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What are pop up shops and how do they work?

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Author: Chris Gates, director of retail at Hitachi Consulting UK provides his thoughts on pop up stores.
 
If new products can come and go, then why can’t the stores that display them do the same?
 
It has been reported that one in six premises now stands empty across the UK, compared with just one in twenty before the start of the recession. With more empty spaces on the high street than ever before, many retailers are taking advantage of the opportunity to increase brand awareness and test new products or services by opening pop-up shops.
 
A pop-up shop is the short term let of a property by a retailer in a good or unusual location for a nominal rent. Pop up shops can enable retailers to trade in new markets during key selling periods – such as Christmas – and take advantage of an increased footfall, without the large costs associated with a permanent presence of a high street store.
 
As the name suggests, these initiatives generally have a tendency to ‘pop up’ unannounced. They quickly draw in the crowds, and then disappear or morph into something else. Most importantly, they allow the retailer to target exiting and new customers in a fresh and innovative way, whilst also maintaining an element of surprise.
 
We have seen a few examples recently of pop ups opening on the UK high street, but two in particular have stood out to us as being successful. Toys R Us opened a pop up in Whiteleys (Bayswater) to capitalise on the gap left by the Early Learning Centre during the Christmas toy selling period and John Lewis opened up a pop up in Exeter, ahead of their new department store opening. Both of which drew in massive crowds, generated positive brand recognition and increased the retailers venues.
 
Pop-up stores not only add benefit to retailers, but can also benefit landlords with void property to find a temporary usage for that space. This tenant can then in turn, cover the service charge and rental fees. It can therefore be a win-win for both new businesses and landlords alike.
 
Pop ups don’t just benefit those existing high street retailers looking to set up elsewhere. In fact, a pop up store can create a new and unique shop front for a brand that has only had internet or catalogue presence in the past, as we have seen Amazon trial in recent months. As such, the customers are able to connect to the outlet in person and provide a physical presence to something that had in the past only been viewed though a computer screen. In addition, pop ups can create new destinations for click & collect services, which are becoming increasingly popular for consumers.
 
In terms of setting up a pop up shop, the retailer will either implant a team from an existing store, or recruit specifically for that pop-up. Of course, they may however pursue a combination of both. Either way, they will need to make sure that they have experienced staff on the ground, who know the products, understand the store layout and can bring the brand to life in that new location.
 
Generally the retailer will deploy standard EPOS and store systems in the pop up. They may even introduce internet ordering kiosks or devices, so that the consumer can attend the pop up in person, yet order the product online and get it delivered at a more convenient time. Not only can this help the consumer on their multichannel retail journey, but it is also a great way for the retailer to engage with the consumer after the pop up visit and track their data.
 
The main difference between temporary stores and a high street store is that the size of the pop up is often much smaller than the high street store, meaning that some selective ranging is required. In addition, the back of house may be smaller than the normal store – requiring more frequent deliveries to maintain stock availability. This means that the staff really need to keep on top of things, ensuring that the right stock is in store at the right time and that nothing runs out. Frequent deliveries will therefore be essential and if this cannot be accommodated in the existing delivery fleet, the store may also have to look into costs and timings for third party carriers.
 
Our recent ‘shopping particle’ research revealed that that even if a product is ranged to store at a price the consumers are willing to pay, 86% of customers are willing to walk out, if either the product is not in stock and needs to be ordered in, or if the customer service is poor, or even if they have had a previous bad experience within the store. Certainly, having relevant items in stock will be one of the most important way to improve shoppers’ experiences – followed by having competitor price comparisons available in store, improvements to the in store environment, and sales assistants having more information available at their fingertips. Delivery times, regularly restocking and planning store ranges will therefore need to be carefully thought out.
 
In terms of planning the store ranges, there are a number of things that need to be taken into consideration.  For instance, product departments will need to decide which products go into each store and to what depth. Merchandisers will then need to select suitable lines within each department. Also reviewing the sales and stock position closely is key to enabling the retailer to tune the range to make the most of the limited space, as such good business intelligence will be integral.
 
Generally pop up stores can be deployed very quickly. Exeter’s John Lewis pop up, for instance, only took eleven weeks to open and as such the retailer can start reaping the benefits quickly. Here John Lewis took a creative approach to visual merchandising, using fittings and signage that looked intentionally temporary, so minimising sunk cost and time. Planning is just as important as in a normal store opening – however, there is the potential to have more of a trial approach, and to allow the teams to use their creativity. Key though is establishing what your objectives are for the pop-up, and making sure all involved are aligned behind them. Is it brand awareness, revenue, profit, or simply connecting with new customers?
 
Certainly, pop-up shops can provide a retailer with a very wide range of benefits and market opportunities, without the burden of having to enter into a long term property commitment. Set up properly the format works very well. Get it wrong and you might find a painful sting in the tail will also ‘pop up’.
 
 
 

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Thinking Long-Term When Your Shareholders Won’t Let You

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Thinking Long-Term When Your Shareholders Won’t Let You 1

By MaryLee Sachs, US CEO, Brandpie

In a recent study of nearly 700 CEOs across the US and Europe, my team at Brandpie uncovered that 76% of chief executives think corporations need to shift focus from short-term profit delivery to long-term value creation.

So why have less than 5% actually made that shift?

Uncertainty about the future, and how to navigate increasing pressure from shareholders to survive the present moment can make the shift from short-term profit to long-term value feel like a pipe dream. And that makes sense, even more now than it did when we administered the survey before the COVID-19 pandemic had taken root.

But even amidst the most uncertain period of history in many of our lifetimes, and certainly the most uncertain business landscape, the transition is possible. If they can be bold enough, those CEOs who have identified the need to shift toward long-term value can join that 5% of leaders who have already taken the leap.

All they need is purpose.

But I’m not talking about surface-level mission statements or even commitments to meeting ESG requirements.

CEOs that are ready to successfully pursue long-term value creation need something much deeper: a north star that guides businesses from the inside out. A purpose that primes them, through long-term considerations, to respond quickly and effectively to short-term concerns to benefit share and stakeholders – including staff and brand audience – across the board.

A north star

The most common barrier to leaders looking to make a long-term impact is uncertainty, and the world is increasingly rife with it.

Businesses must find a way to offer some sense of security, to shareholders and stakeholders – and purpose is the path to that security.

Organizations that have orientated themselves around a north star internally and externally are better able to address, respond to, and pivot in the face of unexpected events and the endless changing market landscape.

Take a company like BlackRock – whose CEO Larry Fink has been a long-time advocate of purpose, calling it “the animating force” for achieving profit. When I spoke to Frank Cooper, BlackRock’s Senior Managing Director and Global CMO in a webinar this summer, he reiterated the organization’s dedication to their guiding purpose, and discussed how it helped them adapt to support their employees and their stakeholders when COVID-19 threatened financial security around the world.

“In the past six months, the COVID-19 crisis, alongside racial justice movements, have drastically changed the ways people expect corporations and corporate leaders to act,” said Cooper. Initially BlackRock prioritized a humanitarian response for the short term – focusing on guaranteeing as much security for their employees, customers, and shareholders as possible. But as part of a purpose-driven leadership team, Frank knew that short-term reactionary methods wouldn’t be enough.

“If you only play defense,” he said, “You will not end up winning. You have to play defense and offence.” And purpose is the game plan that allows you to do that.

Blurred lines

BlackRock’s Fink was also one of 181 CEOs to sign a statement from the Business Roundtable last year, which redefined the purpose of corporations in light of changing business landscapes and an increased focus on stakeholders. The statement also expresses a commitment to prioritizing long-term value to the benefit of shareholders, serving as a reminder that long-term value creation and pleasing shareholders is not remotely mutually exclusive.

That Business Roundtable statement generated a lot of buzz about the rise of stakeholder capitalism, and for good reason. Increasingly, stakeholders are playing a more powerful role in the success of businesses than ever before. And that’s as it should be. Afterall, a company’s worth is only as good as the end service it delivers to meet customers’ needs, and when it comes to employees, they’re the best ambassadors for the business.

Both of these demographics are looking for long-term relationships, security, and to succeed in the long-term, businesses have to find a way to offer that now, or risk losing hold of customers and employees that are crucial to their success in the present moment.

Another rising trend that represents a blurring of the lines between share and stakeholder interests is a new wave of shareholder activism. Rather than advocating for strictly profit driven-changes, firms like Trian Partners and Blue Harbour are investing in order to steer companies towards higher ESG standards, reflecting a more purposeful approach to doing business with not just the future of a company, but the future of the world in mind.

MaryLee Sachs

MaryLee Sachs

Pivoting with purpose

As the COVID-19 crisis continues to throw uncertainty after uncertainty in the face of leaders fighting to keep business as usual as it can possibly be, purpose has proven to be a life-saving tool. It’s allowed many organizations to pivot authentically and smoothly to meet unprecedented internal and external needs.

To survive in any context, businesses constantly need to react to changing conversations to meet stakeholder needs, but the pandemic certainly underscores just how effectively a purpose can ferry organizations through short-term change toward more permanent and relevant adjustments. These uncertain times have also challenged businesses to recognize that purpose incorporates more than just something to stand for, but a way of acting, and focussing on service and fulfilment of need.

In the early days of the pandemic, companies like BrewDog, Ford, and Virgin Orbit stood out for their swift and apparently seamless transition to providing hand sanitizer, PPE, and respirators. Purpose played no uncertain part in these agile short-term pivots – by knowing who they are at a core level, and how their specific expertise positions them to respond to the evolving needs of their customers, they were able to quickly adapt to new, entirely unexpected needs for the greater good. They were driven by clear purpose internally that allowed for authentic outward change.

Playing the long game

True purpose is achieved through constant maintenance and centering – moving forward purpose must become part of corporate hygiene. The current state of business – and the world at large – demands that shareholders get on board with the value of that.

None of us have a crystal ball to determine what will happen. When you think about all the different things affecting the market – a pandemic, Black Lives Matter, equality, ESG – it’s hard to imagine how to prepare your business for any number of continually unexpected factors, while also priming it to last.

But a deeply-rooted purpose addresses both of these problems. By determining the long-term value your company can offer and implementing that internally, you create a resilient operation that knows what it stands for, how it operates, and is prepared to nimbly shift in the face of adversity.

No new normal will ever last, but businesses with a strong sense of internal self and clear, purposeful organization can.

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New TransUnion Study Finds Smooth Digital Transactions “Essential to Business Survival” During and After Pandemic

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New TransUnion Study Finds Smooth Digital Transactions “Essential to Business Survival” During and After Pandemic 2

Economist Intelligence Unit report for TransUnion highlights the crucial role emerging technologies will play in balancing fraud prevention and customer experience to help build consumer trust

A new global and UK study by the Economist Intelligence Unit for information and insights provider TransUnion has overwhelmingly found the key to whether or not companies go out of business hinges on providing consumers friction-right digital transactions. More than eight out of 10 executives, both in the UK and globally said they believe smooth transactions are “essential to business survival” rather than merely a competitive edge.

“Digital transformation has been rapidly accelerated by COVID-19, with over half (52%) of UK executives, and an even higher number globally (61%), saying they have changed their digital processes as a result of the pandemic,“ said Shail Deep, chief product officer at TransUnion in the UK. “That’s not surprising when we consider some of the changes that have come about as a result of social distancing, with reports of over a fifth (21%) of UK consumers shopping online[i] for the first time during the COVID-19 pandemic. Delivering a smooth customer journey is essential to building trust, yet over two thirds (69%) of UK businesses that made changes to their digital transaction process as a result of the pandemic experienced glitches.”

The global report, “New Dimensions of Change: Building Trust in a Digital Consumer Landscape,” is based on a study with 1,610 executives across 12 countries and five continents, including 180 senior executives from the UK. The research uncovered how technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), national digital IDs[ii] and super-apps[iii] can help overcome challenges to building digital trust.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Biometrics Will Play an Increasingly Important Role in Fraud Prevention and Customer Experience

Overwhelmingly global respondents answered that: 1) biometrics[iv] will be the dominant payment customer authentication method, 2) improved fraud detection and security is the greatest benefit to using AI, and 3) a national digital ID system can help prevent consumer fraud.

About three quarters (74%) of UK executives say biometrics are likely to be used to authenticate the vast majority of payments in the next 10 years, although the global response was even higher, at 85%. Approximately four in 10 UK and global respondents noted that improved fraud detection and security is the greatest benefit to using AI. This was the top selection by far worldwide and in the UK, with smoother customer experience coming second at about three out of 10, both in the UK and worldwide.

Furthermore, about seven out of 10 executives in the UK and globally think national digital IDs can help fraud prevention in consumer transactions. This comes at a time when the UK government has recently outlined steps to boost secure use of digital identity, with six guiding principles[v] published in September 2020. These are intended to strengthen consumer rights around digital identity to enable wider use across the country and reports say it could ultimately help boost GDP by 3% by 2030.

John Cannon, managing director of Fraud and ID at TransUnion in the UK said: “Protecting consumers and minimising the risks of fraud they face is crucial to earning their trust, and our research shows that biometrics, AI and digital IDs are seen by businesses as the key to trusted digital commerce going forward. Implementing the right tools and technology, alongside robust policies and processes, can help businesses strike the right balance when it comes to combining fraud prevention with a seamless customer experience. As this research shows, that’s no longer just desirable, it’s going to be critical for survival.”

Digital Identification Technology is at the Core of New Benefits

Authentication and verification are essential in building digital trust and new, cutting-edge solutions can combine a range of technologies to deliver instantaneous verification of customers and reduce fraud risks, whilst still supporting great customer experiences.

TransUnion recently introduced its Document Verification and Facial Recognition solution in the UK to help businesses meet this challenge, by providing customer document and selfie capture to enable real-time, online verification through the customer’s device. Near-field communication (NFC) reading of chip-enabled passports is built into the solution, to strengthen checks on ePassports. This is important given that 65% of UK executives stated that traditional authentication factors, such as birth certificate and passport in digital fraud and identity can overly inconvenience customers who value smooth digital transactions.

In order to fully embrace the new digital solutions available, such as ePassports, businesses need to have the right technology in place. And with identity fraud on the rise – up by nearly a third (32%) in the UK over the past five years, according to Cifas[vi]– the urgency for such tools is clear.

The impact of COVID-19 has fast-tracked the move to digital commerce, with nearly two-thirds of UK consumers[vii] reporting in a separate survey that they are using contactless payment technology more due to COVID-related health and safety concerns, and 61% saying they are happier using contactless payments now than they were in 2019.

In this context, with potential fraudsters seizing the opportunities that ‘faceless’ transactions present, there’s an even greater pressure on businesses to know who their customers are and carry out the right checks, keeping pace with the latest innovations. Only by doing so can they build the digital trust they will need to succeed.

Find out more about the UK report, “New Dimensions of Change” at TransUnion’s website.

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How technology has made us communicate better in crisis

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How technology has made us communicate better in crisis 3

By Pete Hanlon, CTO of Moneypenny

COVID-19 has taught us a lot. We have embraced technology, some might say, survived so far because of it, yet also craved that human interaction. Working hand-in-hand, these two elements will shape our future.

The impact of COVID-19 has been immense, not just health-wise but also economically. To date, people have shown their resilience, adapting quickly to a remote way of working and through the use of technology.

We have embraced working remotely, using video conferencing tools, for example to give us some contact, some ‘normal’. We have proven we can do it, so the question is will this new normal we have adapted to, be sticking around?

Pre-pandemic, Moneypenny was operating in thrive mode and we rapidly had to switch to survival mode. The first challenge was arranging for our 1,000 employees to all work from home during the initial lockdown whilst offering a near seamless service to our customers. No mean feat for a company that had always been office based for our front line people.

Luckily for us, the first Covid lockdown happened 3 weeks after we’d just finished an 18 month long tech project to move our telephony system from on premise to the cloud. This meant we had some options but we did need to work tirelessly to get everyone home without missing any customers call.

We spent February and March trialing solutions and coming up with a plan and then we moved people to home working, team by team to assess call quality. Three weeks later everyone was working from home and it was service as normal for our clients.

This wouldn’t have been possible without a little strategizing and a lot of tech, not to mention a superb team that worked tirelessly to make it happen. Using our already brilliant tech as well as working with tech giants including  Microsoft Teams, Twillio, Workplace by Facebook and Amazon Workspace, for example, who have all reported record levels of usage, we were able to look after our customers and our people. Our weekly mindfulness sessions took place online instead of in the office, team meetings happened virtually  with vouchers for pizza, chocolate brownies were delivered to employees doors  as a well-earned treat and our management teams shared their business and personal experiences via video conferencing.

Maintaining communication was, and remains, key. The very nature of our business gave us a head start in helping businesses, large and small, manage their calls throughout this, specifically tailoring our systems to their specific needs at any given time. Yet, we have embraced further new tech to work alongside our people for our clients: We quickly integrated Microsoft Teams into our systems so that our PAs could keep a track of their clients’ availability and efficiently manage calls whilst clients were working from home; We developed new online screening bots for clients to use in order to give them piece of mind that customers were symptom-free before any necessary meetings and using the same innovations to ensure social distancing and wellbeing to those who come into the office when restrictions allow. It seemed a very natural extension to the support we provide for businesses.

Pete Hanlon

Pete Hanlon

We are also finding that our customers are using our in-depth analysis systems to get a better understanding of call duration and patterns in calls and so on, as well as for reporting. And we are using them alongside deep learning technologies to identify common requests and common themes so that we can better serve our clients.

Before the pandemic there was significant movement towards more of a conversational and interactive experience when it comes to digital assistant technologies. This has only been heightened as natural language processing is advancing exponentially.

This demand for digital switchboard and new innovations has been a growth area during lockdown as companies were looking at ways to manage all their calls without in-house receptionists and switchboards.

As part of our business model, we offered digital switchboard for free to businesses for three months to help them at the start of lockdown allowing people to engage with an automated assistant by simply talking. Through this use, we’ve found that a voice-controlled switchboard is really gaining in popularity following the widespread adoption and acceptance of technologies like Alexa and Google in people’s homes.

A key area of focus for us, is the area of natural language processing (NLP), bridging the gap further between how we communicate and what a computer can understand. The field is advancing rapidly, and we are actively leveraging pre-trained transformer-based models such as BERT, RoBerta, Longformer to analyze and summarize live chat content. We are also monitoring and testing emerging deep learning models, such as Bigbird from Google and GPT-3 from OpenAI, to help advance our chat and digital switchboard offerings further.

Speech detection continues to get stronger. Currently the technology does not outperform our brilliant people, in my opinion, but it is starting to get closer to the matched experience. For us, however, our tech works hand-in-hand with our people enabling them to deliver brilliant and highly efficient customer service. I can’t see technology replacing people anytime soon. I do see it super-charging people in a way to be even better at what they do so we will just have to watch this space.

We always put trust at the heart of our tech roadmap and ask ourselves ‘Do our customers or our customers customers’ benefit from this tech innovation and does it improve the overall customer experience’. If the answer is yes, we progress

And finally, linking back to the relationship between humanity and tech, I believe that the future will be in video-based communication. It is increasingly important to us and we are investigating how deep learning can be applied to real-time video in order to power the future.

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