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‘Grit and resilience’ driving small businesses

Set against a backdrop of unprecedented change – British small businesses are remaining stoic and are facing the next three months with renewed focus and a determination to succeed.

That’s according to research from Hitachi Capital Business Finance shows that for the sixth consecutive quarter confidence levels have varied only by 1%, with the number of businesses striving for growth (36%) outweighing those that are contracting (16%).

Despite the constant threat of a pre- and post-Brexit crisis, a General Election and a prolonged period of market uncertainty, the research suggests that small firms have shown remarkable resilience throughout the Brexit era and are remaining ‘optimistic’- with the majority of businesses seeing ‘business as usual’ (47%) as a viable achievement in the busy run up to Christmas.

Sector variations show a mixed outlook:

However, not everything is black and white. Although nationally business confidence has remained firm, the picture is quite different by sector.

Many of the businesses that saw growth last quarter, such as those in the Legal, IT and Telecoms sector, have fallen back this quarter (Legal: 44% in Q3’19 Vs. 30% Q4’19), (Telecoms: 41% in Q3’19 Vs. 36% Q4’19). Conversely, those sectors that saw a fall in confidence during Q3 (Construction, Retail and Manufacturing) have bounced back.

Business outlook by sector over the last six months

Q4 2019

Net %that predict

growth

Q3 2019

Net %that predict

growth

Q2 2019

Net %that predict

growth

Finance & accounting 47% 48% 33%
Real estate 43% 32% 45%
Retail 39% 34% 40%
Manufacturing 39% 30% 38%
Media & marketing 38% 37% 36%
Hospitality & leisure 37% 27% 29%
IT & telecoms 36% 41% 38%
Construction 32% 26% 31%
Legal 30% 44% 41%
Transport & distribution 29% 27% 25%
Agriculture 25% 32% 27%

Small businesses in the Agriculture and Transport/Distribution sectors appear to be in poorer shape, with much lower net confidence levels this quarter than any other sector (25% and 29% respectively). This is perhaps not a surprise given these sectors, potentially, could be the those most directly affected in the short-term by Brexit.

Small business outlook: Six successive quarters of consistent outlook, set against a context of market uncertainty

% that predict net growth (significant or modest/organic) % that predict significant expansion
Q3 2018 36% 7%
Q4 2018 36% 5%
Q1 2019 36% 6%
Q2 2019 34% 4%
Q3 2019 35% 5%
Q4 2019 36% 7%

Regional spotlight 

Around the UK, the research suggests a varied picture of confidence levels. Small companies in London and the South East are breaking away from the majority of the regions and are powering ahead in terms of growth forecasts.

Over two in five businesses (45%) in the Capital are confident of growth in the next three months and a further 11% are confident of significant growth. A similar picture emerges in the South East (40%) which stands in marked contrast to businesses in Wales and Scotland (24%) who are lagging behind in terms of business confidence. Businesses in Scotland are suffering the most – with 11% saying they are going to struggle to survive until Christmas.

With the majority of businesses around the UK remaining cautious, forecasting a period of no change as the best-case scenario – over one in two businesses in the East of England (54%) are more likely to view ‘business as usual’ as an achievable goal for the next three months, compared with businesses in London (40%) and the South West (41%).

Young businesses driving confidence

Those small businesses that have been trading for less than five years have seen a major turnaround in 12-months. After a bleak October 2018 with only 40% forecasting growth, they are now driving confidence levels (54%).

Gavin Wraith-Carter, Managing Director at Hitachi Capital Business Finance, said: “As the Brexit countdown to January 31st 2020 starts again, the research suggests that small businesses are frustrated watching a continuous game of political table tennis and have quite rightly decided to focus on the things that are within their control.

“Whilst the Government are putting a freeze on preparing for Brexit – our small businesses don’t have the luxury. Whilst many are citing market uncertainty as a barrier to growth, they are nonetheless planning ahead with cautious optimism and this is important given, for many sectors, the Christmas period is a critical period for sales and growth.”

Stores being too hot or cold among the nation’s biggest shopping gripes

Stores being too hot or cold, the returns counter located on a different floor and overpowering smells are among the nation’s biggest shopping gripes.

A study of 2,000 Brits found the aspects of modern retail spending which irk us the most, including the layout of a shop changing, broken contactless card machines and even no Wi-Fi in store.

For shopping online, 45 per cent named slow web pages to be their biggest bugbear, alongside products looking different when they arrive and having to wait for refunds.

But while clothes shopping in-store irritates 31 per cent of the nation, just one in 10 feel the same way when purchasing online.

An annoyed 57 per cent even said they have walked out of a shop without buying what they went in for, because they were so fed up.

Mark Howley, UK CEO of Starcom, which commissioned the research as part of it’s ‘Future Tensions in Retail’ report said: “This research defines a cultural shift and insights into consumers for brands around the future of retail.

“Shopping should be an enjoyable experience with interactive areas to enhance this and we predict the way people shop will develop greatly over the next few years, as it already has done up until now.

“Some brands are already delivering this kind of enhanced experience for consumers.

“Topshop recently launched an immersive experience in its flagship store encouraging customers to touch displays, take pictures and relax on the soft furnishings.

“And Samsung’s new experiential store in Kings Cross allows customer to experience its products, attend masterclasses and provide the consumer with key information by the tech experts.”

The study also found one in five have had a disagreement with a member of staff due to being annoyed when shopping, and this has led to three in 10 deciding to shop online instead.

A sixth admitted they feel stressed and frustrated when clothes shopping specifically, while one in 10 find themselves ‘bored’.

But more than a third view shopping as an ‘experience’ and aspects which make a great store were found to be attractive interior, plants and even ‘Instagram-able’ spaces.

It also emerged that a quarter of shoppers would like to see apps which allow you to scan items to avoid having to wait at the checkout, while one in 10 would even like to to have AI-powered shop assistants.

And with the average shopper starting to feel ‘impatient after queuing for 10 minutes, it’s no surprise 44 per cent would like to see waiting times improved in the future.

Another two in five want prices of products lowered.

More than a third would like to see packaging to be more environmentally friendly with one in five taking into consideration whether items are produced ethically when buying them.

A quarter of those polled, via OnePoll, said while they want to buy new things, they also want to help the planet and be sustainable.

The study also found that almost a third believe shops are ‘important’ to their local community and three in 10 think the traditional high street filled with independent stores will return sometime in the future.

To encourage this, nearly a third believe encouraging online retailers to put events on in store or host pop-ups will help it thrive.

But if they could only shop one way in the future, 26 per cent would opt for online while just 24 per cent would opt to go in-store.

This is due to a sixth liking the idea of not having to leave the house, more than a third enjoy having online discounts and 37 per cent believing they are able to brands they don’t have in stores nearby.

On the other hand, two thirds like to actually see a product before purchasing, three in five want to be able to hand pick items and one in five enjoy talking to staff.

Howley added: “These stats only reinforce that brands need to start offering an even more thrilling and enjoyable experience to the shopper, aside from just a good product.

“Brands need to think about the customer retail journey, what can you offer them to get them in store that you can’t get online?

“You need to think about what you can offer in terms of exclusivity, building hype around product drops, offering the Instagram photo-opp, from a fancy wall to some type of entertainment, or even an immersive sensory experience.”

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: 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. 

Panasonic opens hi-tech experience centre for retail solutions

Panasonic Business has opened the doors to its new Customer Experience Centre in Bracknell, showcasing its range of B2B solutions using both physical and virtual techniques.

Situated at the new UK headquarters on Western Road, Bracknell, the Customer Experience Centre is experienced as two zones.

The first is an immersive 270 degree interactive presentation space, built around eight separate virtual vertical environments, and a demonstration space that allows customers to get hands-on with Panasonic technology.

The showcase delivers a ‘blank canvas’ for innovation, designed to spark conversations around how Panasonic can solve business technology challenges.

Speaking to Retail Briefing, Panasonic spokesman Michael Pullan said building the Experience Centre was a necessary step as Panasonic had simply run out of space at its existing site.

“How retailers talk to customers has to be clearer and I think what we’re showcasing here is the future of the digital store,” said Pullan. “There’s now an entire generation that has grown up using screens, and that opens up huge possibilities in terms of niche shopping experiences, which we can now demonstrate to buyers in a state of the art, immersive space.”

The site was created with the help of AV design and integration by Sysco Productions, concept development by AB Creative, and content and physical build by Hart Wilcox,

It features over 100 items of technology, with the presentation space squeezing nine laser projectors in to just 50m2 in order to achieve a fully immersive feel.

The Centre focuses on five main topics:

• Retail technology
• Rugged computing
• Audio Visual solutions
• Communications Solutions
• Next generation surveillance technology

The Experience Centre features the latest Panasonic retail tech, including digital signage displays, electronic price tags and automatic stock monitoring, which uses CCTV analytics to detect low and no stock on shelves.

In addition, a fully demonstrable lecture capture system automatically tracks a presenter, giving universities the ability to automate the recording of teaching sessions.

All visitors are handed a 5” AndroidTM Toughbook rugged handheld on which a dedicated app allows them to select content of interest, ranging from white papers to brochures and introductory videos, via integrated NFC tags throughout the experience centre.

These case studies are then emailed to the customer for follow-up, back in their office.

A smart security section features the latest in modern analytics software. A range of indoor and outdoor surveillance cameras are equipped with an upgraded facial recognition platform which features a ‘deep learning’ core engine. The Face Server can identify faces that are difficult to recognise using conventional technology, including those partially hidden by sunglasses and face masks.

A range of Toughbook rugged notebooks and tablets is also on show, with a rugged resistance test station, which allows water ingress, drop and impact testing of the range.

Modest Christmas cheer for UK retail with £99bn ‘golden quarter’ sales forecast

Bucking the current gloomy trends, GlobalData has forecast that total UK retail sales in Q4 will rise by 2.0% to £98.8bn.

Food & grocery spend is set to drive this, as food inflation leads to a 2.5% increase in this category, while Non-food spend is forecast to grow at 1.6%, with health & beauty predicted to be the best performing retail sector.

GlobalData says that while it has been a year of retail failures, profit warnings and store closures so far, the ‘golden quarter’ offers retailers the opportunity to gain sales from consumers who are finally ready to prioritise shopping.

However, it cautions that low consumer confidence and confusion over Brexit will inhibit big-ticket spend, and that trading down to value retailers is becoming more widespread, due to the rapid store expansion of players such as B&M and Home Bargains.

Food & grocery

GlobalData says growth within food & grocery will slow to 2.5% this Christmas, against an inflation-driven comparative in Q4 2017 (3.6%), as food inflation falls.

Both food and alcoholic beverages will see a significant fall in volume growth compared to Q4 2017, as consumers trade down in both of these categories.

However, it says food is more resilient to low consumer confidence than other retail sectors due to its essential nature. Expected trends that retailers will focus on over Christmas include alcohol-free beverages (e.g. flavoured tonic waters), specialist teas, and plant-based protein side dishes (e.g. lentils, quinoa, chickpeas & tofu).

Fashion & beauty

It has been a less than stellar year for many clothing retailers and Q4 will be no different, according to GlobalData. Midmarket players are expected to be left out in the cold once again as shoppers trade up for enhanced quality, making it yet another challenging Christmas ahead for clothing market leader M&S.

Giving shoppers a reason to make wants-driven purchases, and forgo spending on other categories, through compelling product and value for money will be the key to a successful festive season. Online pureplays such as ASOS and boohoo are likely to be the biggest winners this Christmas given their potent mix of discounts, and fast and convenient fulfilment.

Health & beauty remains a ‘winner’ at Christmas and shoppers are expected to splurge on premium lines for both gifting and self-treating. This is helped by a wider choice of brands and greater shopper knowledge, especially in terms of ingredients. With the appeal of department stores on the wane, we expect online pureplays to take advantage, luring shoppers in with discounts and loyalty schemes.

Electricals & entertainment

With Q4 accounting for a third of annual electricals spend, GlobalData says the period offers retailers the best opportunity to capture spend as shoppers benefit from discounting periods such as Black Friday and early Boxing Day sales. Less generous discounting last year deterred shoppers from splurging on these occasions, but volumes are forecast to grow this year as cost prices level.

Mobile phones, laptops and tablets will offer the greatest growth potential for retailers, with Apple releasing its budget-friendly iPhone XR and MacBook Air in the period. While Apple is still much more expensive than its competitors, these new releases offer retailers an opportunity to entice less-affluent shoppers to trade up when buying gifts during the festive season.

In entertainment, the release of Red Dead Redemption 2 this month has been highly anticipated and is likely to drive spend in Christmas gifting. More Nintendo Switch games are available this year which is necessary to mitigate the lack of a stand-out new console.

Home

The home category, which includes furniture and floorcoverings, homewares, and DIY and gardening is forecast by GlobalData to grow 0.6% in the final quarter of 2018 compared with the previous year. Much of this growth will come from homewares (+1.4% year-on-year), which has been more resilient in 2018 than other home categories; consumers have sought to refresh their homes, and interest in interior design has grown through social media and fashion retailers’ own home collections. The effects of the latter should be particularly notable over the seasonal period.

Online

Capping off a strong year for the UK online market in which multichannel retailers have consistently reported robust digital growth, Christmas is set to be the icing on the cake with more consumers than ever choosing to buy online for the festive period, according to GlobalData.

It says online pureplays will prove popular again this year thanks to their best-in-class shopping experience. Amazon is set to remain a top choice for gift purchases as its broad product range appeals, and as Amazon Prime subscribers turn to the retailer as their first port of call.

Online spend will be bolstered this Christmas by Instagram’s shopping function, which launched this year, as well as Pinterest featuring direct links to retailers’ product pages. The ease of purchase through social media will drive impulse purchases of partywear as well as gifts across sectors.

UK retail sales up sharply in Q2, despite June’s fall

The latest figures from accountancy giant EY show that June’s retail sales decline was not enough to prevent a robust outturn for Q2 as a whole, which remained on track to see quarterly GDP growth of around 0.4%.

EY says a broader look at the retail landscape suggests that sales have held up reasonably well given the pressures on spending power. However, it says there is little reason to expect much of a pickup in the short-term.

The firm says the strong retail performance in Q2 supports the case for a Bank of England interest rate hike at the August Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) meeting, after it was diluted by lower than expected consumer price inflation of 2.4% in June and weak earnings growth in May.

Howard Archer, chief economic advisor to the EY ITEM Club, said: “Retail sales volumes fell by 0.5% month-on-month on an including fuel basis in June. But given this followed two very large increases in April and May, sales over Q2 as a whole were still up by 2.1%. This was the strongest quarterly growth since Q1 2004, although the growth rate was heavily flattered by the comparison with the snow-disrupted first quarter. Tthe three-month rate is likely to drop back from July as the soft comparators drop out of the calculation.

“With today’s data suggesting only a modest drop in distribution output in June, we remain on track to see solid growth in services output of around 0.6% in Q2, with GDP set to grow by 0.4%.

“Given the extreme volatility of the monthly data, which can distort even the three-month averages, we often prefer to use a longer rolling average to better gauge the health of the sector. The six-months-on-six-months rate suggests that sales have held up reasonably well given the force of the headwinds from high inflation and weak wage growth, although sales growth remains well down on the 2014-16 period. We find it difficult to envisage much of a pickup in the short-term. Although the squeeze on spending power has eased, it is still not improving, and consumers’ desire to borrow appears to be reaching its limits.”

High-Street

Retail sales continue to disappoint, says CBI

Latest figures from the CBI will do nothing to alleviate High Street retailers’ concerns, with the volume of sales flat in the year to April.

The survey of 100 firms showed that, in the year to April, retail sales volumes were broadly unchanged. Sales were below average for the time of year for the second month in a row, albeit at to a lesser extent than in the year to March. Meanwhile, orders placed on suppliers fell slightly, but are expected to pick up again in the year to May.

Within the retail sector, falls in sales volumes in the clothing, footwear & leather, non-store, and furniture & carpets sub-sectors were offset by sales growth among grocers, hardware & DIY, and recreational goods stores.

Looking ahead to May, retailers expect sales and orders with suppliers to grow at around average pace.

Year-on-year retail internet sales growth picked up in April after having risen at the slowest pace since 2009 in the year to March. Retailers expect a further acceleration in internet sales growth in the year to May.

Meanwhile, wholesalers saw a pick-up in sales volumes growth in the year to April, while motor traders reported a fall in sales volumes (against expectations of continued growth).

Looking at economic growth more broadly, momentum is expected to remain tepid through this year, with the economy growing at a similar pace to last year.

Anna Leach, CBI Head of Economic Intelligence, said: “Sales have continued to disappoint in April, after falling in March. But expectations for next month are looking a little healthier.

“It’s no secret that UK High Streets have endured tough trading conditions in recent months, with some big names closing or cutting back. Much of this reflects ongoing structural changes in the sector as well as the continued squeeze on households’ real incomes. While conditions have improved for households recently – with real wage growth inching into positive territory – we expect further gains in living standards to remain modest. So the pressure looks set to stay on retailers for the time being.”

KEY FINDINGS
Retailers:
31% of retailers said that sales volumes were up in April on a year ago, whilst 33% said they were down, giving a balance of -2%. This undershot healthier expectations (+16%)
33% of respondents expect sales volumes to increase in May on a year ago with 8% expecting a decrease, giving a solid balance of +25%
30% of retailers placed more orders with suppliers than they did a year ago, whilst 35% placed fewer orders, giving a balance of -5%.
23% of retailers reported that their volume of sales for the time of year were good, whilst 32% said they were poor, giving a balance of -9%
Internet sales volumes growth accelerated in the year to April (+36%), marking a significant improvement from last month (+11%). Internet sales growth is expected to pick up further in the year to May (+50%)
Sales volumes expanded in grocers (+29%), hardware & DIY (+33%) and recreational goods (+64%). Meanwhile, sales volumes decreased in clothing (-43%), footwear & leather (-83%), furniture & carpets (-20%), and in the “non-store” sector (-19%).

Wholesalers:
48% of wholesalers reported sales volumes to be up on last year and 20% said they were down, giving a balance of +28%.

Motor traders:
15% of motor traders reported sales volumes were up on a year ago, whilst 32% said they were down, giving a balance of -16%.

 

RPM Shopper Marketing

GUEST BLOG: Six ways to supercharge your shopper marketing

By John Viccars, Head of Strategy, RPM

Cutting through in an increasingly cluttered retail space to connect with shoppers is something that all brands are battling with. So how can you make your brand stand out and connect with shoppers? With ever more complex paths to purchase it can be hard to know how best to give your shopper marketing a boost. Through our experience working on many shopper campaigns over the years, we have come up with our six ways to supercharge your shopper marketing.

  1. Align with retailers’ agendas

Have you ever felt like other brands know things you don’t when it comes to activating outsider retailer templates or how much incremental space they have in store? It could be because they are just better at aligning (perhaps without even knowing they are), with their retailer’s agendas. Over our 24 years of RPM we’ve learnt that aligning with the strategic agendas is an essential for all our best shopper campaigns. If you don’t win over retailers by aligning with their agendas, it will be very hard to win with shoppers. It will also be hard to change your shelf positioning,  break free from retailer templates or reduce the amount of time your products are on price promotion. We’ve been developing ways to gather all the impactful insights to help us align with retailers’ agendas – from mapping their business landscape and what opportunities that might generate, to understanding each retailer’s unique shopper audiences and what effect that should have on our overall strategy. We call these bespoke strategic retailer plans an ‘RPM Retailer Bible’ – allowing brands to build stronger, more collaborative and longer relationships with retailers.

  1. Think shelf-back

When POPAI found that 76% of purchase decisions are made in-store, the industry stirred and started prioritising more the point of sale. As marketers, we should be influencing people right across the path to purchase, but if in-store is where the actual decision is made, isn’t that the true marketing battleground? P&G call it the ‘First Moment of Truth’ – the moment in which our audience have their first opportunity to truly engage with what we are trying to sell to them. So if in-store is the real battleground, we need to think back from the consumer’s ultimate barrier to purchase at the shelf-edge first, mapping the path to purchase backwards from there. Mapping back from this ultimate moment of truth ensures the hardest barrier to overcome is kept at the heart of the campaign strategy, leading to a better focus on the right problems to solve and more effective conversion.

By recognising an insightful shopper purchase barrier and developing work that meets that unmet need, you can avoid the at-shelf environment becoming a graveyard for great NPD and undeniably brilliant communications ideas that appeal to us all as consumers, but fail to cut through and impact shopper behaviour. It will also help your relationship with your customers, who will of course be motivated by a big-spending TV campaign, but day in day out, they’re focusing on maximising the return from their shelf space. They are much more likely to look favourably on those brands that make it their business to close the purchase loop in-store, at shelf, often unlocking discretionary display ops.

  1. Unlock the true power of occasions

Occasions are powerful ways to unlock opportunities at shelf and with consumers. They are the mental shortcuts that can make a huge difference to your shopper marketing. The way our memory works, occasions are one of the most efficient and easy to build memory structures for brands. We have an episodic memory – storing events and experience- which enables us to create mental shortcuts between things and moments. Think of a sunny summer afternoon in a park, or Christmas – what are the brands that come to mind? Context helps our brains to create long-lasting associations between brands and occasions. This is especially important in the retail environment because shoppers shop with the occasion in mind. Depending on the shopping mission (impulse, weekly etc…) behaviours and motivations change, but the consumption occasion is the determining end goal for our shoppers. Providing the right occasion cues at the right time can sway consumers, triggering them to pick your brand for that specific occasion, which is why brands must strive to create durable behavioural loops and mental triggers that flex from occasions to shopper environments. Don’t just leverage occasions, make the most of them to create virtuous circles.

  1. Learn to spot effective shopper creative

To stop, engage and convert shoppers to purchase you need great creative ideas. Spotting them can be hard, but there are some characteristics that endure across great shopper creative. Firstly, great shopper creative is bold – in cluttered retail environments, it’s hard to stand out, often the single-minded messaging clearly executed will win out. Secondly, it pays off to be brave, so don’t be afraid to try something truly original. If the strategy behind it is strong, the creative can be brave. Concepts that really leverage desirability, like limited edition packs for example can work really well, as well as digital concepts that should not be ignored like mobile phone push notifications, social media conversations or digital displays. Most importantly, let your brand personality shine through and pull on the heartstrings of your target market – whether you are the instigator of fun or the bringer of light to the world. Being true to your brand will give you a much better chance of converting.

  1. Add value to trade away from deals

Getting trapped in a series of deals can do serious damage to your brand if you don’t find new ways to break the cycle. Deals aren’t going away, and they are often how shoppers navigate the store. However, the truth is that brands rarely get credit for their investment in price promotion as shoppers tend to believe it is retailers that they have to thank for cheaper products, not brands. Deals also reduce the opportunity for your products to be anything other than just practical solutions to functional problems. So while retailers benefit, it’s really a no win for your brand equity and long-term shopper behaviour change. When we shop we are thinking about occasions and unmet needs, so there is a real opportunity for emotionally engaging added value that can do far more for your brand than price cuts. There are endless opportunities here – for example, we’ve delivered festival tickets to raise awareness in the drinks category, as well as recipe cards and glassware. The best bit? They all involve investing less than you would on a standard piece of price promotion. When the story is based on deeper insights and better, more engaging brand experiences – you will create more powerful connections with shoppers without damaging your brand.

  1. Get out more

Only when we experience the things affecting our brands in real terms can we really understand them – letting them guide valuable strategic change. However, it can be hard to find the time to follow all the new trends and get out there and experience them. Whether it’s the latest cutting-edge tech being used in new flagship stores, underground consumer trends set to affect categories next year, or underground brands beating their biggest competitors on retail shelves, they will all affect your brand and you need to know about them. It’s vital to keep a track on what’s going on outside of your own brand, and these trends can provide inspiration and guidance to boost your shopper marketing. Getting out and experiencing these trends yourself will help you to convert in any retail environment as you know the things affecting your shoppers today, and what is likely coming around the corner.

To win with shoppers in retail you need to find ways to cut through all the noise and connect with them. These six ways to boost your shopper marketing will help you to do this, improving conversion in retail environments whether online or offline.

Retail enjoys strong showing in Top Track listing

A flurry of retailers have been featured within the weekend’s Sunday Times Top Track 250 listing.

Top Track 250 ranks Britain’s private mid-market companies by sales, with required growth in profit or sales.

Retailers (with rankings) featuring in the Top Track in 2017 included:

  1. Holland & Barrett – Health food and supplements
  2. West Retail Group – Kitchens/electronics
  3. The Hut Group – Online retailer
  4. Lush – Cosmetics
  5. Waterstones – Books
  6. Day Lewis – Pharmaceuticals
  7. Kurt Geiger – Shoes
  8. Caffe Nero – Coffee Shops
  9. Dreams – Beds
  10. AllSaints – Fashion
  11. Fat Face – Clothing
  12. Charles Tyrwhitt – Clothing
  13. Matchesfashion.com – Luxury fashion
  14. The White Company – Lifestyle
  15. Richer Sounds – Audio Visual
  16. Dobbies Garden Centres – Garden centres
  17. The Works – Value retailer
  18. Footasylum – Footwear and fashion
  19. Buy It Direct – Laptop and appliances
  20. Reiss – Fashion
  21. Cath Kidston – Lifestyle
  22. Paperchase – Stationery and cards

The Top Track 250 is produced by Fast Track, the Oxford firm that researches Britain’s top-performing private companies and organizes dinners for their owners and directors to network and meet its sponsors. For the Top Track 250, companies must have operating margins that exceed two per cent. Sales must be growing year-on-year by 10 per cent or more for companies with the lowest sales; this proportion of growth is graduated by five per cent for the firms with the highest sales. Sales must be no more than £650m and are taken from the latest accounts, excluding shares from joint ventures and associate companies.