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How can retail trade suppliers prepare for Brexit?

With the UK’s upcoming exit from the European Union finally confirmed following the Christmas general election, John Leyden FCA, CEO and Founder of Carbon Accountancy, discusses how trade suppliers can prepare for the UK’s exit from the single market…

2019 was undoubtedly a difficult year for UK retailers. Whilst more generous economic analysts may describe the year as ‘challenging’, let’s be under no illusions – we ended a decade of high street fragility with a particularly tough year. According to The Centre for Retail Research, 300 stores closed their doors every week with 2,700 jobs lost with them. We lost no less than 37 high street staples, affecting almost 43,000 employees – Jack Wills, Mothercare, Clintons and Bathstore to name but a few. And within days of ringing in the new decade, Debenhams announced its resolution to their ailing fortunes by revealing the 19 locations that will permanently shut up shop in the coming weeks. 2020 could have started on a cheerier note for retailers.

The crisis on our high street shows no sign of subsiding, as online shopping continues to evolve and provide better experiences for consumers and preferred business rates and overheads for retailers. Other problems, however, have been caused by the ever-looming uncertainty of Brexit. Unfavourable foreign exchange rates have pushed up prices for retailers and consumers alike, whilst the latter’s confidence has sunk to new lows.

The Conservative re-election over the Christmas period has, at the very least, removed one level of uncertainty. Like it or not, the UK will be leaving the European Union. But with it will come further bumps in the road for UK retailers, particularly following the end of the transition period and our exit from the single market. It all relates to the cash impact of VAT imports – and it could be the final nail in the coffin for many more retailers if they aren’t prepared for the changes afoot.

What changes are coming?

As a single market, retailers do not have to pay tax on imports from the EU. This will all change following the end of the transition period on 31st December 2020. At this point, goods will come through a custom border with import duties and VAT payable at the point of entry. This will apply to the majority of goods coming into the UK from EU suppliers. Foodstuffs are one of few exceptions to this rule so major food retailers will be largely spared from these changes.

What could this mean for consumers and retailers?

Consumers will feel the brunt of the cost of import duties, as retail prices will increase to cover these additional costs. And whilst retailers can reclaim the VAT of goods imported from the EU from HMRC in the quarterly VAT return, it is the payment at the point of entry that presents the real problem.

Within the single market, not only are goods imported from the EU exempt from VAT but retailers purchase goods with a significant credit period, which can be up to 150 days for larger retailers. Such a credit period allows retailers to begin selling goods to the end consumer before payment to their suppliers, maximising their cash flow – all-important in the current retail climate. If retailers are required to pay VAT on entry, it could have a significant impact on their business.

For example, a retailer purchasing £100 million in imported goods each year will now need to pay a total of £20 million in tax on these purchases. And with the tax on imported goods payable on day one and, in many cases, unable to be reclaimed for four months – the retailer would lose £6.6 million in ready cash within the first four months of Brexit.

Could this spell the end for more high street retailers? Possibly not. Retailers may already have a solution – and their salvation may come at the expense of their suppliers.

What could be the impact on EU-based trade suppliers?

Word on the street is that large retailers plan on passing the VAT payments on to the trade suppliers themselves, sparing themselves the initial cash hit. It’s an unsurprising outcome considering retailers like – or rather need – to hold on to their cash.

But is it realistic to expect EU-based trade suppliers to be able to take the hit? They too will need to reclaim VAT within the UK, which will require a UK-based branch for them to import their own goods to before selling on to retailers. Whilst such a global infrastructure is likely to already be in place for large companies, it could spell trouble for smaller or medium-sized suppliers. It is these suppliers who may need to prepare for the future.

How could smaller and medium-sized EU-based trade suppliers get around this?

If UK retailers plan on passing the VAT cost onto their EU suppliers, those without a UK presence face a difficult decision. Their first option is to work with a distributor – a separate UK based company who will facilitate the purchase and sale of their goods. Whilst this may be a good temporary solution, it adds a layer of complexity to trade and suppliers lose a significant profit margin. It’s unviable in the long-term.

As the all-too-familiar phrase goes, ‘Brexit means Brexit’. There is no going back. Biting the bullet and building a UK presence is by far the most sustainable and simplest option. Luckily, the UK is an easy place to do business.

One saving grace which could soften the blow of Brexit for both retailers and suppliers is the prospect of a trade deal. With no clear visibility currently on what this could look like, we can be certain that it will be a world away from the ease of trade we experience with our European neighbours at the moment. And, of course, that’s assuming a deal can be reached. ‘No deal’ remains a very real prospect, and one our government doesn’t seem too shy of.

What’s clear is that either retailers or suppliers will bear the brunt of the pain once we leave the single market. Just who that will be – we’ll have to wait and see. In the meantime, it wouldn’t do any harm to either to formulate a contingency plan.

About the Author

John Leyden FCA was shortlisted for the Finance Director of the Year Awards 2012 by the ICAEW. He spent 7 years at KPMG before starting Carbon Accountancy, which prides itself on outstanding client service and meeting client needs through trust and dedication. John specialises in business advice, audits, tax planning, corporate finance, due diligence and share option schemes.

The firm was shortlisted in Accountancy Age’s British Accountancy Awards 2012 as Independent Firm of The Year, Greater London and was named as one of the “runners and riders” – one to watch – in Accountancy Age Top 50 + 50 firms in the UK. 

 

Will digitalisation save the High Street?

By Chris Long, Managing Consultant at Capgemini

High Street retail sales have been at an all-time low for the past few years. Accountancy firm BDO recently confirmed that September recorded the worst consumer spending in eight years, and yet business rates continue to rise, and the slide of the Sterling is pushing up costs. All of this makes bleak reading for retailers…

Nevertheless, we shouldn’t write off brick-and-mortar just yet! Recent innovations like Amazon’s Go concept stores, Virgin Holidays opening a new chain of stores allowing customers to try out holiday experiences, and Action for Children opening a pop-up store to drive more participation for their Secret Santa campaign, shows that mortar isn’t heading the way of the dodo anytime soon. In fact, far from shying away from the high street, digital-native brands such as Warby Parker and Casper are actually moving from online-only to having a physical presence.

So, what is causing this renewed focus on brick-and-mortar and how can retailers create an in-store experience that can compete against the ever-growing popularity of online retail?

Thinking omni-channel

Customer expectations are constantly growing, with demand focused on convenience, speed, and the ability to choose where and which channel to shop through. In order to fulfil these criteria, retailers need to ensure they have both a physical and digital presence.

The main issue is that most retailers have been far too slow to adapt to this new shopping experience, resulting in sub-par service as customers move between the two. To solve this, retailers are attempting to leverage their stores to balance out the discrepancies between the in and-out-of-store experience; transforming their business to an ‘omni-channel’ experience.

However, many retailers tend to mistake ‘omni-channel’ with ‘multi-channel’.  Whereas multi-channel relates to providing customers with the ability to shop and complete a purchase with a brand through more than one channel, omni-channel provides more of a comprehensive and integrated approach to retailing. Customers can start and stop their customer journey in one channel then pick up and complete it in another.

While customers still have a single view of a brand through an omni-channel experience, behind the scenes the picture is far more complex, with master data management required to piece together the jigsaw of  orders, payments, products and inventory into a single view of the customer to offer a seamless cross-channel experience.

It is an ongoing battle and challenge that retailers are facing – but one that will allow retailers to derive real value. True omni-channel transformation will enable stores to act as fulfilment centres, creating hassle-free shopping for customers, whilst also increasing footfall and reducing the cost to serve.

Immersing yourself in the in-store experience

Omni-channel transformation provides retailers with the foundations and capabilities to transform their customer experience. But what does great customer experience mean and look like in the digital age?

Firstly, it should be centred on breaking down the barriers between a retailer’s online and offline offering through delivering an inspirational, immersive and interconnected experience for customers. At the moment, for example, consumers are increasingly shifting from wanting to buy individual products, to buying into the types of experiences and lifestyles that they view on online platforms like Instagram and Pinterest. Retailers must take advantage of this and reimagine both the in-store and online experience to showcase products that inspire and surprise, rather than stacking them in aisles or on traditional displays. Stores should also be trialling more immersive initiatives, such as 360-degree displays or product-testing areas in-store, to create a hybrid physical-digital experience that draws customers into the store and makes them want to connect with a brand.

The omni-channel also enables retailers to connect customers through technology, augmenting the store experience and empowering customers with all the information they need at their fingertips. Asking a chatbot which aisle the milk can be found in a sprawling supermarket, where the nearest store is that stocks your size of shoe, where to find your favourite store in a busy shopping centre; all these possibilities enable the customer to engage in a 1:1 conversation with a brand and help maintain and drive customer engagement.

So far so good, but the key to great customer experience isn’t just to offer each of these elements in isolation – it is to tie them together into an interconnected digital and physical experience that has been genuinely personalised for each customer.

The retail industry is in the midst of one of the biggest disruptions it has ever faced, and many businesses are at risk of reacting too late. Retailers must seek change now and address the barriers between their in and out-of-store experience by using omni-channel and customer experience transformation to rethink the store’s role.

The benefits of a balanced and optimised channel strategy will be the increased recruitment of customers across channels. This ‘omni-channel recruitment’ will be central for bricks and clicks retailers in the digital age. Store conversion rates can be up to 14x higher in-store than online, highlighting that if retailers are able to develop a compelling channel strategy that drives customers into key stores and retail locations, they can boost sales and growth.

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