Category Archives: Retail

Are eSports finally coming to the UK?

Last month, the BBC announced that it would be showing live eSports on BBC Three. The UK is not known for having a strong presence in the eSports world, but will this be a turning point, inspiring a new generation of competitive gamers? Continue reading

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Service is at the heart of Dixons Carphone’s long-term ambitions

While positive short-term results may grab the headlines, the real story is how longer-term transformation positions Dixons Carphone for future success

Positive financials are the backdrop
Given the potential pricing and downward margin pressures of BREXIT, investors were pleased at the end of June with Dixons Carphone producing an enviable set of retail results. Much focus was on the impressive growth in profit before tax of 10%, to above £500 million, with 4% increase in like-for-like revenues.

The other bottom line from the CEO: “Customer relationships are everything”
While the top line numbers headline the financial achievement of Sebastian James and team, it is the long-term transformation plans of Dixons Carphone which capture the imagination, and forecast the pillars of future success. Sebastian James highlighted transformation strategies focused on building a long-term future for Dixons Carphone:

  • Channel agnostic
  • Service as core offer and differentiator
  • Transition from ownership to consumption
  • Lifetime value relationships

Personalisation for consumption + differentiate services = Lifetime Value
The commentary highlighted the transformation of how service is now a core offering, not just an attach to the sale of a product. Services such as warranty, maintenance, and repair are creating a predictable, profitable revenue stream and a deep ongoing relationship with consumers.

Whilst mobile and phones were highlighted as one of the most challenging categories due to the rise of SIM free phones, James’s commentary emphasised how there is an aggressive plan for both financing and leasing to increase phone replacement.

To differentiate service, Dixons Carphone will roll out same day phone repair services. Plans also indicate a breakthrough 7-day repair promise compared to 28-day market standard. These strategies not only differentiate Dixons Carphone, but create positive lifetime relationships beyond the sale of a handset. A NPS (Net Promoter Score) in the 90s is particularly noteworthy and evidence of positive customer response.

Last year Sebastian James pledged to increase service income from £500mn to £1 billion. We did not hear any specific numbers on the investor call on progress towards this goal. At £1bn, services revenue would represent 10% of today’s revenues, and would outstrip Best Buy currently at 7%. Clearly both national tech retailers are seeing a bright future in services both as a differentiator and profit stream to offset product margin pressures.

Dixons Carphone is well positioned to profit as the “Digital Plumber”
One of the most exciting and innovative long-term developments is Dixons Carphone’s journey to becoming the digital plumber of the nation in its joint venture with SSE, briefly referred to in the presentation. It is all about occupying a place of trust in people’s homes, making life easy for the customer through leveraging the Knowhow expertise of Dixons Carphone and supporting SSE’s 5 million smart-meter customers. If the two companies can make this work, they will have moved the point of sale from the store and the smartphone into the home, a new offline revolution for tech retail.

The store as destination for new technology
There is one area where Dixons Carphone is lagging the market, and that is making the store a destination for experiencing new technology. Given that Oculus Rift and HTC Vive were launched at the end of last year, not enough has been done to create experiences for customers. The price-point of Virtual Reality is evidently beyond the purse of most consumers, but customers are looking to retailers to take a lead in demonstrating this and other new technology such as smart home. We did note, however, that in next year’s plans Dixons Carphone will be introducing a new in store gaming proposition and look forward to seeing what they do for this growing category.

Positive short-term results complimented by strategy with promising trends
Beyond the top line numbers, reaching more than £1 billion in online electrical sales is a significant milestone. The projected 24% average annual growth in home delivery, and one day delivery coming in the next year, Dixons Carphone is strategically positioned i) to capitalise on one of the largest customer bases ii) to be more profitable than a pure play business, with the capability to leverage its personalised “My Account” approach iii) to sustain customer relationships that translate into profitable life time value.

by AS

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Filed under Connectivity, IT Distribution, Market Analysis, PCs, Retail, Retail in CONTEXT, Smart Technology, Tablet PCs

A Take On Tech

Becky Connolly is an A-Level student who is doing work experience at CONTEXT. Given the recent survey results showing the passion of 18-24 year-olds for Smart Home products, we asked her to give her perspective on technology as a member of Generation Z.

Having come to my work experience at CONTEXT, I joined armed with nerves, excitement and my Mac. That’s right, I’m part of the BYOD generation (Bring Your Own Device), where we bring our beloved laptops, phones and tablets in fear of the unknown technology that may be lying ahead of us. Our Generation is famous for its insatiable appetite for the latest and greatest technology- the most popular connotations of Generation Z being a square-eyed teenager (often looking like a zombie) completely fixated by their devices; be it phone, laptop or television screen. But how does our perspective differ to that of older people, including millennials?

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Importance of technology
Technology has captivated our lives. I use technology in any way possible which will enhance features of my life in a few types and swipes which nowadays is becoming easier and easier.

Technology is not only used for social media, despite the heavy connotations (having said that, I am an avid Snapchat user). A large influence of technology is instilled in us from childhood, via the use of technology in classrooms; seeing as 77% of teachers use it for instruction as 81% of teachers believe that it can enrich classroom learning. Having adapted to technology through my education I have become not only more adept to technology but dependent on it for my studies; apps such as Quizlet and SimpleMind contained the sources of my revision for eight out of my ten GCSE subjects. Needless to say, technology was VERY important to me during this course.

An environment that appeals to younger generations
As the technology world blossoms, develops and shuttles into full speed, so do the minds of Generation Z. The answer is this; to attract the younger generation, the workplaces have to advance much further in an attempt to keep up with technology. If you have “dinosaur” computers which are inexplicably slow and missing out on features which are now just the “basics” paired with caveman wifi, the appeal (no matter how cool the job) will be gone, for example- if I were offered two jobs (and I liked both) and in one office there were state-of-the-art Macs and iPads dotted around everywhere, and the other used the same technology that Shakespeare used to write Macbeth, let’s just say I’d go for the former- wouldn’t you?

Furthermore, if your job entails a flair of creativity that initially could not be expressed through technology but now can be, it is essential for the young, talented recruits to have access to the advanced technology so that they can use it and develop their skills to the highest standard. Using the latest technology would also enable flexibility of the workplace. Technology-based work ensures that one can access their work in the office, at home or even abroad. This creates a sense of continuity for the worker and the company and assures that work is accessible from anywhere.

Technology investments worth making
Alongside many people of Generation Z, my prize possession is my phone; this is not uncommon, seeing as 88% of teenagers own phones, and 84% of them are smartphones. This shows that teenagers are willing to invest more in their technology for the better features. Right now, the favoured model is an iPhone; their perfect compatibility for the demands of Generation Z including social media, video streaming and education means that the price of £599 is often met and in high demand. It seems extortionate, but their dependability, fast-response and daily use make them a more worthy investment than a holiday, which would only last a few days.

As far as hopes are concerned, one cannot even begin to hope or imagine how far technology will develop over the years; if somebody told me that I’d be buying my latte via my thumbprint a few years ago… let’s just say technology is astonishing, awe-inspiring and unimaginable, really.

 

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Filed under Mobile technology, PCs, Retail, Smart Home, Smart Technology

The Facebook Generation are leading new technology adoption

I went on to Facebook in 2008 to check up what people could see about my aspiring 17-year-old daughter who wanted to be a doctor. That was when the deluge started –the year after I joined, Facebook went from 100 million to 300 million members. That same daughter is now 26, and is part of the millennial generation, who surprisingly, at first sight, are dropping behind the younger Generation Z in driving technology adoption. Continue reading

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Filed under Connectivity, Home automation, Market Analysis, Mobile technology, Retail, Smart Home, Smart Technology

Is Amazon’s bid for Whole Foods a big blunder, or another brilliant Bezos strategy?

In the past couple of weeks, the news from the United States has been filled with headlines about Amazon’s pending acquisition of Whole Foods.

Amazon’s current bid for Whole Foods is the largest acquisition deal attempted by far. CEO Jeff Bezos is paying a premium price ($13.7bn USD) for a marginally profitable retailer who has not been growing. And the price may go higher if other suitors consider higher offers for Whole Foods in order to block Amazon’s acquisition of a nationwide retail food store chain.

As omnichannel shoppers continue to seek convenience of home delivery, a major obstacle has been the vexing problem of the “last mile” – moving quality fresh food from the warehouse to the customer’s house. Will this be the magic marriage that enables Amazon to leapfrog the competition? Or is Amazon’s move to owning stores a recipe for failure by reaching too far beyond its core business?

In this piece, we explore the pros and cons of the Amazon deal with a perspective by Context’s Global Managing Director Adam Simon, and omnichannel strategist Chris Petersen.

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Reasons why Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods is a recipe for failure – Adam Simon

  1. Amazon’s business model is ecommerce, not running stores

Amazon has built a tremendously successful model based upon online ecommerce. It specializes in warehouse, distribution and logistics to deliver items directly to consumers. Aside from a couple of pilot stores, it has no experience, team or systems in place to turn around a chain of 440 bricks and mortar stores with relatively flat growth and marginal profitability. Rather than be saddled with a retailer’s legacy systems and real estate, Amazon would be better off growing its own version. Or it could have acquired a chain with smaller format stores which would have better fitted the click and collect model.

  1. Whole Foods is upscale pricing and not consistent with Amazon’s strength for the masses

The standing cliché is that when people shop at Whole Foods they spend their whole paycheck. By design, Whole Foods offers very unique items and fresh organic foods at premium prices. Amazon is aggressively competing with Walmart in the US who is focused on the mainstream and value pricing. Whole Foods product range and high prices do not offer Amazon a competitive advantage in acquiring stores with broad customer appeal. Whole Foods brand and pricing is also inconsistent with Amazon’s own “Fresh” approach already in market.

  1. Mixing Amazon and Whole Foods cultures are like oil and water

Previous Amazon acquisitions like Zappos were designed to expand categories (shoes and apparel) but were also consistent with and built upon Bezos philosophy of “customer first” and ease of use. It’s not that Whole Foods is anti-customer, but the stores and culture were built around product differentiation and segmentation. The management philosophy and pay scales of Whole Foods are quite different from Bezos’ empire in Seattle.

Why Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods is brilliant retail disruption – Chris Petersen

  1. Bezos is investing for 2024 … the play for Whole Foods is not about grocery stores

If you follow Jeff Bezos the CEO of Amazon, he operates with a long-term vision. He has discussed how teams are in the process of planning the first half of 2024 today. Dennis Berman from the Wall Street Journal perhaps best summarized the Whole Foods acquisition:

“Amazon did not just buy Whole Foods grocery stores. It bought 431 upper-income, prime-location distribution nodes for everything it does.”

To underscore the value of an Amazon total integrated play, Whole Foods 440 stores gives Amazon to refrigerated warehouses within 10 miles of the about 80% of the US population. That kind of reach goes a long way of delivering fresh food the last mile to your door.

  1. Whole Foods enables Amazon to rapidly disrupt with its ecosystem

The Whole is greater than the sum of the parts [pun intended] and the parts of the Amazon ecosystem are formidable. Amazon has 100 million Prime members. Imagine what they could offer Prime subscribers in terms of preferred discounts and services in 440 stores. Amazon just announced a $20 version of an Alexa device built for ordering food and getting recipes … a perfect recipe for the Whole Foods concept and persona of fresh and organic.

  1. A core category of all households and the Prime subscription model is “food”

Half of Walmart’s core business is food and consumables, and it drives more than 100 million customers through its doors every week. It makes perfect sense why Amazon would buy grocery stores as opposed versus another type of retailer. As far as Whole Foods notoriously high prices, Amazon is the world’s best at shrinking supply chain costs and negotiating with suppliers. What better way to launch retail stores than to go after a category that drives weekly traffic and is synonymous with a subscription model augmented by Alexa and Dash reorders.

The future of retail is “hybrid”. Bricks and mortar retailers have been racing to build an online presence. Ecommerce realises the need to build a physical presence to complete the customer experience and establish an outpost for the last mile, especially in categories like food.

Will the Amazon big bet of 13.7 billion USD on grocery stores pay off? Chances are we won’t have to wait 7 years to find out. The “food wars” are already underway and we have a ring side seat.

It’s a great time to be a consumer! A very challenging time to be a retailer bridging both the digital and physical world.

 

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Filed under omnichannel, Retail, Retail in CONTEXT

SH&BA – Convergence of the transformation of our digital lifestyle

The SH&BA – Smart Home and Builders’ Association – Retailer & Manufacturer Panel met this past week in London. The attendees were truly a reflection of the convergence of the devices and technology in our homes and lifestyle. Participants represented a variety of industries and sectors including: manufacturing, vendors, retailers, associations, government agencies as well as academia and industry experts. What does such a diverse group of attendees gather to discuss?

Panorama

Smart Home – The hub of a digital lifestyle
IoT (internet of Things) devices have been in existence for a couple of decades. They enable connecting a variety of devices to the internet to send and receive data. That capability is not very exciting for most customers. But the ability to use IoT to monitor household utility connections to save money becomes a much more compelling reason for consumers to consider a “smart” home.

Many of the examples discussed in the SH&BA forum were about the increasing ease of use for consumers, and the value the smart devices play in making life convenient. Steve Moore from Dixons Carphone illustrated how their Honey Bee becomes a hub to connect many devices in the home. And even more importantly, it becomes the homeowners’ support centre where they can get answers to questions about devices they own. Steve Moore perhaps best summarised the key to Smart Home expansion by saying that we are at the stage where our “Goal is to take the friction out of life”.

Maybe we shouldn’t be calling it “Smart”
Rick Hartwig from the IET (Institute of Engineering and Technology) made the interesting point that we shouldn’t be using the term “Smart” home. Smart implies futuristic … a long way off. Mr. Hartwig argued that in many ways aspects of the digital “smart” home are already here. Most customers who are online already have at least one device beyond a PC connected to an internet. In the near future, energy and power consumption will be prime drivers for the home owner to adopt “smart” connected technology which adapts its settings to hours of the day in order to save energy.

The Power of Voice is rapidly accelerating adoption
One of the most exciting buzz factors in the smart home arena is the power of voice control. Initially propelled by Amazon Echo, Google Home, Apple and Microsoft are all rushing ahead with voice control speakers which become more humanised “hubs” for a variety of smart devices throughout the home.

Keynote speaker Theunis Scheepers brought some cutting edge examples from the evolution of the Amazon Alexa ecosystem. The speaker is the “human portal”, but the real genius is the Alexa cloud platform. The Alexa cloud is essentially an API system that enables partners to connect their devices to Alexa for voice control. In reality the Echo device is an array microphone and speaker – the “smart” is in the cloud that enables the customer to interact in a very natural way of using their voice to direct their digital lifestyle.

Theunis Scheepers

The Future of Smart Home
Adam Simon, from CONTEXT and Chair of the SH&BA Association, updated the group on the latest CONTEXT Smart Home Survey. The trends are clear, and consistently upward.   More consumers are aware of “smart home” and more plan to purchase a device for their home, but the patterns vary significantly by country.

From a consumer perspective, smart home adoption is still a “mid-term” play with purchases planned on 3 to 5 year horizon.   The exception is in the builder market where whole house adoption is accelerating because it is “built in” as the backbone of the home and constitutes a relatively small part of the overall home market.

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If there was one clear consensus and predictor for Smart Home it is that the power of voice will rapidly accelerate adoption. Amazon reported that Echo is now selling at 9X the holiday rate, and the Echo Dot is being bundled as a 6 pack so consumers can cover every room of their house. With the speaker hub and API cloud system we have now reached a stage similar to that of the smartphone with apps that make a connected life possible and convenient.

The next Retailer & Manufacturer Panel will be on 14th November, 2017.

For more information about SH&BA or if you are interested to attend the SH&BA panel please email marketing@shaba.eu

Guest blog by Chris Petersen, IMS

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Filed under Connectivity, Home automation, Mobile technology, Retail, Smart Home, Smart Technology

Window Shopping and Shopping on Windows

A running theme over the last few years in business news in the US and elsewhere is the terminal decline of the physical retail store. Many of the big name chains once thought of as bastions of the high street have fallen victim to the online juggernauts, on what seems like a weekly basis. The finger of blame is most often pointed at Amazon, whose profits continue to soar to such extents that some financial analysts are now claiming that their share price is overvalued and based upon forecasted earnings of massive proportions.

It is possible that President Trump may attempt to curtail Amazon’s growth through trust-busting legislation – something which could be motivated by his feud with The Washington Post and its owner/Amazon exec Jeff Bezos – however there is little legal ground to challenge the etailer simply because their business model and disruptive technology offers a better deal for consumers as things currently stand. It’s true that few retailers can take on Amazon based on pure pricing, however there are still assets which Amazon does not yet have: a large high-street presence and refined customer service.

I was speaking to a colleague recently whose wife works as a beauty consultant in London’s West End. She was upset that although their footfall was good and plenty of customers wanted to try out products, very few actually bought anything, and many could be seen price-checking and purchasing on Amazon before they even left the store. Let’s be honest: many of us do this every time we shop. Her general feeling was that they shouldn’t even bother stocking anything in-store. This remark was borne of bitter resignation, but some retailers have done exactly that, using a sophisticated omnichannel model to remove the need for significant store inventory.

There are certain categories where consumers will always want to try products in person, and which if prove unsatisfactory can result in a glut of expensive return logistics. Clothing and fashion is an obvious candidate; US brand Bonobos recently posted a $60m increase in revenue over the past five years, driven by their Guideshop setup. Consumers visit physical stores to see the new lines, try on clothing, then pay to have clothes delivered when and where they wish. The store itself does not hold large stock or inventory. Bonobos’ system challenges the assumption that most consumers want to leave with the product in hand, and has allowed them to reinvest logistical savings in staff training and a high service-level.

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This phenomenon is also seeing green shoots for technology sales, with showroom setups such as London’s Sandbox offering hands-on experience with new categories including VR. Like Bonobos, Sandbox’s function is to give consumers the chance to try room-scale VR, something Context’s 2016 VR consumer survey showed to be a key factor in purchasing VR. At this stage in the category’s lifecycle relatively few consumers have tried room-scale VR, and would therefore be unwilling to part with the daunting initial upfront cost.

These kinds of demonstrations are arguably more important for VR marketing than traditional advertising. VR can be a revelatory experience, but selling it to someone who has never tried it is an uphill struggle. It is also fair to say that many consumers shop online to avoid feeling pressured by a salesperson, and at present very few retailers can offer truly excellent face-to-face customer service. By removing the onus of making the purchase then and there, and potentially allowing for price reductions to compete with Amazon, Bonobos’ solution, or a modified omnichannel setup could be the saviour of the high street, not to mention a huge boom time for the distribution channel and drop shipments.

The art of window-dressing has a long and proud history, once a place of hubris for serious-minded shop attendants and source of satire for comedians, but now the whole store offers a window into (Microsoft) Windows.

by JW

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Filed under Connectivity, Retail, Retail in CONTEXT