Posted: Wednesday 16th December 2020 in Events & Webinars.

As 2020 comes to a close, so does our Change is Now webinar series and it marks the end of a very turbulent year for retail. Over the past few months retailers have had to adapt like never before and in our Change is Now series we have covered some of the most challenging topics in the current retail landscape. From surviving peak in a pandemic, to how to retail in a recession, we have discussed several things that we definitely didn’t think we’d need to discuss this time last year.

Each month, some of the leading industry experts joined our webinar panels to share how they’ve adapted, what has worked for them and their brands, plus what they’re planning with their future strategies, so let’s take a look back at the highlights.

Peak in a pandemic

Back in October our first webinar was all about Peak in a Pandemic and our Managing Director, Martin Corcoran was joined by Lisa Hooker and Jacqueline Windsor, both Partners at PwC, and Mona Nikzad, Digital & E-commerce Strategist at Organix. Nobody knew what peak in a pandemic would look like, how it would perform or the exact strategy you’d need to be successful, but there was a similar message from each speaker; digital and e-commerce are key for the future of retail.

With stores forced to close and the UK in varying degrees of lockdown and tiers, more and more people (a minimum increase of 30%) were shopping online, either because they had to due to store closures or they were worried about their own health and wellbeing. This would result in a much bigger and longer peak online that retailers needed to plan for in order to succeed. Everything from delivery logistics and stock levels, to a seamless user experience on site needed to be reconsidered and perfected to keep customers happy.

Investing in e-commerce was now a necessity too and for many brands it simply accelerated their D2C plans. But if selling direct to consumer was not part of their current offering or future plans, brands needed to add it into their immediate strategy. Organix were able to launch their D2C offering in weeks, needing only £10k budget and the results exceeded all expectaions! So the advice was to take the plunge now- you won’t regret it.

Take a look at the full video below:

How to recession proof your sales plan

In November we turned our attention to how to recession proof your sales plan, which was well timed as England went into another lockdown that would affect businesses of all sizes. This time the expert line-up included Darren Wright, our Product Strategy Director, who was joined by Amit Agnihotri, Head of UK Analytics at eBay, Phil Twigg, Head of Acquisition at M&M Direct and Andrew Stoodley, Group Finance Director at Clarks. Like the first webinar, it had an underlying message; you should be focused on understanding your customer during this time… and once you have engaged them, you need to make sure you retain them!

The above-mentioned brands all used different strategies to engage and grow their audience and brand this year. eBay implemented a variety of tactics to support small businesses, charities and frontline workers which was great PR for them and enabled them to increase their share of voice. By looking at the data they are also able to understand what their customers want and improve the customer experience across their platform. MandM fully revamped their social strategy. It was no longer focused on promotional messaging and offers, and instead kept the customers updated with real, honest messaging about the warehouse issues they were having. This won them a community of customers that then really supported them through this pandemic. Finally Clarks, who were traditionally store based, soon realised that more online activity was going to help them through the pandemic. Focusing on virtual appointments, added value messaging and a new performance marketing mix, they have continued to be there for their customers and this new focus is likely to continue after the pandemic.

The next challenge for these brands is how to retain the customers they’ve gained and continue their growth into 2021.

If you want to watch the full video, please find it below:

How technology is reinventing retail

In the final webinar of the series, we discussed how technology is reinventing retail. Once again our Managing Director, Martin Corcoran, hosted the session and he was joined by an amazing panel of people including Kate Ancketill, CEO and Founder of GDR, Victor Bayata, Vice President of Digital and Innovation at Clarks and Samantha McCarthy, B2B Marketing Lead at Klarna.

Martin began with an introduction to Summit’s own proprietary technology, Forecaster, developed to help our retail partners identify when and where to spend money to generate the greatest return. Forecaster uses both recent and historical data overlaid with buying triggers that influence customer behaviour such as seasonality, weather, promotions etc. to gain a better understanding of what customers will want and when- and consequently when retailers should invest. All of this data creates a seasonality curve and it can do this for every product, category, audience and customer. Ultimately it is important to understand that your customer remains at the heart of any technology or innovation play. You need to know how you can better serve their needs, respond to their requirements, build the capabilities, and create the best experience to make sure they turn to you over other brands.

One thing that was clear from all three speakers is that the use of technology has grown in recent years and that growth will continue at a fast pace. With the pandemic causing shops to close their doors, Kate explained that one thing noticeable brands have embraced is “going virtual”. Whether that’s virtual brand placements in video games or enjoying everyday life experiences such as travel or cooking via a video stream, virtual is the new normal. For brands such as Clarks, whose background is bricks and mortar with customers enjoying that in store experience, it was important that they transformed so that they were there for their customers at the right moment in time and with a solution. This was pre-booked appointments with a virtual assistant, ensuring they got the same support as they had previously in store. For many brands this will now become a bigger part of enhancing the shopping experience for their customers.

Finally, understanding the customer and how they can benefit from technology is key. Klarna wants to give people a superior, stress free shopping experience and by taking technology that worked in other countries, asking the UK customers what they wanted and localising the technology based on UK customer responses, this brand has gained 10 million UK customers in 5 years. Again, it is about being there for your customer at the right moment in time with the right solution!

For the full video, take a look below:

We would like to say a huge thank you to all of the speakers and hosts involved in our webinars this year- and we can’t wait to start again in 2021. We will be hosting The Retail Reset series in the New Year, inviting you to join other retailers and leading retail experts to gain a competitive advantage, attract more customers and sell more in 2021. We will take a look at issues we expect to see in the New Year and how we can accelerate out of the pandemic… Make sure you sign up here!

If you’d like more information, or to speak to one of our team, please email [email protected].