A visit from the CEO of Altavia Group, Raphaël Palti

We recently had the honour of welcoming our CEO Raphael Palti, to meet with both Altavia HRG and Altavia UK colleagues.

His visit came in time to mark the official opening of our newly refurbished office hub, a new and collaborative meeting space for all UK Altavian’s and was of course marked in a style that can only be done in real life – with a traditional cutting of the ribbon!

The ceremony marked a new era for both UK businesses, uniting under the Altavia brand along with 65 other global businesses that make up one of world’s largest and most successful independent international groups: each one dedicated to the service of retail and brands.

Alongside UK Managing Directors, Joe Ward and Nick White, our teams shared our new vision for the future, our new branding and ambitious plans as to how we’re aiming to set the standard for what’s possible for brands and retailers.

Raphael also had a whistle stop tour of some our client work as he toured the building which brought to life the some of the amazing work we deliver every day for our clients from our major retail clients to some of the world famous FMCG brands we work with, as well as some of the superb activations we design and execute in travel retail.

We also had the chance to put the boss under the spotlight in a fantastic, no holds barred Q&A session. The expertise and the wisdom he’s gained over the nearly 40 years since starting Altavia was clear to see in every answer. His passion for retail, for clients and for all of his team undiminished, even after nearly 40 years since setting up the business.

And we managed to get the great man to record a quick message to all our future clients!

The Revival of the QR Code

QR codes aren’t new – they’ve been around since the mid 90’s, but they’ve seen a revival lately thanks to Covid-19 and the need to get information to consumer’s safely.

What is a QR Code?

QR code stands for Quick Response code. They were invented in 1994 by Masahiro Hara, a Japanese entrepreneur who wanted to keep track of parts going through a car assembly line. They are a 2-dimensional barcode which stores information, and when scanned with the camera, can point the user to a website, or app.

The QR Code Revival

A recent survey by MobileIron discovered that in September 2020, across the UK and Europe, 83% of smartphone users scanned a QR code at least once, with 40% saying they had scanned a code in the past week. From that same survey they found that 64% of respondents believe that QR codes made their lives easier, in part because it helped them get to the information faster.

In the UK, the NHS Test & Trace app uses QR codes to log your location and alert you if you encountered someone who has tested positive. All users need to do is scan the QR code when entering the venue.

This resurgence offers a way to get information to customers without asking them to touch a device.

Uses of QR Codes

QR codes can be used for a multitude of things, in a multitude of locations! Their versatility allows them to be designed uniquely for your brand, as well as allowing the addition of your logo within the centre of the code. Tracking can be enabled so you can gather information regarding how many times they’ve been scanned, in which location, and by which device.

Below are some examples showing how QR codes, like voice-activated technology, can be elevated to provide safetisfaction, keeping your customers safe, and satisfied.

User generated content through product activated QR Codes

Guinness had a great campaign where the high contrast required for their QR code would only work when the glass was filled with Guinness. Scanning the code took the user to a microsite where they could quickly tweet or share that they were drinking a Guinness! Users could then tag their friends to elicit FOMO responses.

Added value content and gamification

These beautifully designed QR codes not only took the user to a Spotify playlist when scanned, but they offered a level of gamification. Clues hidden within the design of the QR code linked to rock songs, giving the user a chance to guess the song before scanning to see if they were correct.

Make path to purchase as smooth as possible

Placing QR codes on samples gives the user a quick and simple way to get to the item they want to purchase. Take the below example, the user decides which sample they’d like to purchase, and can scan the QR code to go directly to that page on the brand’s website. The user doesn’t have to worry about whether they’re on the right product, or risk not finding it at all and preventing a sale. The fewer blockages you create, the more likely your customers are to buy.

Create a covid-safe pop-up event

There’s a recurring event in Northampton called “Bite Street” which brings together local street food vendors. Since the UK experienced lockdown #2, they’ve reconsidered their position and pivoted to allow “drive-thru” collection. All local foodies need to do is drive up to their allocated parking space and scan the QR code to order food from the vendors. Their food is then brought to them to enjoy from their car, or to take home.

Scan to purchase

When some of our team visited a sister company in China, they found QR codes on fish! You would select your fish, scan the QR code to buy it, and it would be ready for you as you left the store!

Let’s talk about how QR Codes can help solve your briefs.

How to improve satisfaction with voice-activated technology

Consumers are now inherently not getting the same experience when shopping.

Whether that’s due to their personal anxiety’s about going out during this pandemic, or the constant reminder that there’s a safety risk with antibacterial gels at entrances, and Perspex barriers between you and the cashier. Your efforts may help customers feel safe in your store, but do they feel satisfied? Are they getting the same experience if there was no pandemic?

What is Voice-Activated Technology?

When we think of voice-activated technology we immediately think of Alexa, or Google Home, those little devices that live in our homes but don’t move; but our mobile phones (Apple’s Siri), and even laptops (Microsoft’s Cortana), have Voice-Activated technology integrated into them as well.

Beyond this there is also an emerging “commuter commerce”. More than half of drivers engage with their cars built-in voice assistants whilst driving; 47.2% of those are interested in getting directions to the nearest petrol station.

How has it grown?

Image source: voicebot.ai

22% of households now own a voice assistant, with a massive 41% planning to own one in the next 5 years. With its popularity and ease of use, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who didn’t know how to use Alexa, or Google home.

With this in mind, and following a post-covid world where customers will be nervous of touching screens and surfaces which many people will have touched, it’s the perfect time to consider how voice-activated technology could help you connect to your customers, whilst also keeping them safe.

How can voice-activated technology improve a customer’s experience?

There are multiple ways voice-activated technology can be used in place of a traditional touch-screen devices. Below are three examples to help inspire you on how you can evolve your customer’s experience to be both safe and satisfying!

Voice-Activated Product Selector

Rather than a traditional tablet-based product selector which requires the user to touch a screen, voice-activated technology can be used to provide a non-contact experience. The device is activated with a command, and then it runs through a series of questions for the customer to answer; for example, questions for a Whiskey could be: “Are you looking for something peaty, or smooth and sweet?”.

In this way it’s familiar to the customer, as it follows the experience of a traditional product selector app; however it requires the user to use their voice, rather than their hand, offering a brand new and exciting experience. Based on the user’s answers, the algorithm in the background begins to create a profile of the customer, to eventually inform them of their perfect product.

This process can be further elevated by having the final choice brought to the user on a conveyor belt, or highlighted on the shelf, rather than just a picture on a screen.

Branded Skill Takeaways

Allow the customer to take their experience home with them, rather than asking them to do it in store where they may feel uncomfortable. NFC or QR codes can be implemented into POS which directs the user to an Amazon store page where the skill is displayed. If they have the Alexa app on their phone, it can be downloaded immediately and be ready to use by the time they get home. This helps keep the brand at the front of mind even after the customer has left the store.

The app can provide more information about the product they’ve purchased, recipes which prominently feature the product (such as the Stubb’s example below), or entertainment which marries perfectly with the brand.

This experience can be elevated by providing inserts with their purchased product which provides more information on the Alexa skill, as well as a direct link to download it.

At-Home Voice-Activated Product Tasting Experience

In-person product tasting experiences are unlikely to return this year, so it’s important for brands to find an alternative to keep their customers engaged. Voice-activated technologies are one way product tasting experiences can still be enjoyed by customers whilst keeping everyone safe.

Customers can sign up to an at-home product tasting experience and receive through the post everything they need to host their own event; including products, accessories, and an insert explaining how to download the app. The voice-activated skill will guide the experience at the user’s own pace, providing information to the customer about the product they’re consuming as well as fun activities to really elevate their at-home experience.

The benefit of using voice-activated technology for this rather than a video, is that the user can interrupt at any point to ask a question. The user could also keep a digital tally of their favourite drinks, encouraging them to purchase their favourite once the event is over.

This experience could be elevated by allowing the customer to order a larger bottle of their favourite product through the app, with a discount for having ordered the product through the tasting experience.

Let’s talk about how voice activated technology can help you reach your customers.

4 Predictions for the DTC Market

The fact that the digital economy has reshaped the mindset of consumers, brands and retailers is no longer news to us.

Across every consumer category, the path to purchase has become incredibly complex; engaging social media, digital assistants, smart phones and a multitude of other channels. And not only has our path to purchase evolved, but we are faced with an increasing number of brands and retailers to choose from. Together, these changes have resulted in our expectations and demands skyrocketing.

With many retailers struggling to increase their market share against these relentless competitors, brands have been forced to re-evaluate the ways in which they engage with followers and consumer. For an increasing number of brands, this evolution in retail has resulted in more advanced direct-to-consumer strategies.

The DTC model is changing the face of consumer marketing altogether and it is not a trend expected to slow down anytime soon. According to the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), two-thirds of consumers expect to have a direct connection between themselves and a brand. This opens countless opportunities for brands who facilitate and promote this direct accessibility, diving head first into consumer desires, demands and most importantly, wallets.

Much like emotional connections are retails new premium, the DTC model is retail’s new cool factor. It is not just a matter of the brand itself, but the key attributes of the consumer and what entices them to purchase. But what does the future hold for DTC strategies?

The DTC Consumer Attributes

Before we dive into our predictions for the future of DTC brands in 2020, it’s important to acknowledge the key consumer traits within the direct to consumer model. Research highlights than the majority of DTC consumers tend to be younger and more affluent, usually born within a digital advanced environment. They are generally early adopters of new brands who are creating innovative products or experiences, particularly if they are operating ethically. The IAB also recognise that 75% of these DTC early adopters will purchase without looking at the price, if they feel they trust the brand and its values.

With each of these heightened expectations for DTC brands, we highlight 4 predictions for the future:

1. Product Diversity

With incredibly modest budgets, often fuelled by kick-starter campaigns, DTC brands often begin with a single product to disrupt the market. However, their direct relationship with shoppers and social media follows, simplifies the process of obtaining data. The brand can precisely monitor the mindsets, buying habits and feedback of their customers and begin to build a more expansive product range based on this.

Casper is the perfect example of a DTC brand which has impressively diversified its offering. As a digitally native brand, they pioneered the online ‘mattress-in-a-box’ concept which revolutionised the way we purchase mattresses. The success of this unique product offering was widely recognised across multiple platforms, allowing the brand to magnify their presence in the industry. The mattress may be the Casper ‘original’, but they now offer sheets to help you sleep, and dog beds for canine pals to be as comfortable as their owner.

However, it is not just product diversity which sees Casper thrive; it is the escalation of brand purpose. When they opened The Dreamery, their pilot ‘nap’ store in the U.S, Casper successfully pivoted from mattress company to sleep company. They remain a DTC brand, maintaining the ‘mattress-in-a-box’ concept; except they now maintain a relationship with consumers which is rooted in sleep and overall wellbeing.

We Predict: DTC brands will modify the traditional sales model, choosing to sell more than a product but an education, a lifestyle and a purpose.

2. Global Subscriptions

For some individuals, the concept of online orders may be capitalising on our ‘culture of laziness’. However, our modern economy favours the option of being able to purchase products without even leaving the house; something which has been greatly advantageous in the current COVID-19 climate. For DTC brands, the importance is placed on long-term returns and not short-term sales. Much like the Casper reference above, these brands are not just selling products online, but providing consistent and increasing consumer value.

The rise in subscription offerings is one of the most prevalent trends of 2020. As consumers, we strive for convenience and subscriptions have become integral to achieve this. Rather than spending hours at the local supermarket or venturing into the city for a day of ‘essentials’ shopping, consumers can choose the convenience of a subscription which is delivered straight to home. Frey and Smol are just two examples of household laundry subscriptions, delivered on a regular basis to the consumer and permanently eliminating the stress of running out. In a similar vein, brands such as Gruum and Beauty Pie allow shoppers to curate their own skincare subscriptions based purely on their individual requirements. And finally, the food and drink industry. From Hello Fresh and Pasta Evangelists through to Beer 52, we can have our weekly sustenance prepared and delivered without much effort at all.

However, it is not just the convenience of subscriptions which sees these DTC brands thrive, it is the creation of long-term relationships between brands and shoppers. Whilst large online corporations set a standard for efficiency with 1-click purchases, they also removed the ‘joy of discovery’ for consumers. DTC subscriptions have been deemed the answer to this concern, creating an inherently personal relationship and bringing a sense of playfulness back to shopping; even if we still do not need to leave our houses.

We Predict: Subscription-based DTC brands will become the norm in many consumer lifestyles, bolstering the concept of personalised and convenient retail.

3. Digitally Native

DTC remains the common acronym for this retail evolution, but we are seeing a rise in the term ‘Digitally Native Vertical Brands’ (DVNBs). They are brands born on the internet, but unlike typical e-commerce brands, they control every aspect of their own product distribution and advertising. They do not find issue with localisation of demographic barriers, with the ability to reach a colossal audience worldwide.

However, competing on product alone is far too rudimentary in our current environment. Omnipresence is not strictly divided between ‘online and offline’, there are multiple channels for a brand to uphold. With that in mind, the combination of offering, experience, service and simplicity is what makes a DTC brand work in the eyes of the consumer.

DTC (or DNVB) brands are not just born digitally, every single aspect of their consumer interaction takes place online. Their brand offering is built utilising their digital community, from the individual products through to the meticulous packaging design. The shopping experience is curated with social media at heart, relying on compelling visual content, user-generated posts and affable conversations with brand ambassadors. Finally, with most DVNB brands built as the antidote to tedious retail, consumers find fulfilment in the ease of digital purchasing. For instance, brands such as Gainful, Function of Beauty and Glossier employ online questionnaires to not only curate a personalised experience but capture data for future reference.

However, despite being born on the internet, DNVB brands do not dismiss the importance of bricks and mortar. As they mature as a brand, they begin to appreciate the power of physical activations; viewing them as a complimentary addition to their brand presence.

We Predict: Digitally native brands will continue to thrive, armed with shopper data which can accelerate relevant and required product creation.

4. Living the brand

Engagement and Experience. Two words which have been bandied around multiple sectors almost too much. Yet, whilst the terms themselves are overused, the reality is that they remain of the highest importance. Consumers are no longer buying for the sake of it, they are buying into the product and everything which encompasses it; the value proposition, the experience and the brand narrative.

Whilst we refer to the importance of the internet above, DNVB brands do not eschew bricks and mortar in its entirety. They understand the importance of real-life experiences which connect first hand with the shopper. However, they are reluctant to curate spaces which cannot fully recreate the context required for consumers to fully immerse themselves in the brand. Recognising this shortfall, many forward-thinking DTC brands are becoming more creative and blurring the lines between retail and hospitality.

Direct to consumer brand Muji was born out of a vision for creating useful products which would create a balanced, luxury lifestyle through the art of simplicity. Whilst in London, they transformed their product range into a pop-up ‘apartment’ for the masses, in Asia they opted to explore the concept of a Muji hotel. It is the ultimate brand experience. Consumers become travellers, with the ability to literally eat, shop and sleep the Muji brand. Designed with simple, natural materials and focused on the concept of wellness, the store / hotel hybrid is holistic consumer experience at its best. Muji are essentially advancing the potential for a DTC brand to operate and oversee the entirety of a consumer’s lifestyle; from manufacturing through to hospitality.

Our Prediction: There is extremely fertile ground in the intersection between DTC retail and hospitality and we predict that brands of the future will take the opportunity to create the ‘ultimate destination’, rooted in pure brand expression.

Our Thoughts

Let’s take a second to consider the four predictions holistically. Regardless of physical, digital or social presence, the DTC topography is not based on a singular product, marketing strategy or location. The market of direct to consumer (or DNVB) brands are united by authenticity. They forge real-time connections with their audience, negating the need for any ‘middle-men’ and in turn, create authentic and insightful relationships; reaching shoppers across multiple touchpoints. It is this knowledge of the consumer which not only builds the DTC brand, but powers every interaction afterwards.

The DTC and DNVB acronyms will surely be replaced with new terminologies as we progress, but the quest for creating meaningful ‘direct to consumer’ strategies will continue to hold power over brands. It will become an ingrained approach to brand engagement, progressing from retail’s new cool factor, to our new normal.

Let’s talk about your DTC requirements.