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Guest Blog

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.

GUEST BLOG: How retailers can embrace cryptocurrencies to boost business and loyalty

By Raj Agrawal, Founder & Tech Entrepreneur, Dewber

Traditional loyalty schemes are in need of an overhaul – customers are tired of carrying around multiple store cards and retailers are looking for new ways to encourage sales.

This is where cryptocurrency comes in, offering a new platform that retailers can customise and use how they see fit. Any retail business can incorporate cryptocurrency into their business operations, creating new opportunities and advantageous benefits for both the business and the customer.

Loyalty schemes are nothing new. Big retailers have seen loyal customers purchase 90% more regularly than casual customers, and the average spend can be much higher when a customer knows they are collecting points. The problem is, smaller and independent retailers can find it difficult to achieve the same amount of customer retention through their loyalty scheme alone.

Many loyalty points are forgotten about, and too often accounts become inactive. Globally, there is over 100 billion dollars worth of unclaimed loyalty points, leading to the question: How can we innovate our loyalty schemes to keep customers coming back?

Cryptocurrencies may seem complicated, but once on board, it can give retailers the opportunity to attract and keep a new, young customer base. Over 17% of millennials have purchased digital coins, which can be spent and traded freely through a centralised, online system. This cashless system is gaining momentum, and retailers can maximise business by incorporating this into their loyalty schemes. By receiving digital tokens instead of traditional loyalty points, customers are getting something they really want – the ability to earn loyalty from everywhere and choose where to spend thereby creating shared loyalty experience on the high street. The chances are they will keep coming back to you when they know their digital purse is growing.

Once a retailer is signed up to a blockchain-based loyalty scheme, they will become part of a wider, global network of retailers who offer the same digital tokens and business specific rewards. Customers can receive digital tokens with every purchase, which can then be redeemed globally at any participating business. It’s up to you how the tokens are awarded and redeemed. Customers will become magnetised to these businesses who offer a common goal, leaving the individual store cards behind. This innovative system allows a much greater use of loyalty points by the customer, which in turn can only lead to more committed customer base for retailers that may have struggled before.

By introducing cryptocurrency into your loyalty scheme, you can begin to capture the attention of the younger generations, and ultimately improve customer engagement and repeat spends. Companies such as Dewber are gearing up to provide a user-friendly platform for retailers to get involved, and aid with navigating this game-changing way of rewarding customers.

Whether you are a café, bar or independent retailer, offering digital tokens could be the business-savvy way forward.

About the Author

Dewber founder and CEO Raj Agrawal has over 20 years experience in business, technology, senior management experience in operations, IT security, marketing and finance within fortune 50 companies like Deutsche Bank, Prudential (Vitality), Visa Europe and Deloitte UK.

Dewber is a tech start-up which uses blockchain to bring innovation to the loyalty economy with the ability to run global rewards and crypto points schemes. Dewber offers a digital mobile experience, customer engagement, cross channel redemption capabilities and strictly does not perform any data mining by collecting or analysing customer purchase history for marketing or cross product promotion.

GUEST BLOG: Where are department stores going wrong? 

As alarming headlines continue to emerge about some of the most established UK department stores, it’s natural that the industry is questioning the future of retail and the place of bricks-and-mortar stores. But is retail as we know it beyond repair or is it set for a revival?

The ability to have an emotional resonance with a customer and add genuine value to their shopping experience, are key differentiators that high street stores still hold over e-commerce, but these can quickly become lost.

Tom Downes, CEO, Quail Digital discusses how retailers can keep hold of this differentiator, improve their customer experience and still rival the e-commerce competition…

The Core Issues

It’s obvious really but attractive stores, interesting products, and motivated staff are the lifeblood of  bricks-and-mortar retail, and always have been. Department stores that sold-up, closed down or failed altogether were almost certainly making basic mistakes well before the internet became their newest competitor and accelerated their demise.

Sears being just the most recent example of a retailer that had it all; longstanding supplier relationships, a great distribution network and an enormous and loyal customer base, only to let it all slip through their hands like sand. Turning the browsing shopper into a buying customer is about giving them the reasons and means to ‘treat’ themselves, and while that’s achieved partly through presentation and partly through the available products, it’s also about the enthusiasm of the store associate.

A well-trained associate creates the moment and through engaging with other team members ensures that the correct expertise, samples, products, sizes and alternatives are produced effortlessly for the customer, creating a quick, easy and positive shopping experience, inspiring them to spend.

Consider a recent UK-based retail trends survey that found that whilst 74% of consumers still prefer going to a physical store they have little and dwindling patience poor service. According to an additional study, 60% of customers have walked out of a store in the last year due to poor customer service and those asked cited more friendly members of staff, less waiting time and better communication between in-store teams as the top three critical points for customer service.

This shows that a traditional human element is still a big part of what the customer wants and expects when shopping in-store, particularly so in a department store where customers would be expecting a higher standard of service than one might experience in the high street.

To provide the quickest, smoothest experience retailers need to simply connect their teams to one another. Traditional communication needs such as tannoys and radios are intrusive on the customer, don’t instill them with much confidence and are easy for staff members to ignore. Some retailers have adopted mobiles and tablets into their retail teams as a potential solution, but 41% of consumers believe that headsets are more likely to improve the overall customer experience and speed of service.

Using single digital channel headsets ensures that all staff are continually on message and as a result, managers can efficiently reallocate store associates to specific tasks as required. In addition, staff can also communicate with each other – asking questions of product specialists to immediately answer a customer query, for example, or quickly getting someone on the shop floor to fulfil a two for one offer for a customer already at the check-out. This immediate and shared communication enables store associates to work together as a team in order to improve overall efficiency and productivity.

Conclusion

In order to encourage shoppers to not only come in but return time and time again, department stores need to be built around the behaviours and needs of the customer, not the other way round. A good customer experience is the foundation of retail success and the right department stores have this in bundles.

But in order to thrive when others are dwindling, stores must realise that their secret weapon really is found in the store associates. They have an essential role to play in executing a good customer experience across every touch point and if they are armed with the tools they need in order to excel and exceed customer expectations, then the rest will follow.

GUEST BLOG: Cross-brand collaborations – ‘X’ marks the spot

By Red Hot Penny

Cross-brand collaborations seem to be everywhere right now. But why the sudden explosion in collaborations? And why do brands do it?

We’ve delved into some of the likely reasons behind cross-brand collaborations and collected some handy examples of those collaborations in action.

Open up new markets

One reason for collaboration is to open new, complementary markets and get your brand in front of potential customers.

We’re seeing this a lot in the fashion world. High-fashion brands are constantly collaborating with high-street brands. Think Moschino X H&M, Fenty X Puma, or Junya Watanabe X The North Face.  It helps to tap into different customer groups and introduce higher end brands to the high-street shopper through capsule collections.

IKEA are current kings of the new market collaborations. They regularly collaborate with other brands and individuals all of which open up the IKEA brand to new customers and markets.

Show you “get” your customer

Sometimes a collaboration isn’t necessarily about accessing new customers but showing your existing customers that you get them and understand what they want. It increases brand value and makes your fans even more dedicated.

LEGO are particularly good at this with Star Wars, Batman, Simpsons and Harry Potter brand collaborations all reinforcing their respective brands even further within their target markets.

Sports brands are also getting in on the action. Nike X Cristiano Ronaldo, Puma X Rihanna, and Adidas x Pharrell Williams are all examples of brands spotting trends amongst existing customer bases and using collaborations to reinforce their brand with their customers.

Get noticed

The marketplace in all sectors is so crowded now that brands have to do something out of the ordinary to be heard and raise awareness. And a collaboration is one way to do just that.

Some of the most hyped collaborations of recent times include Supreme X Louis Vuitton (what’s a blog about collaborations without at least one mention of Supreme?), Nike X Apple, and Uber X Spotify.

Smaller brands can use collaborations to get ahead and piggy-back on the reputation of their better-known collaborator too. Palace Skateboards, well known in their niche but not globally renowned, have had great success with their Adidas collaborations.

Through the collaboration the smaller brands get access to a much bigger audience and the larger brand gets positioned as a champion of the next wave. Win – Win.

Promote a cause

Brands can also team up for selfless reasons. The CALM X F&F #MarkYourMan campaign, WWF X Whiskas and GLAAD X Asos collaborations all help shine a light on different charity causes such as preventing suicide, protecting tigers and promoting LGBTQ rights.

A collaboration can be a fantastic way for a charity to expand its reach and awareness with the relevant people, while also generating more funding. For the supporting brand, it can create good feeling as they demonstrate their commitment to charitable causes.

Reinvigorate a brand

Sometimes a brand collaboration can be a great way to shake the dust off an established brand and create a bit of positive buzz to show that it’s still relevant.

Heinz soup cans had been largely untouched for 108 years until a design collaboration with Cath Kidston was launched in April this year.

Crayola, beloved crayon brand and supplier of one of the best smells from your childhood have been getting in on the action, launching a make-up range with Clinique that sent beauty bloggers crazy. Their second make-up range released with Asos is primed and ready for festival season.

Both ranges will have reintroduced the brand to many former Crayola fans, and tapped into nostalgia to drive the brand forward.

Tap into the latest trends

Collaborations aren’t necessarily long-term deals and that’s never more evident than when brands team up with pop culture flavours-of-the-month for short term collaborations.

The marketers at Topshop might love Stranger Things, the guys at Drop Dead probably binge watch Game of Thrones and the team at Covergirl are obviously massive Star Wars fans, but the mass appeal of the shows and the buzz around new releases is more likely the reason for the collaboration than any shared ideals or agendas.

Collaborations between brands don’t look like they’re going to stop any time soon, and with the ever-growing pressure on the high-street it may soon be a case of “collaborate or die” for those retailers who haven’t done so yet.

So, whether it’s to open up new markets, reinvigorate a brand or shine a light on a cause close to a brand’s heart which brands do you think will be the next to collaborate?

An unedited and extended version of this blog can be found at https://www.redhotpenny.com/insight/cross-brand-collaborations/

GUEST BLOG: The pitfalls of paid search

By Ben Lipscombe, Head of Biddable Media, Red Hot Penny

Your resellers are undercutting you on Google Shopping. What are you doing about it?

Google Shopping is one of the most important channels for generic online growth. But you might be shooting yourself in the foot thanks to the reseller agreements you have in place.

WHY IT’S A PROBLEM

Resellers will discount your product prices due to a lack of awareness around the agreements put in place and/or a lack of restrictions. And with no restrictions in place, your resellers can – and will – sell your products for cheaper.

By the time you realise it is a problem, it’s often too late and you’ll have very little room to negotiate because the agreement (without restrictions on undercutting) is already in place.

This not only strains relationships but also limits the potential you have to drive sales on your own site, so you need to be clear on expectations from the outset.

The ultimate point is that you don’t want to get beaten on price on Google Shopping. It’s essentially a product with a list of prices next to it so is hugely price sensitive.

Having a great brand and strong website won’t matter if someone else can get exactly the same product for cheaper elsewhere. And you don’t want to end up in the position where you’re struggling for growth because your own resellers are selling your products cheaper than you can.

The worst part? You’ll only have yourself to blame.

SOLVING THE PROBLEM

Google have recognised the issue and are bringing out a set of analytical tools that’ll help you pinpoint pricing differences across your product feed – so you can identify issues ahead of time and focus on the areas for growth.

But to help yourself out putting a pricing strategy in place when you first negotiate with your resellers will ensure you leave yourself with the option to sell online through your own site via Google Shopping without the fear of them undercutting you.

In most cases, there’ll already be contracts that exist with no mention of Google Shopping pricing restrictions. So, you’ll need to have a careful discussion with your resellers to reach a compromise without any party feeling hard done-by.

That’s why it’s so important to consider your reseller and partner Shopping agreements pre-emptively.

And remember, Google Shopping is a price-led channel, no matter how big your brand is.

NEXT STEPS

If you’re already in the position where you’ve got agreements in place but no pricing restrictions, or you’re considering working with resellers and don’t want to get tripped up, get in touch for advice on how to approach either situation so you can keep all parties happy.

www.redhotpenny.com