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Guest Blog

Ed Cookson Sarner International

GUEST BLOG: Experiential marketing & brands that get the story straight

Experiential Marketing is all rage these days, but it’s an older art of persuasion – Storytelling – that can really connect with your customers, suggests Sarner International’s Ed Cookson…

Behind the greats in business, there’s often an origin story. Whether it’s Steve Jobs and Bill Gates starting their computing empires from a bench in their home garage, or Richard Branson starting his first business out of a public phone booth, these are classic prologues for what is known in creative writing classes as ‘the hero’s journey’. They have gripped us since mankind first huddled around the fire, telling engaging, potentially life-saving tales of the tribe. We are storytelling creatures.

Hollywood screenwriting instructor Robert McKee argues that stories “fulfill a profound human need to grasp the patterns of living — not merely as an intellectual exercise, but within a very personal, emotional experience.” Creating an immersive experience that tells the origin story of a product – and where it’s heading – can be an effective way to engage with customers on a deeper level than more traditional marketing methods. The key to making them work – the same as Hollywood blockbusters and tales around the campfire – is memorable, instructional storytelling that resonates with the audience.

There’s a grand tradition of using immersive experiences to establish brands, including the promotion of entire countries and their goods and services. Branding took a leap in the mid-19th century with the advent of World Fairs and Expositions. These events were a chance for the general public to get first-hand experience of the products, cuisine and customs of other nations and ‘travel the world’ in one place. Wildly popular at the time, Prince Albert’s Great Exhibition of 1851 was credited with influencing Britain’s architecture, art and design and even generating a new wave of interest in world travel.

Experiential marketing is still working. Developments in 2017 include Kodak’s new 9,000 sq ft Experience Centre, a €16m expansion plan for the Guinness Storehouse (Ireland’s most popular visitor attraction), Disney’s Star Wars Hotel, Mario Kart’s immersive attraction (timed for launch during the Tokyo Olympics), and even a new theme park inspired by footballer Lionel Messi due to open in China in 2019.

These days, companies are more likely to use immersive experiences to reach new and existing customers via theme parks, pop-ups that showcase brand innovations or visitor centres. Even for celebrities, institutions and IP-based products, telling the story of the brand now needs to be more engaging than a few boards of old photographs, a shelf of ‘packaging through the ages’ and behind-the-scenes How-It’s-Done videos. When your product is well established, how can the story go deeper?

That’s where sensation comes into the picture – be it Cadbury World’s Heath Robinson-style gurgling, purple ‘chocolate machine’ that gives visitors a taste of what’s in store, or audio-visual environments like the ‘Dark Walk’ at Bodmin Jail in Cornwall, which will use state-of-the-art theatrics to tells the stories of the prisoners that passed through the 18th Century prison, beginning in the dank smugglers’ cave, passing along the stormy coastline, on through a crime-ridden Victorian village all the way to the grimy, rat-infested cells.

Of course, it’s a good idea to make sure the story you’re telling isn’t a Tall Tale. Consumers are only ever a few clicks away from a deep dive into a company’s public profile. Visitor attractions ought not only to reflect the sensations you want your brand to conjure up with loyal and new customers, but also be able to go through the ups and downs in the history of your organisation and pluck out the tales that demonstrate what the company is really like and what the brand stands for. It’s OK to admit to mistakes (short-lived changes in brand recipes that caused public outcry, for example) – that makes you more relatable; more human.

When brands get it right, their visitor attractions morph into something beyond a marketing exercise and become tourist destinations in their own right. Places like Jameson Distillery, Pez Visitor Center and Legoland ask their audiences to travel and pay for a brand experience.

It’s your story. It’s yours to tell. Find an honest, engaging way to show people not only what or how, but why your company does what it does they will feel connected to your brand. That’s human nature.


GUEST BLOG: Becoming a more digitally mature retail marketer

By Jill Brittlebank, Senior Director, Zeta Interactive

It will come as no surprise to marketers and retailers that email is an effective marketing tool. We recently surveyed 3,000 UK consumers for our study Content, context and trust: identifying the golden customer opportunities for retail marketing and 74% of respondents stated that they have received emails as part of a retailer’s nurturing strategy.

A significant number (52%) have even gone on to make a purchase as a direct result of email communication. But, as retailers become more digitally sophisticated in their CRM approaches, how can they make email work even harder while integrating their communications strategy to make the most of other channels?

Often, retail brands are constrained in their marketing by legacy systems, disconnected data sources and, of course, pressures on their time especially as the demands placed on small, overstretched teams grow in line with the threat of digital competition. And yet it is clear from our research that shoppers place significant importance on stores giving them ‘added value’ when it comes to marketing communication. So how can retail marketing teams, whether at a large clicks and bricks retailer with big budgets to spend or at a small ecommerce business, use customer data to better inform their email marketing and beyond? The solution lies with automated, insight-driven and bi-directional data systems that enable timely and accurate predictions of your customers’ needs at a given moment, and give you the ability to respond to those needs automatically, shifting the marketing relationship to a trusted ‘personal shopper’ approach.

While the demand for such interaction is obvious, marketers seem to fall short on execution – when asked about their favourite retailers, either in store or online, only 40% of customers stated that they felt these stores and brands knew and anticipated their needs well. However, 67% of customers questioned said that they would be more likely to buy from a retailer who recognised items previously bought and made further suggestions.

At a basic level, retailers can employ simple recognition techniques like click and browse retargeting to drive customers to their site.  Further communications can then be tailored by segment, based on categories like price sensitivity, product and brand preferences. Combining this with customer demographic and event data, such as an abandoned basket, will provide context and create deeper bonds between retailer and consumer through a rich experience at key points in a customer’s engagement. For smaller marketing teams, significant insights can be driven from web events, as well as email engagement, to further fuel tactics that drive value. Larger businesses should consider how effectively data is centralised to enable consistent cross-channel experiences and where the most appropriate touch point should land.

We’ve found that retailers have a clear opportunity to retain their customers. A huge 81% in our survey stated they would be more likely to buy again from their favourite stores if recognised as a previous customer and offered discounts or money off products they had browsed in the past. It’s critical that retailers recognise the importance of connecting disparate data sources and ensure their customers have an experience that reflects their history with the brand. Customers have expressed a strong desire to be acknowledged and valued by their chosen retailers, so recognition and relevant rewards will help you stand out against your competitors.

It’s also important to remember that shoppers are not only influenced by marketing communications, but also by pressures on their time, the sheer plethora of brands and stores to choose from and the overwhelming number of options available to the modern customer.  The easier you make the experience, utilising all available data to guide the customer towards relevant options and point to the right product for them, the better your chances of becoming an anticipated presence in the inbox rather than just another message in the crowd.

The effectiveness of email as a retailer touchpoint can’t be ignored, and building on this with cross-channel campaigns will present fresh opportunities for standout marketing.  As stores become more data savvy and digitally-mature, they can integrate context-based techniques such as triggering messages that reach customers who are physically near stores to entice them inside.  This needn’t be arduous for the modern retail marketer.  Systems are now in place to streamline this process for time-pressured teams.

It is clear that the modern retail landscape offers a wealth of options for both store and shopper.  Potential exists for retailers to reach customers through a near endless variety of channels.  But it is the retailers who focus on harnessing methods to capitalise and act on their shopper data, and use it to drive personalised experiences through meaningful communications, that will stand the best chance of developing long-lasting and fruitful relationships with their customers.

Retail Offers

GUEST BLOG: How retail marketers can reap the rewards of an effective seasonal strategy

By Stuart Galvin, Business Director, smp

From January Sales to Shrove Tuesday to Singles Day to Christmas, more than ever marketers are run ragged by a brimming calendar of seasonal shopping events and trends.

Some brands are avoiding the big events completely, some are creating their own, while others are getting in there earlier and earlier just to achieve cut-through. Christmas displays in August sound familiar?

Tools are being created, such as Google’s Marketer’s Almanac, to help marketers navigate this ever-changing landscape. The digital yearbook leverages data, insights and consumer trends around key dates to help marketers get ahead with their planning.

However, while these tools are useful, they are not the be-all and end-all. Marketers need to take stock – and take charge – of their seasonal strategies.

First and foremost, timing is everything. This might seem very basic, but it’s something marketers often forget as they rush to pip their competitors to the post. With each and every shopping event, marketers need to know their target audience, understand what will motivate them, and target them with the right message at exactly the right time. Does a shopper really want to be prompted to stock up on Easter goodies when they haven’t even made it into Lent?

As such, rather than jumping on the band wagon of every event and risking ostracising audiences, brands are becoming savvier with their seasonal strategies. Bigger brands like Amazon, for example, often perform well during hyped-up shopping phenomenon like Black Friday and Cyber Monday. In 2015, the e-tail giant experienced its best Black Friday sales to date; so, in 2016, it cleverly extended the sales period from a day to “Black Friday Week”, scooping up even more shopping activity.

But brands also need to think about context. Amazon and big, bold online shopping days make sense; but sometimes events just won’t work for certain brands. Asda, Ikea, Next and Homebase have all abstained from Black Friday. An Asda spokesperson said this was because its particular customers “wanted low prices throughout the festive season and not just for one day”. Its customers crave stability and strategy to help with their Christmas planning.

If the likes of Asda recognise some events simply aren’t right, no matter how economically prominent, smaller brands should take heed. Do they have the resources to take on certain events? Are sales and promotions competitively priced? Above all, what’s the point? Brands needs to ask what each shopping event would mean to its customers and their relationship with the brand. Consider the explicit Valentine’s Day cards pulled from the shelves of Paperchase this year. It was a step too far for the stationary stalwart.

That isn’t to say brands can’t have fun with seasonal shopping events. In fact, creativity should be encouraged, perhaps by exploring alternatives that fit better with the brand. In 2015, the Scottish Butcher held its biggest promotions in the run-up to Burns Night, while operating in-store tastings in Scottish branches of Tesco and Morrisons. The engagement was incredible, upping in-store sales by 40 per cent. Could this experiential approach be carried across borders, either by Scottish brands or non-natives, to surprise customers and generate buzz in other parts of the British Isles?

One of the biggest challenges in retail today is the explosion of channels through which people can shop, and through which brands can communicate with their customers. Physical retailers are often in the firing line, as ecommerce continues to grow at pace. However, seasonal shopping events are about capturing the spirit of the occasion, no matter the platform. Whether it’s Valentine’s rosy hues or the strawberries-and-cream Britishness of Wimbledon, the experience needs to be consistent and done with conviction.

The new shopping calendar can seem daunting to marketers, especially as retail becomes more global. Who knows where the next disruptive event might come from? No one knew, for example, that a Chinese celebration of singledom would, thanks to Alibaba, grow into the world’s biggest online shop-a-thon.

Rather than rolling out the same, timeworn strategies or getting blindsided by newcomers, now is the time to take stock. By assessing the landscape, cherry-picking events based on their value to both shoppers and for brand building, and planning accordingly, brands will ensure they play a more meaningful role for their customers, year in, year out.

C A Design

GUEST BLOG: Macro space planning tips for independent retailers, by C A Design

Whatever the size of your retail estate, macro space planning should always be based on fact. C A Design Services Director Guy Moates suggests ways for retailers to use data to optimise their stores…

The science of space planning for shops and stores can be an incredibly complicated world to explain. However, regardless of whether you are a small independent shop or a chain with hundreds of outlets, the difference between getting it right and getting wrong will have a fundamental effect on your profitability.

There are also many pieces of software available to address all parts of the process, but fundamentally the best practise is to analyse your profitability and shopper patterns before you plan your store. Whether you do this with software or by listening to your customers in the case of smaller retailers is irrelevant, planning should be based on facts.

Impact of location, facilities and customer preferences

Taking a pet shop as an example. Your decision on whether to stock and where to locate bulky and heavy products will be different when considering an identically-sized out of town store with an on-site car park in comparison to a high-street store without convenient parking.

Understanding your local clientele and altering the balance of space between cat and dog food if a local site has a sales track record of higher % feline sales then canine, could help maximise sales.

Accessing and reacting to information

Most large retailers aspire to a store specific space model where each shop in their portfolio has room to adjust its range to the demands of the location, shopper trends and shop size.

This is where larger chains have the advantage of more information. They can analyse sales and demographic data for individual sites and then cluster stores together through non-geographical criteria, to improve ranging and performance. However, smaller chains and stores can be more nimble – changing direction or stocking fashionable or innovative items as the opportunities arise.

Essential Space Planning Tips

And so, as one of the leading retail space planning companies in the UK working with a wide range of retail clients, here are some key space planning points to consider:


  • Promotional space – manage carefully and update often, this can help drive footfall and improve customer loyalty.
  • Understand your available selling space when negotiating supplier’s share of shelf space within your stores
  • In-store compliance – all the planning and software in the world is useless if in-store implementation is not 100% delivered to plan / planogram
  • Less can be more. Don’t overfill your shop with free standing shippers / display units


  • Know your best sellers and most profitable products (often not the same items) and ensure they are easy to find. Place associated impulse products close-by for additional sales opportunities.
  • Understand your range ‘tail’ and delist items that aren’t selling fast enough
  • Be aware of product cannibalisation when considering new ranges. It’s pointless stocking new items, if they take sales away from an existing range with no net gain.
  • Supplier funded promotions / display – larger retailers often ask their suppliers to sponsor or fund in-store activity or promotions – don’t be afraid to ask

Customers and Competition

  • Keep on top of trends and regularly visit your competition.
  • Understand your customer journey and enhance with signage. Surprise your customers with offers and new products where you can.
  • Don’t underestimate the importance of human contact in all of this. We have clients where a good front of house member of staff can increase customer loyalty and add %% uplift to takings and profitability over time

Informed space planning requires knowledge of your products, your customers and your retail space and can be facilitated by specialist software. Successful implementation however can be challenging and needs commitment and communication from staff in-store. If all space changes are recorded and plans are kept up to date, decisions can then be based on accurate information and the impact of changes on sales and profitability can be understood.

C A Design Services offers an integrated store development service for our retail customers. We have in-house surveyors, experienced store planners, a 3d visualisation studio, specialist planning software StoreSpace® and an in-house software development team.

If you are interested to know how we can help you, please get in touch with Guy Moates on 01493 440444 or email


Guest Blog, Leon Edwards: Is this the last Christmas before online takes over?

It would have been hard to miss a retail story in the pages of last January’s news outlets. It’s not difficult to foresee the same for this New Year given the next eight weeks will be critical to many UK retailers. We’ve just seen Black Friday come and go, and the countdown to Christmas has just begun. If you read market analysts’ comments, their respective prediction is an 11 per cent growth on last year for both events an important statistic in itself when considering the beleaguered high street and its various woes; watch out the retailer that gets Christmas wrong.

Of greater importance to our brick and mortar stores is the continued rise of online sale. Black Friday, the sometimes maniacal, always bargained ladened US-style event, takes internet shopping to new heights. In 2015, estimates suggest £3-4 billion in retail sales over the period with as much as one third being spent online.

A similar trend can be seen throughout the whole Christmas shopping period, admittedly with a lower cyber-shopping focus. This has led to Christmas footfall reducing year-on-year – meaning fewer people in the shops. In fact, data suggests that the only increase we’ve seen in shoppers visiting physical stores is to pick up their ‘click and collect’ items.

If things continue, it won’t be long before the majority of our festive bargains are snatched up online. What will this mean for the high street and for retailers in general?

There’s a strong economic argument to eCommerce: no expensive property to fill and maintain leading to better margins, broader ranges and better availability. But, with the transparency that the internet brings, surely it’s just a race to the bottom where the lowest price and quickest delivery wins.

With stores you get interaction, entertainment and people. Not that people always help: a recent study we conducted found that of the 2,008 UK-based consumers polled, 68 per cent were put off by store staff ‘actively selling’ to them. Perhaps not a surprise when 89 per cent of 968 sales assistants we spoke to said they did not enjoy the experience at all.

It’s likely that this type of consumer sentiment isn’t helping in the battle against online, and if the trend continues, shops have much work to do to survive, let alone thrive.

I don’t think anyone is predicting the complete demise of the retail store just yet. They point at Amazon’s retail stores as a beacon of hope. But, the retail environment will change as a result of our changing shopping habits – it has to.

We are starting to see that transition already with augmented reality (AR) shopping experiences, multi-store layouts and ‘social’ retailing where a coffee and sit down might replace a pushy assistant.

There are many occasions that I walk back out of a shop empty handed even though I need the product(s) I’m shopping for. More help with wayfinding, product selection and speed of transaction is required. After all, part of the internet’s joy is the ease of finding and purchasing products.

Perhaps it’s time to borrow something, other than Black Friday, from our American cousins; the art of traditional retailing where the customer experience is all that matters.


Leon Edwards is the managing director of, a UK point of purchase company. It is a privately owned business that employs 55 people at its design and manufacturing facility in Northamptonshire. With an enviable client list from the retail and consumer goods world, they have exported to 34 countries since the Brexit vote.


Guest Blog, Annabel Daly: Personalisation – the next step in modern-day eCommerce…

Ask any eCommerce retailer how they strive to get ahead of their competitors and they will invariably tell you the same things. Some may focus on organic SEO, aiming to rank higher than the opposition for what they consider to be key customer search terms, whilst others may plough more time and monetary investment into pay-per-click advertising or email marketing.

It’s so easy, however, to think of our customers as one large populous of people rather than considering them as individuals. Technology is evolving, and today, more than ever, personalisation is coming to the fore.

According to Adobe’s Real-Time Marketing Study, 77 per cent of marketers consider “dynamic, personalised content” to be very important for successful eCommerce websites. So what exactly does this involve?

eCommerce personalisation can be broken down into three core categories: site search, product recommendations and automated email marketing.

Site search should be commonplace in all eCommerce sites, but a personalised solution enables you to quickly react to customers’ ever-increasing demands in seconds. For example, your Autocomplete feature should be more than just relevant search terms or products; it should have the ability to correct spellings, add synonym rules and allow content search, rather than just products. One step further, to avoid the dreaded “no results” page, is to show product recommendations and therefore encourage conversions.

Sometimes known as “personalised merchandising”, product recommendations allow you to personalise content areas for your website, such as the homepage banner or “you may also like” recommendations. These should be responsive, supportive of multiple content types (e.g. images or HTML) and varied – for example, based on your basket or previous purchases. The team at PureNet have recently released new software, PureClarity, to enable these systems to run themselves and determine the best content for the aforementioned content areas.

Finally, as mentioned previously, email marketing can be instrumental in driving conversions, but you can get one step ahead with personalised, automated email marketing. What differentiates  personalised email marketing from traditional email marketing is the ability to upload bespoke templates. Whereas automated emails may be sent to those who have abandoned their basket for example, personalised emails give you the freedom to insert product recommenders or personalised content.

The benefits of personalising your eCommerce site are virtually limitless. As a site owner, you should be wary of personalising not only your product recommendations, but also your content in general, ensuring you are targeting relevant customers and appealing to their interests.

Of course, the statistics speak for themselves: 75 per cent of us admit we prefer to use a retailer with a personalised experience. Moreover, from an email perspective, personalised emails improve click through rates by 14 per cent and conversion rates by 10 per cent – a true testament to the ROI of this marketing technique.

In the increasingly competitive world of e-Commerce, a business owner who makes his or her customers feel special is far more likely to succeed. Optimising your website for personalisation can be time-consuming, but ultimately will achieve a huge return on investment in terms of time and money. 


Annabel Daly is group marketing manager for Magento eCommerce and portal agency, PureNet. Annabel has worked within the eCommerce industry for many years across internal and client marketing, with portfolios including Krispy Kreme, The Royal British Legion and Illamasqua. Annabel has a particular interest in innovation including personalisation and conversion-focused design. 


Guest Blog, Tom Mankin: The reality of working in a family retail business…

The differences between family and non-family retail businesses may seem subtle from a customer’s perspective. After all, both kinds strive to deliver quality products at a profit, and provide the best service they can in an effort to encourage customers to return. However, if you take a peek behind the scenes and examine how these companies are run from an employee’s perspective, a lot of the differences soon become clear.

Size is, perhaps, the most notable difference. For the most part, family businesses can be a lot smaller than their non-family counterparts. When working within a family-run business, this can serve as a double-edged sword in terms of career progression. You can’t deny that the number of job opportunities within a business correlates to its size, with larger companies being able to offer promotions more frequently. The downside to this, however, is that it can lead to employees feeling like they’re a cog in a machine. Whereas, with family-run businesses, everyone knows each other and senior managers can take the time to get to know those working for them. This is a huge plus for both employers and employees, as it creates an atmosphere that helps workers to feel appreciated, which can have a positive impact on their productivity and wellbeing.

Working within a smaller business also allows employees to demonstrate their skills to the key decision makers and, if they use this to their advantage, it can benefit them hugely when jobs open up. Although, vacancies do tend to be rare due to the typical size of family businesses, and the fact that people feel appreciated and don’t wish to leave.

When deciding to work for a family or non-family business, you need to consider what you want to get out of your working life. If you wish to gain a title and progress quickly through the ranks, a larger company is likely to suit you better. On the other hand, if you would rather be given the time to develop your skills and grow within a role that you can make your own, a family business is more likely to provide you with the means to do this.

While it may sound cliché, or even slightly obvious, family businesses do usually try to adopt a ‘family atmosphere’ within their company, which means they’re willing to invest in their workers and provide a solid support system for employees. This often leads to a lot of senior management positions being filled by people who joined as juniors and have gradually worked their way up the ladder, as these kinds of companies tend to recruit internally, before searching further afield for new team members. Of course this isn’t a tactic used exclusively by family-run businesses, but employees within these companies do have more of a chance to demonstrate their skills and get noticed.

There is usually a much greater sense of autonomy within family businesses, as the close proximity of staff to senior management allows for a lot more discussion about changes to policies and working practices. This, again, is an advantage for both sides of the table, as it encourages creativity and can stop restrictive one-size-fits-all policies, which are often an unnecessary evil within larger business models, from being implemented.

While family and non-family business are similar in many ways, employees of family-run companies often find that life behind their shop-front offers greater freedom and a warm environment where hard work is more likely to be noticed and rewarded. There’s pros and cons to working for both kinds of businesses — anyone looking for a new job just needs to consider what they want from their working life before choosing which is right for them.


Tom Mankin is the digital marketing administrator at Charles Clinkard. He joined the company part-time as a student and then the digital marketing team on a permanent basis after completing his master’s degree at Northumbria University.


Guest Blog, C A Design Services: How the BIM process will benefit retail planning teams…

Building Information Modelling (BIM) is driving a revolution in the construction industry. There has been a marked and steady increase in use across the industry in the last four years and it’s an upward trend that is predicted to continue.

Meanwhile, the retail space planning industry has been slower to adopt BIM – despite its huge benefits.

The creation of 3D virtual models that contain all the key project information means data is easily co-ordinated between design and planning teams and communicated to the field.


Collaboration creates opportunity


This means Building Information Modelling also has huge potential for planning and maintaining retail space. It forces teams to collaborate. Without collaboration between construction disciplines, for example, the architect, surveyor, MEP engineer and structural, the BIM process quickly falls apart and the benefits are compromised.

But get it right and the BIM software and techniques, that are now becoming mainstream in the construction process, have the potential to deliver some unique benefits to retailers.


Consider the benefits of live accurate data integrated with 3D visualisation


Imagine a world where the fixtures on a sales floor inside the 3D construction model are live connected to 3D versions of planograms. These would be instantly updating with revised profiling and facings on the shelves, hangars and cabinets.


Time for change


So what is preventing this from happening? In short, it is the disconnect between a model being using for construction in 3D and the on-going management of the retail space within the store.

Currently, the latter has to be done in 2D because this is where all the main software products currently live – our own StoreSpace® product being one of them.

Once in 2D, the danger is that if the store plan changes this is then not reflected back to the model – if this is being maintained for, say, FM or asset management purposes.


Current planogram software needs a 3D solution


This is where BIM will help the retail planning function in the longer term. But this won’t happen until the planning software catches up and becomes integrated with the collaboration needs of the extended BIM team.

At the moment this is not happening. Indeed, it may not happen until clients have enough appetite to justify the required investment to integrate the macro and micro space planning processes into BIM.

Data must become central to the resolution of the problem with space plans seamlessly integrating into 2D or 3D environments.


The BIM process will benefit retail planning teams … but not just yet


When I talk to most of our major clients, they tell me there is no appetite or budget to leap into wholesale 3D store-estate conversions.

As a result, it’s likely that 2D will be around for some time to come until early adopters help us change the face of the market.


If you are considering the opportunities of 3D space planning and BIM collaboration, we are looking for retailers to partner with on such a project. Please give Guy Moates a call on 01493 440444 or email:


Guest Blog, Paul Russell: Productively lead and engage your retail workforce…

Employee engagement is the level of involvement an employee feels with their organisation which in turn affects their overall satisfaction with the job and their enthusiasm (or otherwise) for performing their role to the best of their ability. In retail, with its characteristic fast pace and numerous employee/customer interactions, engaging employees is particularly relevant. Where companies achieve the holy grail of retail, engaged staff, they can not only create and maintain the best service quality for customers, but increase employee productivity and customer satisfaction and reduce employee turnover. In essence, engaged staff means greater business success.

Work from Kahn suggested that there are three key aspects to employee engagement; meaningfulness, safety and availability. Meaningfulness is how vital an employee perceives their performance in their role to be, the value they place on what they do and how beneficial to overall business performance they find their work activities to be. A key way of managing perceptions of meaningfulness in employees is through effective leadership, clearly communicating not only the specific tasks that must be undertaken but the overall business benefits, where possible allowing retail staff to vary tasks and roles, and regularly sharing stories of success.  Employees can come to retail with subconscious negative perceptions of the role, or without effective leadership these can develop over time, and it is down to managers to identify and alter these beliefs before they erode engagement.

The safety aspect of employee engagement involves how able the employee feels to be authentic within their role. Environment is particularly relevant here, imagine for example a new luxury retail employee who has not worked in luxury before. There is a certain acclimatisation that needs to occur, of which training is key, before they understand both the environment and the customers and feel safe. Once this luxury acclimatisation has occurred and the employee feels confident and assured within their role, safety is no longer a barrier to employee engagement. Safety needs can also be met through strong leadership and effective internal communications that show support for staff, and that their wellbeing is being looked after.

Availability is concerned with resources, physical, cognitive and emotional, and the employee’s assessment of whether they have adequate resources to undertake their job. These resources can be both workplace and home based. From a workplace perspective, an employee would look at resources such as personal development provision and the training matrix put in place to cater to their physical, cognitive and emotional needs, alongside employee benefits schemes and rewards. Outside of work, an employees’ personal situation can impact upon their perception of resources available to do their job through tiredness and so forth and once more this is a management issue necessitating effective leadership.

The thread that links all elements of employee engagement is leadership and the creation of a workplace culture that promotes personal development. Equipping retail staff with the requisite skills and knowledge to provide excellent service to their retail customers results in confident, happy and above all engaged staff who will flourish in their positions.


Paul Russell is co-founder and director of Luxury Academy London, a multi-national private training company with offices in London, Delhi and Visakhapatnam. Prior to founding Luxury Academy London, Paul worked in senior leadership roles across Europe, the United States, Middle East and Asia.


Guest Blog, Guy Moates: Coming next after Pokémon Go? The future of augmented reality as a retail space planning tool…

Pokémon Go has propelled augmented reality (AR) into mainstream culture. Users have downloaded the gaming app multi millions of times, since its launch in July 2016.

But while it might be fun to play, it’s the AR technology underpinning the Nintendo product that is really exciting the business world.

AR superimposes a computer-generated image on a real-world perspective to create an interactive, composite view.

This technology has huge potential as a powerful tool for business – not least the retail planning sector.

The exciting prospective is how AR can merge actual and virtual in-store worlds, imposing new products, signage, equipment, branding and visual merchandise into an actual setting.

We are currently working with a number of companies in the retail sector who have spotted the exciting potential of augmented reality. Each company is using AR to address a specific business challenge and as a result are seeing tangible benefits and a return on investment.

So what are the potential advantages of augmented reality?

  • AR can merge an actual and virtual in-store environment making potential changes easier to understand and visualise.
  • Traditionally, retailers have used mock stores or artists impressions to help them judge whether or not to sign off new designs and concepts. AR has the potential to improve this decision making process and take it to a new level.
  • The technology is available right now and is considerably less expensive than mock-ups.
  • It’s far more realistic than full 3D visuals or virtual reality because staff can physically visit stores and use their tablet to walk visually through an augmented reality version of any changes.
  • Or staff can use StoreView® 360° panoramic store surveys to walk through potential changes on screen without moving from their office desk.
  • Retailers can engage with the expertise of their in-store colleagues and managers. This will mean they feel more involved as well as making better use of their local knowledge, such as line-of-sight or security.
  • The technology is particularly useful for scenarios such as convenience store symbol groups where business development staff can show prospective store owners how their store might look with a new fascia.

Although it has just moved into public consciousness, AR has been around for many years and is now emerging from its experimental era to become a truly useful tool for retail space planners. The bets are on that it is likely to play an ever increasing role in future.


Guy Moates works at C A Design Services with 7 out of the UK’s top 10 retailers. The company provides a range of retail services including store planning, survey, software development and visualisation services including augmented reality based on their StoreView® technology. If you would like to explore how you can use Augmented Reality to improve your Store Development process please get in touch with Guy –