Hello my fellow Techsperts,
I hope you’ve all been enjoying yourself since my last post about retro, childhood tech.
What have I been up to in two weeks…?
Well from a wedding, to birthday celebrations right the way through to general “lifemin,” it doesn’t feel like there has been a two week gap since my last post. I honestly don’t feel like my feet have touched the ground. Is this a good thing? Well, it keeps me out of mischief I suppose. And then looking forward, we have another wedding, a visit to my Mumma and Step-Dad’s idyllic place in Devon and of course a trip to Berlin for that technology fair…you know the massive one…
IFA of course (not that I’m excited. Who am I kidding, I can’t wait!)
Amongst everything that has been happening in my own life, there has of course been a lot happening in the retail world. Announcements by Samsung across their product mix, of which I have seen countless advertising including the London Underground. They really are getting great PR. Not only this, but Fossil Group have announced a whole host of new platforms coming soon across their Fossil, Michael Kors and Emporio Armani ranges. They look absolutely beautiful and the new tech in there is great.
What would you chose?
It will also not be long until we hear about Apple’s plans in their next round of announcements. Will a car to rival Tesla be next? There are certainly rumours on the mill.
I have not only seen a lot of announcements about new products coming into our markets, but also a lot about retail environments and how they can compete with the likes of Amazon. The high street is changing at such a fast pace, I do wonder if what we class as a high street will be here within the next decade. I am not here to write about the changes happening within House of Fraser or struggles other retailers are facing. This is a difficult time for everyone involved and the support of the wider world is needed. My thoughts go out to everyone just trying to figure it all out; it takes strength to go through such change. I equally think there is a bigger piece of work for the government to get involved in. Rental rates are making it near on impossible for our high street to thrive. Take a look at some policies and sort it out, is what I say. Can you honestly say that rental rates for businesses are fair vs what online are paying? If that’s a yes, then take a cold, hard look in the mirror my friend and re-evaluate your answer.
I am not going to sit here and try to tell people how to run a multi-million pound business oh no, but I am able to share with you examples of what has engaged me or even peaked my interest to purchase. I am an advocate of online shopping of course, as well as understanding that online is now the no.1 revenue taker for most businesses. However, (and this maybe a generational thing), I am not ready to give up completely on the high street.
So on my travels there have been some key things that have really caught my eye. It may not have encouraged me to the point of buying right there and then (saving will have that effect on you), but it has turned a standard shopping trip into something much more experiential and memorable; some would even say fun.
Firstly, when on the lookout for a new laptop, we went into a John Lewis store. Their tech department per say is a little lacklustre for me. No big inviting screens or large campaign imagery to draw me in. I am very visual, so for me this works well within a retail environment. John Lewis obviously have their own look and feel, which I respect, but who doesn’t love a bit more ambience. However, what did catch my eye was what was on the Samsung table…Yes, I’m just a big kid.
Hello Samsung Gear VR headset. Yes, I was straight onto that and playing a game of golf. The concentration face says it all; I was hooked!
Full video available via my Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/p/BlQHYzslCKY/?utm_source=ig_share_sheet&igshid=1phmfl9mt9g06
Putting products onto the display that function as they would at home is imperative to me. How can you really know how it would work without trying it? It is also so captivating that it makes you say “I need one of these in my life!” More real life, interactive elements please.
I think the other experiential part of shopping today and something that enhances any customer experience is the use of brand or product ambassadors. Those people really know their stuff, are passionate and want to create a great shopping experience. I am not saying this doesn’t come from the general staff, but there is something to be said for someone who knows everything and anything about a product you’re interested in.
Not all shopping trips have left me feeling extremely happy. There is nothing more frustrating then going into a store having done your research as well as reading a lot of reviews (another big element to building brand loyalty) and being faced by someone who knows less than you or having little to none foundational knowledge. Or worst of all, no intention to help or go and find someone who can. That will then make me go to an online competitor. I want you to sell this to me as much as I have done to myself. Hence my argument for having brand ambassadors within stores.
There have been a couple of occasions where I have seen this really work.
- Currys PC World : The first time I experienced this was when we bought our Google Home Mini. The ambassador was great! He took us through the features and benefits (something we had naturally read up and researched about online, but not physically tried) as well as getting us to test the products. “Ok Google…” We bought it that day, aided by the fact they were on offer at £34. Bargain. The next experience within Currys PC World was buying our new laptop. We ended up buying a Dell, but was served by someone from Intel. Again, you can’t beat that one on one time, with questions being fired and confidently answered. Another purchase made.
- Dixons Travel : I witnessed this when travelling through Heathrow for holidays (yes, I am lucky enough to go on business and leisure trips quite often). There were various people within these locations from Apple, through to Microsoft. Having someone there evidently not helped with closing the sale with the end consumer, but it looked like the teams had built strong relationships with these ambassadors and therefore were gaining invaluable training time and knowledge.
This one on one, person to person contact does make me question. Is everyone really that ready to do all their shopping online? I think not. There is nothing like being able to go into store and play around with the products, have genuine support from people who can answer all your questions with a more personable response than an automated system. We are still human after all. We just need to evolve to tackle how we engage the customers.
INTERACTIVE AND INFORMATIVE DISPLAYS
This is something that really interests me and is getting so creative in the world of tech. Could this be something that could be translated across different product categories? Most probably.
Some of the best displays I see coming through at the moment are within the smarthome sector. An area that is in massive growth with over 30% of UK households having a minimum of one piece of tech. For me as you know it is our Google Home Mini, but I equally would love to invest in some of the smarthome plugs. “Ok Google..turn out the lights.” No more of this “Damn, we left that light on,” and groaning about it until we are tucked comfortably in bed again.
In various retailers I have seen how interactive and informative the displays can be from Amazon Echo through to Philips Hue. And what is it we need to do? Press a button for more info on a particular product. It is all there.
Is this contradictory to my previous statement of brand ambassadors to create a great retail environment?
I love the fact I can find more info out at my own pace and then have person to person interaction to complete the sale. The display can tell me the generic info that I can find on the internet, but it can’t give me real life experiences. As mentioned about John Lewis’ tech environment being a little lacklustre, displays can be extremely inviting, from having a lot of backlit graphics to video and finally the product. If the product is something you can wear, there needs to be the element of being able to try it on. Simple but effective. I am a very tactile person and like to feel the quality of materials. Yes it says online it is stainless steel and weighs 9 grams, but what does that feel like for me? If it is a product like a laptop, ensuring there is battery power to switch it on (you’re probably grinning, but there has been times it is as flat as a pancake) is basic, but effective.
Finally, interactive content on tablets is great. Things like asking questions to the customer, which would result in their perfect product being highlighted. There is such a sea of availability within tech products now and if you aren’t a research queen like me, it supports your journey in finding the perfect fit (god this sounds like a bra fitting service; apologies).
The one thing that retailers need to ensure they do it give breathing space for brands. There is nothing worse than going into a store to feel like brands have been (and excuse the phrase) sick all over the store. Clean and clear messaging. Something Apple do extremely well in their flagship store on Regents Street; it is tranquil and engaging all at the same time.
Like I said at the beginning of this post, I am not one to sit here and tell people how to run a business. I just know what I enjoy as a customer as well as having some experience within the field. There is so much innovation happening in the world and expectations are only getting higher, that retail environments need to think about this when presenting products in their stores. Yes, this post is predominantly on the tech field as this is what excites me, but other areas of retail are getting on board. You will have all seen that Michael Kors are doing AR Facebook Ads, whereby customers can now use the selfie camera to try on products like sunglasses from the Ad. Clever huh? This would be great to see more of in stores. Who also hates trying things on in the shop? Well AR could help with that…
Showcase what it looks like on a picture of yourself…oh god no or actually that’s pretty good, I’ll give it a go.
Interactivity is key in all divisions of a store. Engage, excite and see what it brings.
…Until next time my fellow techsperts
*A company that I have the pleasure of knowing, deals with Brand Ambassadors within stores. If you ever need this kind of support, you should check them out http://www.twenty5eight.co.uk/ . They really are fantastic for helping to represent brands (you’re welcome guys!)