaigns to support retail in its reawakening mode.

The worry remains that the recovery may stall due to consumer confidence dipping. Consumers need to also have their safety concerns addressed. A real understanding of new behaviour is critical to maintaining momentum. So what are the key behavioural trends that retailers and brands should take notice of?

Safety is now the top priority

The starting point for bricks and mortar retailing pre-coronavirus may have been expert salespeople, attractive window displays, in-store offers and branding. Today the starting point is safety. Many shoppers still do not want to venture into public spaces without a purpose. In fact more than half of consumers, who would have shopped instore pre-coronavirus, now believe the risk to be high. This poses a serious challenge for many retailers seeking to draw shoppers back to stores. The focus has to be on reassuring these customers and clearly demonstrating your credentials across all your communications touchpoints.

Late adopters have finally embraced ecommerce

With new fears for safety, evidence shows some consumers intend to permanently change their shopping behaviour. This includes purchasing more online due to the continuing risks of infection. Many late adopters are the new converts to online. They have been slow to adopt online banking and shopping but they have done it now. This has not been driven by choice but due to fear about offline shopping. In fact, shoppers are now four times more likely to shift to online in the long term, particularly if they have health concerns. Local lockdowns like that in Leicester will only serve to reinforce the wariness.

In-store consumers are more likely to convert

The good news is that those who like to shop in person will continue to do so to have a decent customer experience. While online retail sales increased to 30.8% in May they are forecast to have decreased by 9% as stores open. In other words, while online is growing it still can’t fully replace the bricks and mortar experience. In response many brands and retailers have adopted an omnichannel proposition, rather than choosing one over the other. The resilience of instore is more evident in considered purchases and in the CE category where we are seeing consumers shopping with purpose. They are travelling and entering retail with a clear determination to purchase. As a result we are seeing a conversion rates of over 40% of product demonstrations leading to a sale. Naturally, this is determined by the experience and engagement they receive in-store. Therefore, a bad retail environment or salesperson pre lockdown isn’t going to change that post lockdown.

The home will remain our new centre of existence

In response to the lockdown, the reality of working from home has meant a likely shift in the workplace dynamic for many on temporary or permanent basis. Therefore, many technology brands in the market have shifted focus to home productivity and accessories. Retail must take learnings from this to support the initiatives and messaging put out by brands. This will ensure they are able to engage consumers looking for technology to support their change in working habits and in turn grow with the trend. As we spend more time also that clear winners throughout and ongoing are food retailers and also home stores with many opting to tackle home improvement projects whilst in lockdown and on furlough.

The rise in demand for appointments

As we are moving from a browsing culture to a purpose driven one, we are going to see the rise of the appointment booking. This will certainly be the case in the considered purchase space. It seems those who commit to the appointment do so with a clear intention to purchase within the set appointment duration. This trend seems to be speeding up the customer journey and increasing much needed sales.

To succeed in this new environment retailers need to be creative, follow the trends and create a customer experience worthy of a sale.

To read the full article please visit The Drum.

The photo that accompanies this article by Tim Mossholder from Pexels

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Let Me Engage You

LMEY

Our experience of working with tech and CE brands in retailers such as Currys and John Lewis has taught us that engagement with RSAs doesn’t have to complete once our brand ambassador has left the store.

At the beginning of the year we invested in developing our own digital Learning Management System (LMS) and engagement platform to extend the support Gekko provides for brands beyond the physical store. With the subsequent lockdown and challenges of getting back in-store, we’re glad we made that decision and are now pleased to be able to offer this innovative service to brands.

Let Me Engage You or LMEY is aimed at third party retail sales teams, whether based on the shop floor, in contact centres or online sales teams. As a fully brandable platform, LMEY can supplement the face to face engagement and training provided by field teams as well as extending reach to retailers, stores and regions not covered by such teams – a ‘digital first’ approach.

Speak to us and let us show you how we can make LMEY work for you an inexpensive and effective tool.

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Smaller suppliers need the support of big business like never before

Fresh Blog

Small British businesses are facing an existential crisis like never before on the back of COVID 19. Recessions bite slowly and in those circumstances small businesses can see and plan for every eventuality across sales, cashflow, headcount etc, but this virus has hit us like a bolt out of the blue and a lot of small businesses have seen revenue ravaged literally overnight and that’s both consumer and b2b.

So now more than ever big and small business need to work together.  This is no longer about David and Goliath, but the fabric of the business ecosystem that keeps this country afloat and people able to feed their families.  Often small businesses find themselves in situations where they are scared to ask for help or argue with big business in case they lose a contract – but this isn’t the time for self-deprecation, it’s fight for what’s right.

Big brands often have more support and cash to deal with such challenges yet many are pulling deals, campaigns and agreed contracts at a stroke.  And having been in this situation myself here’s my advice when faced with big brands not playing fair.

Practice what you preach:

If you own your own business, you are in charge of your own destiny and the people that work for you.  Rather than shareholders telling you what to do, in these unprecedented times, you do what’s right.  Be proud of the strategies you are implementing and articulate clearly to big business – especially if you’re currently operating not for profit so you can keep your team employed.

Scalability:

If big businesses want to stop contracts overnight, push them with alternative solutions like scaling down spend slowly rather than switching it off immediately, paying a proportion of fees for their next project.

Don’t believe the Hype:

Diageo has this week announced a $1million pot to help its on-trade customers through these difficult times, so it is possible for big business to put people before profit. Don’t be fobbed off, keep working with them on a solution that works for them and you.  They also have a moral duty and it’s incumbent on them to do their bit to support you.

Unscrupulous brands who turn their back on their responsibilities, relationships and partners are the brands that need to be called out. When they act in this manner, they also fail the consumer as the brand values that portray in their marketing are the antithesis of the brand values they trade on.

To read the full article please visit Fresh Business Thinking.

The photo that accompanies this article by fauxels from Pexels

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Why millennials are ignoring the environmental impact of online shopping

The Drum Blog

As high street retail continues to deplete and more people shop online, increasing to 19% of all retail sales in December 2019, a new report by retail marketing experts Gekko shows there’s increasing consumer concern about the environmental and societal impact of this transition and a marked difference in attitude depending on age.

The younger generation may tout their eco credentials but they are more easily lured into wasteful spending and shopping online with over half (53%) of 18-24 and 46% of 25-34 year olds admitting to being tempted into buying things they don’t need online, with just 19% of canny 55+ year olds saying the same.

More than five times as many 18-24 as 55+ year olds admitted to regularly buying goods online that they regret, so return them – 17% versus just 3%. And 45% of 18-24 and 42% of 25-34 year olds also admitted to being wasteful buying items they didn’t want and failing to return them, compared to only 17% of older consumers.

Surprisingly and despite the high profile of Extinction Rebellion and Greta Thunberg, younger shoppers make less conscious choices than some may think about the environmental impact of online shopping versus older consumers. In general, 73% of consumers are concerned about excess packaging associated with online purchase and deliveries and 74% are worried about the amount of single use plastic in packaging.

However, just over a third (38%) of 18-24 and 33% of 24-35 year olds are unconcerned about the use of excessive packaging. This compares to 19% of over 55 year olds. And despite it being such a huge national issue and talking point over the last year, 34% of 18-24 year olds and 31% of 24-35 year olds aren’t concerned about single use plastic, versus 19% of over 55 year olds.

Even the gig economy does not seem to be a problem for the generation arguably most likely to be more exploited by it, with 50% of 18 to 24 years olds unconcerned about online shopping increasing it versus 33% of 55+ year olds. And 44% of 18-24 year olds don’t fret about the impact on the High Street and local economy of online shopping, versus 23% of 55+ year olds.

According to Daniel Todaro, MD of Gekko: “Younger generations spend more time online and are therefore less inclined to resist that impulse buy. They are far more likely to buy things they regret, order more than one size, items they never intend to keep and send the goods back, but this convenience has an environmental impact.

“The future of the High Street is a vital societal component and offers a more ethical approach to shopping. If you can try before you buy there’s less transport, packaging and waste without the need to order multiple sizes or colours of the same item. The High Street sustains the heart of a community, no shops means no point heading to the High Street – there’s only so much coffee a community can afford or want to drink.”

Please visit The Drum to read the full article.

The photo that accompanies this article is by Mister Mister from Pexels

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