Dixons Carphone: Lockdown is sparking innovation
Dixons Carphone is adapting to the changes in consumers’ buying habits by innovating on its customer experience and communicating points of difference such as its teams of experts.
Like all non-essential retailers, Dixons Carphone has been forced to shut its Currys and PC World chains and instead rely on online sales. But where some retailers, such as fashion, have seen sales slump Dixons Carphone has managed to temper its decline.
In the five weeks to 25 April, sales declined by just 3% overall with online sales jumping by 166% in the UK and Ireland as shoppers bought computers, freezers, breadmakers and TVs.
Part of its strong performance no doubt comes from the types of products it sells. But the retailer’s customer communications and brand director Dan Rubel credits some “really cool innovation” on the customer experience for helping to mitigate the big changes in shopping habits.
“The way people are shopping with us has changed. As an omnichannel retailer with strong store and online sales in normal times, everyone is online right now. That is a big change for us but it has sparked some really cool innovation,” he tells Marketing Week.
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One of the first initiatives to launch is ShopLive, a personal shopping service that connects customers with Currys PC World staff via video link. Customers browsing the website are invited to chat to staff about products including laptops, fridges, washing machines and TVs.
It is an attempt to replicate the in-store experience and deliver what Dixons Carphone sees as one of its USPs – the expertise of its staff – online.
“The experience customers can usually have in-store of being helped with technology by colleagues who really know what they are talking about can now come to life at home and online,” explains Rubel. “It’s early days, a new launch, but the signs are really good [in terms of] customer reaction and usefulness.
“It’s a nice example of how we have pivoted and been able to embrace changing consumer buying habits and offer something that is uniquely us.”
The retailer is also looking at ways to iterate on the customer experience once its stores are able to open again, for example through contactless shops – where only a small part of the store is open to the public with staff providing products and assistance – and a drive-through model where shoppers could pick up items without having to go into a store.
“When the moment is right, we are looking at all sorts of models [to start trading in-store]. We are innovating in all sorts of directions so that as and when the situation changes we’re doing whatever we can to be there for our customers and to do that safely.”
We have pivoted and been able to embrace changing consumer buying habits and offer something that is uniquely us.
Dan Rubel, Dixons Carphone
Dixons Carphone has also upped its focus on content having found an increase in engagement among consumers keen to better understand the tech they may have just bought. Recent examples include a piece about how to get strong WiFi in the garden (in response to recent warm weather) as it looks to inform and educate customers, not just sell to them.
“We are seeing customers value that content more and we are reacting by making more of it. Similarly in CRM we are making sure we have the right balance of telling customers about the new products we have, deals we might have and bringing to life the content they want. Making sure we are giving them information and sometimes education about things that help them get more out of the tech they have,” adds Rubel.
“That is the unique role we can play in customers’ lives, it’s not just about providing the tech but helping them enjoy it once it arrives so they can get the most out of it.”
In its advertising, Dixons Carphone recently launched a new campaign that marks its first foray into user-generated content. That was a creative decision in part forced by lockdown and working from home but is something the brand had been considering for some time.
Rubel put out a call on the company’s internal social network to ask staff to submit content on the importance of tech for working, staying connected, and keeping healthy and entertained. The TV ad, created by AMV BBDO, also contains a clear message that Currys PC World is still open for business online and in many cases can do next-day delivery.
“User-generated content was necessitated by the situation we are in but it’s actually a really interesting way of communicating when you are a retailer with thousands of really talented experts. It has all come together to create an ad that talks about why we’re special and the role we play in people’s lives,” says Rubel.
“We are the UK’s biggest electrical retailer and we want to make sure customers know that we’re open 24/7 and delivering safely.”
Rubel admits creating an ad during a pandemic has been a learning curve but says it has helped the team realise they can work at a fast pace and still produce creative campaigns. “We’ve realised when we have crisp, focused briefs and when we’re working together as a collaborative agency and client team we can get pretty great things done in pretty eye-watering lead times.”