Tag Archives: UK

Let’s give retail its pride back

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Whilst technology can provide speed, convenience and even a wow factor, people are still the key to successful retailing and good sales people give shoppers a reason to visit

Looking at all the analysis and commentary relating to the ‘golden’ quarter trading figures, published in January by the UK’s major retailers, it’s clear that after a dismal November, retailers had to play a game of catch up in the closing stages of 2018. Whilst there were some positive stories such as the ‘very strong’ Christmas eve sales at John Lewis, it was less rosy for many other retailers and in 2019 it will continue to be a tricky path to success.
As we are constantly hearing, UK high street retail is taking quite a bashing but are we really surprised? How long could retail sustain so much online competition?

Everywhere you look another coffee shop or restaurant is opening to fill the empty nests left by retailers of old. We’ve seen changing retail patterns before for example during recessionary times, but this feels very different, almost like self-harm. We’re seeing a complete transition in retail in the UK. Brexit uncertainty is damaging consumer confidence and the media isn’t helping the plight of retail when all you hear is doom and gloom. The notion, right or wrong, sinks into the public psyche. Businesses are going bust, estates are shrinking, and consumers are opting to head online. It’s not a pretty picture and there needs to be a considerable amount of effort into halting the slide.

Whilst some retailers are taking an innovative approach to how they engage with their customers on the high street, many appear to need additional inspiration. I’ve read many articles lately that talk about how technology and innovation will transform the in-store shopping experience and save the high street; self-service checkouts; robot assistants; augmented and virtual reality.
However, a recent study we conducted, titled ‘Service not Sci-fi’ revealed that despite living in a world driven by technology, most people don’t want technology at the sacrifice of humans’ opinions and experience. Only 30% said they would like to see ‘smart pricing’ initiatives adopted by retailers, where prices change in real time depending on demand, 22% smart mirrors that show a 360 view of themselves, 16% a virtual reality changing room, 14% augmented reality to help visualise products in the home and 9% a talking robot assistant.

An astonishing 81% of UK shoppers claim the personal touch has disappeared from retail customer service in modern Britain, with almost a third (32%) blaming an over reliance on technology for this decline. And when asked what makes a great bricks and mortar shopping experience, 49% of those polled said it was down to having good staff on the shop floor, staff that know the products (49%) and staff that go the extra mile (47%).

Consumers want to do business with real people and have real conversations. And businesses take heed – a third of Brits say that the personal touch is more likely to make a repeat purchase, and more than a fifth (22%) claim they always spend more money in a shop if they are served by a good assistant, imagine converting that to sales? Over a third (34%) of shoppers stated that a poor experience has driven them to buy from another retailer, not great in the current climate.

So perhaps retailers have got their strategy wrong? Whilst technology can provide speed, convenience and even a wow factor, people are still the key to successful retailing and good sales people give shoppers a reason to visit. If bricks-and-mortar retailing is to thrive it needs to recognise that there is a changing role for stores. There needs to be a shift from transactional retailing to experiential. There needs to shift from till operator to sales consultant. This requires good teams on the shop floor and with all the negative commentary surrounding the high street it is difficult to attract talent but perhaps this is where retailers should focus their efforts?

Retail remains a rewarding career where those involved take pride in the service they provide. This culture should be representative of all retailers, however that’s about culture not proposition. With a change in mindset for both the retailers and their store teams, then it’s possible to bring back the pride in delivering the optimum customer journey and in doing so enhance the experience for all.

To read the full article visit Retail Sector.

For more information on Gekko’s recent ‘Service not Sci-Fi’ study please visit our Research Page.

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Real people not robots is what consumers want from retailers

Robot Shop

The study found that 81% of UK shoppers claim the personal touch has disappeared from retail customer service in modern Britain, with almost a third (32 percent) blaming an over reliance on technology for this decline. And half of those polled think that companies in the UK are using technology to save money, rather than improve customer experience.

Despite living in a world driven by technology, most people don’t want technology at the sacrifice of humans’ opinions and experience.  Only 30 percent said they would like to see ‘smart pricing’ initiatives adopted by retailers, where prices change in real time depending on demand, 22 percent smart mirrors that show a 360 view of themselves, 16 percent a virtual reality changing room, 14 percent augmented reality to help visualise products in the home and 9 percent a talking robot assistant.

When it comes to buying online, 43 percent of UK shoppers have had their screen freeze while trying to make a purchase, so when asked what makes a great bricks and mortar shopping experience, 49 percent of those polled said it was down to having good staff on the shop floor, staff that know the products (49 percent) and staff that go the extra mile (47 percent). Coupled with this, 61 percent of the nation would prefer to deal face to face when complaining, 59 percent when enquiring or trying to find out more about a product and 73 percent when getting a refund.

And businesses take heed – a third of Brits say that the personal touch is more likely to make a repeat purchase, and more than a fifth (22 percent) claim they always spend more money in a shop if they are served by a good assistant, incrementally adding to sales. Over a third (34 percent) of shoppers stated that a poor experience has driven them to buy from another retailer.

The research also highlights the impact of the decline of the local shop, with a quarter of Brits saying they miss shopping somewhere where people recognise them, 16 per cent confessing they preferred the days when they could talk through a purchase with a someone in-store, and a quarter saying online shopping is less fun than buying something in a real shop.  The convenience of a store’s location is also stated as important by 43 per cent of respondents which means that as retailers consolidate their estates, many will notice the effects, further emphasising the need to carefully consider the experience being provided in-store and the staff needed to deliver the experience.

According to the research we waste almost an hour and a half a month – which is 17 hours a year, the equivalent of more than two days at work – interacting with automated technology, only for a human to have to step in and help.

Bug bears include getting someone to rectify a problem with the self-service checkout, and ringing customer services and dealing with a recorded voice, only to repeat the details to the person you end up talking to.

Little wonder, then, that 51 percent of Brits have slammed the phone down during an automated call, as the system didn’t recognise what they were saying.  And 47 percent of shoppers have experienced self-service checkout failure that’s had to be rectified by a shop assistant.

In fact, more than three quarters (77 percent) of UK shoppers admit they’d much rather use a checkout with a person on it, rather than taking the self-service option.  More than 4 in ten (43 percent) British shoppers would rather speak to a person than an automated system when making a phone enquiry, with almost a quarter (23 percent) ending up having to complain on social media when their query hasn’t been responded to via the automated service.

Daniel Todaro, MD of Gekko said: “Everyone is talking about technology and innovation within retail, but our research clearly shows that what consumers really want is the human touch.  With traditional retail under more pressure than ever and an astonishing 81% of people feeling that the personal touch has disappeared from shopping, businesses need to focus on the customer experience in these tough trading times to help keep the high street alive.”

To find out more about our ‘Service not Sci-fi’ research please visit our Research page.

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Google Endorsements: Industry reaction

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This weekend Google announced its latest advertising platform – Shared Endorsements. Similar to the soon-to-be defunct Sponsored Stories option on Facebook, Google’s Shared Endorsements will pull in users’ names and profile pictures in adverts, ranging from Google Play store recommendations to adverts for restaurants.

Following the announcement The Drum asked a cross section of marketers what the introduction of Shared Endorsements could mean for advertisers and what lessons Google could learn from Facebook’s mistakes.

It’s no surprise that Facebook’s Sponsored Stories didn’t meet with vast amounts of success. So how can Google’s Shared Endorsements avoid that trap?

The trick is to offer consumers exactly what they want. No-one likes to be bombarded with messages that are completely irrelevant to their tastes and buying behaviours. Think how frustrating it would be to be marketed a beer ad if you only drink wine.

Nonetheless, the potential this offers to marketers is huge, with a massive, global audience who will potentially see their ad.

Therein lies its key factor – its reach. Google’s audience is so vast that it outstrips all other forms of advertising. What brands must ensure, however, is that the content that they are putting in front of people actually appeals to them. After all, a targeted campaign will always be more effective than a blanket approach.

read more at: http://www.thedrum.com/news/2014/01/14/google-endorsements-industry-reaction-digitaslbi-havas-mec-iprospect-and-more

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Who Can Save Our Faltering High Streets? Why Not the Mega-Brands?

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The plight of the UK High Street is well-documented. With countless retailers closing and sales figures dwindling year on year, the High Street question is one that many are keen to answer before a great British institution disappears before our eyes. HMV and Jessops were given last-minute reprieves when faced with the gallows, but as we move forward it’s inevitable that more big names will fall upon the hardest of times, with fewer being granted a second chance.
 
There have been a number of solutions mooted as means for saving the High Street. A government minister has also suggested consolidating retail spaces within towns by converting empty units into affordable housing. What’s clear is that initiatives are sorely needed to truly bring life back to dead commercial business districts, so here’s an idea:  Why not ask major brands to sponsor the High Street? Many may feel that it’s perhaps about time corporations demonstrated a bit of social responsibility and gave back to the communities from which they profit so ostensibly.
 
With the point of purchase increasingly becoming ‘any place, any time,’ the emphasis shifts to experience – the need for brands to curate spaces dependent not entirely on sales, but immersive, engaging environments. Environments that consumers can spend time in without any obligation, experience the brand and perhaps become a long-term advocate tied-in on an emotional level.
 
With this in mind, why shouldn’t the biggest brands think bigger? Under the term umbrella branding, the P&Gs, GSKs and Unilevers of the world have all made moves in recent times to bring their masterbrands to the fore and develop a relationship with consumers for the first time in their histories. So why not think beyond single retail units and engage their wider portfolio to create a real immersive experience that also gives back to the community at the same time? Cellular carriers have done this to great effect, as have some CE brands. Of course, I can’t fail to mention Apple, the most profitable retailer by square footage, which Microsoft is presently trying to emulate in the US.
 
Take Unilever, a global masterbrand that has made a concerted effort to place social responsibility at the heart of its operations. Notably, its ‘Sustainable Living Plan’ sits front and centre within the organisation’s modern-day mission and is deemed a ‘strategic response to the challenges our world faces.’ Furthermore, it has partnered with D&AD to create a brand new award, the White Pencil, for the best example of design and creativity that has social good at its core and sets purpose above profit.
 
Unilever has a vast portfolio of brands, including Marmite, Walls, Lynx, Ben & Jerry’s, Dove and Persil to name just a few. According to the figures, it holds over 400 brands worldwide with over two billion consumers using them daily. So why couldn’t they utilize these brands and take over empty retail units? It would both promote the shared ideals and values of the Unilever proposition, but also deliver a unique experience that our towns desperately need.
 
Furthermore, in addition to retail units allocated to various brands within the portfolio, retail space could also be offered to small businesses and students, in order to showcase and sell their products and talents. The current environment makes it challenging for entrepreneurs to start up and an investment from a brand would provide both a valuable platform for budding business owners and also a little bit of hope, too. Plus, such an investment would be a very small price to pay for the opportunity to create a High-Street-wide brand experience.
 
Lastly, much debate has centred upon local communities becoming increasingly homogenized and such a move would go a long way to sparking some life back into our towns. The High Street is so much more than the point of purchase and it’s vital not just to our economy, but also to our society. What better way to engage a community than by injecting some belief, inspiration and positive energy into a struggling economy?
 
Although the burden of responsibility appears to be a hot potato at times, the seeds of social consciences are still sprouting and emerging. It requires bold thinking, indeed, but, in light of tax scandals and ethical controversies, it offers an opportunity for such brands to truly put their money where their mouths are, give back and perhaps change the shape of the High Street for new generations.

Read the full article at http://www.brandingmagazine.com/2013/09/20/mega-brands/

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