The secret to successful store expansion

Online retail is no stranger to positive headlines. In fact, it sometimes seems that all we hear about in the industry is the strength of ecommerce.

And it’s these types of stories that have put stores in the spotlight for the wrong reasons. Although 90% of all sales still happen in physical shops, there seems to be far more of a focus on the aspects of bricks-and-mortar that aren’t doing quite so well. For example, in the last few weeks alone, BHS, Greggs and Dixons Carphone have been making headlines regarding store closures.

One of the key reasons that stores close is because they don’t resonate with shoppers; in the interactive, instant world of digital commerce, store layouts and processes can appear outdated. However, this is something that can be amended – and there’s a huge appetite amongst retailers for getting the store right and growing its presence. New research by CBRE has revealed that retail estate expansion still remains high on the agenda, with 83% of retailers adamant that store growth will not be influenced by the rise of ecommerce this year. After all, there is no online substitute for seeing, touching and trying items before purchase.

The benefits of bricks-and-mortar haven’t gone unnoticed by e-tailers. Already this year, we’ve seen their eyes move towards the high streets, with the likes of Missguided announcing its first offline stores. Yes, the business is doing very well trading as it is, but if they want to grow even further, it makes sense to offer a physical experience as an alternative too.

So how can retailers optimise their stores for profit growth – and potential expansion if they get their formula right? For starters, today’s connected consumer is all about convenience and, as we well know, that doesn’t necessarily mean choosing between online or offline retail. Instead, shoppers want to switch between the two at different stages of their journey, and they need to know that retailers will allow them to be flexible in this respect.

Achieving this level of agility means incorporating some of the elements that shoppers love about digital platforms into the store experience. Some retailers are already way ahead of the game, launching concepts that aim to convey the ‘store of the future.’

House of Fraser, for example, recently experimented with shoppable windows, whilst Tommy Hilfiger has brought the runway to the store using virtual reality headsets. These are pretty ambitious of course; the store must focus on perfecting the basics before taking this kind of leap. Investing in more mainstream technology such as mobile POS is one good example of connecting the bricks-and-mortar experience through online functionality.

Another key consideration is the interaction between ecommerce and store activity through click-and-collect. Even though many retailers already offer the service, there are still elements of the process that frustrate customers. Perfecting the ‘collect’ part should now be a major focus for stores, making it a pleasant experience for those finalising their purchase. Enabling speedy payments technology, such as contactless, will be handy here, as well as ensuring the right amount of staff are there to keep the queues running smoothly. Streamlining the click-and-collect element will increase the opportunity to encourage further impulse purchases.

Of course, not all online browsing will take place at home. In an era of smartphone addicts, it’s now habit for consumers to rely on their devices whilst in a store too. Vodat International recently commissioned some research that revealed 54% of shoppers use their smartphones to compare prices in the aisles, 46% look up product information and 44% for personal reasons, such as checking social media. The bottom line is that consumers expect to be able to connect to the web whenever suits them – and that includes within the bricks-and-mortar shopping journey.

It may seem obvious, but there are still retailers that do not invest properly in strong WiFi to encourage this behaviour in controlled circumstances. In fact, 3 in 10 shoppers don’t find the current standard of WiFi unreliable. Retailers with sub-par WiFi are not only at risk of frustrating their customers, they are also losing a valuable opportunity to understand (and react to) their behaviour patterns. Provided they select the right provider, retailers will be able to interact with, influence and capture insight on consumers when they log on to the network.

It’s great to hear that retailers are feeling optimistic about the potential of stores, especially at a time when ecommerce is threatening share of sales channel. Gone is the time where stores and online were two separate things; the future of the store is very much intertwined with digital interaction. If they go about it in the right way, retailers can now harness the power of ecommerce in the physical environment, and use it to boost profitability.

Stay tuned for our new report – Battle of the bandwidths: why customers are won and lost on the strength of retail networks – which will provide even more insights into the connected consumer.

Morrisons invests in its staff – but in the right way?

Savvy retailers will already know just how important its staff are to their success. As the faces to their name, it’s essential that the happiness of the workforce is prioritised.

Morrisons is certainly attempting to do this with its latest move, which will see the supermarket chain invest a huge £30 million into facilities for its staff. Not only will this include a décor revamp, but employees will be treated to perks like subsidised coffee.

However, the change that is likely to result in the most enthusiasm from its workers is to wages. Employee benefits and pay is a hot topic right now, as retailers prepare the implement the new National Living Wage in April. And Morrisons is staying ahead of the curve on this one, promising its 90,000 staff a 20% pay rise to £8.20 an hour, more than the expected £7.20.

This is sure to boost staff morale– much needed considering Morrisons has been suffering falling sales for quite some time now. But are the changes actually going to help staff do their jobs any better?

Being the ones who work in the stores every day, store associates are the only ones who can really know what needs improving. Yet, they’re often the ones who retailers listen to the least. For example, new research from Miura Systems claims that UK retail businesses are losing millions of pounds in sales by not listening to staff who’ve spotted a vital need to improve store technology.

Today’s shopper is tech-reliant, so it’s no surprise that this is a major factor in how they rate a store experience. Whether it be a speedy checkout service, or the ability to browse the web as they navigate the shop, consumers expect technology to run seamlessly – and it’s often the staff they’ll blame if it doesn’t.

So, even with a free cup of coffee in hand, it’s unlikely that Morrisons staff will feel very motivated if shop floor processes aren’t optimised.

Miura also revealed that 72% of retail employees think customers are more demanding than ever before, even asking them questions when they’re serving others. With this mind, retailers should be doing all they can to help employees in high-pressure situations. Arming them with tablets so they can check product information and stock availability quickly, perhaps, or placing interactive kiosks in-store to allow shoppers to serve themselves easily when a staff member is unavailable.

A further 80% of retail staff said shoppers put pressure on them to hurry when there is a queue. In busy trading periods this can’t always be avoided, but it can certainly be improved. A speedy payment process is absolutely essential here; as the final stage in their journey, this is the memory most shoppers will take away when they leave. Therefore, retailers must in the most cutting-edge payments technology to keep queues flowing – such as contactless and mobile.

Of course, this is no discredit to what businesses like Morrisons are doing. Rewarding staff with treats is a great way to show appreciation for all their hard work, and happy store associates tend to be more productive. However, this work will do little good to the performance of their business if they’re not armed with the right tools to keep customers happy too.

Inside the mind of the modern consumer

Understanding customers is no easy job for retailers today. What consumers want is changing all the time, as is the technology that they rely on as part of their shopping trip. It’s no wonder that many businesses are struggling to keep up!

It doesn’t help that retailers are inundated with headlines that profess the latest insights into consumer habits; which ones can they actually trust? Here, we’ve detailed the most recent retail research that retailers – online and off – should factor into their customer experience strategy.

“They are impatient” – Vodat International

5 minutes; that’s how long a customer will wait for their query to be answered in-store. That doesn’t leave much time for a staff member to gather the information they’re unsure of, before that shopper abandons their journey completely.

How to respond

Ensure that your workforce receives regular training regarding your product offering – especially if new items are added. For an extra helping hand, why not implement tablets in stores so that answers are always at staff’s fingertips?

“They expect personalisation” – iVend Retail

A third of shoppers think they get personalised offers online, but not in-store. Perhaps this is one of the key reasons why ecommerce seems to gaining its sales share of channel.

How to respond

Yes, online has automated capabilities that allow loyal customers to receive information that is specific to them – but there is something the store can do better.  The ability to see, touch and try products cannot be replicated online, and even better, the presence of staff means that shoppers can get even more insight into the products they’re interested in. There’s nothing more personable than face-to-face interaction, so encourage conversation to give staff the opportunity to upsell products that might compliment a customer’s purchase.

“They tap-to-pay” – Visa

The number of contactless transactions made in the UK last year increased by 250%, according to the payments specialist. It’s suggested that this is largely due to the spending limit rise in September, which saw consumers able to pay for goods of up to £30, as opposed to just £20.

How to respond

The speed of the payment method fits the profile of today’s busy, impatient shopper. Therefore, now is definitely the time to ensure that your store not only accepts contactless, but encourages its usage.

You’ll also find that the same NFC technology in contactless terminals works with some mobile payments services, e.g. Apple Pay. As availability widens, consumers will come to expect all retailers to offer the method to them in-store. Those that don’t are likely to be viewed as outdated pretty soon, while those that do will see queue times accelerate and customer satisfaction soar.

Of course, if you’re planning on implementing such technology, you’ll want to make sure that your card payment network security is up-to-scratch. You can find out how to ensure this here.

“They go mobile” – Episerver

Mobile shopping is already playing a huge part in how people are shopping this year; 59% of Brits used their device to purchase items in the January sales.

How to respond

Shopping on a mobile device is meant to provide the ultimate convenience for consumers, allowing them to browse retailers wherever they go. With this in mind, it’s essential that you make your own mobile experience easy – ensure that you’re website is properly optimised, and that the payment process is neither lengthy nor fiddly.

“They click-and-collect” – Atomik

Shoppers might love mobile, but not quite as much as click-and-collect. A recent survey saw it beat mobile as the method that impacted their 2015 shopping experience the most.

How to respond

The role of the store has evolved from being just a sales channel, it now has to deal with a constant flow of click-and-collect orders. As most retailers now offer the service, they need to make sure that it’s the best it can be to stand out from so many others that offer the same. Training staff, implementing dedicated click-and-collect personnel, or adding an interactive kiosk are all ways to better optimise the store for click-and-collect. Of course, with all this extra technology, retailers must invest in a network that’s robust enough to support it.

Have you seen any recent retail statistics that you think offer real value to retailers? Then share them with us on Twitter via @Vodat_Int.

 

Apple Pay: there’s a lot more retail and hospitality needs to get right before taking a bite

Like most technology vendors, we’ve been eagerly awaiting the formalisation of Apple Pay’s launch in the UK – and paid particular interest to which retailers and hospitality vendors will be first to launch the service.

Boots, Dune, JD Sports and New Look are early retail adopters, while Costa, KFC, Pret A Manger, Nando’s and Wagamama are all flagship Apple Pay candidates on the hospitality side.

Of course, whilst this has novelty value at the moment, there is still a consumer adoption mountain for Apple Pay’s advocates to climb. For starters, the function is only available to Apple Watch, iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus users – those devices equipped with NFC technology – so it will take time for earlier technology users to make an upgrade.

Also, the concept of mobile payments is still very young. Don’t forget, it’s only in the last 18-24 months that we’ve seen contactless take off as a convenient transaction method; and that’s using debit cards, a familiar means of paying for goods.

Speaking of contactless, this brings me to another point. The purpose of these emerging payment technologies is to make life quicker and more convenient for the consumer. Giving them the chance to use a niche payment service like Apple Pay is fair enough, but many retailers and hospitality vendors still haven’t perfected their current transactional offering.

In today’s customer-centric society, getting the basics right cannot be underestimated. Adding new payment channels puts greater strain on stores and hospitality venues – devices, data, networks, staff knowledge, customer service etc. Without a solid foundation to build on, businesses risk adding to a house of cards that could collapse at any second.

One thing we do know is that mobile commerce has increased significantly in importance over the past 12 months, so it’s likely that mobile payments will follow suit. While consumers are coming to terms with using their smartphones as a payment device, retailers and hospitality companies have a prime opportunity to refine their existing transactional technology, ahead of Apple Pay’s widespread launch further down the line.

For more payments insights visit our sister site, The Payments Network.

3 sectors that can’t survive without contactless

Contactless has become the unstoppable force of the payments industry. From a relatively niche transaction method less than two years ago, its popularity has soared among consumers, with contactless spending increasing by 330% during 2014.

Although this change in consumer behaviour impacts businesses across the board, there are certain industries where contactless payments are proving critical to success. Here, we outline the opportunities in three of those sectors – and why it’s paramount that companies in these areas embrace the latest payments technology.

  1. Retail

It’s official: contactless is the new cash – it’s even driving down ATM traffic. ‘Touch and go’ style card transactions are the fastest growing payment method. According to recent Halifax statistics, contactless now accounts for £15 of every £100 spent, and have contributed to a 16.6% fall in cash withdrawals.

What does this mean for retailers? Put simply, today’s shoppers want to use their card for both low and high value purchases. With companies including Boots, Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s and WH Smith already proactively using contactless payments services, the technology is quickly moving from a differentiator to a necessity.

The need to offer contactless payments will increase over the next few months as well; from January 2016 all new POS terminals that accept MasterCard will be required to have contactless capabilities.

  1. Travel

Of all the sectors, travel has been most progressive in its use of contactless payments. Almost half of contactless payments take place within the M25, predominantly due to its adoption across the London transport network.

Since switching from Oyster to contactless, Transport for London has reached more than one million taps a day, becoming the fastest growing contactless merchant in Europe.

With one of the country’s largest transport networks leading the way, it is only a matter of time before customers demand to use contactless payments whenever they commute. This will, however, enable travel companies to address challenges such as passengers attempting to board with pre-pay cards that are out of credit.

  1. Hospitality

An important change takes place this September, which will catapult contactless to the front of the hospitality agenda: the maximum transaction value will increase to £30.

While contactless is already being used by some pubs and cafes to cover low value orders, raising the limit on payment levels will place new vendors – such as restaurants – in the ‘sweet spot’ for tap to pay technology.

Contactless will also become a crucial queue buster during busy periods. McDonalds and Starbucks are among those already using payment solutions to improve customer convenience, and even those outside the traditional hospitality environment, like market stalls and mobile food vans, will need contactless card payments to keep up with consumer demands.

Enjoyed this article? Check out our surprising stats about contactless payments for more insights.

What’s the real reason card payment usage in the UK continues to grow?

The UK Cards Association has this week announced that consumer card spending surpassed £0.5 trillion for the first time in 2013. According to the report, nearly 75% of all retail spending is now through credit and debit cards in the UK, a big increase in comparison to ten years ago, when it lingered below the 50% mark. This has left us questioning, why?

Electronic payment methods have been around long enough now, that people of all demographics have felt comfortable using them for some while – so this is a doubtful cause for the constant increase, although it may be a contributing factor.

Some may blame consumers’ growing reliance on credit cards, however there has actually been a 16% fall in outstanding borrowing on credit cards since its peak in 2005, as the economy finally seems to have made a turn in the right direction. If anything, this would impact negatively on card payment figures.

In-store payment innovations such as contactless and MPoS give consumers a more exciting format to use and they may be encouraged to pay this way than through traditional methods. The ease of both payment types offer customers more convenience and speed – two things that consumers are increasingly craving.

Hand-in-hand with an increase in card payments is the growth of e-commerce – if you want to shop online, you simply have to pay electronically or you can’t make an order. With the growing spectrum of delivery and collection options being made available, paying online is sometimes the best option for time-pressed consumers.

The world is becoming ever more electronic in all aspects of life and consumers want the convenience and ease of paying by card. For large establishments, this can sometimes pose a problems with updating systems and connectivity on a large scale, but ensuring all parts of a business are networked in together streamlines the process and will inevitably impact on a company’s bottom line.