Tag Archives: Technology

Tech industry reactions to the 2018 Budget

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On Monday, Philip Hammond has delivered his third Budget as chancellor. Within the speech a number of things were announced that would affect tech companies and retailers in the UK.

Here’s what the tech and retail channels had to say about the announcements:

Business rates bill

Hammond announced the business rates bill for firms with a rateable value of £51,000 or less will be cut by a third over two years.

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

“In some locations this is perhaps too late when you consider the vacant properties on the diminishing high street. It also does not help those retailers, multiple or independent, with a larger footprint. For stores which anchor the high street such as Debenhams, HoF, M&S etc. the reduction in business rates for these retailers by local authorities, delivers a longer term tangible wealth to the community.

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

For the full article please visit PCR

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How new businesses and small businesses can fire up their retail sales and list listing

Fourth Source BlogThe innovation of technology products is developing at a ferocious pace and there’s a gadget for everything and everyone these days.  This has resulted in a very competitive retail environment both on and offline with a continuous flow of new products being launched to market.

However, it is important to note that much of the new tech coming on to the market is originating from innovative start-up brands who may or may not have the marketing muscle or budgets to compete at the same level as established brands.  For example, brands like Tile who have a limited portfolio of products but are bringing innovative tracking technology to the smart home category. Innovation from these types of company is fueling this exciting technological transformation, but we must make sure that these products get to see the rabbit so to speak.  Without brand recall in retail, many brands get lost in the noise those with ‘bigger’ budgets are able to shout about. Your route to market should not merely rely on the big online retailers to show consumers.

Businesses spend time, money and energy pitching to buyers but many fail to prepare properly for when the listing finally gets the green light which in most instances can take months rather than weeks as many brands hope. It may also only be a sample of a retailers estate in which the brand gets the opportunity to prove the viability of their product.  Once a retailer presses the button a brand must fit with the retailers’ timelines and expectations and retailers are savvy operators, not to be underestimated when understanding what their shoppers like. So when the listing begins is when businesses really need to move product, especially in traditional brick and mortar stores.

Some brands are astute enough to have created a strong online presence and awareness already via their own platforms or investment in an advertising campaign but for many building brand awareness and driving conversation really starts with retail.  So, what’s the best retail strategy for a start-up technology brand?

Firstly, don’t just focus online, according to the ONS online sales still only account for 18% of overall retail spend.  And especially for electrical / technology products, which are often a considered purchase our own research shows that people like to go in-store, touch and feel the products, see them working in situ and get advice from store staff on what they should be purchasing.

And despite what many brands may think, you cannot rely on purely the store to sell your products as you will be just one of many established brands in a crowded category or a category of one which no one has heard of or understands fully. Your carefully crafted marketing messages and USPs can easily get lost in translation.  It’s not like an own brand store where everything is within your control but you can take collaborative steps to help how your brand is marketed in third party retail.

Depending on the store and deal being negotiated pick your store strategy carefully.  For example, you may or may not have the option to be in an entire estate and you may have more success and sell through picking off specific stores that attract more of your audience profile. However, which stores you end up is not necessarily your choice but possibly being in fewer stores can make things easier to manage in the short term to establish store presence as sales increase.

This is one of the most crucial times for a start-up brand and getting momentum can make or break a business. Invest in working with a partner, an agency or individual consultant that strategically works as an extension of your sales and marketing strategy and enables your limited resources to focus on the ‘bigger picture’, making the right connections in store – connecting your brand with both the sales staff and consumers alike. Don’t leave it to chance or risk being ignored.

Work with the store to create an experience and we’re not talking here a large scale costly production.  Merchandise well and manage the retail space so consumers can learn, look, touch and interact with the product effortlessly. But most importantly, develop a relationship with management and shop floor staff.  Show them that you’re a brand that means business and is going to invest in them as a partner. Seeding product with selected store staff is common practice and enables them to talk sincerely about your product based on actual usage and therefore encouraging them to become an evangelist of your brand.   You ideally want to create a store full of influencers who are willing you to succeed so charm them, train them and reward them.

Innovation is fueling this exciting technological transformation, must make sure that these products get into the hands of retail store advisors who are capable of selling it and ultimately into the consumers’ basket. Considered purchases take time and an approach that resonates with a consumer’s lifestyle and need. Brands should not just be reliant on the big online retailers who are not the panacea many brands perceive them to be. Marketing online is another Pandora’s box we can discuss next time.

For the full article please visit Fourth Source

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How do small tech businesses fire up their retail sales?

The Drum Article Blog Picture

Innovation of technology is happening at a ferocious pace and it seems that there’s a gadget for everything and everyone these days. This has resulted in a very competitive retail environment both on and offline with a continuous flow of new products being launched to market.

However, it’s important to note that much of the new tech coming on to the market is originating from innovative start-up brands who may, or may not, have the marketing muscle or budgets to compete at the same level as established brands. For example, brands like Tile, who have a limited portfolio of products are bringing innovative tracking technology to the smart home category. Innovation from these types of company is exciting, but we must make sure that these products get to see the rabbit so to speak. Without brand recall in retail, many brands get lost in the noise when competing against those with bigger marketing budgets to woo the attention and support of major retailers.

Businesses spend time, money and energy pitching to buyers but many fail to prepare properly for when their online listing finally gets the green light, which can often take far longer than expected – i.e. months rather than weeks. It may also only be a sample of a retailer’s estate in which the brand gets the opportunity to prove the viability of their product. Once a retailer presses the button, a brand must fit with the retailers’ timelines and expectations and retailers are savvy operators, not to be underestimated when understanding what their shoppers like. The moment the listing begins is when businesses really need to move product, especially in traditional brick-and-mortar stores.

Some brands are astute enough to have created a strong online presence and awareness already via their own platforms or investment in an advertising campaign but for many, building brand awareness and driving conversation really starts with retail. So, what’s the best retail strategy for a start-up technology brand?

Get real

Firstly, don’t just focus online. According to the ONS online sales still only account for 18% of overall retail spend. This is especially true for electrical/technology products, which are often a considered purchase. Our own research shows that people like to go in-store, touch and feel the products, see them working in situ and get advice from store staff on what they should be purchasing.

Despite what many brands may think, you cannot rely on purely the store to sell your products as you will be just one of many established brands in a crowded category, or a category of one which no one has heard of or understands fully. Your carefully crafted marketing messages and USPs can easily get lost in translation. It’s not like an own brand store where everything is within your control. You can, however, take collaborative steps to help how your brand is marketed in third party retail.

Depending on the store and deal being negotiated pick your store strategy carefully. For example, you may or may not have the option to be in an entire estate and you may have more success and sell through picking off specific stores that attract more of your audience profile. However, which stores you end up in is not necessarily your choice; possibly being in fewer stores can make things easier to manage in the short term to establish store presence as sales increase.

Hearts and minds

This is one of the most crucial times for a start-up brand and getting momentum can make or break a business. Invest in working with a partner, an agency or individual consultant that strategically works as an extension of your sales and marketing strategy and enables your limited resources to focus on the ‘bigger picture’, making the right connections in store – connecting your brand with both the sales staff and consumers alike. Don’t leave it to chance or risk being ignored.

Work with the store to create an experience. This doesn’t have to be a large scale costly production. Merchandise well and manage the retail space so consumers can learn, look, touch and interact with the product effortlessly. But most importantly, develop a relationship with management and shop floor staff.

Show them you’re a brand that means business and is going to invest in them as a partner. Seeding product with selected store staff is common practice and enables them to talk sincerely about your product based on actual usage and therefore encouraging them to become an evangelist of your brand. You ideally want to create a store full of influences who are willing you to succeed so charm them, train them and reward them.

Innovation is fueling this exciting technological transformation, must make sure that these products get into the hands of retail store advisors who are capable of selling it and ultimately into the consumers’ basket. Considered purchases take time and an approach that resonates with a consumer’s lifestyle and need. Brands should not just be reliant on the big online retailers who are not the panacea many brands perceive them to be. Marketing online is another Pandora’s box we can discuss next time.

For the full article visit The Drum.

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Time to get to grips with social media

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As I write this article, Amazon Prime Day, which ran for 36 hours across July 16-17, has been and gone. But it wasn’t free from issues, with reported instances of links not functioning and pricing on some items not the lowest available.

This resulted in some abandoned baskets and frustration for consumers who had deliberately postponed their purchases until Prime Day, which had been heavily advertised in advance.

An omni-channel approach to retail, while not necessarily essential, is advisable if retailers are to compete effectively against strong online competition. But you have to get it right, as Amazon inadvertently demonstrated.

So why should independent retailers make the most of digital marketing and in particular social media?

Retail giants such as Amazon and Currys PC World have huge budgets to spend on marketing, but that doesn’t mean independent retailers can’t expand their reach beyond their local community or stand out. By better understanding your market and tailoring content, a digital strategy can increase footfall in-store and sales off- and online.

The new 2018 Global Digital suite of reports reveals that there are now more than four billion people around the world using the internet. Independents have an equal chance to capture the attention of new and existing customers.

Don’t be put off by how many online shoppers there are. In the considered purchases category, consumers still want to go to stores for the experience – if you give them a reason to.

Gekko’s recent OnePoll ‘influencer’ research has conclusively proved that ‘over 50 per cent off’ shoppers still want to head to a store to see, touch and experience a product in person. An effective digital strategy can help attract these customers in-store.

Be social

Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram can all help grow customer relationships and drive sales online and off-line. The trick is to listen, respond and promote in line with the customer profile you are selling to. Be creative, be professional and be engaging.

Many independent retailers don’t have an army of social media experts behind them. But it is still possible to leverage topical news and mentions of related products and conversations that can attract attention to specific products or brands you are ranging. A good example is the potential increase in SDA sales linked to news around broadcasts of Great British Bake Off (GBBO).

Don’t be afraid to use any opportunity to jump on the bandwagon. Get involved in the conversations across all social media channels to raise your profile.

Listen to your customers. If you are being messaged online, respond to and actually log what they are saying. The better you understand customers’ needs, the easier it is to sell to them and others.

If you build brand loyalty online, you can then direct the shopper in-store. It’s the perfect opportunity to build a fan base.

Responding to customer feedback online, good or bad, is vital to ensuring your profile and standing are heightened. Don’t ignore negative comments, these must be addressed and used to direct the customer to the store for more help or the chance to try another product – take the conversation off-line, but resolve it and then drive them to the store.

Ultimately, the main aim is to get people in-store. Social media is the ideal platform for retailers to post promotions, new products, launches and in-store events so that customers that wouldn’t normally see them are engaged and inspired to walk in. Promote ‘shares’ from other people and encourage a social culture among your staff. By doing so, it can only help to attract new customers to your store and more importantly your ‘high street’, with your store supporting a vibrant shopping environment for the community.

When considering promotions, the key to the right promotion is tailored communications. Experiment with Facebook advertising to target people near the store and send them an offer that they can’t refuse or a message that piques their curiosity.

Independent retailers have the opportunity to stand out from the crowd and be different from the generic multiples – customers appreciate this in a saturated marketplace where a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach is all too common.

Keeping track
It’s vital to track any online campaigns that you run – big or small. Measure the number of customers that have gone into store as a result of seeing an online advert or post by using promotional codes and training your staff to ask how they found you. This heightens the personal nature of in-store shopping, while telling you more about their customer.

Once it’s clear what works best and how to communicate with the right customers, those that will purchase, a digital strategy offers a world of opportunities.

Those of you who firmly believe it’s ‘not for you’ are increasingly alienating yourselves from a target audience. If you use social media in your personal life, then so do your current and future customers.

Read the full article on ERT Online.

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IFA 2018: Substance or hype?

IFA Blog graphic copy

I’ve been coming to IFA for many years and as a self-confessed gadget addict it’s like being a kid in a sweet shop. But like deciding which sweets to buy all those years ago, it’s a bit overwhelming and disappointing if you don’t choose wisely and suffer from buyers’ remorse!

So, here’s my take on what consumers should look out for and how marketers and retailers can prepare themselves for what innovations are coming next:

This year IFA was very comfortable in its own skin. Its confidence bolstered by the fact that Europe is a big market and like it or not, the UK whilst important does not set the agenda – so we didn’t see Brexit significantly impact the conversation. But what we do have to be aware of is that there are new, more stringent energy efficiency ratings for Major Domestic Appliances being implemented by the EU in 2019, that if not adopted in the UK could mean consumers are being sold products which are less energy efficient and environmentally friendly.

It’s either going to be easier or more difficult for brands to distribute in the UK – which would be a sad day for British consumers, who are low on the list for renewable energies and could potentially have appliances that are uncategorised.

Over the last four years as, smart technologies evolved from infancy to real life products and applications, brands are feeling excited and confident about the future and not surprisingly and as predicted last year the voice assistant is driving the conversation. There are still only really two major players, Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. And as you walked into IFA 2018 it was awash with Google branding, experiential and staff across the event on every third party stand with Google Assistant enabled products taking a lead compared to Amazon with Alexa.

Most of the innovation on show was about the connected home via voice control, from washing machines with Hoover, Candy and Beko through to smart speakers, thermostats, lighting and TVs. Infact, AI assistants are being integrated into pretty much everything you can imagine. But as I’ve said all along and continue to maintain, a smart kettle needs a human to fill it with water and pour said water, a smart washing machine needs someone to put the garments in and take them out…..need I go on?

Every brand had a big bold stand with beautiful products, displayed to meet the exacting expectations of the tech savvy consumer however there’s nothing really ground breaking. For brands operating in crowded categories, it’s difficult to gain cut through in all the noise. The mistake some brands have made is to overcompensate for no news by regurgitating the old to the disappointment of visitors. Sometimes a brand can gain more credibility by playing it cool like Samsung, Sony and LG.

Those who have something new to scream about are making themselves hoarse doing so but to great effect in some cases. Would B&O have received the media coverage it did for the Beosound Edge? Unlikely when you consider its £2900 price tag, not your average mainstream product. A close second is 8K TVs which are coming to market soon from LG with no firm launch date and from Samsung in September. However, the only problem with this is that no one is currently broadcasting in 8K, studios aren’t producing on mass in 8K and it’s going to be prohibitively expensive. The first mainstream broadcast in 8k is likely to be from Japanese broadcaster NHK for the Tokyo Olympics in 2022.

As Rory Cellan-Jones, BBC Technology Correspondent, suggested, “is it just another gimmick to sell us more TVs especially when only four years ago we were being told 4K was cutting edge.”

I agree but as marketers our job is to sell the boundaries of possibilities to consumers. New products like these benefit the industry and rejuvenate categories. And of course, there was the ridiculous. The Candy Millennial Pink Edition washing machine, a season too late, raised a laugh at the press conference in being ridiculed by a senior executive, although perhaps the real message was lost in translation. It does though provide a lesson on trends and press announcements. Brands should be aware of not desperately trying to create headlines with new colour variations of their products taking the place of real innovation.

One clear message I’ve translated from many brands is the lack of consideration for the customer journey. They have been so wrapped up in ‘bigging’ up the product launch, gaining distribution through retailer listings and advertising that the customer journey, the only true measure of the effectiveness ATL achieves, is left until last and is almost an afterthought.

Brands need to spend more time considering the customer journey and if they invest even 10% of the ATL budget, I know it will exponentially increase sales in retail where over 80% of considered purchases in the consumer electronics category happen. There’s a higher expectation from consumers than ever and technology brands need to nail it to succeed in crowded categories, so let’s make sure we listen to what they need, rather than just giving them what we want.

Read the full article at Lovely Mobile News

 

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MOP UP THOSE SMART SALES

Many people are afraid of smart tech, don’t understand it or how it can make life easier. This is where independent retailers have a golden opportunity, says Daniel Todaro, MD of field marketing agency Gekko

Gekko has once again proudly collaborated with ERT on this year’s Turning Point survey as part of the ERT Awards. It will be interesting to see what the findings are this year in relation to the smart home.

Last year’s survey revealed that 38 per cent of independent retailers that responded didn’t believe that selling the smart home was for them.

Now, I may not have a crystal ball, but I do have a clear view of the category’s growth since then and would be shocked if the figure remained this low in 2018.

I have commented a great deal over the past couple of years that the smart home is something to be embraced and is a category where physical retailers have an opportunity to outsmart their online competitors. It is early days for the category and there is the potential for a lack of understanding on the part of the consumer, made worse by scepticism about the real-world benefits.

Concerns about security are also a factor and so an assisted sales approach, where shoppers can properly experience products and talk to an expert, can make all the difference. In providing a superior customer experience, sales and your customer base can be developed to achieve smart profits.

Popularity
What is for certain, the smart home’s popularity isn’t going to fade – it’s no fad. This is evident from the fact that three-quarters of people have heard of the term smart home compared with just over half (57 per cent) in 2015. And with a current average of 10 connected devices per UK household, we aren’t scaling back on our connected addiction.

BBC’s Panorama recently predicted that by 2020 there would be 420 million connected devices across the UK. The smart home now even has its own ‘week’ – May 21-27 this year. This was a showcase for the very best in smart, connected and integrated home technology.

Its purpose was to inform, educate and reassure UK consumers about the benefits and opportunities of living in a smart, connected way.

Research conducted by Smart Home Week forecast that 42 per cent of consumers see the majority of UK homes being smart within the next 10 years.But I think it will be higher and sooner.

From my point of view, running an agency that loves both tech and retail, we’re passionate about understanding how the smart home is being marketed and identifying what the appeal is for the consumer, so we can support our brands in retail as best we can. Key to achieving this is identifying consumer purchasing habits and the sales opportunities the category presents.

One area to consider is what to range and sell. A lot has been said about smart speakers and voice-enabled AI devices integrating with home entertainment and that these are perhaps an easy, and relatively affordable, route into the world of smart technology. This is true, but we shouldn’t ignore some of the other product areas.

I think that smart home appliances is a category the general public is becoming increasingly aware of. While smart fridges and washing machines have been around for a while, high prices and doubts about their true benefits have meant they haven’t see adoption by the masses.

Active
Hoover Candy has been active recently with above-the-line campaigns talking about their app-enabled products.

While some may see a remotely accessible camera in an oven as unnecessary, many will warm to their Vision oven, where an integrated touch-screen provides recipes, instruction and a live view of what’s cooking. As lifestyles change, so do our opinions and habits. What we may have considered a ‘novelty’ may now be relevant to the lifestyle of the generation that these products are aimed at.

Smart tech is also extending to SDAs and outside into the garden space. Smart robotic vacuum cleaners are increasingly popular and a new device to me is the iRobot Braava mopping robot. In the garden, robotic lawnmowers are a desirable piece of tech and the market is expected to grow 20 per cent by 2022.
Apart from what type of smart products to consider selling, I think the approach taken in-store by sales staff should also be factored in – and I don’t mean reviewing sales skills, but rather appreciating how the end-user uses smart tech.

To better understand the consumer, we wanted to take a slightly different tack from previous studies and look at those who have bought into the smart home, how they use their products and what their concerns are.

Gekko’s Smart Home Shopper poll delivered some useful insights that can help brands and retailers increase their profits.

The study found that 56 per cent of adults had bought the latest must-have smart-home tech, including wi-fi controlled security cameras, heating systems and speakers, but had been left scratching their heads when they got them home as they had little idea what to do with the stuff they’ve bought. More than 30 per cent of the consumers we asked said they regretted buying at least one or more items of smart-home technology because it proved so difficult to get up and running, while many said they couldn’t get all their devices to connect – which is surely the whole point of having a ‘smart home’.

Coupled with this, nearly a third of them said they never read instructions or manuals when they buy a new piece of kit and 21 per cent admitted that, although they had a love of tech, they were intimidated by the complexities of it.

Forty-five per cent of people said the trickiest bit of kit to install was security equipment, including app-controlled doorbells, motion sensors and CCTV, while 28 per cent couldn’t get their smart lighting to work. And more than a third (35 per cent) came unstuck when installing their smart heating systems. Yet, these are the most popular items to purchase within the smart-home tech product portfolio.

And despite its current popularity, 30 per cent of adults that had purchased a smart speaker, such as the Amazon Echo or Google Home, didn’t understand all its functionality and smart features.

There’s clearly a customer need here that’s not being fulfilled by retailers. Smart-home tech is popular, but people don’t know how to fully utilise it to meet their lifestyle needs – whether that’s convenience, money saving, leisure time or learning.

Significant 
One significant barrier for shoppers is concern over how secure smart home devices are. Our study highlighted this, as did the findings from Smart Home Week, which found that 62 per cent of people were worried about the threat of smart homes being hacked. So be prepared to overcome this potential barrier and offer up some security advice as part of the sales process, or at least be able to point customers in the right direction.

All this is a great opportunity, especially for bricks-and-mortar retailers, to enhance the customer experience within the smart-home category by developing an environment where consumers can ‘play’, and a retail team that can articulate the features of each product in detail and match consumer needs to product performance.

The customer journey in retail needs enhancing to increase profitability and as the smart home establishes itself deeper across multiple categories, the approach in store must evolve to meet trends and the popularity of smart products.

Through an increased effort, what you do at the point of purchase will keep people coming back to traditional bricks-and-mortar stores for experiences they’ll never get online.

Top tips to sell smart tech

  • Show products in a proper context by displaying them in the way that consumers will use them, emphasising real-world use and benefits.
  • Demonstrate usability by linking the smart gadgets to one another as some clever retailers have done in selected stores, emphasising that they don’t have to be standalone products.
  • Seed or loan products to your sales staff so that they can become users and advocates and bring their real-life into the sales conversation.
  • Ask your suppliers and brands for support. Product training for your sales staff or brand ambassadors to engage with shoppers at peak times will all help drive business and a positive in-store experience. Whether directly, or using an agency such as Gekko, encourage brands to provide support on a campaign or ongoing basis to assist in maintaining continuity of customer experience in line with the advertising messaging.

Read the full article at ERTOnline

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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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The best place for the home to get smart is on the high street

It’s no surprise that the Smart Home dominated last month’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) with a whole range of evolution and innovation across security, home appliances and energy management. The trend has no doubt been expedited by the huge success of intelligent assistants with Google announcing that their Home devices sold over 6 million units, that’s one every second, and now Google Assistant runs on over 400 third party devices globally.

Many brands, such as Samsung, have opted to support their brands by integrating their own technology. Its lesser-known Bixby Assistant was integrated into its Smart Fridge with AKG speakers, making it a multimedia centre for the kitchen. Kholer showcased its intelligent bathroom ‘Konnect tech’ enabling your shower, bathtub, toilet, mirror and tap to be connected, both to you and each other. The company’s Touchless Response technology provides hands-free toilet flushing, perfect for those germophobes.

The market is evolving and in 2018 it will start to get a lot more crowded as the category grows from Amazon and Google offering their own speakers in a variety of form factors but also Google, Alexa and Siriin other hardware brands like Sonos. Sonos have already released the Sonos One with Alexa, and they have hopes to integrate Siri and Google Assistant soon. Apple’s HomePod will hit homes but Siri offers some weak competition as it struggles to develop its voice recognition. Yamaha, Libratone, and DTS all announced Alexa driven smart speakers this year, with SonyPhilips and LG announcing Google Assistant integration into their smart products.

And here lies the problem. Confused already? Indeed. Understand what’s compatible with what system? Probably not. Do you know if your Ring Video Doorbell can be hooked up to your Google Home, so you can speak to any visitors without having your smart phone to hand? If you’re reading this, you probably work in marketing and are classed an early adopter. Imagine what it’s like for everyone else seeing and hearing about these products everywhere they go and no idea what to do and how to integrate them.

Smart Home retail value is expected to reach £5.11bn worldwide this year and according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), while online sales continue to rise, e-commerce as a percentage of total retail sales in December 2017 was still only 18%. We also know that a Smart Home device in many instances requires an assisted sale. It’s a considered purchase and for some, a rather complicated buying process with further concerns about installation and integration with existing technology.

This is a great opportunity for traditional retailers to excel and showcase why they are still the best channel for selling ‘technology’ products using the retail environment to educate, engage and sell to the consumer through driving excitement and experience directly with the brand.

Our own research shows that even among today’s tech savvy 18 to 24-year-olds, more than 40% prefer to head in-store to see, touch and experience a product before buying, rising to 58% for the over 55s. Most surprising is that 38% of 18 to 24-year-olds want a personal service and recommendation from in-store staff, the highest among of all the age categories.

When we asked what advertising has influenced a considered purchase, none of the mainstream advertising channels were cited as influential: just 7.5% for TV, 8.7% for website, 4.6% for social media, 3% for billboard and 2% for newspaper and print. Advertising in-situ within the retail environment however was rated the key influencing factor at 19%.

This is a clear signal that traditional retailers should spend time and money working with staff on the shop floor and make the consumer experience as good as it can be as it will pay for itself through category development and increased sales at a higher average sales price – a win win for both retailer and brand.

Click here to read the article on The Drum

 

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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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