Posted: Thursday 25th February 2021 in Webinars.

Last year in our Change is Now webinar series, it was all about recognising that due to the pandemic, retailers and brands needed to respond quickly to the change in the retail world and the shift towards digital. This year, we see the retail industry as a whole resting itself and looking at the new, expected, omnichannel experience.

In The Retail Reset series we are looking at how digital shifts in consumer behaviours and expectations are sticking, and thereby requiring brands and retailers to really reset their strategic roadmaps to meet these ‘new normal’ needs.

We kicked off today with “How to exceed customers’ expectations in 2021”, taking a look at what brands need to be doing to keep their customers engaged through this transition and how digital transformation will be key. Adrienne Burns our Client Strategy Director lead the webinar and had a great panel to interview. She speaks to Beth O’Grady, Client Strategy Manager at Summit about Digital Transformation and which brands have done it well. Then we talked to Sara Roberts the CEO and founder of Healthy Nibbles around her brand and what she’s done to pivot into the digital world. Finally we had a fireside chat with George MacDonald, Executive Editor of Retail Week to find out what he thinks is important in 2021 and which trends are here to stay!

You can sign up to the next webinar here, or watch and read about the first one below!

What do customers expect in the current climate? 

Because of the pandemic and COVID, we have seen a lot of changes to online retail over the last year, with a lot of changes to shopping habits.  

  • 44% of consumers expect to permanently change their shopping habits, meaning that even post-covid these habits are likely to stick. We also found that 47% of consumers are expecting to increase the number of times they shop online.  
  • Social commerce is on the rise. We have seen the likes of Instagram and TikTok change their platform to focus on shopping. 
  • AR and other digital solutions are starting to be used by shoppers as it is making their decisions easier online. It is now becoming an expectation for these consumers to see the use of AR when shopping online. 
  • Another expectation held by consumer’s is surrounding payment: people are becoming more confident in the likes of PayPal, Klarna and Apple Pay, and are therefore expecting these methods to be accepted by whichever retailer they are shopping with online. 

“There is no alternative to digital transformation. Visionary companies will carve out new strategic options for themselves – those that don’t adapt, will fail”

Jeff Bezos, Amazon

What is Digital Transformation? 

Everyone is talking about it, and everyone is doing it in some form! But what exactly is Digital Transformation? 

It’s not easy to find a set-in-stone definition, as it’s something that can mean a lot of different things to different businesses: 

  • Gartner – Digital transformation refers to everything from IT modernisation (for example, cloud computing), to digital optimisation, to the invention of new digital business models.  
  • Forbes – Digital transformation is when companies adopt new or developing technology to solve business problems. The new technology either enhances the capabilities of humans involved in the process or reduces the need for humans to be involves.  
  • SalesForce – Digital transformation is the process of using digital technologies to create new – or modify existing – business processes, culture, and customer experiences to meet changing business and market requirements. 

At Summit, Digital Transformation is quite simply; 

Do the stuff that customers love, online

Take everything your customers love: the brand experiences; the USPs of your business; the specifics that make your brand who they are and replicate these online. 

So which brands have done this well? We have looked at our favourite Digital Transformation makeovers below: 

Cath Kidston – Brand relevancy & Brexit were to blame for the administration of this iconic British brand, resulting sadly in the closure of 60 stores on the high street. The parent company of the brand kept their online offering and focused on digital PR initiatives & partnerships to push Cath Kidston back into the positive limelight and re-affirm their target audience. The first way they did this was via #cathkidstontopdog, which was a campaign that aligned with their dog product offering. Over 14,000 dog owners applied, generating a mass of backlinks increasing their SEO value, driving 11,000 people to site. On top of this they also partnered with animal crossing, allowing users to scan QR codes to use the iconic Cath Kidston prints in-game. Overall Cath Kidston were very successful in getting back in front of potential customers digitally. 

Lego – Lego are known for their fun and immersive in-store experiences which drive sales by engaging customers. The pandemic forcing stores to close meant that Lego had to push their activities online. They did this via content campaigns & seamless social channel activity – doubling their online traffic to 100 million visits. The first was a campaign called “Build and Talk”, creating the family feel we associate with Lego by bringing both children and parents together to build characters whilst also learning about digital safety. They then pushed to replicate that familiar in-store sensory experience by creating an EP of different Lego landscapes, from the clicking of bricks to the sound of a child rummaging through a box of Lego.  

Three – It is very rare that you would go down the high street and not see a mobile network store, as consumers have a desire to talk to an expert about purchasing a mobile or SIM before they complete that transaction. When their stores were forced to close, Three pushed to create a seamless digital experience. They introduced the “Three Store Now” service, where customers could communicate with their own personal shopper (expert) over video call, replicating the in-store experience further by placing these personal shoppers within an actual Three store.  

Specsavers – Specsavers were reliant on in-store visits as they did not have a tradable website. Buying glasses immediately after an eye-test is the traditional way – but not the only way. Specsacers launched a full e-commerce journey in the first few weeks of the pandemic, followed by a new set of services to meet the customer’s needs. They also launched multiple PR campaigns via social channels to build on consumer confidence. 

RemoteCare was one of these services, enabling people to receive sight and hearing advice via video or phone. One of their social campaigns was “Lockdown Stories”, where people told their stories of how Specsavers helped them throughout lockdown.  

The Healthy Nibbles Story with Sara Roberts 

How did Healthy Nibbles start? 

Healthy Nibbles was started as a healthy vending machine company, but has now grown to sell other products such as snack boxes and wellness hubs. 

The idea came from a personal experience of Sara’s, when she went to purchase from a hospital vending machine but was struck by glaring juxtaposition; there was a poster beside the machine which explained the danger of obesity and diabetes, but the machine was full of chocolate, crisps and sweets. 

How has the pandemic directly impacted your business? 

It was initially startling, with the vending side of the business driving £3.50 weekly revenue throughout the first lockdown in comparison to the usual £1000s. The immediate response was to adapt and strengthen other areas of the business to accommodate for the drop in revenue on the vending side. 

There was also a stronger focus on ensuring employees were well looked after once they were informed to work from home. To do this, Sara explained that the company began to send out employee care pack boxes, creating a cultural touch point for the business, reminding employees of who they are working for. 

How has digital played a role in this journey? 

They started to explore the consumer side of the market, making their website less B2B and more D2C. There is more emphasis on what the customers are looking for in regards to content and social engagement. Throughout this, there is still a focus on emotional connectivity; these employee care boxes were created for employees, but the truth is many consumers are also employees themselves, and therefore seek to be “looked after”. The messaging for the employee boxes wasn’t much different to the messaging for snack boxes because of this. Digital was very much around content; pushing positive messages of mental health linked with nutrition to fulfill customer needs. 

How did you find the initial step into launching your social approach? 

Sara described the experience as “interesting”. As Healthy Nibbles are in the early stages of this approach, continual processes are taking place. The business wished to raise awareness of the ethical and environmental values of their business and how they support those values, such as completely plastic free packaging and water-based inks. Customers want an “authenticity piece”; they want to see the company live and breathe sustainable values. 

What’s next for Healthy Nibbles in their digital transformation journey? 

Wellness Hubs – Unmanned cafés with a wellness space attached. That wellness space could be anything from a studio space that can be used for flexible wellbeing, or it could just simply be a touchscreen with wellbeing information, directing employees to the wellness activities the companies are operating. It responds to so many different demands from the COVID side of things; a wider range of products, flexible, cashless payments, 24/7. 

Fireside chat with George Macdonald 

What are the digital trends which may or may not stick around? 

The shift to online during the pandemic is here to stay and is likely to continue to grow at various speeds. Trends that are useful and are likely to add value to the consumer are also here to say, such as Pandora with their AR and Specsavers with their RemoteCare service. Livestreaming within businesses is also likely to accelerate as it is value to individual shoppers in large numbers. 

How do you think the in-store experience is going to change? 

When certain COVID measures are relaxed it is likely that consumers will be keen to go back in-store to socialise, especially within the hospitality sector. Therefore, businesses may feel it is necessary to revert back to some of their pre-pandemic experiences. Bricks & mortar and digital will increasingly complement one another. This is already visible with the likes of Three and their “Three Store Now” service.  

Thinking about brands and retailers and how they are attracting and engaging with their consumer audience, what do you think is important for brands to consider in this digital space? 

It is important for businesses to sustain their sense of community, such as Tesco and their new online healthy cooking program with Jamie Oliver. Building on community creates the chance for businesses to sell their products less cynically; you want to be a helpful part of people’s lives. 

Sign up to our next webinar “Are you too socially distanced from your customers?” today to make sure you’re involved in the digital marketing conversations of 2021.