Tensator World News

Humanising brands through technology

06. March 2015 11:50

It might seem contradictory to talk about technology lending a human touch to brand experiences but, these days, that's something of an outdated assumption. Customers are becoming savvier than ever when it comes to marketing, and technical innovation has played a big role in their perception of what makes a brand engaging. By allowing customers to interact with brands on a frequent basis, technology can help 'humanises' the experience.

This doesn’t necessarily mean investing in an enormous web of new systems in an attempt to revolutionise the customer experience. Brands should look to whatever technology they have to open a dialogue with customers; to provide targeted and relevant messages. In practice, there is already a multitude of resources at customers’ disposal that brands can use as a channel of communication– smartphones and tablets being the most prolific. Developing apps that connect with its audience, and not just an extra icon on the screen, can leave a lasting impression with potential and existing customers.

One successful example of this is the Nike+Running app, which allows friends to compete in sports activities and set new personal best times. This has developed the brand’s association of health and fitness, whilst also cultivating a community that is loyal to it. In essence, it’s because the technology has allowed the brand’s messages to its customers to be much more personal, and specific to their individual circumstances and interests.

There’s a lot that other sectors are learning from this. Gone is the phase of poor, faceless service, replaced by more considered communication that is genuinely helpful to individuals, rather than a passive sales message. This improved dialogue is what enables brands to better develop their own tone and personality, which increases the potential for engagement further on a more personable level.

Whatever the sector, brands are looking for new ways to cut through the noise of traditional signage, ensuring that customers’ expectations are surpassed and raising service standards overall. This is something that cosmetics brand Clarins invested in, using the first full-height Tensator Virtual Assistant to bring the figure from its advertising campaign to life in-store. The project was part of an integrated campaign to promote the launch of Thierry Mugler’s ‘Alien Extraordinaire’ perfume in three flagship stores. This campaign exemplifies how technology can be used to engage consumers by delivering a unique ‘wow’ factor. 

The continual development of technology will become increasingly vital for brands, as they look to engage with customers who have become desensitised to traditional marketing techniques. Whether through in-store tactile solutions or apps that customers can carry in their back pockets, giving a human quality to messages is what will give brands a more active role in the psychological process of shopping, travelling or banking.

Theory vs Practice and the Realities of Waiting in Line

27. February 2015 16:45

We recently came across a topical article that is near and dear to Tensator’s queue management and customer journey heart. It was an Economic View piece in The New York Times, entitled: “The Upside of Waiting in Line.” Written by Tyler Cowen, professor of economics at George Mason University, the article points out the benefits to waiting in line – with everything ranging from urban usefulness, its ability to offset lower incomes, a trigger for sellers to use lines to better segment their markets, the ability to generate buzz and garner positive social media by the excitement of waiting alongside those of like mind.

The article goes on to point out that events that require waiting can attract and inform people who otherwise may not have found out about the event otherwise. Evidence of a crowd waiting in line by default means it’s something worth waiting for. Cowen goes on to say that choosing lines wisely will become a necessary skill set that Americans will need to master and “on the plus side,” waiting is not as painful as it used to be, thanks to our smart devices and WiFi. Lines in fact, are drivers of publicity, and waiting increases anticipation and excitement. 

What is interesting about this article -- are the ensuing 97+ comments from around the world. The majority of the comments focus on how to and why to avoid lines, how lines alienate people (especially the elderly), the limits of how long people would wait for anything, the wasting of precious time, the value of time, and how forcing people to wait (especially in 12 degree weather) is disrespectful of customers.  

What may indeed be sound in theory and contain elements of truth, just doesn’t ring true in practice. Readers of Cowen’s article found little upside to waiting in lines – there were few, if any, folks advocating for more lines or exclaiming its benefits.  

Having managed queues for over 130 years, we’d like to put this article and the ensuing comments into perspective. Retailers, restauranteurs, event managers that aren’t aware of the emotional impact or frustration they are causing their customers by making them wait too long in line are jeopardizing future sales and customer loyalty -- regardless of how it’s sugarcoated.  Studies like the one in BizReport, where British shoppers’ patience for standing in line runs out after six minutes or less, while Americans leave the line after eight minutes, serve to underscore the negative and economic impact of waiting in lines.  

Cowen’s static view of waiting in line also doesn’t take into account advancements in technology. We would be remiss if we didn’t point out that queue management technology makes it virtually unnecessary for people to wait in long lines, and suffer discomfort – like really,really long lines in zero degree weather! There’s a huge economic upside to retaining customers who would otherwise walk away – perhaps for forever -- if they are frustrated enough – who will go on social media to have a good rant – and go elsewhere (especially if they are in urban setting where they have other choices).  

It’s time to move beyond theory, take a hard look at reality, and put into practice queue management technology. Real and measurable advancements have been made in this field to ensure all customer experiences – from young to old – value people’s time and money while earning businesses customer and brand loyalty for great service. A better future is here and now – trying to sell the upside of waiting in long lines is an archaic idea well past its prime.

A smoother customer journey is the solution to commuting stress

25. February 2015 11:57

This month, Transport for London begins its operation to close ticket offices at London Underground stations, instead replacing them with self-service ticket machines so that it can redeploy staff to be more customer facing. This move towards automated transactions is consistent with the overall trend of introducing self-service machine across sectors such as retail, entertainment and travel. 

At the time that the plans were announced four years ago, there was perhaps understandable trepidation about how well commuters and tourists would be served by fewer staff. The answer is that efficient queue management becomes all the more important when it comes to letting customers navigate the ticket halls.

Research carried out by Tensator previously has shown how low public tolerance is of poorly managed self-service checkouts in retail. In fact, one in three shoppers in the survey admitted to downing their baskets and leaving a supermarket because of a bad experience with the machines. One in five even admitted to not paying for items if they triggered a fault.

For TfL and other transport operators in the UK to get around these issues – particularly with millions of impatient commuters rushing to get to work– the passenger journey needs to be as smooth as possible in order to keep passenger stress levels to a minimum. If the experience at the station is simple and easy to navigate, people are less likely to become frustrated. The station is where the passenger actively engages with the transport provider and the whole travel experience can be ruined by a poor service offering.

To eliminate queue frustration at the bank of self-service ticket machines, careful consideration needs to be given to organising a single line of people – rather than leaving several lines to form where nobody quite knows which to join. Single Line Queuing can reduce walk-aways by up to 96% and improve overall queue flow by up to 30%, as passengers easily see that they are making fair progress together, without anybody jumping their place.

Simple but effective solutions like these – for any busy transport hub – can make the difference between passengers having a stressful commute to work or an easy one, which affects their perception of their journey as a whole.

Who knows? If every commute was this simple, the morning rush hour might be the calmest part of the day.

Ben Gale is appointed as new CEO of Tensator Group

23. February 2015 15:37

Ben Gale has joined Tensator to lead the group into the next phase of growth and opportunities. Ben is the former vice president of payments, loyalty and insights provider The Logic Group, where he focussed heavily on the shift towards online and mobile retailing. He takes on the role as the company places a greater emphasis on its technology-based solutions for retail, transport, finance, healthcare and the public sector. Technologically innovative solutions such as the Tensator Virtual Assistant and suite of Virtual Queuing options have already enjoyed international sales success.

Ben’s appointment will provide Tensator with further opportunities to build upon its success. Commenting on his appointment, Ben said: “We have an exciting opportunity to take an already well-established company and develop it into a successful technology provider in the customer journey space. I believe our best years lie ahead of us and we will be working together as a team to cement ourselves as a trusted and experienced technology specialist.”

Previous to his role at The Logic Group, Ben was the vice president of NCR Corporation, a global technology company that does business in 180+ countries. Here he defined sales and growth strategy for Europe, the Middle East and Africa and has built up a wealth of knowledge about the needs of customers within retail, financial, travel, food service and public sector organisations. 

Ben was also national sales director for Reed Business Information and spent over a decade at Xerox, the global business services, technology and document management specialist. During his time at the company, Ben progressed to the role general sales and marketing manager for the Middle East and Africa. 

In his new role at Tensator Group, Ben will take charge of the company’s eight global offices, overseeing 237 staff across the UK, USA, Dubai, Portugal, Spain, Poland, Germany and France. 

Why omnichannel retail is more than just a buzzword

20. February 2015 14:47

Ajay Joshi speaks to Information Age about the importance of the omnichannel to retail.

Technology has a way of sweeping up markets – or even entire industries – into a whirlwind of hype. If every microchipped wonder that was billed to change the world had ever come close, we might be closer to Stanley Kubrick’s vision of the future.

As far back as the early 2000s, when the UK was caught up in a fever of leaving behind the familiar in a resurgence of space-age wonderment, there were countless column inches and airtime minutes declaring that the unstoppable success of online brands would sound the death bell for traditional high street retailing.

Continue reading here: http://www.information-age.com/industry/uk-industry/123459054/why-omnichannel-retail-more-just-buzzword

Click and Collect Lines Are Missed Opportunities

29. January 2015 16:40

In a recent eMarketer article entitled, “Retailers Must Make Buy Online, Pick Up In-Store Worth It,” it was found that consumers spent more time waiting in line when they buy online, and pick up in-store. With consumers looking to save costs and avoid shipping charges, Click and Collect holds tremendous promise to entice consumers into brick-and-mortar stores and increase shoppers’ ticket value at the cash register. 

In getting shoppers past the physical store doors, the article goes on to say that retailers leave a lot to be desired when it comes to handling the "Collect" part of their Click and Collect initiatives -- with a number of customers surveyed spending 58% of their time in the store at the checkout desk. Shoppers who started in-store and checked out in-store spent just 15% of their in-store time at the checkout desk, by contrast.

Why?

Retailers need to examine the purpose of  their program to make Click and Collect worthwhile for their customers and for their bottom line.  There's no point to having shoppers spend their trip to the store at the register. By leveraging virtual queuing, customers can take a virtual ticket via their smartphones or take a physical ticket with the time stamp that lets them know exactly when their item is ready for pickup and payment -- leaving them free to browse, and to shop.  A call forward queuing system coupled with in-queue merchandising can further turn wait time into shopping time by engaging  and delighting shoppers as they are attended to in an efficient, intelligent manner -- while being provided with additional information or exposed to new and exciting products as they wait their turn.

We all know that that a two minute wait can feel like nothing at all, or can feel like forever. Click and Collect is a great idea for getting customers into your store and providing additional customer value -- but once that customer is in your store  -- make sure you positively influence how your customer feels about their wait  time. Rather than just standing in line -- maximize each moment for a better customer experience and a chance to improve your bottom line.

 

Tensator gives airport customer service more lift down under

26. January 2015 17:48

Launceston Airport has become the first in Australia to use a Tensator Virtual Assistant, in order to streamline the flow of passengers through its security screening area.

With the restrictions of modern airline security requirements forming a bottleneck in many terminals, airport operators have a greater need to help customers complete their checks in the fastest possible time, to keep the whole operation running smoothly.

Launceston Airport was the first in the country to recognise the opportunities that would be brought by installing a Tensator Virtual Assistant. The system projects a lifelike image of Ava, a fictional airport customer service representative, dressed in the Launceston uniform, who stands at the entrance to the security area.

Ava greets approaching passengers and explains to them what they are able to take on an aircraft, how their liquid items should be contained and presented, and what they need to do when they enter the security area. This helps to avoid passenger confusion, particularly for those who don’t often travel by air. As she is able to repeat the message as often as necessary to as many customers as possible, and captures people’s attention much more effectively than traditional signage, she frees up time for airport staff to take care of other issues.

“We’re very proud to have been able to introduce this technology to Launceston Airport.” explained Leon Tokar, managing director at Atir Design, Tensator’s distributor in Australia.

“Having a Tensator Virtual Assistant in the terminal means Launceston Airport can offer a very efficient service to all customers that come through. Customers are now well informed and completely aware of what they need to do to get through security quickly and easily. Furthermore, staff members now have more time to help with more specific requests. It all makes for a much more pleasant experience for anyone who flies from Launceston.”

Passengers travelling through the airport have also welcomed the Virtual Assistant with many participating in the vote to name the new arrival.

Since the unit was installed in November, the airport has seen queues at the security area significantly reduced, particularly at peak times. Security area staff, meanwhile, have reported that they no longer have to repeat the security advice to passengers as often as they did previously, suggesting that customers pay more attention to the unit than they did to the traditional signage that it replaced. 

Click here for more information on all Tensator Virtual Assistant models.

Announcing Our New Website

20. January 2015 13:49

Tensator is proud to announce our new website.  Our goal is to create a web presence that tells the story of our growth, our innovative queue management solutions and shares our groundbreaking work in different sectors with meaningful real world use cases.

We invite you to tour the new site, enjoy our case studies and read our blog, which shares our perspective as well as our clients’ and partners’ perspectives on the evolving customer journey.  

Our case studies highlight the measurable ways we help businesses improve their bottom line, delight and inform customers, and value their time. Here are a few you don’t want to miss:

You can learn about our history, and our customer experience management consultancy, join our partner program and read the latest coverage from around the world, in our news section.

Finally, you can learn about how we can provide you with guaranteed ROI with our innovative Pilot to Rollout Program and about the people behind the work – our global dedicated resources and engineers who help our customers compete on the basis of value instead of price.

 

2015 Technology’s Evolving Role in Consumer Decision Making

12. January 2015 14:36

Leslie Hand, vice president, IDC Retail Insights makes note in IDC’s Retail Insights' outlook for 2015 that there is a new fourth dimension to last year’s go-forward retail paradigm of the three Rs — Relationship, Relevance, and Reciprocity. For 2015, IDC sees another characteristic building on these three – Participation. "Relentless technology innovation underpins consumers' participatory behavior and expectations,” says Hand. 

We here at Tensator agree that the customer journey has expanded and that consumers are taking on a participatory role in their overall shopping experience – thanks to technology innovations. IDC states that the most successful retailers will find opportunities by putting mobility, analytics, cloud, and social to work in their customer and operations strategies – and recommends adopting omni-channel integration technologies and IT governance, unifying customer engagement for hyper-personalized loyalty, adopting product intelligence for marketing and competitive insight, employing location-based services via analytics-driven agile engagement and operations as well as utilizing socially networked on-demand delivery services.

In a recent MediaPost article, we see an example of the participatory role a consumer plays in their purchase decision making. A brick and mortar shopper asks a retailer to match an online price from another vendor for two products – they decline to match the online price based on a technicality. In less time than it takes for the retailer to return with the products to the counter – the shopper purchases the item on their mobile phone for the lesser price and has it shipped to their house for free.

In NRF’s “The Makings of a Mobile Holiday” Julie Ask, Vice President and Principal Analyst at Forrester Research says,“One in five consumers expects to be able to pick up their mobile phone and do anything from getting store hours to price comparisons to who has what in inventory. It's all being driven by this expectation. Retailers are getting better at it, but many of them are still struggling to keep up with customer expectations.” The author goes on to say that the process wasn’t just about the ease of buying from a mobile phone; it was about the product selection, credit card information on file, shipping address stored and ease of follow-up by phone if there are any issues. They note that while shoppers obviously will continue to shop at physical retailers, the people running those stores will have to deal with the realization that purchasing while in that store is just one mobile click away.

Making it easy to for shoppers to make their purchase decision is key to retail success in 2015. Retailers need to enable shoppers to participate in how, where and when their purchases are made. To compete effectively, brick and mortars need to embrace free shipping, click and collect, price matching or matching incentives, employ mobile greeter and virtual queuing technologies to speed up the checkout and offer greater convenience/loyalty rewards. By 2015, saavy retailers will have implemented these technologies and should have the necessary intelligence at their fingertips to increase staffing when needed on the fly. The 2015 consumer is going to brick and mortar outlets for excitement and an experience – if they can have the in-store experience coupled with the convenience that mobility delivers – retailers can expect to have a banner year ahead. 

 

Proximity Marketing – Impacting Service, Revenue, Efficiency and Basket Size

18. December 2014 17:43

With a majority of consumers more comfortable conducting their shopping via mobile devices – getting shoppers to look up and try something new is challenging to say the least. 

To this effect, 2014 has seen a jump in technological developments in beacons, audio, visual and proximity marketing solutions – all designed to help retailers influence, sway and capture the in-store attention of time crunched and attention short shoppers. These technologies are starting to take hold – with Office Depot, Macy’s and Lord & Taylor jumping on board.  

In fact, Tensator’s clients are already realizing measurable monetary/sales improvements by reaching customers more effectively through the proximity marketing capabilities of the Tensator Virtual Assistant: 

  • TY KU Realizes 600% Uplift in Sales with Tensator Virtual Sommelier 
  • Clarins Wows Customers With Virtual Assistant 
  • Coca-Cola launches Virtual Assistant in cash and carries in London for Share a Coke campaign 
  • Grafton Shopping Centre introduces their new Tensator Virtual Assistant
  • Modell’s CEO Mitchell Modell Welcomes Super Bowl XLVIII Fans via the Tensator Virtual Assistant 

In a recent Mobile Marketing article, the benefits of proximity marketing solutions such as beacons and audio technology are debated as standalone solutions but, ultimately as the article concludes  -- these technological advances mean much more when they work in harmony with each other so that the effect “can be much greater, than the sum of its part in terms of improved customer service, new revenue streams, store efficiency and ultimately basket size.”

We can expect to see more and more integrated proximity marketing technology developments very soon – 2015 is shaping up to be an exciting year for retailers and shoppers alike! 

Planning for a Boxing Day bonanza

17. December 2014 15:43

There is no denying that, as consumers, we all love to get our hands on a bargain. Nothing demonstrates this more than recent scenes on both sides of the Atlantic, with shoppers clamouring for a Black Friday deal.

It seems that no sooner has the dust settled and the promotional signs and stickers have been removed, than we are about to embark on one of the most anticipated retail periods of the year – the Boxing Day and New Year sales.

With Black Friday being a relatively new phenomenon in the UK and Europe, it seemed that many in the retail sector underestimated customer demand, resulting in chaotic scenes. The Retail Traffic Index from Ipsos Retail Performance posted a 23 per cent increase in UK footfall for Black Friday 2014, compared to the previous year.

Of course, with media reports surrounding the Black Friday stampede being largely negative and raising concerns over shopper safety, the past few weeks will have been a time of reflection and increased planning for many retailers.


So, as shoppers prepare to set their alarms for the early hours of Boxing Day to be first for the best bargains, we have decided to share our top tips to ensure a successful and safe post-Christmas sales period:

 

  • Pre-queuing has become as much of a tradition as the sales themselves. Early morning queues and the subsequent rush to get in to the store make news worthy stories for the media, but you need to consider how this portrays your brand and, more importantly, impacts on your customers. Use barriers to position your exterior queue to the side of your main door rather than directly in front of it. This will give you more control over the flow of customers entering the store and reduce the risk over everyone rushing in at once.
  • Use a customer footfall counter. Knowing how many people are in store at any given time will help you tailor your staff levels as well as protect your customers. During sales, retailers can expect higher footfall in stores, but they should never allow more customers into the store than they are legally allowed. Using a people counting solution will allow retailers to manage customer flow and avoid stores becoming overrun and leaving customers vulnerable to crushing.
  • Communication is key. Not only should you ensure that signage is clear, visible and effective to avoid baffled shoppers and create a cohesive customer journey throughout the store, but staff should be well briefed too. Plans should be in place to deal with long lines and increased customer questions. Everyone should also be aware of emergency procedures, and contingency plans should be in place to cover all eventualities. 
  • Stagger offers and promotions at different times during the day as a way of managing customer flow so that not all your customers arrive at the same time. With the correct promotional messaging, customers will arrive at the store at the different times during the day depending on their shopping needs. Managing the customer flow in this way will ensure a smoother customer experience with reduced queuing times and a less frantic atmosphere. 
  • You may need to make changes to your interior layout to cope with increased crowds. Traditionally at this time of year, shoppers are greeted with large displays of the best bargains at the front of the store. However, think about customer flow and safety. It may be better to keep entrance areas clutter free and encourage shoppers further in to the store to browse for bargains. Not only is this the safer option, but it may increase the average spend too by heightening dwell time. 
  • Waiting in line is perhaps a given at this time of year, but do not let it impact negatively on your brand and the experience of your customers. Ensure staff levels are high enough to cope with demand and that you have in-queue entertainment to help distract customers. Research has shown that occupied time feels shorter than unoccupied time, and this can have a massive impact on your customers’ perception of your brand. 

 

With a little careful planning and preparation, both retailers and consumers can benefit from the Boxing Day sales. Through customer and queue management, everyone in the retail sector can ensure that the start of the New Year is a profitable, safe and happy one for all. 

Doling out technological solutions for an enhanced experience

11. December 2014 10:20

We all know that queuing has long been an intrinsic part of British culture. In fact, Brits are infamous for it worldwide. The stereotype is so widespread that there are many well-known phrases that include the word queue, which are part of the English language. However, following a recent announcement by the Minister for Employment, it seems that ‘joining the dole queue’ could soon be one phrase consigned to the past.

The Government is investing in a major digital revamp at more than 700 Jobcentres across the country. The move will see old-fashioned ways of ‘signing on’, job cards in the window and the dole queue scrapped, and replaced with more hi-tech solutions, including around 23,000 electronic signing pads, free wi-fi and 6,000 job search computers.

Of course, the headlines have focused on the fact that this technological revolution will bring about an annual cost saving of £2m. However, here at Tensator, we are also interested to see the benefits the changes bring to jobseekers too. Thanks to the digital revamp, claimants will be able to access all the Jobcentre’s services from one device. The new computers will allow people to update their CV, look for suitable jobs and work out their benefits. 

As tech pioneers ourselves, we believe this new approach is well positioned to overhaul the entire user experience at Jobcentres, making the process more efficient, engaging and innovative. Some may say it is long overdue for a sector that has long been tarnished with an old fashioned image, where long queues and lengthy waits have been considered the norm.

Of course, allowing users to take control of their own journey, albeit controlled and guided, frees up staff time and resources to focus on more complex enquiries.

The main thing to note is that the announcement brings about clear benefits for both the organisation in question and its customers. It is this fact that is closely aligned with Tensator’s own beliefs when it comes to the use of technology. Technological solutions should be used by companies to improve efficiency, profitability, and revenue while at the same time providing an enjoyable customer experience.   

The golden rule is that technology should never be used just for technology’s sake. It needs to offer a viable solution to a problem or issue that makes life easier for all concerned and presents the potential for some form of growth – ideally financially or in terms of reputation.

Take the Tensator Virtual Assistant that we recently installed at the Grafton Shopping Centre in Cambridge as an example. From the customers’ point of view, it offers a convenient source for answers to frequently asked questions, general centre information and access to exclusive in-store offers. For retailers within the centre, it provides a new, innovative way to market to shoppers, with the potential to increase both footfall and dwell time.

The approach the Government is taking in relation to the Jobcentres reflects a trend we have seen in other sectors such as retail, the finance sector, public sector, transport and healthcare. The use of technology to create a hybrid online / offline experience is being implemented by a number of organisations to adapt to changing behaviours and expectations.

It is interesting to now see this approach filtering into other sectors too and we firmly believe it will continue. As a reflection of our technology driven lifestyle and culture, it is one trend that is here to stay.

Dollars and Sense - Time and Knowledge are the Retail Currency of 2015

08. December 2014 18:31

Deloitte’s Annual Holiday Survey forecasts that overall holiday spending will be 4 to 4.5 percent higher than last year -- with shoppers doing the bulk of their shopping in December. 

As far as shopping online vs. in stores, the Deloitte survey notes that the most common reason that the 5,033 shoppers polled gave for avoiding stores during the holiday season was long lines (40 percent). The most likely reason to buy in a store was a knowledgeable store employee (48 percent).

With retailers competing with online shopping which delivers immediate service and near-instantaneous information, having effective queue management/checkout systems, in-queue merchandising, and POP offers as well as educated and knowledgeable staff armed with in-line greeter/mobile tech is paramount to positively impacting the bottom line.

If we look at these in-store percentages, we come to understand the importance of valuing customer’s time and having knowledgeable employees – the ones who go out of their way to serve the customer.  If we viewed every minute a customer is left standing in line, or cooling their heels waiting for someone to help them -- as real, hard revenue loss – we’d change this behavior and fast! We’d look to reduce wait time and if we couldn’t reduce the wait any more, we’d try to add value to the experience. 

For the Holiday Season and in the year ahead, retailers stand to significantly increase their competitive advantage and increase their revenue by understanding that time and knowledge are the new retail currency. 

Why retail technology is big business

26. November 2014 11:07

Press coverage

Tensator Group CEO Alan McPherson explains why technology has jumped to the front of the queue.

Figures from the A.R.E.’s '2015 Purchasing Forecast' show that in-store technology and fixtures are the retail areas most likely to see a significant budget increase next year. The report shows that providers of technologically innovative solutions will be the big winners, securing contracts from all sizes of retail chains. With 46 per cent of retailers saying they would be increasing spend on in-store technology, it certainly makes happy reading for those in the business.

Click here to read the full article on the Real Business website.

How bad weather affects retail

25. November 2014 17:09

When adverse weather hits, the lure of online shopping becomes even stronger. With a harsh winter predicted ahead of us, retailers will have to up their game to ensure footfall remains strong. Our recent survey* found that 63 per cent of shoppers prefer online to high street shopping, fuelled by a growing proportion of consumers ‘showrooming’ - 83 per cent admit to finding the best deals online before visiting high street stores.

Marks & Spencer and Next both cited unusually warm weather in October as the primary cause for poor sales of winter clothes, but statisticians have found that the correlation is inconclusive. So is the argument that adverse or unexpected conditions are to blame for low takings limited? In January, Retail Week reported on the ONS figures over the past ten years, which showed a complicated relationship between climate and sales figures. 

To attract consumers into stores and increase spending, retailers must stay relevant. This means adapting to poor weather conditions so the customer journey remains enjoyable. When the cold weather hits, we are less inclined to wait in long queues, and are more likely to shop online. Using technology to improve the efficiency of the in-store shopping experience is one way to combat this trend. Retailers who accept changing customer behaviours and alter their offerings accordingly will be ones who succeed.

Retail experts acknowledge the need for brands to be prepared to accommodate unseasonal weather changes. Karl McKeever, leading retail consultant and founder of agency Visual Thinking, says:

“Often, it can be as simple as looking out the window. Harrods, for example, changes its digital screen content in-store according to the weather. If it’s raining, shoppers entering the store are immediately directed to hats, coats and scarves. The same principles can be applied to traditional visual merchandising techniques, such as in-store and window displays. It’s all about relevance, and retailers need to be agile and adaptable in order to maximise sales opportunities.”

With ever-unpredictable weather on the cards, improving the customer journey will continue to be at the forefront of retailers' minds to strengthen footfall. Solutions such as Virtual Queuing and Inline Mobile, which make shopping a more streamlined and tailored experience for the individual customer will deliver a level of service that encourages retailers' high street offer.

*independent survey conducted by Tensator Group October 2014.