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Conversational Marketing

Retail to embrace conversational marketing in 2018?

New research for iAdvize indicates that conditions are ripe for so-called ‘conversational marketing’ to help retailers drive sales conversions in 2018.

The term is used to describe the use of messaging apps (staffed by both real people and chatbots) by companies as a means of communicating with customers, as opposed to telephone and websites.

iAdvize analysed how different UK sectors are using conversational marketing and the kinds of response and conversion trends they are experiencing – and it makes for interesting reading for retail.

In terms of conversion rate, the cultural goods industry takes the lead with 27.9% of visitors supported via messaging who finalise their order, slightly ahead of general retailers (22.3%).

Websites selling cultural goods are also the ones obtaining the best satisfaction rate  at 93.9%.

On average, it takes retail agents 11 minutes and 31 seconds to handle a chat conversation, with average retail messaging contact turnover of €52.70 per chat.

However, when it comes to gross return on investment, the transportation sector reaches the highest average turnover per contact at €354.10. It seems the sales agents are within transportation are the most responsive among the sectors studied, with an average 1st response given within 26 seconds.

It’s also the transportation sector that boasts the lowest conversation closing time. After the last message of a visitor, agents end a conversation within 2 minutes and 55 seconds, iAdvize says allows them to help other new customers who need their advice. In comparison, the average closing time across all sectors is 5 minutes and 23 seconds.

Finally, it’s the food industry which is most successful in terms of handling time (AHT) with an average handling time of 7 minutes and 46 seconds.

To read the whitepaper in full, click here.

Brightcove Retail Video

EU retailers ‘planning futures as media companies’

New research from Brightcove shows that 81 per cent of European retailers are planning for a future as a media company, with 85 per cent already looking for ways to target consumers in their homes with original content.

In ‘The Future of Retail: Streaming into Your Living Room‘ the video streaming specialist compared the responses of 200 retail decision makers and 2,000 consumers across the UK, France and Germany.

The research, which Brightcove has been detailing at the IBC trade show in Amsterdam, explored the extent to which retailers are experimenting with TV-like digital video experiences to engage with their audiences, and gauge subsequent consumer readiness.

Having seen the likes of Iceland and Matalan (plus brands such as Red Bull) take the lead in terms of content generation, nearly all the retailers surveyed said they are already delivering some form of ‘lean-back’ content offering

Top cited campaign benefits include:

  • Increased revenues (66 per cent)
  • Customers buying a wider range of products (50 per cent)
  • Increased website traffic (45 per cent)

However, retailers also highlighted concerns about content creation, including not having the right in-house skills inhouse (29 per cent), lack of content (28 per cent) and uncertainty about the ROI (25 per cent).

Mark Blair, VP of EMEA at Brightcove, said: “In recent years, video has established itself as an absolute must-have component in any digital marketing strategy, but as driving meaningful consumer engagement becomes ever more difficult, brands are looking for new ways to unlock additional revenue streams. And this has turned their attention to the living room.

“For retailers and brands to be truly successful in what is traditionally the broadcasters’ domain, they must first understand that it’s as much about the quality of the content they’re producing as it is how they are delivering it. Our data revealed that 39 per cent of the European consumers that haven’t watched branded ‘lean-back’ content simply haven’t come across it – only 29 per cent have been served TV-like content from brands via advertising and less than a quarter (24 per cent) as a result of direct targeting.

“For brands, it’s about treading the fine line between being salesy and informative, entertaining and relevant, and matching content output with consumer demand. If they are able to get this balance right, a wealth of revenue and engagement opportunities will be ready and waiting for them.”

BRC Smartphones

Retail search growth driven by smartphones

The latest data from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and Google points to a significant spike in retail-related online searches in 2Q17, driven by smartphone users.

In the UK, retail search volumes on smartphones increased 26% in the second quarter of 2017 compared with the same quarter a year ago.

For all devices across the UK, search volumes maintained year-on-year growth of 7% in the second quarter of 2017.

Interestingly, beauty was the most searched for sector by overseas consumers on mobile devices, reporting growth of 42% in the second quarter of 2017 compared with the same quarter a year ago.

Apparel remained a popular sector for overseas consumers on mobile devices, increasing 38% in the second quarter of 2017 compared with the same quarter a year ago.

Estonia continued to demonstrate the strongest appetite for UK retailers, reporting a 77% growth on mobile devices in Q2 2017 compared with the same quarter a year ago.

Helen Dickinson OBE, Chief Executive at the British Retail Consortium, said: “The growth of UK retail searches online in the second quarter of 2017 remains unchanged on the previous year, although smartphones are increasingly becoming the dominant device for online browsing and therefore the main contributor to this growth. The increase in mobile search volumes over this period is consistent with the upward trend in online non-food sales growth.

“Beauty brands in particular continue to attract interest from overseas as well as UK consumers, which put the category firmly at the top of the growth rankings. It would appear that this could have translated to some extent into product sales, as health and beauty products ranked second highest in online sector performance over the three-month period.”


BRC: Shopper visits through March 2017 a “reassuring sign for retailers”

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) and retail intelligence specialists Springboard have released figures covering the five weeks 26th February – 1st April, showing retail footfall in March grew 1.3% on the previous year, the fastest growth since 2014.

The figure was above the three-month average of -0.2%, although March 2016 included Easter Sunday when many retailers were closed, while the 2017 figure does not and effectively adds one more day’s footfall to the period.

The high street saw the greatest percentage of footfall growth: 1.7%, followed by retail parks at 1.4% and shopping centres at 0.2%. The steepest decline in footfall occurred in Northern Ireland, which fell by 3.7%, followed by the South West at 2.3%.

“Shopper visits increased to all retail destinations in March, resulting in the fastest annual growth in footfall for three years,” commented Helen Dickinson, OBE, chief executive BRC. “This is partly owed to the exclusion of Easter Sunday from the period, which therefore benefits from an additional shopping day. But even looking beyond the distortion, the positive growth across most of the country is a reassuring sign for retailers.

“The high street continues to outperform shopping centres and retail parks, for the second consecutive month. Disappointingly though, this didn’t translate into retail sales, which were down in March on the previous year. Now that the Easter holidays have arrived, the challenge for retailers will be to attract this greater number of high street visitors into their stores.”

Diane Wehrle, Marketing and insights director, Springboard, added: “March definitely provided a break in the clouds, with the +1.3% rise in footfall breaking a six-month consecutive decline and the +0.2% increase in footfall in shopping centres being the first since January 2016. Whilst some of the +1.3% may have been a consequence of the loss of a trading day last year due to an early Easter, the impact of this shift should not be overstated as it will have been mitigated by increased trade on the other days over the Easter trading period.

“Indeed, if anything it is more evidence of the continuing structural shift in the use of retail destinations for leisure and hospitality trips. Virtually all of the increase in footfall in March was derived from the post 5pm period while footfall during the trading hours of 9am to 5pm dropped –by just -0.5% in high streets, but much more significantly, by -7.1%, in shopping centres. Indeed, the worsening of consumer confidence and inflation from last year is likely to be constraining shoppers’ willingness to spend on retail goods. This all lends further evidence to the fact that retail is no longer the sole driver of footfall, with a strong leisure/hospitality offer being a critical element to secure retail success.”


Revealed: UK’s top four retail skills in demand

Analysis by business transformation consultancy Venquis has found the top four skills in demand in the retail sector include data analysis, web design and development, communication and mental agility.

The research comes at a time when skills development within the industry is of critical importance, given it relies on 120,000 EU nationals who could potentially be prevented from working in the UK after BREXIT has been finalised.

In addition, a study by the British Chambers of Commerce has suggested that retailers are being held back by a shortage of workers with digital skills.

Ed Richardson, retail contract consultant at Venquis, provided the following commentary on the most sought after skills:

Data analysis

“Retailers are on an ongoing mission to understand consumers’ as acutely as they possibly can and that often involves analysing huge stacks of data collected on shopping behaviour from a range of sources. As a result, retailers regularly look to recruit professionals who can pick out trends that others will be unable to see that allow them to get ahead of the competition, for roles in areas like category management.”

Web development and design

“This one is hardly surprising and any retailer without an agile, responsive and effective website won’t be able to keep up with the market, it’s as simple as that. Retailers’ sites need to be able to provide a platform to deliver a true omnichannel approach and that requires some of the best and brightest in the market.”


“Things can change rapidly in the retail market, as we all know, and that means communication is of the utmost importance. Buying behaviour and trends can shift overnight and firms can be left behind without having employees who are able to interpret and communicate often challenging concepts to their management teams. Obviously that’s not the only reason communication skills are critical and it’s unlikely you’d find many retail job specs that didn’t include a need for some sort of ability in this area.”

Mental Agility

“There’s a truly colossal amount of change and transformation taking place in the retail arena at the moment as firms look to meet the ever changing needs of their consumers. As a result, retailers are actively seeking those who can prove they can deal with change and can adapt to transforming environments where new ways of working and operating models are regularly introduced. This isn’t going to be a temporary measure and it’s likely that if anything, the pace of change will only increase further. Consequently, retail professionals with an agile mindset and an ability to roll with the punches and adapt to change are likely to be highly sought after in the coming years.”



SRC: Scottish retail facing 10-year crisis

New research by the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) has revealed that more than 4,000 Scottish retailers could be forced to close their doors within 10 years.

The report, entitled ‘What’s Next – The Future of Scottish Retail’, claims that almost a quarter of Scottish retail premises could go out of business by 2025, particularly those in small towns and rural locations, resulting in tens of thousands of people losing their jobs.

Technological changes and the rising costs of being a small business owner are blamed as the cause for the concern.

The SRC warned the rise of online retail would not lead to job creation in Scotland, with most such staff based in the southeast of England and company headquarters.

The Scottish retail sector currently employs around 250,000 people.

The SRC has called on the Scottish government to discuss new strategies for businesses north of the border and to prevent town centres from being “hollowed out.”

In an interview with The Times, Andrew Murphy, chairman of the SRC, explained the situation: “If we care about employment and we care about places we simply have to deal with this issue. The dynamics of change cannot be stopped or reversed. It is only how well we collectively understand and manage it.”

Murphy added: “This is something much more profound and bigger than any one retailer. We can’t be abliavent to the fates of the Stirlings, the Falkirks, the Kirkcaldys, the Glenrothes and the Arbroaths. We still have time and have a chance to think ahead and to make sure the real sharp end of that decline is managed and mitigated.”

Scotland’s economy has shrunk in the last three months of the year, which means the country is now officially in a recession.

Slower shoppers ‘can help boost supermarket sales’

New research has revealed that supermarkets can control the speed of shoppers, helping to boost supermarket sales.

A study by Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) observed 4,000 people in a series of experiments conducted in both supermarkets and in laborites, demonstrating that retail managers can persuade customers to walk at an ideal pace through the aisles by altering lines and patterns on the floor.

Closely spaced, horizontal lines, slowed the pace down at which shoppers travelled through the store, encouraging them to browse. Widen the gaps between the lines and the shoppers moved much more quickly.

Bram Van den Bergh, who led the research, said: “Managing the flow of customers can be a challenge for retailers. When customers rush through the store, they miss interesting products and buy less. Spending too much time in front of the shelves can lead to annoying congestion in the aisles, which also leads to declining sales.

“It has been known for some time that walking speed plays an important role in shoppers’ purchasing decisions. But until now it was unclear what retail managers could do to influence the pace of their customers. This research was set up to find out how they might achieve this.”

The perception of the length of the aisle was altered by shortening and widening the lines, making shoppers believe that the aisle was nearer/further away, causing them to speed up/slow down.

Subsequent tests also showed that slower shoppers were much better at recalling products that they had seen on the shelves.

The researchers related their findings to goal gradient theory: when an individual is closer to their goal, in this case, the end of the aisle, they will walk faster to reach it.

In-store and online equal in popularity this Christmas…

The second annual Rubicon Project ‘Christmas Consumer Pulse Poll’ suggests online shopping will be as popular as in-store this holiday season.

Based on a conducted 1,000 interviews in the UK, the poll found 76 per cent of consumers are planning on completing gift purchases online – equal to the amount that plan to shop in-store – and almost nine in 10 (88 per cent) will shop and/or research their Christmas purchases online.

With nearly one-quarter (24 per cent) declaring they will not do any Christmas shopping in-store this year, the study also revealed 45 per cent will make a Christmas purchase via their mobile device. This is largely defined by two demographics: 75 per cent of millennials and 66 per cent of parents will do at least some of their Christmas shopping on a mobile.

Anticipated spend for Christmas this year is £748 per person, up from a recorded £732 in the same research last year. 77 per cent of respondents to this year’s survey said they plan to spend the same or more, whilst just 23 per cent plan to spend less on their Christmas shopping.


Read more on the findings and download the poll here

Personalisation to substantially spur digital coupon growth by 2021…

A new study from the digital market research specialists, Juniper Research has found that the number of coupons issued via mobile and online channels will grow by more than 60 per cent over the next five years – increasing from 224 billion in 2016 to an estimated 362 billion by 2021.

The ‘Mobile & Online Coupons: Loyalty & Beacon Engagement 2016-2021’ report indicates growth in digital coupon volumes is mainly attributed to a greater retailer emphasis on the provision of highly targeted, personalised offers to consumers; as well as brands deploying artificial intelligence applications which can interact with consumers via social media and messaging applications such as Facebook Messenger.

A wide-scale deployment of beacons – Bluetooth devices which can send offers to consumers whilst they shop – have been constrained, as research author, Lauren Foye explains how beacons enable retailers to collect valuable and relevant data points: “For retailers one of the major tools is knowing their customers. Tracking user movements in store via beacons allows for targeted marketing and offers, this can also aid in providing invaluable data and statistics to a company, this then later applied to drive sales.”

Read the full report here

Destination and convenience ‘key for future-proofing’ shopping centres…

In partnership with the real estate firm, Savills, a new report from intu has found that brick-and-mortar stores continue to play a ‘vital’ role in the retail experience, with 43.4 per cent of respondents placing them in their ‘top three preferred locations’ for buying items such as footwear and clothing.

The ‘Spotlight: Retail Revolutions’ report established the preference for shopping centres was even more noticeable among ‘Generation Z’ (16-24 year olds) and ‘Generation Y’ (25 to 34 year olds), amounting to 62.9 per cent and 53.4 per cent respectively.

In addition, the possible opportunity for shopping centres to become ‘destinations’ in their own right and encourage customers to spend full days rather than stay at home and shop online is also presented, providing the added benefit of enticing a larger number of customers from beyond a centre’s traditional catchment.

Regional director at intu, Rebecca Ryman, said: “Striking the balance between destination and convenience is fundamental for shopping centre landlords wanting to deliver an overall offer and experience that meets the everyday needs of their local catchment.  A strong and diverse retail offer supported by the right leisure facilities and combined with ease of access are key to generating a wider appeal and thus helping to future-proof the success of a shopping centre.” 

Furthermore, the study acknowledges the need for convenience in terms of shopping centres is paramount for ‘Baby Boomers’ (55-64 year olds), who consider this as a priority than a destination. This goes some way to explain why a large proportion of Baby Boomers ranked small local high streets (45 per cent) and online shopping (40 per cent) in their top three preferred locations.