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Online buyers prefer real-life human help over AI says Currys

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  • Tech buyers in the decade to come will prefer real-life human help to faceless robot retail
  • New look Currys predicts an era of H.I. – Human (not artificial) Intelligence
  • 3 million conversations with online shoppers via ShopLive, in last 18 months, proves desire for human help
  • Research from the retailer shows that more than half (58%) of Brits want to speak to a real-life expert before they buy
  • Research also shows that 57% of shoppers who get real human help before they buy are likely to get the right product first time and be more satisfied with their purchase

THERE’S a new breed of post-pandemic shopper, demanding help from experts and rejecting faceless robot retailers, says new look Currys (previously Currys PC World), as it relaunches its UK stores and online services. A new trend labelled “Robot Rejection”, shows these shoppers are demanding face-to-face human interaction and expertise alongside digital experiences when buying everyday technology – which is often expensive, unfamiliar and difficult to select.

As it enters a new omnichannel chapter in its 137-year history, Currys, the UK’s biggest retailer of tech, has been at the forefront of this emerging trend. The retailer has evolved its hybrid retail format of online and in-store experience, creating more opportunities for today’s buyer of technology to access Human Intelligence online. In Summer 2020, the retailer launched its pioneering 24/7 online ShopLive platform, ensuring shoppers could still obtain in-person advice from one of their expert colleagues from a laptop tablet or phone, without visiting a store. The service has proved to be popular with over 3m customers engaging with it to date.

Currys states that in 2021, 58% of people shopping for expensive and unfamiliar tech products would like to speak to a real-life human expert before they buy, whether that be instore or online. In fact, 57% of shoppers that get human help are more satisfied with their purchase than those who don’t, and they state that interactions with humans lead to them making the right choice first time, meaning it’s a quicker and more cost-effective way to buy. Computing tech is the category with the highest need of expertise, where 60% of people said they wouldn’t make a purchase without expert advice. Research also shows that return rates are higher when consumers don’t speak to an expert beforehand, with 64% of people saying they’d be happy with the right product and less likely to return their purchase if they got the advice with real human expert help.

With over 3 million online shoppers demonstrating the need for Human intelligence via its ShopLive service, Currys has been able to pinpoint the tech categories where online tech shoppers most look for real-life human expertise, with those coming out top including laptops, washing machines and TVs. The most popular time to get that expertise is between 5pm – 7pm on weekdays and 3pm on a Saturday. Following this starting success, Currys predicts it will have around 150,000 online ShopLive conversations during Black Friday week, this November.  The retailer is also set to build on this success with a new Currys website that will enable better content, more personalisation and a slicker, quicker experience.

The retailer believes stores will remain important for customers too. Internal data from the business also shows that 61% of shoppers believe it is important to see a product in real-life before buying, where consumers can have conversations with experts in a unique environment where they can see, touch and play with the tech they are thinking about buying. Currys is also making improvements within its bricks and mortar locations, introducing content that shows how products work on interactive customer-facing digital screens. In addition, the retailer is making it possible for people to get hands-on with the latest tech before they buy, powering ever more of the products on show, including laptops, TVs, gaming consoles, vacuums and much more.

Currys is investing nearly £25m in extra advanced training for its 13,500 colleagues which involves undertaking an additional 16 hours of further training. This new programme will teach colleagues about the intricacies within technologies; how they work, what the benefits are, and how to demonstrate them in store. In addition, they will be taught how to have a great conversation, asking the right questions to identify the shoppers’ unique requirements and best match them to the right tech for them. So far, in total colleagues have completed an additional 121,674 hours of expert coaching – significantly more training than any other tech retailer – with more to come.

Ed Connolly, Chief Commercial Officer at Currys told Herald.Wales: “Technology is such an intrinsic part of our lives now. More than ever before, prior to handing over their hard-earned cash, people want advice about the tech they buy from a real-life human expert, particularly when it comes to expensive and more complex kit.

“The new Currys brand has evolved to match this changing consumer need, delivering helpful, expert in person advice when and where shoppers need it most. We have invested heavily in our website and in ensuring that our frontline colleagues are not only the absolute experts on the tech we sell but that they also know how to get to the heart of what customers need and want. Every colleague is trained to listen first, inspire and then find the right product for the shopper and educate them on how to use it, in a way an algorithm simply cannot.

“We know not every purchase requires guidance from an expert. Sometimes shoppers already know what they want, or they just need something small and simple, which our websites and stores are well equipped for. However, when it comes to more complex products, speaking to someone in-the-know, whether that is online or instore, is what today’s new trend in ‘Robot Rejection’ is all about. Expert advice shortcuts the lengthy buying process, cuts out confusion and ultimately arms shoppers with the tech they need. Whether it’s understanding the difference between resolution and HD Ready when finding the perfect TV amongst the OLED or QLED acronyms, or simply wanting help deciding on a washer dryer combo, our experts are on hand to answer any questions.”

Martin Raymond, Co-Founder & Editor in Chief of Future Lab says: “‘As our research suggests, more and more people are looking for human-in-the-loop experts, advice, and face to face moments with brands as screen and AI fatigue sets in post-COVID. We also trust people and experts to give us the right kind of advice, at a time when we’re increasingly understanding that as many as three quarters of self-styled  influencers we are meant to follow on TikTok and Instagram hide their ad disclosures, while many of those ‘peer’ reviews we read on Amazon etc, are really paid-for reviews, so more and more, we want named experts we can independently validate, and to speak with brands that have a history and a reputation in the marketplace.”

To mark the rebrand and opening of new look Currys stores, the company has launched its biggest ever brand campaign calling out fake reviews, bot farms and lazy algorithms. A new TV ad shows how life is better when you listen to experts, especially when it comes to tech, and heroes the role of Currys’ expert colleagues.

Currys is a new brand formed from Currys PC World, Carphone Warehouse, Team Knowhow and Dixons Carphone with a bold new look and is committed to making it even easier for everyone to enjoy amazing technology. Becoming one brand means customers can turn to Currys for all their tech needs, interacting with Currys colleagues in stores, online, over the phone and on the doorstep.

Business

Coast to Coast grabs gold at national award ceremony

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PEMBROKESHIRE COAST NATIONAL PARK AUTHORITY’S long-running visitor newspaper Coast to Coast was one of the gold winners at the recent CIPR Cymru Wales PRide Awards.

The free annual visitor newspaper picked up the award for Best Publication at an online ceremony hosted by broadcaster Jason Mohammad, having last won the award in 2014.

National Park Authority Communications and Marketing Manager Marie Edwards said: “We are delighted that Coast to Coast has been recognised once again alongside so many other great entries and winners from the private and public sectors.

“Hundreds of thousands of copies are picked up across Pembrokeshire and beyond each year, helping people to learn more about the National Park and enjoy their visit.

“We would like to thank all the readers, stockists and advertisers for their ongoing support as we prepare to publish the 40th edition in 2022.”

In assessing the Coast to Coast entry, the judges felt there was “a very clear brief for Coast to Coast, with well thought through targets. The entry demonstrated a strong alignment to the organisational goals as well as importantly, giving staff the opportunity to contribute.

“Ultimately this approach led to excellent metrics in the evaluation and fantastic feedback from customers, which the judges were particularly impressed with.”

National Park Authority Chairman Cllr Paul Harries added: “The team should be extremely proud to have won another gold at these prestigious awards, which follows on from an incredibly successful few years despite the challenges posed by the pandemic and emphasises the high calibre of officers we have working for the Authority.

“The team works tirelessly to promote the National Park and the Authority in so many different ways, including the ever popular Coast to Coast, which continues to go from strength to strength.”

To read this year’s edition online or find out more about advertising in the 2022 edition of Coast to Coast visit www.pembrokeshirecoast.wales/coast-to-coast.

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Business

New Commercial Manager joins Port of Milford Haven’s team

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THE PORT OF MILFORD HAVEN has appointed Sharon Adams as its new Commercial Manager for Pembroke Port.  A key part of her role will be to develop growing markets and support existing customers.

Sharon joins the Port from Chambers Wales where, most recently, she supported businesses with the changes required post-Brexit. Previous to that Sharon’s career was predominantly in management roles within the hospitality and leisure industries with companies including The Parc by Thistle, St Brides Spa Hotel and Bluestone Resorts.

Sharon is delighted to join the Port, commenting “Learning more about the export and import markets really interested me, so when the opportunity to work with the Port came up I knew this was the right opportunity to put my commercial skills to good use. I’m very much looking forward to the challenge and the variety of businesses I’ll be working with.”

Commercial Director at the Port, Steve Edwards, said “Sharon has values that align to our culture and a wealth of commercial experience, and her latest role at Chambers Wales meant that she learnt a great deal about the movement of goods around the globe which puts her in an excellent position to help businesses grow whilst utilising our Pembroke site.”

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Business

CRWST opens new café at Poppit Sands

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POPULAR Cardigan food business CRWST has opened a second café at Poppit Sands, Pembrokeshire after securing a six-figure follow-on investment from the Development Bank of Wales. The Poppit Sands café, which has been trading on a takeaway only basis since April, has just opened its doors for inside dining.

Run by Osian Jones and Catrin Parry Jones, CRWST began as a micro bakery in 2016. Chef Osian gained experience as head chef in a 5* boutique hotel in Cardiff before the couple, both passionate foodies, decided to take the plunge and start their own business back in West Wales. CRWST has been a customer of the Development Bank since early 2018. Their new Poppit Sands café offers takeaway services and has space for 26 covers inside.

Catrin said: “This has always been a dream of ours, and we can’t quite believe that we are now opening our second cafe! It wouldn’t be possible without the support of the Development Bank – they have supported us from start to finish. We are looking forward to welcoming customers inside to dine and show them what we have to offer.”

Osian said: “Food has always been a huge passion of mine and I wanted to create something special in my hometown. I feel very fortunate to be able to offer this at a second venue, and there’s nowhere better than the beautiful Poppit Sands! “

The loan from the Development Bank of Wales has helped fund the refurbishment of the new café. 

The deal was structured on behalf of the Development Bank by portfolio executives Rhian Jones and Richard Easton. Richard said: “Catrin and Osian opened their first café in Cardigan just over three years ago and CRWST has developed a strong reputation for high quality food and service. It is a testament to their hard work and success that they are now opening their second CRWST café. They have identified a great location at Poppit Sands, and the takeaway service has already proven very popular with locals and tourists. This is a really exciting opportunity for Catrin and Osian to further develop the CRWST brand, and I am sure that the new café and takeaway business will be successful.” 

Rhian added: “At the Development Bank of Wales we work closely with our customers to identify and support growth opportunities. Catrin and Osian had a great idea to expand CRWST and we were happy to help. We believe in forging long term partnerships with our customers to support them with their growth aspirations.”

Funding for the deal came from the Wales Business Fund, which is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government.

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