Tag Archives: Technology

5 Retail Trends Impacting Customer Behaviour

We live in extraordinary times. While conventional wisdom pointed to a significant economic recovery after the challenges of the pandemic, a different picture has emerged as we look to the Autumn. The cost of living crisis is impacting everyone and has dramatically impacted the willingness of consumers to engage in discretionary spending.

Recent events have proved that markets can shift in an instant, and reacting to these effectively can be the difference between keeping or losing customer loyalty. It means working harder than ever to understand the trends that are impacting behavior. But after the horrors of lockdown, retailers with the right smart strategies can emerge from this bumpy road back to a more normal trading environment.

It is key to utilise opportunities across store and ecommerce to ensure your offering is ahead of the game as we look forward to the golden quarter. So what are we seeing that is worth consideration? I think there are five key trends impacting behaviour in the second half of the year.

1. The Inflation Era Shows No Sign Of Abating

We are living in an era with the highest level of inflation since the 1970s. This has been driven by pent-up consumer demand after the pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. According to the most recent BRC-NielsenIQ Shop Price Index data, shop prices hit their highest point of inflation since 2008 as the balancing act between supply chain costs and a cost conscious consumer continues. For July, Shop price inflation soared by 4.4%, up from 3.1% in June,

Consumer concerns regarding the cost of living cannot go ignored by retailers and brands. Intelligent pricing strategies are a  key priority, as well as ensuring your customer journey is quality enough to capture a consumer willing to shop around.

2. Customers Being More Canny With Considered Purchases

In this inflationary world consumers are needing to think very hard about big ticket items. Particularly when looking ahead to further energy price rises in the Autumn. This is having a noticeable impact on existing sales. There was a 4% MoM decline in global smartphone shipments according to the latest Counterpoint research market review. This represents the second consecutive month of MoM decline, along with being the 11th consecutive result showing YoY sales decline.

Despite many ongoing success stories, the overall market has yet to reach pre-pandemic levels. While component shortages have been partially sorted; inflation, a slowdown in China, and the war in Ukraine have all affected recent demand.

With smartphone upgrades being a discretionary purchase it is incumbent that retailers focus on the value of any big ticket items. For appliance manufacturers emphasising the ability to help save energy and costs can be key. With running costs becoming of more interest, consumers will be looking at eco-credentials for new appliances, as well as potentially opting for better quality units that will stand the test of time.                                                     

3. Personalisation and Experience Key to Driving Return Visits

There is also an expectation of quality customer service and personalisation. Something that will please consumers and drive up the chances of a return visit, whether that is online or physical store. Research commissioned by Gekko last year found that the top factors driving sales were experience related. This includes the ‘ability to see and touch a product’, and expert, tailored advice.

Empowering the consumer through increased personalisation is vital, particularly as 80% say they would only shop with a business that embraces it. It is the ability to differentiate in today’s environment that will mark out success from failure.

People now have an elevated expectation of their shopping experience, looking for curated, one-to-one engagements at various stages of their journey. Such interactions breed brand loyalty and recognition, meaning you can count on people coming back for more if they enjoy their time with you. Recent research by MoEngage found that only 25% of retailers currently personalise their communications with their customers, so there is a real opportunity to get ahead of the curve.

4. Embracing Omnichannel and New Tech

2022 has seen a return to steady growth for ecommerce in conjunction with the full return of bricks and mortar footfall. With both channels set to grow sales this year after the end of lockdowns, it becomes more important than ever to ensure your omnichannel presence is informative and engaging.

The proportion of retail sales online was 26.6% in May 2022 and remains substantially higher than the 19.7% in February 2020 before the coronavirus pandemic. Research we commissioned last year also showed 80% of consumers would now research online before buying an item instore. It is crucial to ensure you have a seamless and joined up journey across your various touchpoints.

5. Sustainability and Ethics

This continues to be a top consideration for consumers when it comes to choosing both how they shop and who with.

According to Deloitte’s latest Sustainable Consumer research, environmental awareness amongst UK consumers has rocketed in the past year with 85% now making more sustainable lifestyle choices. The findings revealed a strong desire to adopt more circular practices, such as buying products in sustainable packaging.

Credentials need to be backed up and also authentic, an increasingly savvy market will disengage otherwise.

So the road ahead may be bumpy but with the right map retailers and brands can navigate through the difficulties. Understanding the consumers’ specific needs is key to ensure retailers can be back in the driving seat for the second half of the year.

To read the full article by Rupert Cook – Marketing Director Gekko Group, please visit Talk Retail

Photo by Gary Butterfield on Unsplash

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How physical stores can ensure they are refit for the future

The events of the past couple of years have accelerated the pace of change in the retail industry. Retailers have simultaneously had to react quickly to events out of their control, while also embracing the ongoing trends that were clear even before the pandemic hit.

The role of the physical store has been one of the biggest topics in the spotlight. The absence of stores during lockdowns created two slightly paradoxical trends. Firstly their importance was maintained and even strengthened in certain ways. 

With the growth of ecommerce during the lockdown era, some feared that the writing was on the wall for traditional bricks and mortar retail. These concerns, however, were short lived as shops re-opened their doors and visitors flocked back. 

Yet at the same time, the need for change in the industry was also apparent. Ecommerce was embraced by everyone, even the most hardened luddites, meaning physical retail needed to redefine its purpose. 

According to ONS figures, online share of retail has consistently fallen since its peak back in February 2021. Still far higher than the pre-pandemic level of 19.9%, but with the balance restored somewhat by the opening of the high street. So the demand remains strong yet evolution is required to keep up with the pace of this new retail world environment.

The return to prominence has been so strong that the idea of growing a bricks and mortar presence has become a priority for both existing and new entrants to the market. Many previously online only retailers are developing ambitious plans to expand their portfolios. Amazon itself is reportedly planning on rolling out 260 Amazon Fresh stores across the UK over the next few years in a challenge to the existing grocery hegemony and an effort to make a physical imprint in the market.

So with more stores on the agenda for many, and occupancy rates back on the up as footfall gradually rises once more, how do they need to adapt to succeed in this current retail landscape?

Play to their strengths

Consumers have grown more used to utilising both online and offline channels when shopping. Our own research found that 85% of people now research online before heading to a store to purchase. As a result, they are looking for a shopping journey combining the ease of online browsing, with the added ability of being able to try things for themselves and ask for real advice when needed.

Retailers need to ensure they have the most in demand products on display, with all the relevant information at hand, so customers can enjoy getting to know their potential product with ease. Better yet, have knowledgeable brand advisors on hand to answer any questions and demonstrate useful features.

This part of the store experience should be built upon by retailers and the brands they stock as part of wider omnichannel improvements. Invest in improving these elements for the customer in order to create a positive shopping journey, playing to the true strengths of the store. This includes ensuring they truly understand what makes your retail space both an efficient and enjoyable place to be. 

Incorporate your online channels

Store expansion does not mean you can forget about the online channel, in fact customers are now expecting their interactions between the two to be seamless.

Consumers should be able to look on your website or app and see product availability in the store they are heading to. Offering an immediate connection to the store keeps the customer on side and more likely to remain loyal in their hunt for an item.

Physical retail can also now play a huge role in online order fulfilment by being a base for deliveries and click and collect orders. Complement this with accessible pick up points so that online customers are satisfied with their entire omnichannel shop, while also helpfully adding to your footfall figures.

Embrace technology

We have already touched on how technology might help create a better shopping experience, but there remain many opportunities to embrace it in physical retail.

For example, utilise your app to connect users to their store experiences through better personalisation, stock locations, or further product information.

One brand who are great advocates of this approach is H&M, which has started to roll out tech-enhanced shopping experiences in its COS stores. With seamless payments, personalised recommendations, and even a smart mirror that allows customers to request further items without leaving the changing room.

Offering these convenient elements will help the customer feel empowered, valued, and much more likely to make a repeat visit, while also giving you insightful data. Be forthcoming with the information that matters to them, otherwise shoppers will disengage and look elsewhere for it.

Think differently

Stores have the ability to excite and energise in real life better than any other channel, which is why we are seeing collaborations, new events, and online retailers joining in the physical experience.

Online star Bloom and Wild has been opening up a series of pop-up shops around the UK, utilising a bricks and mortar presence to give customers a real view of the plants on offer, with experts on hand to guide and advise. In terms of real engagement, the value of physically promoting your brand in a busy retail area cannot be underestimated.

The idea of the store ‘as an experience’ has grown to such an extent that it expands beyond just individual stores and into entire areas. The new Battersea power station shopping district will be just one example of the new type of retail district. A hybrid of Apple offices, event spaces, shops and hospitality. The combination of which looks to be the key to a bright outlook on high streets and shopping centres. 

The physical store has an exciting future and the possibilities are near endless for those that embrace change. Creating a multidimensional space that compliments rising ecommerce, along with shining in its own right, will create a space customers will yearn to return to. 

To read the full article by Tom Hardwood, Data and Insight manager please visit Branding Magazine

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

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Building Brand Loyalty in the Modern Age – A New Route to Success

The concept of building brand loyalty used to be relatively straightforward. Effective marketing and delivery of a positive customer experience would create a positive association for a brand. The lifetime value of that relationship could then be hugely profitable, with consumers unlikely to switch.

However, we now live in a world of choice and information overload. An increasingly digital landscape, dominated by tech giants who hold many of the cards. In this new world, run by algorithms and AI, traditional long-held attachments are being unwound. As we culturally shift in shopping habits, people are more likely to remember what they bought from Instagram or Amazon but not the actual name of the brand. Does this mean brand loyalty is dead or at the very least waning?

Brand communication – from top-down to influencer-led

In the old world, brand marketers would use above-the-line platforms to create a strong identity and desire for a product. The brand direction was determined in a very top-down fashion, often based on the instinct of the CMO. A ‘needs’ state was identified and answered and an advertising campaign was launched highlighting the brand’s unique qualities.

In today’s world, we have shifted to digital and younger generations will see campaigns on Tik Tok and Instagram where the product is being advocated by a brand ambassador or a paid-for ad placed on social. In this new era, the control of the brand’s identity has been repackaged, personalized, and filtered through the lens of influencers. Having never heard of the brand, the influencer’s recommendation can be enough to create a consumer of a brand.

In fact, large segments of audiences will have never even seen an advert on TV or in a newspaper because they don’t touch a newspaper or they don’t switch on a TV. Or the brand has not included it as part of its media planning. According to recent research by Nielson, only 10% of Gen Z rank watching TV as their most popular entertainment activity. In fact, across the 18-34 bracket, live TV viewership dropped by 23% year on year.

The changing nature of brand loyalty

So, this digitally dominant world has created an entirely different mindset when it comes to brand loyalty. For socially digital natives, brand loyalty is about what it offers to them in value. A brand like Paul Smith will have a huge amount of brand equity among Gen X or baby boomers for its quality, tailoring, or painstakingly built partnerships and marketing campaigns. However, this will mean nothing for younger generations living in the moment and wanting to know what a brand can deliver here and now.

For younger consumers, if it is a relevant brand, it will be popular for them. If it’s not, they are just not interested. Quality has given way to relevance or price consciousness. Indeed there has been a huge rise in interest among younger audiences in mobile phone brands that offer a lot of the same features as iPhones but for a fraction of the price, like Xiaomi built with an Android skin. The tease here is the freedom an Android device offers a user who doesn’t want to be part of or associated with ‘that crowd’.

For digital natives, there is a checklist of what is really important for them when they spend their money. In recent research, price promotion was rated as crucial for this audience, but ethics are also vital. How long is a product going to last and what are they going to use it for? Does it meet my needs and values?

The life cycle of brands

In this new age, the life cycle of brands is also shorter, almost sonic. Brands can spring up quickly to consciousness but equally, their success can be shorter-lived. This has been evidenced by the spate of high-street retail brands that have disappeared.

Glossier is a D2C brand that sprung up in relatively short order. They have quickly scaled up the ladder of investment based on perceived digital growth that would continue endlessly. The direct-to-consumer beauty brand has raised an astonishing $80 million in Series E funding and reversed the traditional model.

They have latterly embraced physical retail with a pop-up store in Covent Garden, London,  and the swift ascent to being a much-loved brand is highlighted by the queues of people outside. However, they recently had to lay off staff as the growth they have experienced has not been maintained. Could the bubble burst as quickly as it was created?

How do brands build loyalty today?

It is certainly difficult for brands to build loyalty in the modern world because they are having to think about a very different culturally younger generation and manage a more traditionally minded older audience.

To square up this circle, value and values are two unifying themes that can be focused on, although realized in different ways. As consumers, we are all more interested in the purpose of brands and this is a clear differentiator. Brands today, particularly consumer goods products, have to think not only about how they make a product but also how they produce it. According to a study by Cone/Porter Novelli, 77% of consumers say they have stronger emotional bonds to purpose-driven companies.

Also, what added value are brands able to offer beyond the immediate product or service? How are they innovating to remain relevant? An excellent example of this is the Google Pixel 6 device, which enables users to remove photobombers and unwanted objects so that they “disappear like magic” using a “magic eraser”. Also, Portraits on Pixel represent the nuances of different skin tones for all people beautifully and authentically, to take true, accurate portraits. It’s innovations like these that create an immediate way for brands to build loyalty in the modern era.

Canny partnerships unite different audiences

Additionally, partnerships can be a great way of uniting seemingly disparate groups around common themes. CK1 Palace was a great example of this. A new collaboration between Calvin Klein and Palace Skateboards was launched with a tongue-in-cheek film celebrating cities that came to define these two labels. For streetwear brand Palace, it was London and its lively skate scene, with grainy film textures creating some retro-cool. 

Also included are high-contrast, black-and-white style studio shots, synonymous with Calvin Klein. The combination of nostalgia and modern relevance was a canny move that other brands would do well to replicate. Calvin Klein has opened new stores and you will see members of Gen Z proudly walking around Carnaby Street in London with a Calvin Klein shopping bag. This shows an effective strategy by a heritage brand to remain relevant and build loyalty with different audiences.

Towards a new approach

Creating brand loyalty today is far more difficult in a digital, social media-dominated world of increasing fickleness. Heritage brands are in trouble with a younger generation who has no interest in timeless qualities built up over many years. But brands can succeed if they adopt a new playbook. This needs to focus on the values and value of their product and on leveraging partnerships to remain relevant.

According to author Maurice Franks, “Loyalty cannot be blueprinted. It cannot be produced on an assembly line. In fact, it cannot be manufactured at all, for its origin is the human heart.”

To read the full article by Daniel Todaro – Managing Director Gekko Group, please visit Branding Magazine

Photo by Keagan Henman on Unsplash

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How to create the ‘Feel Good’ retail we all need right now

While the economy has fully opened up after the end of pandemic restrictions, we are faced with fresh challenges. Soaring inflation, ongoing supply chain disruption and the implications of a war in Europe loom large. Against this worrying backdrop many are looking for positive experiences to help us feel good and distract us from the news.

Indeed, the whole concept of well-being and self care is far more prevalent amongst consumers now given the torrid time we have all faced. It is no doubt with this in mind that Selfridge’s recently grabbed headlines by announcing it would offer customers a series of experiences including sex counselling and therapeutic sessions. 

Its ‘Super Self’ initiative is aimed at putting “inner well-being” at the heart of the shopping experience and intended to tempt shoppers back into its store. The immersive experience includes bookable confidence coaching and empowerment sessions, as well as inviting DJs to create “feel-good sounds”.

It’s a well thought through initiative, enabling Selfridges to set the agenda in creative retailing. Positioning itself at the forefront of a retail revival, this service is one of a number to get shoppers ‘back in the habit’ of visiting stores. 

After two years of restrictions, city centres have struggled with the upheaval of lockdowns, stay at home workers, minimal tourism and staffing issues. However the figures for January showed Gross domestic product (GDP) bouncing back in January 2022, increasing by 0.8%. The Wholesale and retail trade grew by 2.5% in January 2022 and was the main contributor to January’s growth in services.

Need to recognise changed behaviours

The lockdowns and restrictions have been long and painful, but a survey we recently commissioned on consumer shopping intentions indicated a strong appetite to return and shop in-store. Only 2% said they wouldn’t be returning to the High Street. But it would be naive to just act as though it was still 2020 in returning to the same plan. 

It is incumbent on retailers to recognise how consumers have changed their shopping behaviours. Successful retailers have always understood the motivators and triggers for different customer groups and then offered an appropriate, tailored approach. This needs to be recognised and acted upon. It is certainly something Selfridge’s have recognised. We are changed and therefore retail needs to change to remain relevant in this new and uncertain world.

Connect with shoppers on a more personal, emotional level

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 and is something that is a key brand differentiator. The positive approach embraced by Selfridges is an opportunity to connect with shoppers on a more personal, emotional level. 

Positivity provides a welcome break and will help with loyalty and sales. Positivity is an important part of the customer experience mix but it’s more than just that. It’s about appealing to the senses. A sensory buzz of a considered purchase and the need to reconnect with the consumer in this category/space that just can’t be provided online. 

In our survey the top factor in people making a considered purchase was the ability to see and touch a product, according to 58% of respondents. This tactile ability to interact with a product and try before they buy gives people a reason to head into town. 

Stimulate the senses

Retailers should be stimulating the senses and having the right experts instore. Product knowledge and brand advocacy amongst retail sales staff are crucial components to success in retail. It starts with effective product launches and is something that traditionally relies on. Face-to-face engagement and hands-on time with new products. People who truly understand the product, can answer questions and can close a sale. This is something the online world again can not replicate.

To complement the expert, think about presenting those products in an appealing way. You will want to focus on products 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.

Brand ambassadors are game-changers

The positive engagement with a brand ambassador or retail sales advisor is the game-changer that increases conversion rate and average basket value, achieved either through a higher purchase price or connection sale and, perhaps, an advocate of both brand and retailer. In an environment where inflation is likely to start to bite, people will be more conscious of what they are spending money on and therefore raises the importance of the skill of an expert in helping to guide a sale. 

This is much harder to achieve online and never as gratifying for the end-user as a customer journey that enhanced the individual’s perception of the brand. 

On a bumpy road to recovery and with challenging ongoing news, we all want to feel good. Brands that recognise our changed needs and create the right experience led by the right expert can succeed. 

To read the full article by Rupert Cook – Marketing Director Gekko Group, please visit  Retail Sector

Photo by Tim Douglas

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Five Key Factors Set To Drive The Retail Sector This Year

With the annual January sales melee almost over what does the rest of 2022 hold in store for the retail sector?

It’s a sector that’s weathered the global pandemic, huge changes in consumer attitudes and a spike in technology, not the least of which is the buzzword of the moment – metaverse.

So we asked Tom Harwood, Data and Insight Manager at retail field marketing and customer experience experts, Gekko, for his take on what trends are likely to impact retail in 2022…

Tom Hardwood gekko
Tom Harwood, Insight Manager, Gekko

Having adapted to the hurdles they have faced so well over the past 18 months, it’s clear that this year retailers must keep innovating in this changing market to ensure their omni-channel and consumer experiences are exceptional, while also embracing the interests and topics on the mind of today’s shopper. 

Here are five key factors impacting retail that businesses should take note of to thrive in 2022.

Supply and demand

The well documented supply chain issues that have impacted retailers and other sectors across the country have been a tough hurdle to overcome and it is likely that into 2022 we will still be feeling the knock on effects in some quarters. 

It has, however, highlighted a positive for the industry in that it is clear there is consumer demand and the appetite to shop has returned with consumers in the market to purchase back to pre pandemic levels, and in many cases more than. 

Even while most restrictions have been lifted in the UK, there is still an element of pent up seasonal excitement across the sector, particularly as those same issues have limited certain stocks, leading to increased hype within certain product categories.

The importance of forecasting for your peaks in 2022 and planning inventory accordingly is critical and effective early planning will make sure that you are ahead of the competition at the most important times.

Retail stores and customer experiences

It is well known that the e-commerce share of the retail market was greatly accelerated by the pandemic. 

However it consistently fell after physical stores reopened in April 2021 and is now hovering at the 27% mark as of October according to the ONS. 

For this year, the return of bricks and mortar retail does not mean it can afford to rest on its laurels when it comes to innovating to reflect the new normal and fully embracing the omni-channel concept.

retail - mind the knowledge gap gekko
Time to shop: Retail sector has opportunities and issues to address in the year ahead.

In-store experiences can be re-imagined in a multitude of ways. 

In our recent consumer research, we found that 85% of shoppers are now doing research on a product or brand before heading into store, so ensuring the online and offline integration is faultless has never been more important. 

Even if a customer has decided to buy online, the physical store can still act as a collection or returns hub, importantly still drawing more footfall and further positive brand interactions.

We are now at a stage where the store itself can serve as a portal to e-commerce, as well as a place where customers can interact with a brand’s products. 

With 58% of shoppers saying that it is important to them to be able to see and touch a product before a purchase, the significance of the store shall not diminish. 

It is just that the spaces themselves will evolve into more experiential experiences for consumers.

This experience is not only about how the store presents itself, but also the staff within it. 

Our survey found that 45% of Gen Z customers will seek out great advice in-store, bearing in mind that this is a knowledgeable generation, particularly when it comes to tech products, and the importance of having knowledgeable staff on hand to engage with this valuable demographic is clear. 

2022 retail Forecast 4

In fact, 37% across all ages were willing to spend more on an electrical product if they experienced excellent service in store.

In 2022, stores can be more than just what the customer needs it to be. They can offer truly memorable, loyalty-gaining experiences that drive engagement and, most importantly, are fun to visit.

Sustainability and retail

We move onto the wider issue of sustainability, and this year it will continue to hold an increasingly prominent place in the mind of the consumer. 

The fact is that meeting this criteria with shoppers is not quite as simple as it was before, so for success in this field for 2022, there are certain areas that should be addressed. 

Along with climate related goals, consumers also continue to look for purchases that have the power to give back to their local communities or charities. 

According to NielsenIQ, “Do I need this?” will be one of the pivotal questions among shoppers for 2022, with gifts that offer positive experiences or donations on the up. 

Retailers would do well to keep their eye out for local initiatives they can partner with their customers in order to show support and solidarity.

Actions are positive, but communication also needs to be on point, as sustainability is such a broad topic there are often more questions than answers, but brands that are clear with their objectives and true to their core principles will resonate best with consumers.

Returns

While not the most exciting aspect of the shopping experience by any means, it is predicted that returns will increasingly be one of the key differentiating factors between retailers this year. 

Retailers that want to be at the forefront of this will need to invest in the processes that make this a positive experience for consumers.

For example, according to research by Forrester, three in five consumers prefer retailers that offer free return shipping. 

This quality of life offering encourages people to purchase safely in the knowledge that there will be a stress-free experience in case the product isn’t quite what they were anticipating.

If a return does happen, it is important that the process collects relevant information at all stages, the data from which can help reduce the overall issue in the long run.

The metaverse and in-store technology

Facebook’s recent announcement that it is moving to a “metaverse” focus has pushed the term into the public eye and comes as part of a wider conversation about technology within retail.

metaverse Image by Pete Linforth of Pixabay

We have already seen an increasing amount of collaborations between brands or celebrities with gaming platforms, for example Travis Scott’s virtual concerts within the Fortnite gaming world caught the imagination of many and opened up his music to a huge audience. 

It is likely that this year we see further iterations of retail services within metaverse spaces, no doubt with the world’s largest brands vying to assert the most influence from the beginning.

New technology will also help those on the shop floor. 

As we have seen, 37% of customers are specifically looking for knowledgeable assistance in stores, and with access to the right technology, staff will be able to assist in the customer journey across all channels and have the data at hand to make it a personalised journey.

Having been successfully reactive during the pandemic, it is time for businesses to look forward and find the opportunities to exceed consumers’ continually evolving needs. 

The brands that manage to do this seamlessly across all channels, while embracing fresh insights and new technologies, will be on the front foot this year and beyond.

To read the full article please visit Mediashotz

Photo by Adrian Agawin from Pexels

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The Future of Video Game Retailers

Video game stores have for some years faced the dilemma of how to diversify their offering to stay afloat in a market evolving to become primarily a digital one. Since the launch of the “next generation of consoles” back in 2006, digital downloadable games have been available through the marketplaces of Microsoft, Sony & Nintendo on their respective consoles. However, initially, the list of games available to download was quite limited which benefited retailers as it would not take away business from them. 

Fast forward to 2013 and the next generation of consoles were released. The release of these new consoles brought a brand new, more reliable system in place to download full video games over the internet. The ability to download full games happened on the previous generation however, numerous factors attributed to its rather low popularity as it did not have the stability and the large selection of games as it does on the console’s successor. 

GAME’s game-changing new direction

The PS4 & Xbox One were game-changers in driving interest in digital games. This meant retailers had to diversify their offerings to provide more than just consoles and video games. For example, GAME is now selling Gaming PCs and a lot more accessories for all gaming platforms. On top of this, they provide access in-store to the Belong Arenas which are equipped with all of the latest consoles and gaming PCs with room for around 6 people to game. GAME is a prime example of a company successfully diversifying its business model to become a more experienced/service-based company. This is due to the nature of the video game market and its continuous push towards the all-digital era.

The new direction GAME is taking features a better value proposition. Martyn Gibbs, Chief Executive Officer recently described  BELONG, the Group’s esports and experience-based gaming proposition as “core to our transformation strategy and we continue to expand the business through the opening of larger BELONG gaming arenas while improving our GAME Retail offer to fully capitalise on the strong growth potential in the esports market.” (Waller-Davies, 2018)

This has proven to be successful in driving footfall to their stores with the gaming arenas as proven by the positive recent trading results.

COVID’s accelerating impact on digital transformation

Clearly, a huge impact on the video game retail industry as with all retail was the dramatic impact of COVID. Not solely due to the fact stores were closed, more so due to the change in lifestyle, most people had to adapt to. Logan Plant from IGN described COVID-19 as “not an instigator for the rise of digital media, but simply an accelerator of a trend we’ve seen take shape throughout the last console generation.” (Plant, 2021). Working from home became the norm for 1+ years and subsequently, a lot of businesses had to change how they operated to take advantage of the customers/consumers being stuck at home.

The impact of COVID was a record-breaking year for digital sales of video games. Sony also revealed that nearly 63 per cent of its “full game” sales for the 2020 calendar year came via digital downloads rather than games sold on discs at retail. 

As a result of COVID’s accelerating impact, it is important to reevaluate the current proposition and business direction of video games retailers. The current moves console developers are making into the all-digital era are having a dramatic impact on the performance of bricks and mortar retailers. A significant development happened in 2020 when the latest consoles were released (PS5 & Xbox Series X). These new consoles were released with a cheaper variant; a disk tray-free model with a cheaper price tag available from launch. This highlights the increasing dominance of the digital era and the ongoing decline of physical sales.

Owen Good from Polygon described it in stark terms: “The implication is clear: Video game fans, stuck at home, with the ability to make one-click purchases for entertainment to pass time, will do so in amounts up to the price of a full game.” (Good, 2020)

As an avid Gamer myself who has been a loyal customer of GAME since I could remember my weekends used to involve regular trips to pick up a new game or the latest console at the time. Interacting and talking with knowledgeable staff members was a huge part of the experience.

Embracing an experience-centric playbook

Despite knowledgeable in-store staff that can assist and support the customer journey, the gaming industry has changed to be a primarily digital one. However, despite this reality, there’s still a significant percentage of customers purchasing physical copies of video games. Yet the online giants such as Amazon have further eroded this market, offering next day delivery on the same selection of physical video games that high street retailers offer at a discounted price. 

The same situation is happening with Gamestop, in an article covering which companies would Amazon effect, it stated Gamestop “historically has made its money by serving as the middleman, but the game publishing industry’s move toward downloads and away from discs and cartridges is increasingly making the venue less of a destination for gamers.” (Brumley, 2019).

This of course reduces the need to pop into town and purchase a game. Additionally, on top of the physical video game competitors, each of the gaming platforms also have their own store integrated into the console where you can purchase digital copies of any game on that platform. Digital games usually have a higher RRP, however, they are usually heavily discounted during sales.

In conclusion, it’s clear to see that for retail stores to drive more footfall they need to reposition themselves and expand what they offer as a business. GAME have taken this in their stride and expanded their traditional offering of physical Video Games and Consoles to offer an immersive customer experience including VR, the opportunity to play video games with your friends in the Belong arenas, purchase fully built gaming PC’s along with the necessary accessories and gaming merchandise such as POP Vinyls or plushies. It has been proven that GAME’s new direction has driven footfall and has been profitable for them too. In order to win in the future and remain relevant, it’s time for video games retailers to embrace an ‘experience-centric’ playbook.

References

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IFA Bis Nachher!

IFA Berlin has been a feature in my calendar for many years, and since 2015 I have been reviewing the event for ERT.
Unfortunately the 2021 incarnation didn’t happen as many brands were pulling out and therefore made the event unviable, but I’m confident that the show will be back with a bang next year!
To quote the organisation itself “IFA in Berlin presents the latest products and innovations in the heart of Europe’s most important regional market. Only IFA offers such a comprehensive overview of the international market and attracts the attention of visitors from more than 130 countries each year”. Looking back to 2019, LG showcased its Roll, the OLED TV that rolled neatly into its own cabinet to disappear from view. Here in 2021, it is now available to buy at a princely price of just over £100,000, which is of course out of the reach of most people. However, an important consideration is, would it have ever been conceived if it wasn’t intended to be a showstopper at IFA? Whatever the reasons LG chose to create this stunning piece of kit, the brand has paved the way for others to now copy the concept and intrinsically bring the average price down to make it the de facto TV form factor for many.
So proof in point that IFA is the innovation hot spot that drives brands to go deeper and further in understanding what consumers may need before they even realise it, creating categories and technology which will in time become commonplace to all.

Smart Everywhere


In 2015 the buzz was the smart home and there were many who huddled around brand displays at IFA gasping at what was possible with connected devices. Each year the innovation developed and today it’s almost nonsensical to consider that any home doesn’t have or want smart devices – from TVs and voice-activated speakers, to security and entertainment solutions – in their possession.
Taking a whistle-stop-tour of the years and it’s a similar story of innovation, but a progressive journey for the Berlin showcase to evolve into something fresh, never boring or the same. Those exhibitors never failed to deliver a great experience and their immense pride in showcasing their new technology was clearly evident.
Surprise and delight did many brands from all categories, and in 2016 it was LG which outdid everybody with its walk-through 4K display tunnel. This took the visitor on a truly immersive journey of LG technology with a beautifully executed experience that became the undisputed talking point of the event that year.


Voice Of The Future


Moving on to IFA 2017, I reported that the ‘vibe’ was one of progress, a move forward, improving what is already available, innovating through integration to bring the smart home closer to normality and Artificial Intelligence (AI) truly recognised by consumers as no longer being the domain of fantasy but reality, with compatibility across more products. This became rapidly more realistic over the following two years.
In 2018, Google’s Assistant was all over Berlin as more and more brands were building voice activation into their products. Assistant-enabled products were popping up across a host of categories. From laundry with Hoover Candy, cooking with Electrolux, to smart watches from TicWatch, thermostats from Netatmo, and doorbells from Ring, the tech also extended to TVs from Toshiba, Hisense, LG and Panasonic. The dominance of voice assistants was most definitely the story that year.
Building on this in 2019 was the prevalence of voice control and AI-controlled products. Almost every brand and category has either one or both of the two leading voice assistants becoming inbuilt and connected, increasing the smart home ecosystem across almost every device, MDA and wearable.
What voice has done to bring AI and smart technology into consumers’ lives is quite possibly one of the most disruptive technologies to have been created, changing how we interact with our technology, its interface and what it can do for us from a social and macro perspective. This was evident in the exhibition at IFA 2020 – which was an extremely smaller, intimate and socially-distanced affair. The event organisers had done a superb job at keeping the CE industries key event open, albeit just to trade visitors and not the general public. The effects of the pandemic were recognised and obvious as a driver of investment in R&D. The key shout-outs last year set a trend for brands seeking to be the first choice for consumers to integrate with their smart home.


See You In 2022!


If you consider that in the five years that I’ve been writing about IFA, excluding 2021, the average attendance per year is 245,000 with an estimated 150,000 coming from trade to visit the almost 1,800 exhibitors. It’s an awesome show on a scale that makes it on par, if not better, than its transatlantic rival.
The need for IFA to return in 2022 in its original format is essential for the industry, however I fear the savings made over two years may encourage many brands to scale back attendance and investment. This approach will inevitably mean a new format and potentially a hybrid event on a smaller scale. The impact of this approach may not only hold back creativity and innovation, but also the ability for start-ups and consumers to be inspired to carry the wave of technological innovation.
Whatever becomes the format for 2022, creating a space like IFA to bring innovation together and measure the reaction of your peers and consumers is key in the evolution of categories – existing and new. What the pandemic achieved for brands was an opportunity to reset, rethink and enhance their proposition to meet the needs of people’s changing lifestyles, which as a result have become ‘normal’. The use of home technology has been impacted immensely, with adapted living spaces supporting various changes in lifestyle. And IFA is crucial to this development.
I hope to see you and maybe several hundred thousand more in Berlin, 2-6 September 2022 at the most inspiring global tech event imaginable!

Article published by ERT

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Know How Now

Now more than ever, enhancing the customer experience is critical to create theatre and ultimately close sales. In order to take the consumer through the varied steps of the journey from demo to sale, you need to equip your staff to be the best they can be – and it all starts with training. A key element of the formula for success in store is the engagement of shoppers 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 and motivated… and most importantly advocates.

The Pandemic’s Impact

The training of advocates is often down to brand-led initiatives, and while in the past these experiences were provided in person, the pandemic has forced new innovative methods like virtual training, with face-to-face communication not being possible. For example, this could include, developing or incorporating digital learning and engagement solutions from third parties or even those brands you sell. Working with your brands enables you to talk directly with their training teams to develop your Retail Sales Advisors, allowing them to choose when and how they learn, with tactics ranging from gamification to potential
incentives at no cost to you driving uptake. These digital solutions mean that brands are able to boost their reach, through training many more staff members and therefore having a wider impact. While visiting face-to-face enables greater engagement and brand advocacy – a hybrid model is still a fantastic way of doing business with retailers to help develop categories and brandshare. In some respects, 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.

Introducing ‘Tech-sperts’

While digital methods are helping to train more in-store experts at scale, the digital world can also be utilised to provide direct expert assistance to those making a considered purchase. Curry’s is one brand trying a new approach during the pandemic with the Shoplive service to assist sales. A pop-up 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 Curry’s experts. ShopLive now has over 800 ‘tech-sperts’, 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 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.

A Blended Approach

Despite the atypical nature of the past year, we have seen retail set up in response to the adversity. Namely a dynamic approach with some needed changes and digital transformation taking place that in the long run will 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 new uncertain, but exciting waters. Be creative. Be brave and try new ways to educate your teams to better meet the customer life cycle. The future of training and the manner in which we deliver this as a blended approach may be changing, however the need to continue evolving the knowledge base in both technical and soft skills is essential to meet the ever-changing needs of the CE industry and the customers you serve – who are ultimately the pulse of your business.

By Daniel Todaro, Managing Director, Gekko Group

Article published by ERT

Photo by Michal Matlon on Unsplash

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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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