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Don’t think about the customer; think about the experience

June 28th, 2017 | Latest News | 0 Comments

Richard Corps, MD & co-founder of Ads Reality

So many retailers strive to compete on how much they know their customers at the expense of providing a great service or experience. Simply ‘knowing’ your customer isn’t an automatic assurance that you’ll then convert their visit into a purchase or secure long-lasting brand affinity.

No doubt, retailers need to know who their customers are and what they’re going to respond to. But too much emphasis is often placed on getting under the skin of consumers to know their every move, whether Richard Corps, MD & co-founder of Ads Realityonline or offline, so that they can be targeted with offers and incentives before they even know they’re interested in buying that product.

Retailers should be looking at immersive technologies such as Augmented Reality (AR) to draw in prospective customers. Using this sort of technology is a less intrusive way of reaching consumers; giving them the option, rather than enforcing, long term engagement and loyalty.

AR has recently become popular with consumers as the technology can bring products to life from the shelves such as seeing a virtual model appear wearing a garment in your size or linking associated products to your recent purchases. In fact, a recent report from Accenture found that 88 per cent of respondents would be more inclined to purchase if they had a virtual dressing room[i]. Alongside the practical applications, AR can bring gamification to stores through digital screens which increases dwell time in-store and social awareness.

Online shopping has added convenience for consumers that have less time to visit a physical store. However, some may prefer to select their shopping by hand, which means customers must be engaged at every point of their journey, through all channels. A 2014 survey by McKinsey & Company revealed that effective customer journeys can increase a customer’s overall satisfaction by 20 per cent. Augmenting your customer experience creates a seamless customer journey which has the potential to increase revenue by up to 15 per cent and lower customer service costs by 20 per cent[ii].

There is a growing need to connect the physical and digital worlds for customers. This can be helped by a much broader adoption of AR by brands globally. With the increase in the power and ability of mobile devices, the experiences will become bigger, bolder and better.

AR can be used by retailers to accompany marketing activities such as providing product demonstrations and personal assistance to customers. However, although there has been an increase in the pressure placed on brands to have technology that engages and holds the interest of consumers, it should not replace the traditional in-store experience, they should work hand in hand.

Store assistants are the face and personality of the brand and must ensure service is seamless, even if a customer is just browsing. This emotional engagement gives the brand the opportunity to upsell, but more importantly build trust and loyalty with the customer.

Innovative businesses like Amazon and Apple have already embraced the importance of providing great experiences to its customers. Businesses should take a leaf out of their book and focus on the consumer experience rather than trying to befriend customers, who most of the time are just interested in what you offer rather than ‘bonding with your brand’.





Bright Future

June 27th, 2017 | Latest News | 0 Comments

A new research report – ‘Bright Future’ – from lighting solutions expert Zumtobel Group Services (ZGS), has identified £billions of savings that UK Retail could be making from digital transformation of their lighting systems through to 2025.

Retailers are looking to digitally transform their in-store lighting systems, first and foremost in order to save energy and reduce maintenance costs. However, digital transformation of the lighting system also provides a ready-made network on which to mount sensor-based and data-based technologies that are fundamental to creating the smart store of the future, where the retail environment ‘talks back’ to retail managers, where many tasks can be automated, and where the customer experience can be enhanced and personalised.

The new ZGS report estimates that UK Retail could be saving almost £6.3 billion through to the middle of the next decade, as a result of digitalised lighting systems.  The report was compiled by modelling a series of real-life examples across the whole of the UK Retail sector, taking into account existing market penetration of digital lighting transformation.

Previous estimates of savings from digital lighting transformation have simply looked at the value of energy savings from conversion to LED.  The ZGS report, importantly, sizes the net savings that a retailer can achieve, after including the cost of technology transformation.  In other words, the report estimates real benefit to a retailer’s bottom line.

An increasing number of pioneering retailers are achieving this transformation through solutions known as lighting-as-a-service. In these arrangements, the lighting solutions provider bundles the cost of digital lighting solutions into a single, all-embracing monthly fee, across an agreed contractual period. This means that digital lighting technology, installation, maintenance and service are all delivered for a capped monthly cost which cannot escalate, and where expert technicians do not have to be recruited in-house.  Equally, because the solution delivers energy and maintenance savings in excess of the monthly fee, the digital transformation is achieved without the retailer having to commit a penny of capital – a critically important factor in a sector typified by slim margins.

As new innovations come on to the market, the solutions provider will incorporate them into the lighting-as-a-service arrangements, so that the retailer does not get left with obsolete or out-of-date technology, and can rapidly develop its lighting network into the sensor-based digital infrastructure that is the foundation of smart stores of the future.

Darren Riva, Sales Director at ZGS, comments, “Even the conservative estimates used in our research report produce a figure that is extremely eye-catching for the CFO.  This is one of those rare opportunities where upgrading to a new digital generation of technology can pay for itself through the savings that technology generates.  The ability of the ‘as-a-service’ model to remove any need for capital expenditure is something that a body of retail pioneers have already latched onto, in order to deliver technical improvement and immediate contribution to the bottom line.”

Smart LED delivers full AV fit-out to second Missguided retail store in Bluewater

June 27th, 2017 | Latest News | 0 Comments

After delivering a highly-effective LED installation for Missguided’s flagship Westfield Stratford store in November 2016, Smart LED has once again pushed boundaries and delivered a spectacular installation of full digital signage for Missguided’s new Bluewater shopping centre store

Originating as an online retailer, Missguided launched their first highly-anticipated flagship store at the Westfield Stratford City shopping centre in east London. This has since been followed by the launch of a second store in Bluewater shopping centre, Kent.

Growing on the audio visual element of the first store, which Nitin Passi, Founder and CEO of Missguided, commented was key in “helping to create the immersive atmosphere”, Smart LED was once again commissioned to lead on the permanent AV in the project.

For the second store, the audio visual technology employed would be twice as big and with even more unique features than in the first store. Smart LED delivered 46sqm of 3.9mm LED and two 5m x 3.5m walls in the entrance on each flank at an angle.

The entrance screens fit floor to ceiling and are literally in reach of the public. Rather than using traditional mannequins or shop displays, Missguided have opted to have zero glass-fronted windows, which means the LED screen and visual content is the key attractor in gaining attention.

Smart LED also installed a one-off 7.5m x 1.5m led wall behind the cash desk replicating that of Stratford and other ceiling mounted screens as well as a full digital signage content management system (CMS) through partner SignStix.

“With the success of the first Missguided store that opened in Westfield back in November last year, we were thrilled to be appointed to install the LED and AV as part of their ‘On-Air’ concept for the latest Bluewater store” comments Ryan Walker, Managing Director of Smart LED. “As always, it has been a great pleasure to work with the incredibly innovative and creative team at Missguided. We are very proud that Smart LED have delivered what is such an integral part of Missguided’s fantastic new Bluewater store”.

The Missguided Bluewater store opened to the public on Monday 5th June 2017.


Volkswagen readies first retail store for opening

June 27th, 2017 | Latest News | 0 Comments

Volkswagen will open its first store next month. The new retail concept will offer shoppers the opportunity to browse and buy from the extensive Volkswagen range of passenger cars in the environment where they shop regularly.

Birmingham’s Bullring shopping centre houses the smart new Volkswagen store. With an annual footfall of 36 million people, and situated in the heart of the UK’s second largest city, the Bullring is an ideal location for Volkswagen to develop this exciting new retailing venture.

Partnering Volkswagen in the project is Johnsons Cars, which was formed in 1999 and has run Johnsons Volkswagen Retailers in the Birmingham area since 2004. The company will bring its experience in automotive retailing to the new Johnsons Volkswagen Bullring Birmingham store.

Consumer behaviour continues to change and that evolving landscape has inspired Volkswagen’s move into this new area of retail. Convenience is at the heart of the store concept, and it opens up the opportunity for customers to conduct everything from initial enquiries to the purchase of a new or pre-owned Volkswagen car while they are in the shopping centre.

A clear focus on meeting customers’ changing needs was central in the design and development of the store. Volkswagen and its retail design agency Dalziel & Pow wanted to create an experience that made the process of buying and owning a car as easy and straightforward as possible. The result is a unique lifestyle design that creates another new and different ‘landmark Retailer’ for the Volkswagen brand, alongside its flagship Volkswagen West London site.

Shoppers popping into the Bullring store will encounter a variety of displays that highlight Volkswagen’s advanced in-car technology. They will also be able to experience the cars first hand by sitting in the various Volkswagens on display. The vehicle selection will be refreshed frequently in order to keep the new store right up to date.
Test driving a new car is as important as ever and Volkswagen has ensured this is easy to do at the Bullring Birmingham. The dedicated test drive area for the store is located just a brief walk away. Once there, the customer will be shown around the vehicle before setting off on their drive.

As well as ordering a new car, customers can opt to purchase a used car from Volkswagen’s Das WeltAuto approved used car scheme at the store. The brand’s award-winning Blended Retail system provides the basis for the Das WeltAuto vehicles to be shown to customers.

Blended Retailing combines the digital and physical elements of car sales and allows a customer to begin the purchase decision either online at the award-winning or in store.

Motability sales, as well as Volkswagen’s comprehensive vehicle accessories and official merchandise, will also feature in the new Bullring store.

Alison Jones, Director of Volkswagen Passenger Cars, said: “Setting up Johnsons Volkswagen Bullring Birmingham has been an exciting project and we can’t wait to open the doors to the public next month. The store allows us to try out new ways of bringing our cutting edge products and technologies to the public in their usual retail environment.”

Alison added: “The store is very much a long-term pilot that we will learn a great deal from. It is all about presenting our cars and services to the public in a place that is really convenient for them, and it will sit alongside the wide network of Volkswagen Retailers across the UK that represent the heart of our business.”

Mike Berwick, Operations Director of Johnsons Cars, said: “This is a completely new retail format and way of going to the market, and so it is exciting for us to work with Volkswagen on this project. This store will complement our existing five Volkswagen retail locations and the combination will allow us to expand our customer service offers both in sales and aftersales.”

Mike added: “We have set a very competitive ‘no haggle’ pricing model. This will remove the stress experienced by some from the typical showroom visit and will allow us to speed up the enquiry and sales process, therefore delivering a better experience for shoppers.”
Michaela Moore, General Manager of Bullring Birmingham, said: “Volkswagen joining the centre is a real coup for us. We were excited by the new store concept and, with their additional offering of onsite test drives, we think it will be a real hit with our shoppers.”

Johnsons Volkswagen Bullring Birmingham: Key Facts

• 7 July: store opens to the public
• 10 car parking spaces for dedicated test drives
• 17 new jobs created
• 1,921 square foot (178.5 square metres) of retail space
• 36,000,000 annual footfall at Bullring Birmingham

Johnsons Volkswagen Bullring Birmingham will open its doors to the public on Friday 7 July. It will be open from 10am to 8pm Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm Saturday and 11am to 5pm on Sundays.


The Power of the Amazon and Whole Foods Partnership

June 23rd, 2017 | Latest News | 0 Comments

The impact of the recent announcement of purchasing Whole Foods is poised to have a great impact. Christopher Mims in this weekend’s edition of the Wall Street Journal commented “The impact of all this is clear: Existing businesses that can’t respond by becoming tech companies themselves are going to get bought or bulldozed, and power and wealth will be concentrated in the hands of a few companies in a way not seen since the Gilded Age.” There is though plenty of room in the market for retailers who can make a transition with technology, continue to listen to customer feedback, innovate and partner with complementary organisations.

How do you adapt, innovate and disrupt when you are competing with the likes of Amazon? Whether you have a 2BN+ market cap, a household brand or if you’re a small to medium business, the message is the same. To be successful, don’t go at it alone. Innovate and co-create with others. Simple in principle, yet like most important lessons to learn in life and in business, more challenging to implement. Yet, overcoming this obstacle is essential to transcend this shift to compete in this new business landscape.

To start, there is no question to be had on the importance of the topic of customer experience, to which your efforts must serve in this new business landscape. Immersive experiences that surround a customer are the one that will disrupt and also be memorable. In order to do this, leaders are creating Customer Experience Networks and further embracing critical concepts of co-create. But in order to do this with the customer at the centre and a focus on immersive experiences, it is important for organisations to consider the below points to drive differentiation:

  • Master the full buyer’s journey for a true 360 view of the customer. Very few organisations are truly experienced in isolation. And if you are, you can better yourself with others. Understand all touch points current and future that surround your customer. Who is in the ecosystems that serve them? For example, a shopper’s ecosystem that combines retailers, product manufacturers, banks, consumer ratings providers, sales tax collectors and social media app developers. Another example, a patient’s ecosystem that touches hospitals, doctor’s offices, pharmacies, drug manufacturers, insurance payers, food diary developers and meal delivery providers. Embrace and engage the ecosystem and form strategic relationships together that can disrupt the market.
  • Use data to analyse customer insights and sift out opportunities. Big Data is an overwhelming topic for many but it is essential to bring together insights to your customer’s experiences with you to learn more about opportunities. Tools exist to help bring together data into a data lake and help with understanding of complex relationships and the overall corpus to aid business analysts to understand how to improve. Mix this with insights on the full buyer’s journeys from the ecosystems above.
  • Leveraging strategic business relationships for co-creation. The ecosystem surrounding your customers are those with whom the opportunities lies for strategic co-creation to disrupt and to build a 360 degree experience. Embrace strategic relationships with purpose and intent to disrupt and create immersive experiences.
  • Implement a Customer Experience Network. Open your data to innovation with your strategic relationships. Deliver data as dev ops ready services for rapid innovation. Create, Control and Publish APIs for consumption by the strategic partners you are involved with. Deliver apps at a pace that engage and change lives. After all, customer experience stories that are engaging are those that will change the way we live. And don’t expect this to be an easy process that is only completed once. You’ll be back at this again regularly, the key capabilities required for a customer experience network exist so you can iterate, adapt and change with the constituents you started with and create new ones.

So you’re not Amazon, that’s OK. There are still opportunities for technology companies to co-create. Don’t go at it alone. Think Customer Experience Networks and co-create with others to create a winning brand.


Shawn Ryan, Vice President Product Marketing Digital as a Service, Axway


June 22nd, 2017 | Latest News | 0 Comments

LGIM Real Assets has signed an agreement with the Borough of Poole that unlocks a £26 million programme of investment at The Dolphin Centre, Dorset’s largest covered shopping destination. Plans include bringing further improved retail and dining choices to the Centre.

The agreement restructures the existing headlease arrangements into a single, longer lease and allows LGIM Real Assets to bring forward an 18-month improvement programme. Due to start in the summer, the refurbishment works are expected to reach completion by the end of 2018. Through the programme, significant improvements will be made to the internal malls and entrances of the centre, as well as to the public realm and facades of Falkland Square and Kingland Crescent, both of which are open air.

As part of the investment package, LGIM Real Assets is also working on exciting plans to broaden the appeal of The Dolphin Centre to shoppers and tourists.

Alongside LGIM Real Assets’s investment, the Council will be investing £1.5 million into upgrading the multi -storey car park, which it owns, in addition to completing the programme of remedial works that is already underway. The Council’s investment will coincide with completion of The Dolphin Centre improvements.

Mark Russell, Senior Fund Manager at LGIM Real Assets, said: “We are delighted to have reached an agreement with the Borough of Poole which will now allow us to implement our strategic vision for The Dolphin Centre. We are poised to reposition the scheme in terms of ambience and offer, bringing new trading fascias into the Centre and significantly improving the facilities available to our customers. It is exciting to be able to play such a leading role in improving the amenity of Poole town centre in collaboration with the Borough of Poole.”

Several leading retailers have signed up for the Centre with further announcements in due course. This comes in addition to new or increased commitments by fashion brand New Look (upsizing to a 14,500 sq ft store to open in the autumn) and by German shoe retailer Deichmann (opening a new 5,900 sq ft store, also openning this year). Both have taken ten-year leases.

The Dolphin Centre, which was acquired by LGIM Real Assets on behalf of its Managed Fund in 2013, is home to over 100 retail, dining and leisure brands from independent boutiques to top national names. Anchored by Marks & Spencer, Primark and Beales department store, the Centre features retailers such as River Island, Next, Boots, Clarks and Pandora. The dining and leisure offer has also been boosted with the arrival of new cafes, bars and restaurants, such as Delfino Lounge, Starbucks, Mexican burrito brand Mexigo and ice cream parlour Sprinkles all of which have recently opened.

Cllr John Challinor, Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Corporate Estates for the Borough of Poole, said: “We’re delighted to have reached an agreement with our partners at LGIM Real Assets. These exciting proposals reflect our shared ambitions for the town centre and will transform it into an attractive and vibrant destination for the people of Poole.

“We want the town centre to be a place we can be proud of, reflecting the best of Poole; somewhere that people want to spend more time shopping, eating out and enjoying their leisure time. Poole town centre has enormous potential and the agreement with LGIM Real Assets is an important step towards our vision of making it the vibrant heart of our borough.”

The Dolphin Centre has annual footfall of 11 million, more than 100 retail, dining and leisure brands and accounts for two-thirds of retail sales within the town. Joint leasing agents for The Dolphin Centre are Colliers International and Lunson Mitchenall. Architect for the improvement programme is TP Bennett.



Father’s Day spend increased 65% year on year

June 22nd, 2017 | Latest News | 0 Comments

Total revenue increased in shopping centres by 65% this Father’s Day, according to Coniq, a European CRM and marketing insight platform for shopping centres.

The number of transactions also rose by 61% in comparison to last year, as shoppers continue to spend money on gifts, despite the economic uncertainty surrounding Brexit and consumer confidence being hit by inflation over the past few months. And fashion brands saw the most offers redeemed in-store.

Daughters proved true “Daddy’s girls” and spent 123% more than sons on gifts over the weekend. Despite the warm weather, shopping centres saw 58% more customers this year on Father’s Day as children made last minute purchases. And the average spend on Dad’s this year was a healthy £220.

However, while spending on gifts rose, hospitality businesses within centres took a hit as the weekend heatwave saw families entertaining at home or al fresco, rather than staying indoors to dine. Hospitality venues saw a drop in revenue of 45% YOY on Father’s Day itself.

Ben Chesser, founder and CEO at Coniq, commented: “Our data shows that key gifting days, such as Father’s Day, continue to be a key draw for shopping centres and their tenants.  In spite of reports of consumer confidence being hit, with inflation rising and the economic uncertainty surrounding Brexit, it seems consumers have been undeterred in their spending, and they are still willing to splash out on little luxuries, around key gifting days.”

Worldpay launches entirely downloadable card terminal for smartphones

June 20th, 2017 | Latest News | 0 Comments

  • Worldpay innovation set to create a new generation of mobile merchants
  • First UK technology app that enables micro-businesses to take physical card payments using smartphones without any additional dedicated hardware

Worldpay, the UK’s leading payment processor, has announced the launch of the first ever extended-trial of a software only card payment mPOS (mobile point of sale).

My Business Mobile will allow businesses to download an app and accept face-to-face contactless card transactions on their smartphone without the need for any additional payments hardware. The app will also accept payments via Apple Pay and Android Pay.    Although some mobile device payment solutions do exist that allow card payments, they still need a piece of hardware to make the payment – usually for the shopper to enter their PIN.

My Business Mobile is a proprietary application born from Worldpay’s Technology Innovation team, enabling merchants such as coffee carts and market traders to take simple card payments on-the-go using just their smartphone.  The application will allow merchants to make sales anywhere they are and switch between compatible devices.

The My Business Mobile app can be simply downloaded onto a smartphone to accept contactless card payments anywhere, any time of up to £30. The technology is expected to appeal particularly to a range of small businesses including coffee carts, barbers, festival vendors, pop-up shops and market traders to take swift, easy on-the-go payments.

Nick Telford-Reed, Director of Technology Innovation at Worldpay commented: “By taking hardware out of the equation, we are really bringing payments into the future. This revolutionary new technology app has the potential to enable micro-businesses to benefit from taking card payments without the need for dedicated hardware. We all carry a phone in our pocket, and now these sole traders and small businesses can use that same phone to take payments.  They need never miss a sale.”

City-based coffee cart business Feijoa Tree Coffee is the first to use the app as part of a six month long pilot which Worldpay will use to assess a possible larger scale roll-out at a later date and inform further development of the technology.

Nick Telford-Reed continued: “The pilot scheme we’re running in London will give cash only businesses the opportunity to catapult themselves into the 21st Century by taking contactless card payments on the go. But this is really only the beginning. This kind of technology could also become particularly significant in the developing world, where the cost of renting a card machine can be a barrier for small businesses when it comes to accepting card payments.”

POS Specialists FaberExposize Launch in UK

June 19th, 2017 | Latest News | 0 Comments

FaberExposize has launched their brand-new UK operation in Leeds. FaberExposize already operates UK based Northern Flags and this new launch follows launches in Holland and Germany.  The group has operations across Europe and Asia, with 9 POS and high capacity production facilities offering innovative print to the Retail Sector.

The new business will be led in the UK by Iain Clasper, Managing Director of Northern Flags

“This launch is the obvious next step for us in the UK, The Northern Flag’s business has grown exponentially over the past few years and sadly it’s branding has been confusing the market with its emphasis on the North and Flags when our print offering covers every type of wide format product.  Here in the UK we are one of the smaller group facilities yet we are fully print agnostic at the Leeds factory where we produce Dye Sublimation, UV and Latex wide format print – we also have direct links into the partnerships’ ‘Super Hubs’ giving a massive capacity for our customers” 

The official launch of the new UK brand was made at the Retail Design Expo held at London Olympia last month. Savneesh Bhogal the UK Marketing Manager commented:

‘Integrating our look and feel with the rest of the Faber Partnership gives us a great proposition for our Key Accounts where we offer a personal, consultative service at great value through our incredibly efficient supply chain. We plan to move the Northern Flags business into an efficient web to print business over the summer”. 

The FaberExposize group employs over 450 people specialising in ‘just in time’ production for a range of companies including some of the world’s largest retailers. With Northern Flags being industry leaders in store front merchandising displays, it now means FaberExposize UK can offer a wider range of products including window vinyl displays, floor coverings, experiential marketing and much more to the retail sector.

In 2016 Faber’s UK subsidiary Northern Flags invested £1 million establishing a state of the art UK print facility offering a range of printing processes including UV, Latex, and Dye Sublimation. The facility is able to offer FaberExposize UK a rapid turnaround service on all substrates.

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