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Brands shouldn’t let sustainability take a back seat in retail strategy – here’s why…

By Dan Williams, Founder and Managing Director at 100% Group

No-one ever said creating a retail strategy for a global brand was easy. Today, it’s tougher than ever. 

As they fight for growth in ever-more saturated markets, brands face fast-evolving social trends, a volatile political climate, and unpredictable trading conditions. In plotting the path ahead through this complex mix of issues, it can be easy for brands to let sustainability take a back seat. 

But is that the most sensible approach?

The evidence suggests that building sustainability into a brand isn’t just good for the planet; it’s good for business too. As consumers become better educated about sustainability, they become more concerned about the ethics of their products. They want to engage with and buy from brands that both talk about sustainability and prove their commitment with practical actions. 

This view was confirmed by a recent survey we conducted with 200 retail professionals, the results of which show most of those questioned believe building sustainability into a brand offers huge potential.

Questioning also revealed, however, that many brands were not exploiting this potential – leaving the field wide open for those that do.

Our research found that sustainability is a driving force for sales and brand engagement, with 86% of respondents saying that the issue is important to customers when making a buying decision.  

When asked how important it was to demonstrate a commitment to sustainability in different aspects of a brand, respondents ranked in-store elements relatively highly:  67% (the highest number) of respondents said it is either critical or very important to demonstrate a commitment to sustainable packaging and 61% to demonstrate a commitment to sustainable retail displays. 

This isn’t surprising, as both packaging and display have an immediate impact on the sales experience. Respondents stated, for example, that a planned and implemented retail display increases sales by 30%, profits by 28% and footfall/traffic by 25%. 97% of those questioned said that retail displays were important for sales in general.

For the wider aspects of the brand – product manufacturing, distribution, branding and marketing – figures for the importance of demonstrating a commitment to sustainability were also significant: between 52% and 63% of respondents rated this as either critical or very important for each aspect.

Though these figures are positive, none come close to reflecting the headline finding that nearly nine out of ten respondents believe sustainability is important in buying decisions.  There is a similar mismatch in terms of the clear benefits people expect an environmental sustainability policy to provide and the number of people who say their brand has such a policy in place.

Expected benefits were an average increase of 20% in footfall in-store, 21% in profits, and 23% in sales. Despite these potential rewards, however, only 69% of respondents said their brand had an environmental policy. 10% said they didn’t know if their brand had a policy or not.

These figures show a clear disconnect between what people believe will make a difference and what they do in practice. The discrepancy highlights that there is plenty of space in the market for those keen to put sustainability at the heart of their brand and use it to connect with customers.

Brands that do choose to put a focus on sustainability must, of course, do so as a genuine initiative rather than a marketing ploy. The importance of trust in keeping customers loyal has been widely recognised. Brands present false sustainability credentials at their peril. When businesses claim one thing and do another, customers – quite rightly – feel cheated. And a customer who feels cheated is rather less likely to support or engage with the brand on social media or to buy the brand’s products. 

When planning strategy, businesses may not be able to second guess the future. But by aligning their brand with current customer concerns, they can give themselves a strong competitive advantage. In a world of fake news and daily revelations of dishonest practices, we’re all looking for organisations we can trust to do the right thing. For a growing number of customers choosing which brands to support, the ‘right thing’ is a commitment to sustainability combined with an honest approach to the issues. 

And – as the survey shows – opportunities are there for the taking. 

It’s always been important for brands to evolve in response to customer requirements. In today’s crowded market places, this responsiveness is ever-more critical – yet many brands are still underestimating the importance of sustainability as a sales driver. In doing so, they risk losing market share.

That market share will go instead to those who understand their customers better: brands that embrace the issue of sustainability and make buying their products the easy choice for customers searching for the ethical option.

In store security in focus

Rising crime, specifically violent crime, is a concern for every retailer. Staff are well trained. Stores are alarmed and often linked to 24 hour monitoring services. But is that enough?

Real-time communication between staff is already proven to reduce shoplifting; adding instant access to security expertise provides another level of staff protection.

As Tom Downes, CEO, Quail Digital, explains, when faced with an incident, staff with wireless headsets can communicate not only with their colleagues across the store but also directly with the security experts at the monitoring service to gain essential assurance and instruction.

Violent Threat

Retailers take staff safety incredibly seriously, but how should companies respond to the latest retail crime figures from the British Retail Consortium? Not only is crime rising but attacks are increasingly violent, involving not only knives and guns but also syringes, even tasers; while threatening behaviour is also on the rise.

This article originally appeared on Total Security Briefing – Click here to continue reading.

FM financing – The key to saving our High Streets?

By Rob Marriott, Marketing & Strategic Bid Director at SPIE UK

The recent news about Debenhams falling into administration is just another nail in the coffin for the British High Street. Part of the problem can be attributed to retailers’ legacy estates. Swelling rents, wage hikes, long lease periods and aging property in urgent need of upgrading are all contributing factors.

However, retailers are struggling to find budget to overcome these problems. 

Sometimes heralded as the panacea, new smart technology installed throughout shops, warehouses etc. would give retailers additional useful data which could help them manage their operations more efficiently. Benefits of this approach could include reducing how much energy is used, improving staff wellbeing, implementing predictive maintenance and enhancing the customer experience, which would all help contribute to lowering long-term operating costs. Unfortunately, organisations are being held back in the short term by the hefty up-front costs that this sort of technology investment requires, as well as the need to provide leadership teams with a robust business case for its installation. 

The article originally appeared on FM Briefing – Click here to continue reading…

GUEST BLOG: Retailers need digital strategies to address the change in the way we shop

Grant Coleman, VP and Market Director, UK, SC and MEA, Emarsys

For the past decade, many brands have sought to create online shopping experiences to match, or even outdo, their in-store counterparts. Typically, this often consisted of activity specifically targeted at peak online shopping days or around one-off offers, causing a shift in how many British consumers opt to shop. So what differences are retailers experiencing and how can they react?

Combining the offline and online worlds

It’s certainly not straightforward for in-store retailers to keep up with the ease of online shopping, so the key to success is bringing them together to unify their online and offline customer experiences. By no fault of their own, a store’s retail staff can’t even tell on first glance whether that person has even ever shopped with the brand before. But when that same person visits the website, the experience can be automatically personalized. Offers, product recommendations, inventory, and other specific customer preferences populate within milliseconds — and be optimised to the screen size of the device they’re using, time of visit, location and language. Essentially, the online journey is geared to create an experience that’s pre-loaded with knowledge of previous browsing and buying behaviour.

The reason why this hybrid buying journey is becoming ever more important is down to the ubiquitous presence of technology. The rise of online and mobile shopping has not just changed how we shop – it’s reinvented the entire customer experience from end-to-end. For instance, according to our research, nearly two thirds (64%) of online shoppers are put off by shipping costs, which partly explains why nearly half (40%) of purchases are made through a combination of offline and online behaviour.

Optimising the offline experience, not just the online

Retailers like French beauty brand Sephora have successfully launched applications that seek to drive both online and offline sales through an interactive feature. Their app essentially attaches a service to their in-store offering by supplying its customers with tutorials on new makeup application techniques, often featuring selfies uploaded by users directly from their smartphones. Aside from its community-building impact, the app helps users to recreate Sephora’s in-store makeover looks, while also driving them to the nearest store thanks to beacon alerts, effectively unifying online behaviours with offline interactions. 

The rise of on-demand commerce, and the resultant expansion in the retail logistics industry has facilitated incredibly fast delivery turnaround times. This trend towards convenience is particularly evident amongst shoppers, who are notorious procrastinators.

Using physical dominance to boost your online operation

However, given consumers’ aforementioned concerns around shipping costs, retailers are looking to reflect their physical dominance with online cues. They play on a shoppers desire for instant gratification by driving offline action while users are online shopping; “Want it NOW? This item is in stock at a store X miles from you”. This alleviates the delay incurred by shipping times.

The brands leading the way in these connected experiences understand the value of connecting different facets of the experience and in fact, bringing the offline world online. Still, too many retailers simply have a mobile app or they have a mobile-responsive website. They need a digital strategy which incorporates all platforms in order to succeed.

Opting for omnichannel to deliver personalised customer experiences

Brands are moving slowly but surely away from multichannel initiatives into omnichannel or channel-agnostic initiatives oriented around the customer. For brands to remain relevant and keep up with ever-changing consumer trends, we’ll need to see a collective, industry-wide shift towards embracing omnichannel strategies that bring rich data from physical stores together with the abundance of available digital data provides a perfect case for this approach to be put into practice, and this year the best-performing online retailers factor the in-person experiences that help inform our shopping habits and shape our overall interactions with brands into their strategies. Marketers that do this will be able to create holistic buying experiences that drive and reward customer loyalty and induce customer retention for years to come. 

GUEST BLOG: The changing face of customer loyalty

By Dino Forte, CEO, Ventrica

New research shows that 76% of consumers admit they would switch to a competitor if they have just one bad experience with a brand they like.

On the flipside, over half of consumers say that once they’re loyal to a brand, they’re loyal for life. This offers the question – how loyal are consumers actually being towards their favourite brands, and what will it take for a consumer to have a bad experience?

Gaining loyal consumers and advocates is something most brands aim for; but given the research, how far can this really be stretched? Unfortunately, many brands take loyalty for granted. The brands that hold a monopoly over a market, with unique products or services that can’t be found elsewhere, are often the strongest culprits of this, knowing their customers will continue to return regardless of the customer service they provide.

However, even in this situation, delivering a customer experience (CX) that meets the customer’s expectations and needs, is critical. Even for organisations in industries such as utilities where many consumers stay with their provider to avoid the hassle of switching, CX is still key. After all, it is six times more expensive to win new business than to retain it; showing how essential it is for organisations to look after their customers, even if they are confident they won’t leave.

New touchpoints and skilled staff

The fact is, delivering a CX that enables an organisation to remain competitive and encourage the customer to return is a big challenge. With numerous touchpoints now available to today’s consumer – from social media, to the organisation’s website, webchat and phone calls – how can a brand ensure it reaches its customers across all channels but provide the same experience, irrespective of channel?

All consumers will agree that a ‘bad’ CX involves a frustrating experience, long waiting times, unanswered questions, unknowledgeable staff, faulty products or simply not being listened to. Can we really blame them if an experience like this makes them want to switch to a competitor? However, it doesn’t need to be like this.

An organisation’s contact centre should form the heart of the CX it provides, with a trained, dedicated team ready to answer queries and resolve any issues the customer may have experienced across multiple channels. A customer service team should completely embody the persona of the brand; understanding who the customer is, what issue they’re facing and how it can be resolved in a quick, seamless manner that leaves the customer satisfied and eager to purchase a product or service again.

If a bad experience strikes, an organisation can’t blame a customer for wanting to look elsewhere. It’s therefore essential for organisations to put measures in place to ensure that all channels are equipped to provide the best CX possible – so that a customer’s loyalty never comes into question at all. 

GUEST BLOG: Why retail brand image has never been more important

Do you think that your brand is welcomed by the public? Brand awareness is one of the most significant factors that contribute to the successful running of a business.

You want to make a great first impression that will last if you have aims to increase your consumer base and become a thought-leader in your sector. Dimensions investigates…

From retail to hospitality, there’s always room for improvement regarding both your own staff and customer retention. Are you ready to future proof your business?

The position of your customers

Over 70% of shoppers in the UK find the customer service more important than their product. Although you should also be prioritising the quality of your products (to reduce returns and negative reviews), you should be constantly reviewing your current customer service methods and continually think of ways that you can improve the overall service.

Although this might be the case, brands must always keep an eye open for any internal improvements. According to one study, 80% of businesses already believe that they deliver a superior service to their consumers – but only 8% of shoppers actually agree with this statement. 

It’s no secret that good customer service leads to customer trust and loyalty. Not only that, but if you’re looking to increase your consumer acquisition rates – this is a good avenue to go down. 84% of people make a purchase because of a referral; so if your first impression is worthwhile, it could lead to additional business.

Making room for improvements

Contact a corporate clothing suppliers because uniforms are an integral part of any business. You need to ensure that your employees are identifiable to customers and this can only be achieved by designing a uniform that stands out; while catering to each type of individual that works for you (considering religions etc). 

Because more businesses are letting staff wear what they desire, costs are arising around monitoring and making sure that everyone looks suitable. As well as this, uniforms represent your business – so you must design them in the correct way and prioritise employee comfort to ensure you receive the best delivery from them. 

If you chat with your staff about what they want from your business, it will likely be progression, and this can be achieved through skill development. This should cover ways that they interact with consumers of all kind (race, religion, disability) and offer the most efficient service possible to show that you’re a reputable brand. On top of this training, you should also make your staff aware of any new products or services that you begin to offer so that they can give customers all of the information that they require.

There are other areas that can be looked into. Research has suggested that customers will spend up to 13 minutes in a store — so it’s important that you deliver an exceptional service. Queues are notoriously long here in the UK and can be the biggest contributing factor to a customer’s walk-out. To combat this, why not look at queue management software and point of sales service?

Sources:

https://www.lucidpress.com/blog/25-branding-stats-facts

https://www.thebalancesmb.com/retail-uniforms-good-or-bad-2889981

GUEST BLOG: Innovative thinking will lead to happier times in retail

By Tridip Saha, Head of Business Europe, Sonata Software

UK retail continues to endure turbulent times.  Last year witnessed a litany of store closures on the high street.

Traditional retailers have been criticised for not adapting to change, failing to meet customer expectations and not moving quickly enough with digital developments.  Online channels are perceived as more convenient and competitive and are favoured by a growing population of shoppers. 

Retailers stand on the brink and must acknowledge the challenges ahead.  Otherwise, with more risk comes the threat of closure. The industry has undergone a sea change and past measures such as, cost-reduction exercises will not reverse fortunes; merely acting as sticking plasters to mask the problems for another day.

To remain competitive retailers, particularly small to mid-sized ones, need a radical rethink on how they can reach and interact with new customers while delivering a unique, memorable and ultimately, satisfying shopping experience to encourage shoppers to part with their cash.  With limited sums for investment, innovative thinking and the creative use of technology could provide the stimulus for growth.

More innovation is required in the acquisition of customers.  The Internet and e-Commerce have enabled millions of businesses to reach customers anywhere in the world.  Understanding and adapting to their wants demands a more personalized shopping experience, and that could mean innovations such as enabling a shopper to build their own product who could customise every minute detail.

Eyewear retailers and eye health providers could let customers choose lenses and frames then order and have them delivered to any part of the world. 

The business of fashion is also changing with technology.  Fashion brands have been experimenting with the idea of digitally designing garments.  Designs are accessible from a digital library that are downloaded and printed off which can be made by following a tutorial.  The garment can be digitally manipulated, changing colour, fabric choice, accessory details etc – personalising the final product.  Doing this digitally means avoiding dead stock and over-production.  While this is happening with manufacturing today, imagine the potential if customers were given the power to create their own designs.  Downloading a suit design, sending it to a 3D printer then wearing it by the evening is not as far-fetched as it may sound. 

Shopping anytime, anywhere has been a mantra in retail for years.  Artificial intelligence, analytics, robot vision will help retailers, with the deepest pockets, better predict sales, improve visibility of stock and shorten delivery times.  Smaller retailers will need to be more inventive with their tech investments. AI and chatbots could curiously become the way we talk with some retailers.  It is no secret that a lot of millennials prefer to type than talk and are more comfortable interacting with Companies through a screen than on the phone.  Traditional ways of marketing and selling to customers are becoming increasingly difficult. People don’t really answer their phones to sales calls and aren’t always receptive to outbound messaging and marketing.  AI and chatbots could find their way onto WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Viber on our phones and have a ‘general’ dialogue about our orders, which would be like any other conversation.

Chatbots have the potential to save huge dollars in customer support manhours by filtering out some of the lower-level issues. Sonata is working with one of its clients for implementing chatbots as the first level of customer support which can be seamlessly transferred to a real agent in case of complex requests.

In-home and delivery services will prosper to rid us of the ‘necessary but dull’ shopping that we all have to do.  Commodity purchases such as, household day-to-day items i.e. toilet paper, washing up liquid, etc are already being affected by subscription businesses like Amazon or Tesco’s with auto-renewals, same-day/hour delivery and one-click ordering.  Independent stores with the right kind of technology or platform could also join the party.  

Cross-channel fulfilment can be challenge if you have disparate systems so a unified commerce platform enables frictionless fulfilment.  With a single view of inventory customers can either do Click & Collect or order online and returns in store and you can deliver through independent stores and much more. 

Digital ecosystems help businesses build connections between people, departments, organisations, partners, adjacent industries – and even the competition. Ecosystems are already helping retailers get closer to customers.  An interconnected platform can gather and analyse huge amounts of data generated by an ecosystem to enable more intelligent transactions and decisions to be made i.e. customer and vendor reviews, personalised recommendations, offers and predictive supply.  As a retailer you can either create your own ecosystem with someone else’s help or hop onto an existing one that boosts what you have to offer.  And it might also pave the way for new and unexpected business opportunities

Despite the doom and gloom, retailers have a fantastic opportunity to evolve through being innovative and creative with the technology on offer.  Happier times lie ahead for those willing to take the risk and ensure a frictionless retailing process through digital-ready operations.

About the Author
Tridip Saha is an experienced business leader in the IT services industry with a passion to partner enterprises in applying technology to deliver business outcomes. He has held consulting & sales leadership positions with leading IT service providers in driving business growth and delivering transformations with clients across industries such as Retail, CPG, Travel, Technology & Financial Services globally. 

GUEST BLOG: Bricks, mortar and digitisation on the High Street

The high street is dying, right?  The huge surge in online competition for bricks and mortar stores has undoubtedly had a huge impact, with many physical traders going to the wall.  In this piece, Propsellers – which facilitates commercial propertyexchange across the UK – takes a look at ways to embrace tech to make physical stores potentially more viable…

Utilising the benefits of Email receipts

In a survey conducted by YouGov for email marketing software providers, Bronto Software, it was found that 44 per cent of consumers would like to receive digital copies of receipts whenever they made a purchase in-store. However, just a third of the survey’s respondents said that they were given this opportunity.

When you consider that 64 per cent of those involved in the survey would be open to receiving additional marketing messages, 34 per cent product promotions and 31 per cent information about loyalty programmes too, you should really consider making them a part of your business’ offering. 

Your email receipts can include a message asking if customers would like to opt-in to your company’s marketing emails to stay up-to-date, as well as a bounce-back offer for completing a survey online — something that will appeal to consumers and also allow you to keep track of their actions.

It’s a good idea to include details on your email receipt about how someone can contact your purchase after they have made a purchase too. Do this by pointing them to the places online where they can ask someone at your company a question, leave a review and make an enquiry in the unfortunate event they need to make a return. Links to your social media channels will encourage happy customers to remain engaged with your brand.

On top of all of this, email receipts have the added benefit of putting your brand in a positive light as it showcases that you’re thinking about the environment by trying to save paper. 

Going interactive with your retail displays is a must …

For decades, retailers have had to focus on giving static retail displays unique designs and bold colours in order to grab the attention of customers — whether that is through window displays or when promoting the must-have products of the time when someone is browsing inside a shop. Interactive window displays have now emerged though and are naturally eye-catching with their hi-tech designs and excellent use of lighting effects. 

Research by retail website, I Am Omnichannel, underlines the benefits of enhancing your stores with some interactive retail displays. According to its study, 70 per cent of women and 50 per cent of men see shopping as a form of entertainment. What’s more, 70 per cent of customers say that digital signage is entertaining. 

Conversion rates at your stores could also witness a significant boost with an interactive retail display, as 30 per cent of customers said that they end up making a purchase after engaging with this technology. With that amount of potential extra custom, the cost for getting these displays installed could quickly be reimbursed.

If you don’t offer Click & Collect – you should!

Click & Collect, which allows customers to buy items online and then pick them up at one of the retailer’s physical stores, is a brilliant blend of eCommerce and high-street shopping. According to research by Macfarlane Packaging, it became the third most popular online service in the UK during 2017 behind just online banking and online shopping in general.

There are so many reasons why you should consider introducing Click & Collect services at your company — with benefits being offered to customers and retailers alike.

From a consumer point of view, Click & Collect grants them more control with their orders as they can decide where they want their items to be delivered too. In fact, delivery company, Shutl, conducted a survey which found that 95 per cent of respondents would consider shopping with another retailer should their first choice not be able to provide a suitable delivery option for their needs. 

Customers will also be given the opportunity to get around delivery costs and also get reassurance that an item that they are keen to own can still be purchased even if it’s sold out at their local stores.

One of the main benefits when it comes to retailers is that Click & Collect has the potential to increase sales. This is because customers who visit a physical store to pick up their order could be inclined to buy even more items as they work their way to a shop’s collection desk. Retail Assist found this to be a case at fashion retailer, New Look, as it discovered 25 per cent of Click & Collect customers make additional purchases in their stores. You can capitalise on this further by putting your most eye-catching items and best deals along the path that customers will take from a store’s entrance to the collection desk.

Sources:

https://marketingland.com/why-sending-receipts-via-email-is-a-good-idea-25423

https://www.shopify.com/retail/6-ways-retailers-can-leverage-email-receipts

https://pointofsale.com/On-Managing/Four-Advantages-Of-Emailing-Receipts.html

http://www.bizreport.com/2015/11/e-receipts-under-used-as-additional-marketing-vehicle.html

https://www.macfarlanepackaging.com/blog/embracing-benefits-click-collect/http://www.sky-technology.eu/en/blog/article/item/5-benefits-of-interactive-retail-displays-on-customer-experience.html

GUEST BLOG: How will Brexit affect eCommerce?

Brexit brings a wave of uncertainty and change to the UK business landscape, and since the day the UK voted to leave the EU, it’s been a whirlwind.

But what will the landscape look like leading up to, and after Brexit? What kind of impact will it have on eCommerce, especially smaller sellers just starting up?

With thousands of startups launching each year, will the looming shadow of Brexit threaten the livelihood of new businesses and discourage people from starting out?

Khaos Control delves into what the future looks like for both new and established eCommerce businesses, with the recent Brexit upheaval…

The recent rejection of the withdrawal deal has left so many (un)expected changes and regulations on the horizon. The public is left wondering what the next steps are, with the chance of a no deal impending. Although nothing can be predicted for sure, knowing what may be in store will allow retailers and businesses alike to prepare and adapt to a post-Brexit reality. Here are a few areas that eCommerce sellers will need to consider now and in the future:

Tariffs

The import of goods due to tariffs is an area predicted to be affected post-Brexit. As an EU member, Britain has always had the luxury of free trade with the EU, and other EU enabled countries such as Norway, Switzerland, South Korea and Africa. However, with Brexit underway, eCommerce sellers currently importing goods from the EU, or selling to customers in the EU, may see tariffs and additional taxes on goods occur. Business for Britain estimates tariffs costing British exporters £7.4 billion a year. SME’s shouldn’t see too much of an impact as fees would likely be the problem for the customer you’re sending goods to, unless you decide to pay these import fees beforehand (which isn’t recommended). If you’re a larger eCommerce enterprise, some consideration and planning will need to occur to ensure you’re ready for the tariffs and fees coming your way.

Increase of sales in Europe

With the value of the British pound dropping to become one of the worst performing currencies worldwide, imports to the UK have become more expensive, whilst  British goods and exports have become cheaper to shoppers in Europe. In the case of eCommerce platform XSellco, their UK clients boosted their sales by 49%, with European customers making up 15.5% of total sales a month, up from 12.8% the year before.

In light of this, UK seller’s, should consider European marketplaces and ensure their eCommerce store has auto-translation features, as well as the ability to support multiple currencies.

Order fulfilment

For UK eCommerce sellers who sell products to consumers outside of the UK, the changes in value-added tax will have an impact. If the UK leaves the EU with no Brexit deal, businesses would no longer have to collect VAT from sales to customers in the EU. No VAT means prices would most likely be lower for products, however, fulfilment and shipping may be slower. This is because of cross-channel trade disruptions like customs and product conformity procedures.

Deal or no deal, putting a solution in place to help with fulfilment is advisable, in order to make the process easier either way. A software system will implement structure and automation into day-to-day business, speeding up the packing and shipping process, as well as ensuring your business delivers to customers as quickly as possible, which is both advantageous in light of Brexit and also favourable by current and future customers.

Searching closer to home

With the overwhelmingly negative press surrounding Brexit, it’s safe to say a lot of UK shoppers may start to feel uncertainty with looking abroad for the best deals. As a UK eCommerce business, you may well see your UK sales increase as a result of Brexit, as customers are looking closer to home for deals in fear of tariffs or hidden costs that they may be forced to pay for themselves.

If you’re a seller located in the UK reevaluating your marketing campaigns to target British customers would be a valuable move. You could use key British holidays to attract customers to your products or use seasonal cues to encourage more of a British audience. Also evaluating your competitors is key, because while UK shoppers may be more inclined to buy products from those close by, they won’t be afraid to find the best deals and shop around.

Lack of skilled workers

Another possible consideration for eCommerce businesses is a shortage of skilled workers. Brexit could introduce new visa requirements and other limitations, which would make it much more difficult for businesses to outsource workers from the EU, with working visa requirements both a challenging and time-consuming process. This could be especially challenging for businesses that require staff to have skills such as speaking in more than one language. In 2016, it was reported that more than 80% of the adult working-age population within the EU, knew one or more foreign languages. With reported stats, it seems some changes may need to be made for those businesses that outsource workers from the Eurozone, as outsourcing multi-lingual customer service will only become more expensive. Increased labour costs will also contribute to the price customers will pay for a product or service, and in turn affect the supply chain.

For eCommerce businesses worried about Brexit, planning for potential pitfalls is key. Despite all we know about Brexit, there are still changes to come that can’t be predicted till they happen, so preparing for potential issues (or gains) is best to ensure when the time comes, Brexit doesn’t rock your business boat too much.

GUEST BLOG: Data-driven insights, DNVBs and the death of the agency model – what does 2019 have in store for retailers and their digital partners?

Jonathan McNamara, co-founder and CEO of digital consultancy RetroFuzz discusses the trends most likely to impact the industry in 2019…

2018 was an exciting, and challenging, year for digital marketing. Conversations around Artificial Intelligence (AI) and influencer marketing became fused, as the rise of virtual influencers like Lil Miquela and Sophia the Robot marked new opportunities for engagement.

Concerns over security and data privacy, heightened by GDPR compliance, remained at the top of everyone’s Twitter feeds. Chatbots, conversational UX and video marketing are all trends from this year that will spill, and expand, into the next. As the year comes to an end, we spent some time thinking about what the digital sector can expect from the next one.

Here are our predictions for what the retail sector should expect and see being implemented by the digital industry in 2019.

The agency model is dead

Or at least, it’s evolving. The gig economy, the 24-hour work day, and new perspectives on work-life balance means that more people than ever are working remotely – either as part of a flexi-time scheme or as freelancers. There has become less demand for a generalist mindset; many retail brands now employ in-house creative team members, making the full-service style of agency feel not only outdated, but redundant.

In 2019, we predict that the most progressive agencies will begin to reinvent themselves as a flexible, agile team of specialists that are built around their client’s exact needs. The agency model will give way to the rise of digital consultancies, who tailor their skillset to fit around a particular project or client – not the other way around.

As an embedded extension of their in-house team, this new form of agency – the digital consultancy – is more than just a workforce. They are advocates for their clients, as well as their creative partners. This model will value transparency and collaboration; empowering clients with expertise and working closely with them through every stage of the process: from strategy, to delivery and finally, implementation.

How DNVBs are doing it better

Digitally Native Vertical Brands (DNVBs) are created on the internet, for the internet. Beauty brand Glossier built it’s cult-like following almost entirely through Instagram (it now has 1.6m followers). Historically, there have been two channels: wholesalers and direct to consumer. DNVBs don’t engage in wholesale; everything they produce is from a direct-to-consumer perspective. They’re changing customer service as much as they’re transforming User Experience (UX) – and that’s important.

In 2019, established retail brands will make a point of learning from the DNVB model. According to We Are Social, more than 3 billion people are on social media worldwide. DNVBs like Glossier have capitalised on social media platforms to tell their brand story; and have built their audiences through customer engagement. Listening to the customer, and learning from them, are not just built into the design process; for DNVBs they’re a point of origin. Structuring a business around the consumer experience, and prioritising their perspective, is the future of accelerated growth in the digital sector.

This will be the year that DNVBs make their biggest challenge to the high street yet: by expanding into physical retail. Following the likes of established DNVBs like Warby Parker, Casper and Bonobos who have already reimagined their customer centric, digital concept as bricks-and-mortar shops. As the customer becomes more discerning, UX and brand narrative becomes all the more important. We believe big retail brands can benefit from focusing on their direct-to-consumer channels and creating engaging, purpose-driven content that tells a story worth sharing.

Data driven insights

According to an article in Forbes, 2.5 quintillion bytes of data were created every day; 90% of data in the world was generated in the last two years – a trend that shows no signs of slowing down. The same research has shown that Google now processes more than 40,000 searches every day, while smart device ownership is predicted to grow to a projected fifty billion by 2020*.

Investigation of data is not just integral to the UX design process, it’s the start of it all. In 2019, retail brands will use data insight to listen more closely to their customers, and apply their findings to inform design decisions. Through software like Google Analytics and Hotjar, screen recordings, scroll maps, polls on websites and face-to-face conversations with consumers, digital experts can gain a 360 degree understanding of a user’s experience. It’s all about getting a clear feedback loop on what the customer wants; telling a story by following the funnel of data, from where it begins through to conversion. We predict that data and insight will become a pivotal element in conversations with clients around UX, and empower their decisions to take onboard new directions of design.

Marketing automation, AI and personalisation

During 2019, marketing automation tools powered by AI will continue to increase, and hone, personalisation. Mapping the customer’s experience – from the messages they receive, to their eCommerce journey – will fuel the UX design process in new ways. According to research by Forrester, global spending on marketing automation tools will grow from $11.4 billion U.S. dollars in 2017 to $25.1 billion in 2023.

The use of marketing automation will only increase as digital marketers discover new, smarter ways to learn about their customers. New trends, like Machine Learning-as-a-Service (MLaaS) products, Machine Learning Data Catalogs (MLDCs), semantic SEO and advancements in chatbots will have a bigger part to play during 2019.

Ultimately, marketing automation and AI will feed into the new model of consultancy that we’ll see more of next year by empowering agencies and their retail clients with rich data and a customer-centric approach to the design process.

But don’t forget the basics

The next big thing in the digital marketing space is all well and good but at the heart of everyone’s strategy for 2019 should be a clear focus on getting the greatest commercial return for their investments in eCommerce. Sometimes, that means accepting the latest tech innovation or update is not in a brand’s best interest; forgoing a few quick wins, challenging all that is trendy, and achieving, together, long-term, lasting results that add real value to their business. Going back to basics is top of our wish list for clients for 2019 – putting digital marketing spend where it is needed and gaining the greatest ROI possible.