Jack Wynn, Author at The Retail & Hospitality Design Forum - Page 11 of 11
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Jack Wynn

Forum News: 10 ways to succeed at networking events…

Walking into an event full of people you don’t know can be a scary experience. However, there are proven ways to conquer this fear and make networking an enjoyable and a useful process to do business. Here, we share 10 of the best practices to eradicate those networking nerves.

1. Plan ahead: Try to obtain the attendee list in advance and highlight the people you would like to meet. On arrival, contact the event organiser and say who you are trying to connect with. If they get the chance, an introduction between yourself and the other party will be made upon arrival. It might also be beneficial to go to the registration area to ask if one of your selected visitors has arrived.

2. Get there early: If you are one of the first to arrive, it is much easier to strike up a conversation with a small group of people.

3. Most people are in the same position: If you do not know anyone else attending, it’s good to prepare a few opening questions: ‘Any particular presentation you’re looking forward to hearing today?’; ‘What brought you to this event?’

4. Join a group: Approaching a group of attendees already in full conversation is a daunting prospect. So be bold, confident, and simply ask: “May I join the conversation? I’ve just arrived and I’m keen to learn what’s going on.”

5. Build interesting conversation: Ask topical and relevant questions to the specific event. Be a good listener and don’t dominate the conversation with your own stories and business ideas.

6. Be helpful: Share your knowledge of the industry, your contacts and sources of information. If people perceive you as an experienced and knowledgeable professional, they will want to keep in contact and maintain a relationship.

7. Use your business card as a tactical weapon: I have a friend who renovates old wooden floors, so his business card is made of a thin piece of wood and has proven to be a guaranteed conversation starter. Be imaginative with the design and the job title displayed. Anything that says ‘sales’ or ‘business development’ could cause people to fear a sales pitch is on the way. So try and think of a job title that encourages a productive conversation.

8. Receiving business cards: Be sure to make notes on the back to remind you of the conversation and the person. This could become much use in future interactions.

9. Following up: If you engaged in constructive conversation with an attendee and have agreed to follow up after the event, then set a preferred method of contact and make sure to do so promptly.

10. What not to do: Sales pitches, even if you’re asked ‘what does your company do’, keep your answer to a very brief explanation. Don’t ‘work the room’ rushing from group to group as this is not the way to form business relationships. It’s better to have had four good conversations than a dozen meaningless chats.


Words by Paul Rowney, Director at Forum Events Ltd.


Sales made via mobile fall for the first time this decade, IMRG claims…

Although many retailers have experienced tremendous increases in the interaction of mobile sales — such as The Entertainer which accomplished a reported overall rise of 120 per cent based on introducing a personalisation strategy to its email marketing platform — new statistics released by the ‘voice’ of UK e-tailing, the Interactive in Media Retail Group (IMRG) has found that sales made via mobile devices have fallen in the first quarter and is the first recorded decrease since 2010.

According to IMRG, the fall is likely to have been influenced by a ‘marked split’ that has recently been recorded in growth rates on tablets and smartphones. As previously documented, while sales through smartphones were up by 83 per cent in April this year, sales via tablet devices hit a record low with a growth rate of three per cent.

Despite the unpredicted fall, chief information officer at IMRG, Tina Spooner, remains optimistic about mobile bouncing back to its continued succession: “While the majority of these sales still come through tablets, shoppers are increasingly using their smartphones in situations where they would previously have used a tablet – the screen sizes have become larger, retailers have focused on optimising the experience for smartphone users and consumers are becoming increasingly confident in using these devices for a wide range of activities.”

Compared to the previous quarter where 51.3 per cent of retail sales were made via mobile, a two per cent decrease to 49.6 per cent was indicated in Q1 2016; as well as a one per cent decline in the number of sales from online retail websites directed via mobile, from 65.5 per cent in Q4 2015 to 64.6 per cent in Q1 2016.

Mintel: Thrifty shopping ‘an asset’ for UK consumers…

New research conducted by the market research provider, Mintel, a frugal shopping mentality is now considered to be an ‘asset’ to UK consumers, with Yorkshire and Humberside residents voted as the country’s biggest ‘bargain hunters’.

The ‘British Lifestyles: Growing Tired of Austerity UK 2016 reportfound that 78 per cent of consumers residing in this region brand ‘bargain hunting’ as a thrill, with 54 per cent stating that they budget every month for treats such as dinners and cinema trips; compared to the national average of 48 per cent. Furthermore, 74 per cent admitted to shopping around for the lowest prices and 51 per cent claim that they do not like to pay full price for items.

Senior consumer and lifestyles analyst at Mintel, Ina Mitskavets, says that even though ‘savvy shopping’ has increased in popularity, retailers still need to enforce a tighter strategy on the promotion and amount of discounts to avoid a damaged reputation: “The savvy shopping mentality is still firmly entrenched in the UK today. If anything, it has been reinforced by the widespread discounting and price wars across a variety of sectors in the post-recession years. Scoring discounts has evolved from a chore into a form of entertainment, or even a full-fledged hobby. However, while it is clear that consumers now expect to see reduced prices and special offers in shops, widespread promotions can be damaging to business reputations and bottom lines. The focus for many companies going forward should be on weaning customers off discounts through better service and quality improvements.”

Clothing purchases demonstrated to be the biggest splurge made by the UK public, followed by meals out (28 per cent), holidays (27 per cent), a night out (22 per cent), technology items and gadgets (20 per cent), alcohol (20 per cent), and beauty or personal care products (17 per cent).

Read more of the report’s findings here

More retailers plan to install omnichannel solutions to combat lack of in-store technology…

According to a report from the Omnico Group surveying 31 UK retailers with more than 100 stores and two department stores under one brand, 32 per cent have stated that they plan on introducing in-store omnichannel capabilities, which will enable consumers to order an out of stock item from other company branches.

Despite a rise in sales via technology across the retail sector, only 13 per cent of retailers surveyed acquire the advanced in-store technology allowing consumers to take this action. The survey also found that 26 per cent plan to grant customers the accessibility of ordering online or from another store while shopping on one branch and, currently, 29 per cent provide the capability.

CEO at Omnico, Mel Taylor, said: “Retailers are now coming up with firm plans to invest in an omni-channel retail strategy as they know they must do more to meet the increasingly high expectations of the digitally-savvy, mobile customer. With the right solutions retailers can give a significant boost to their sales, knowing that by being able to say ‘Yes’ more often they can guarantee they will never lose another sale due to unavailability.”

Although recognising the current limitations of existing in-store technology, 33 per cent said that the biggest challenge in handling stock across channels is having an accurate view of available stock in all stores, followed by 20 per cent who cited having a ‘real-time’ or ‘near real-time’ update on their central stock file.

Guest Blog, Cain Ullah: Building a prosperous and successful eCommerce platform…

Cain is the CEO and founder of Red Badger, with responsibilities including; strategy, culture, sales and marketing. He is extremely proud of Red Badger’s people and is focused on scaling quality and a lovely culture in the team.

The classic British brand, Fortnum & Mason, is widely known for its rich heritage and exceptional in-store service. But how does a brand with three centuries of legacy keep up with its peers, thrive in the digital landscape, and ensure its customer experience is replicated online? Cain Ullah, CEO and founder at Red Badger, details the agile software consultancy’s experience of developing a tangible eCommerce site for the luxury department store

Feedback and the right technology

In order to create an eCommerce experience that would give customers the same level of service that they would expect in-store, Fortnum & Mason partnered with Red Badger to further develop the medium. The site was built and tested in eight months and, since its launch, customer service enquiries reduced and website sales metrics have soared, contributing substantially to Fortnum’s best ever trading day over the Christmas 2015 period.

Putting their loyal and valued customers at the heart of the project, Fortnum’s carried out in-store face-to-face testing from an early stage of the process, as well as extensive beta testing so that feedback and requests could be actioned quickly from UX research. This brave approach, which many retailers still shy away from doing, meant that expectations were met well before the full go-live took place. This rapid approach meant that Fortnum’s achieved a re-platform in just eight months, for under £1.3million.

Three months of beta testing allowed the fully-integrated Red Badger and Fortnum’s team to discover how customers were using the site, why drop out occurred at certain stages and what was deemed to be off-putting – making it possible to streamline the checkout process, refine the user journey and solve specific integration issues.

Such extensive customer testing highlighted the desire for certain bespoke services, including the ‘Build Your Own Hamper’ function – a key service in store which hadn’t previously been available online.


When a retailer focuses on the business processes in developing an eCommerce site, details that are considered small but critical to the customer experience can often be missed. An example of this during the Fortnum & Mason rebuild was the use of colour, which was carefully considered based on the feedback from the consumer testing. Fortnum & Mason is recognisable for their use of eau de nil, long associated with royalty and refined tastes and, corresponding with the store itself, the soft incandescent lighting-style colour scheme of the website mimics home lighting rather than the usual harsh shop-floor fluorescent bulbs. The soft background colouring also reduces on-screen glare. After reviewing customer feedback and analysing its use on packaging, our UX and design team recognised that the signature colour should be reserved for key product shots and call to action buttons.

The future

The website was built using systems and software that Red Badger chose specifically for the value it would create for the long term. The needs of the business and its customers can shift dramatically in a short period based on changing retail trends and customer behaviour, in addition to developments in technology. For several years forecasters have predicted that eCommerce revenue from smartphone devices will override revenue from large view portals. Fortnum’s fully responsive site, built without limitation to specific devices, will allow the company the flexibility to cope with these changes without being forced to make repeated platform or technology changes. The backend integrations with systems that run enterprise resource planning (ERP) and fulfilment for Fortnum’s can easily be switched for new versions, or entirely different software as the business updates its back office to cope with changing and growing demand.


The new site celebrated its first anniversary in February 2016 and the difference has been significant; conversion improved by 14 per cent on the previous year with uplift showing from the first week of the launch; average order value increased five per cent; total sales increased 30 per cent; and calls to customer services were reduced by 40 per cent on the site’s first full day of trading. On top of these figures, online sales went up 38 per cent in 2015, which included a 26 per cent rise in the sales of the world-famous hampers. Personalisation services saw a 261 per cent increase in November vs October and, in regards to user experience, the drop off during navigation of delivery options reduced from 18.8 per cent to 12.9 per cent.

Industry Spotlight: Free returns obstructing UK eCommerce?

IS-Fashion eCommerce storyProviding a free returns policy can offer a competitive edge to a retailer’s eCommerce platform. However, can such a service equate to a loss in profits, or create a gateway to extra earning potential?

As eCommerce continues to grow in stature, so does the impact of the number of returns made as a result of online purchasing. According to a recent study from Barclaycard, 57 per cent of retailers have claimed that the daily process of handling returns is adversely impacting on trade; with 20 per cent resorting to increasing stock prices to neutralise the effects, and, considering its current status, 22 per cent of UK high street retailers have opted out of the eCommerce trend due to the costs of managing a free delivery and returns policy.

It’s all well and good for Barclaycard to suggest that retailers need to improve their services – such as the introduction of local ‘drop-off’ points and hourly courier services – but how can businesses implement beneficial changes without sacrificing on product quality and in store operations? Despite the struggle, this, according to Barclaycard’s director of customer solutions, Sharon Manikon, can be simple to manage: “Online spending will continue to rise and the need to keep pace with customer demands presents a dilemma for businesses needing to protect their bottom line. Fortunately there is light at the end of the tunnel with many ways retailers can streamline the returns process. From developing universal sizing to offering virtual dressing rooms, the key for today’s businesses is to determine which innovations work best for them – while ensuring they don’t lose out to their more savvy competition.”

Even so, with the research additionally finding that 30 per cent of consumers are purposely over-buying via online and returning the items at a later date, it is clear that an intervention across the board needs to be demonstrated. Reportedly, services such as the Metail app are currently being trialed as an inclusion by many UK clothing retailers, where a consumer can upload an image of themselves and virtually try on the clothing to check for the correct sizes before purchase.

Tesco to close F&F website…

Tesco F&F storyDespite a strong performance from Tesco in the last few months and a huge turnaround from the 2014 accounting scandal, the supermarket chain has decided to close down its standalone F&F clothing website after an active seven years.

In a statement, a spokesperson claimed that the F&F website will be brought together with Tesco Direct to create a ‘comprehensive view of all non-food products’ and to make the shopping experience as ‘simple and easy as possible’.

Gap to drive customer loyalty via new app…

Baby Gap store front EDITED 2To tarnish its reputation as a producer of ‘heavy-discounting’ — an admission made after it was revealed that UK customers were receiving masses of weekly emails offering various discounts – clothing retailer Gap has introduced a new app aiming to bring a stronger focus on customer loyalty.

Available to UK and Ireland customers, Gap+ features an individualised image feed based on information brought forward by the user; along with a five per cent discount with every purchase and personalised content supplied by bloggers based on previous purchases and search preferences.

Read more about the app here

Waitrose appoints AppDynamics to ‘fine-tune’ customer experience…

Waitrose eCommerce image EDITEDTo support its ongoing omnichannel strategy and further monitor the digital customer journey, Waitrose has introduced the data analyst platform, AppDynamics Application Intelligence across the whole eCommerce business to provide real-time performance metrics.

Appointed by Waitrose after an initial successful trial, the platform will allow retailer to make data-driven decisions on each department, including Waitrose Gift, Waitrose Florist and Waitrose Kitchen, on how to ‘fine-tune’ the customer experience and deliver exceptional service reflecting its current 344 stores in the UK. Head of IT operations, eCommerce at Waitrose, Alex Bowles, said: “AppDynamics has helped us take a proactive standpoint on delivering an exceptional shopping experience to our customers. We’ve been able to spot application and database issues earlier and quicker, helping us to act faster to improve our digital services — it’s been a real light bulb moment for the rest of the business.”