Post Lockdown – What are our predictions for the future?

It’s the end of the (old) world as we know it (and I feel fine) 

Now I have finished with my review of how businesses and individuals have been coping, (Click to read Part One and Part Two of the New Normal) I thought I would conclude the final part with some predictions:

  • Too many people, too few jobs – I do believe that we will start to see an increase in the announcement of redundancies as the Government looks to end the Job Retention Scheme.  Once businesses start to incur the significant costs of staff and premises it really does depend on how their revenues recover post lockdown as to whether they can maintain their pre-covid employment levels.  We are already seeing some businesses (including those owned by Gordon Ramsay) using the Job Retention Scheme funding to pay people through their redundancy notice. 
  • Head Office/Home Office balance – This isolation has proved that a lot of people can successfully work from home and businesses are still able to function.  Offices will need to be repurposed in order to cater for reduced employment densities (most offices are now aiming to operate at 20-25% capacity immediately after lockdown easing) and the way we interact with them will change.  Some businesses have already made the decision to not open their offices until 2021.  Most of us will still desire that face-to-face interaction and collaboration with our colleagues, albeit, on a less frequent basis. 
  • Hours to suit – Flexi-time will see a resurgence. Most businesses will need to show willing to enable their staff to commute with minimal exposure at peak times on public transport. The authorities and environmentalists would like to see everyone walk/cycle to work (participation will inevitably be higher during the nice weather) but where public transport is the only practical mode it will mean flexible start and finish times to minimise peak travel. 
  • Digital dominance – We will all emerge from lockdown with new abilities for the digital age – particularly around remote working and video communication.  I feel that this will help diminish the need for some physical face-to-face contact in order to get business done.  It will mean greater scrutiny and justification of travel, particularly with use of public transport.  There will also be an emergence of new rising stars within businesses who have a natural flair for engaging in the digital world – some skills may translate from the physical world, other competencies will be discovered or developed. 
  • Home delivery and online will rise sharper than recent historic growth levels – The grocery sector has seen phenomenal growth in demand for online services in the last few months, to the extent that they have been unable to fulfil all the potential. I believe this will continue as more capacity is added and the crisis proves to be the trigger that forces a step-change in people’s behaviour, with more preferring to have their regular groceries delivered, to the detriment of the environmental considerations. 
  • People will shop local and support their independents – The successful independents have been very good at adapting their offer in the crisis and really engaging in support of their local customers.  I believe there will be a lot more emphasis that people put on supporting these independent businesses and shopping local. 
  • Retail Phoenix from the flames – There will always be a physical retail/leisure/F&B sector in the UK but there will be some clear winners and losers that emerge.  Some businesses will be rendered flightless (excuse the analogy) and be left to wither in the embers, struggling with business models that are unsustainable moving forward. Other businesses will adapt and survive.  
  • The death of retail browsing? The old ‘retail therapy’ rule book will need to be ripped up. Conversion rates should increase as people make visits with a clear purpose, and average basket sizes will increase as shopper frequency will be down and customers will be unable to try before they buy (due to the changing rooms being unavailable). This will result in an increase in returns and in the challenge retailers face on getting this returned stock sold.  
  • Retail Property is broken, and it needs Landlords and tenants to fix it – Both parties need to share the pain out of the current crisis. There has to be a recognition that Landlords still have bills to pay and so withholding rent for an extended period of time may not be acceptable.  This crisis will drive a fundamental re-correction in retail rents in order to take account of the new function of retail and ongoing rental sustainability.  There also needs to be a drive for more flexible leases where both parties share in the upside but share the pain of depressed performance.
  • Staycation havoc – With businesses encouraging staff to take holiday, people wanting a change of scenery from their home, and continued uncertainty on the opening up of international borders (and who will be around to take us to foreign climes) this can only mean that everyone will be holidaying in this country in 2020.  My advice, particularly if you have children, is to get your October half term and Xmas trips booked as soon as possible as prices are likely to go through the roof. 
Have you planned your staycation?
  • We will be better prepared for next time – This may be a once in a lifetime event (or longer) but be sure that UK plc will need to become a little more self-sufficient in certain areas – particularly with regards necessary medical supplies.  Who is to say that some forms of manufacturing won’t come back to our shores?
  • It will be an employers’ market – to a certain degree.  With too many candidates chasing too few roles the big challenge will be efficiently filtering applications.  This is where, as a recruiter, we can do our big value add to hiring managers and HR teams.   This will also mean that candidates will have to be more on point throughout the process than they have ever been, from their CV and covering letter, to interview skills – again, something we are well placed to support.  

Give us a call on +44(0)7918 653 877 / +44(0)7979 756 257 or email info@redtigerconsulting.co.uk if you would like to talk about finding talented individuals wishing to consider a fresh challenge to join your team.

Image: Photo by Mark Arron Smith from Pexels

The new normal (part one)

Coronavirus has impacted everyone’s lives over the last few months and I would imagine most people are well and truly bored of the subject. With lockdown slowly being lifted and we tentatively ease back into more flexible routines, I thought it would be an appropriate time to provide an irreverent summary of my thoughts.

It’s Only Words 

This crisis has certainly expanded everyone’s vocabulary and brought new meaning to a number of words and phrases: 

  • The new normal – typically a management consultant’s mantra, this phrase has permeated into all manner of writing and conversation in relation to Covid-19 to provide a catch all on what our world will look like post pandemic. It infers that there will be some changes to the status quo. One change will be that it will make its way onto the boardroom bingo list. 
  • Driven by the data – never before have I witnessed such a consistent emphasis with the public on the use of data to inform decisions.  The nation at large have had to get used to a wide range of graphs, charts, infographics and maps, albeit of varying quality.  It is interesting to see how some regular charts have dropped off the agenda – particularly the one that ‘compare’ the death rate across different countries.  What can also be seen is how merging different disparate datasets can help give a much clearer picture and that individual datasets must be understood in the context of what they include or don’t include (metadata).   It is also worth mentioning how terms such as algorithm and modelling/models have stealthily sneaked into the lexicon of healthcare officials.  It is a good time to be into data!  If you interested its worth checking out this BBC4 programme. Watch Contagion The BBC Pandemic 2018
Sales of Corona Extra dropped as people avoided it for fear of catching the virus
  • Coronavirus and Covid-19 – I do wish we had never heard of these two phrases and I would imagine that AB InBev the company that owns Corona Extra lager would say the same for the former commonly used phrase. 
  • Lockdown – When will it end?  What are the transition rules going to be?   Do we stay at home or stay alert or both?  I’ve seen some interesting innovations, such as a lockdown rave with strategically placed tape allowing for a socially distanced square to dance in, and restaurant concepts where everyone dines in an enclosed bubble.  What will ongoing social distancing restrictions mean for consumer businesses, their space requirements and their business model? 
  • The R number – This is the (R)eproduction number which measures the average number of people that an infected person will pass the virus on to.  More than 1 is bad, less than 1 and as near as possible to 0 is good.  I’m not entirely sure how we can accurately track the R number without thorough testing and tracking but I am sure that the contact-tracing app that is trialling on the Isle of Wight is one step in the right direction if we can get widespread adoption. 
  • Social distancing – A series of interventions designed to minimise the spread of the disease. This can be everything from not going out at all, to ensuring you stay a minimum of 2 metres away from people from outside of your own household (in Australia it is 4 metres!), and only going out for essential trips such as shopping, visiting the doctors/pharmacy and exercise.   Apparently Boris has been asking medical experts whether it is feasible to reduce this down to 1 metre.   Based on my experiences I do perhaps think there should be public training on what 2 metres actually is, oh no, I’m starting to sound like a:  
  • Covidiot – This has become a common phrase to describe those that clearly break the rules on social distancing.  I would argue that it should also be used to describe those who have nothing better to do than highlight how well they are doing with regards sticking the rules (are they rules or ‘guidelines’) and take great pleasure in highlighting situations where others aren’t being so strict. 
Durdle Door beach in Dorset, during coronovirus the pandemic
  • Video calls – A lot of people didn’t know what Zoom, MS Teams or Skype really were before Covid-19 struck.  Whatever your preference it is a great bit of technology when used in the right way, but there have also been a number of video call fails – from connection problems forgetting to unmute when speaking, speaking when someone else is speaking, spewing profanities when thinking you are on mute, all the way through to walking around in your altogether in the background whilst being blissfully unaware that your partner is on a live work video call.   
Coffee Break Zoom Call

There is always one who takes their mastery of the technology to another level.  Basic operators know how to join a call, switch video on and unmute the microphone.  Intermediate level operators take it one step further by showing they can raise their hand, chat to the group (or privately to individuals), record the proceedings, and change their background picture to something vaguely amusing for a nanosecond.  Advanced users take it one step further both in their attire (a professional looking headset may well be accompanied by a funny hat or wig) and their mastery of the technology.  This includes choosing a background video (I haven’t seen a roller coaster video with a fan on to mimic the blowing of hair yet), to suggesting the use of Whiteboards for that all-important group brainstorming session. I recently learned that advanced Zoom users can ‘touch themselves up’, read into that what you like.  I call these people Zoom goons and they can accelerate… 

Zoom fatigue  – When lockdown first happened it was an excuse for people to show off these skills for the sake of it, because for most it was a novel and new way of doing things.  People are certainly showing signs of this novelty wearing off and Zoom fatigue is certainly kicking in.  The problem is there is no escape, morning, noon and night, diaries are chock-a-block with Zoom meets (even double bookings), juggling work, catch ups with family, quizzes and virtual pubs with your mates.  Unlike pre-lock down – the organisers know that you will be in, so there is little escape!  It has been lovely to see various companies shouting about how they are continuing to do business and share their screen captures of team calls. Based on my experiences of trying to get an approved selfie with just my wife I do often wonder how many takes were required to get the perfect picture.  Remember to build in an extra 15 minutes to each meeting if you plan to capture the moment.

Shielding – This is used to describe the process of helping those who are particularly clinically vulnerable, with a pre-existing condition such as cancer, severe respiratory conditions or immunodeficiency problems, where the advice is to stay at home at all times.  These people got an additional letter from the NHS to say that they need to stay inside.  Shielding used to mean something I would try and do (and fail) when playing on one of my son’s fighting games on the Xbox. 

Herd immunity – This is best achieved by introduction of a vaccine but some theorists believe a managed introduction of the virus into the population so that between 70-90% gain immunity. This means that the virus can’t spread (containing the R rate) and it is really  a form of ‘natural selection’, resulting in high death rates and significant capacity issues with the NHS service.  We have already lost significant numbers of our ‘herd’ and this as a full-on approach would have made the losses to be in the hundreds of thousands. 

PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) – We are all leading authorities on challenges with supply of equipment that is necessary to protect healthcare workers from infection by the virus.  Members of the public have been largely impacted by a lack of toilet paper and flour but PPE equipment has clearly not been in the right quantities in the right locations at the right time for our healthcare professionals.  It is a geographic logistics challenge that doesn’t seem to have been solved in the last 2-3 months.  I was speaking to a logistics professional who said that it is also a challenge to ensure the equipment is delivered to the correct location within a large hospital where there may be multiple PPE storage facilities and delivery points.  

Bookcases – The de-facto background to a zoom call, particularly for those speaking on national news programmes. Surely there must be more interesting places to choose than in front of a bookcase as a backdrop to your 3 minutes of fame?  I do recall Judy Murray mixing it up a bit and doing a Zoom call on BBC news in front of her fridge. It was a particularly nice fridge, I might add. 

The ultimate Zoom bookcase…

Finally, what do you think the ‘new normal’ will look like? What lessons will we learn and will we take forward new ways of working when we return to the workplace and normality!

We’ve survived the coronavirus pandemic so far and will all hopefully come out the other side a stronger nation. I’d love to hear your thoughts on what you’ve learnt, what you will take forward and what you can’t wait to see the back of!

Is Your Business Data Driven?

I have been working in Data and Analytics for 17 years and have seen many different ways to manage data and analytics across a business. Working in mature data driven businesses you realise that the legacy of having a lot of data in a business can be as much of a hinderance as a help. 

Invariably data, and the teams that use it, have grown organically within departments and therefore tend to work in silos on short term projects, reacting to immediate departmental needs.  They often manage their own data and software, with individual support from IT. Moving from this situation to more effective ways of working can be painful.

In my experience working with much smaller or less mature businesses gives a great opportunity to get things right from the start. Here are some of the key points that, during my work as a both an analyst and a consultant, I have come across and in order to be effectively data driven, businesses need to consider.

Business vision

When a truly data-driven retailer I worked with recently was struggling, it was my view that it was too reliant on data. People in the business were endlessly looking to the data to tell them whether they should move more upmarket or focus on value. Data can inform this decision but not decisively. Businesses need to have a clear vison and strategy to ensure their data works for them.

Senior oversight

There is great benefit in data and analytics being overseen by a governance team of business leaders representing both users and consumers of the data. This team can set the data and analytics vision and strategy, aligned to that of the wider business and oversee cross functional project prioritisation, usually moving the focus to long-term strategic projects. This team is best placed to effectively agree a program of technology and data developments with IT and procure appropriate business wide software.

Structure

Agreeing an effective structure for your analysts to work in is key. This structure will depend on the size of your business and the number of functions using data. There are advantages to having a centralised team, working on business wide strategic projects, using the same technology and sharing skills and experience. I believe this can sometimes impact on the business knowledge of analysts and their understanding of the issues faced by your internal customers, so a balance needs to be struck between the two structures.

Project prioritisation

Time and resources are always tight in any business and the conflicting priorities of your analysts, your customers and business leaders can be difficult to balance. The governance team play a key role in getting this right and can help to ensure data objectives support business objectives, that there is a mix of short term reactive and long term strategic projects and a clear process for measuring model effectiveness.

Becoming data driven

Too often, businesses jump straight in to big investments in technology or people without understanding their requirements and having someone with extensive data experience involved is key to making things run smoothly in the future. I believe that it is necessary to get the basics right to enable data driven decision making.

Reporting

Often simple performance reporting is time consuming for analysts to run, not prompt enough to make effective time sensitive decisions and lacks sufficient insight to support decision makers. The procurement of new technology and software can be transformative but the financial benefit needs to be investigated to ensure the investment is worthwhile.

Segmentation

Enriching data and creating useful segmentations can add vital insight to performance reporting. Segmentations can be based on numerous data types and attributes including customer, store, product or region. Once useful segments are established based on business need, long term performance trends can be more clearly identified and support better investment decisions.

Well-designed segments can be rolled out across business functions to support diverse areas such as Brand, PR, Marketing, Property, Buying, Price and Promotions and Operations.

Store catchments

Understanding your store catchments, and the customer types who live and work in them, is vital in the current competitive environment and there are a number of ways to do this using both internal and external data. Each method has it’s own advantages and disadvantages and experience in this area is useful rather than buying generic data from the company with the best sales pitch.

Multichannel

Every successful retailer needs a multichannel strategy and strong customer propositions including cross channel marketing, click and collect, store returns for online purchases and stock information. Data is at the heart of creating a seamless customer experience and this is where data teams must work across departments in order to deliver the experience that today’s customers expect.

Modelling

Predictive modelling at business, store, category, customer and product level can be an effective tool to take data based decision making to the next level. It can be implemented on an ad-hoc basis, to quickly improve current initiatives, in particular marketing campaigns. The long term goal should be to automate both model recommendations and results but that involves significant investment in both technology and people. Both breadth and depth of experience is required to understand when and where predictive modelling will be most effective and ensure the right conditions exist for successful implementation.

Red Tiger Consulting can offer practical, cost effective advice on your data strategy. Through interviews and workshops, we determine the analytics maturity of your business and then work with you to create a road map of data and analytics initiatives to help you improve data utilisation.  So if your business needs expert advice to ensure they are making the most of their data contact Anne@redtigerconsulting.co.uk or Steve@redtigerconsulting.co.uk to find out more. 

Image: Stocksnap https://stocksnap.io

The Vinyl Countdown

Vinyl nearly died in the mid 2000s, but today it accounts for nearly one in 10 of all physical purchases in the UK.  The ubiquitous music streaming services are now responsible for the majority of music consumption and CD sales are on the decline, but Vinyl has bucked the trend and found a niche, accounting for 4.1m new album sales in 2017 (up from just 210,000 in 2007). Part of this may be due to an initiative called Record Store Day that started in 2008. For anyone who (like me) is a complete noob (this is a fairly recent addition to my vocabulary gleaned from my oldest step son) on this subject, this is one day a year when over 200 independent record stores (and they do have to be independent) join together to celebrate vinyl culture. 

Generation change

Music consumption has changed significantly between generations – I recall with great fondness the excitement of visiting our local record store (sadly now defunct) as a teenager and getting the latest release on vinyl with my hard earned money.  The whole thing was an experience, from the planning, the saving, the buying, to the consuming.  Consumption started with the return home on the train: admiring the artwork, reading the lyrics and liner notes, and finally, in front of my turntable to spend some undisturbed time listening to the record at least a couple of times (no skipping, in the order the album was designed to be played). Fast forward to today and my children do not really understand the concept of an album, never mind the use of physical media. They live in a world of Spotify playlists and skipping to the next track before the current track has finished – it’s sadly become so immediate.

Digital vs vinyl

My re-engagement with vinyl in 2018 was thanks to my wife getting me an excellent Christmas present – a new turntable (how many people still have and use the separate hi-fi systems that were all the rage in the 1980s/90s?). This allowed me to retrieve my vinyl collection from the garage and re-familiarise myself with it. It also gave me licence to buy some of my favourite albums released in this millennium, most of which I do already own on CD. I am now to the tune of £20-30 lighter for each of those vinyl – the record company and presumably artist are happy!  The main challenge now is finding time to sit down and listen to them, and I admit digital has made me lazy, it’s so much easier to navigate to tracks or albums on Spotify but is it as pleasurable?

Record store day

So back to Record Store day – in a previous blog about Christmas shopping, I referred to Record Store Day as an initiative to drive footfall into independent record stores.  This year the big day is Saturday 13thApril.  It will be a fairly prestigious event, with artists releasing special limited edition vinyl one offs just for that day, and many shops and cities hosting events and artist performances for the day.   Participating stores have to sign a code of conduct which includes no pre-orders, no selling it online for a week, not permitting people to buy multiple copies and to sell at a fair price.  I am reliably informed that the organisers have mystery shoppers who do check that stores comply with the rules.

The only down side I can see to the initiative is those people who inevitably try to profit by selling their purchases on e-bay.  My limited research shows that for a selection of just 6 releases from RSD 2018 the cost to buy all 6 releases on RSD should have been £133 but now the same releases purchased online will set you back £212 (a 59% increase) plus postage.

To help other fellow noobs to navigate record store day I’ve compiled some top tips to help:

Do your research

Determine which local stores are participating and ensure that you are going to a city destination where there is more than one store to maximise your chance of success.

Plan your day

Participating stores will have different opening times so plan a route and also plan what vinyl you require, ideally in a priority order.

Phone ahead

This will ensure the store has the vinyl you require on order, and it’s also worth asking how many copies they secured (some releases will be strictly limited to 1 or 2 copies per store).

Start early

Some of the more popular stores are open early (the one I’m off to is open at 7.30am!) and people can be known to queue from the night before. It all depends how much you want a particular record.

If in the queue with a friend, it could be advisable to survey the people in front to determine what vinyl they are after – this way you will at least know if you have a chance!

If all else fails, try online a week later!

Drivers of demand

What has this to do with retail or spatial analytics?  It’s a great initiative that serves to drive footfall into Record Stores, although one day’s worth of inflated footfall and trade is hardly going to ensure the store is solvent for the year ahead.  Clearly there is a spatial element to the distribution of participating stores and there will be local skews to the demand for specific artists.

My analytical mind has also been speculating on what the drivers of demand for the growth in vinyl are.  Is it dominated by quantities of nostalgia seeking, middle aged, middle class, along with the 20 something hipsters?  You would think that there would be disproportionate under-representation from the under 20s – given the cost of a single vinyl album will typically equate to at least 2 months subscription to unlimited tunes on Spotify at home and on the move. However, it may once again become a bragging point of the teenager, or student who is in the know, as to what album or new release they have managed to bag on vinyl. After all they are the generation whose parents grew up with vinyl and appreciated the sound quality and aesthetics of a record.

Click here to find out more about record store day.

Image: Siebe Warmoeskerken, Negative Space



Vietnam: A nation of Shopkeepers Going Digital

It is fast approaching 10 years when I was heading to China as part of a market exploratory team for Sainsbury’s to see if the supermarket chain could create a sustainable & profitable proposition in the worlds second largest economy. Tesco, with an extensive footprint (at the time) in Asia, were reportedly about to do the same exercise but in Vietnam. Ten years is a long time in retail and market entry never came to realisation for either party.  Given what has materialised with bricks and mortar retail and the new digital world, I was intrigued on a recent holiday to see what had happened to the Vietnamese market in terms of the structure of retail, food to go and which internationals had ventured into this part of Indochina. With a population nearly 50% larger than the UK, an ever-growing middle class and rapid urbanisation particularly by younger cohorts Vietnam is an increasingly attractive market for domestic and international retailers to grow their physical and digital footprints.

Where traditional channels meet digital

Unlike the stories you hear right around the world around struggling physical retail particularly for the mass market operators it is safe to say that the “squeezed middle” in Vietnam just hasn’t come to fruition. Unlike China, due to Vietnam’s later, smaller and slower economic journey there hasn’t been the excessive mass mall developments and out of town supermarkets we have all become accustomed with in the US, Europe and the more advanced economies of Asia. Even in the largest Vietnamese cities commercial development has been modest – downtown areas do have a handful of new residential and retail developments, but they are limited and years in the making.

Everyone wants a bargain and instantly

Vietnamese retail has become very polarised between the traditional mum and pop shops, street food vendors and digital channels.  I am pleased to say the former two are in abundance, thriving and show no signs of slowing down, while the latter is seeing local start up’s capitalising where internationals have struggled (& sometimes failed).

Come noon or night the Vietnamese consumer still loves to shop and secure a bargain….the country is a nation of shop keepers with markets, people’s front rooms and stalls pilling onto the streets. At the other end when they are not physically shopping, they are on their smart phones digital shopping and gaming.

Failing to understand and adapt

International players in both the physical and digital channels have had mixed success. McDonalds is still relatively small scale and have focused on their safe haven of tourist honey pots rather than broadening their appeal. Despite price investment there is still a huge gap versus what is available just outside.  Why would you want to go there when you can instantly get hot, fresh food from a local vendor you know and trust. McDonald’s have tried to adapt their menu’s with more rice, noddle and chicken offerings to broaden the appeal but this doesn’t appear to be winning over consumers. Burger King are the same but have focused on airports – again where there is good tourist footfall and where the most affluence residents pass through. There isn’t a large national domestic fast food chain in Vietnam, probably because there isn’t a gap in the market for one.

When it comes to coffee and cake Starbucks have just a handful of outlets almost always located at the bottom of an international, normally American, branded hotel. They haven’t attempted to significantly adapt their menu or price points for the local consumer. However, in a country where coffee is seen as a premium / luxury treat local chain Highland Coffee is leaps and bounds ahead of Starbucks with a wide selection of bubble teas and macha cakes its clear they understand the local consumer and have adapted the menu as you travel up (or down) the country.

Local player triumphs

grab taxi digitalFor digital I was surprised to hear that Uber have been and gone in Vietnam. It appears that they just “cut and paste” the model from western markets. Car ownership is low in Vietnam due to the obvious price point but also the very high purchasing tax. It also takes a while to get around in larger vehicles due to the sheer volume of mopeds and scooters. Uber decided not to participate in the moped / scooter field instead focusing on a very niche premium service which clearly didn’t have scale or longevity. Instead a local player Grab have created their own version of Uber on two wheels – carrying a spare helmet in tow for their customers (a legal requirement). The app has been designed in various Asian languages as well as English.  With no Uber means no Uber Eats but VietDeliver has filled that gap partnering with local restaurants, some international chains but more importantly street vendors. VietDeliver appeared more prevalent in Ho Chi Minh city than Deliveroo does in London. Whether it be the green helmets of Grab or the bright Red of VietDeliver it is clear the younger Vietnamese consumer is welcoming these new purchasing channels with open arms whilst remaining exceptionally loyal to their traditional roots.

It was great to see traditional retail going hand in hand with digital. Hopefully this bodes well in the future for more traditional independent shops on the UK high street (if the government adopts a new approach to business rates) One thing is clear no matter which market I am travelling in it never fails to surprise me how international retailers continue to fail to adapt and adjust their propositions (without compromising the brand) for each market they operate in.  This is despite many carrying out extensive research prior to market entry.