By Katherine Madley, Vice President of Marketing, Game Stores
The most important lesson I have learned while navigating a 52-year-old brand through a rapidly shifting world, and more recently through a pandemic, is the importance of flexibility. Brands across sectors and industries have to undergo constant reforms and innovations to ensure they remain relevant in the minds of consumers and in line with their needs – which are evolving at an unprecedented pace. We need to understand that the customer is more and more brand agnostic in the e-commerce space than what they are in the brick-and-mortar space. We position for both at Game, the products inside our brand and our brand itself. Both are critical and looked after.
Flexibility is required
The COVID-19 pandemic is the most obvious example of a recent event that required brands to become more flexible, more quickly than ever before. Communications and marketing strategies – some of which were planned more than a year in advance – had to be completely overhauled in a matter of days. Advertising and communications campaigns needed to shift from promotional content to more conscious content around responses to the pandemic and other corporate social investment initiatives. We also needed to shift our capabilities from an operations point of view. The level 5 lockdown meant we had to up our e-commerce capabilities and adapt to the customer’s needs – which had changed drastically, literally overnight.
This year, as consumers are shopping in-store again, we embarked on a journey of improving our in-store experience, and ensuring our stores and product offerings are in line with evolving customer needs and behaviours – offering a more intuitive experience. We have also revamped our e-commerce offering to include better search and navigation, geo-location of products and an improved assortment – as the growth of e-commerce in the country shows no signs of slowing down.
Now that masks are becoming a thing of the past, we again ramp up our communication to customers as more and more customers are coming back into stores. It’s great for us to be able to smile and welcome customers with open faces.
Look after your people
In doing all of this, still – the most important thing to do as a leader is look after your people and your partners. People’s workloads were under pressure due to the shifts needed and they were balancing home, work, and family life all at once. Everyone’s situation is different and being mindful of that as the leader is key.
Prioritise essential goods and services
Merchandise strategies had to be overhauled to focus on essential items, and general merchandise sales reduced for the greater part of 2020 due to restrictions and careful consumer purchase planning. While e-commerce was important, supply chains were still being negatively impacted, which resulted in the introduction of alternative delivery options, such as Game’s partnership with UberEats in Kenya and South Africa. A new channel was added to our customer touchpoints in the form of a Whatsapp chatbot, which allowed customers to reach us quickly with queries and questions regarding our stores, stock, and orders.
While this has certainly been a major seismic event for the retail industry at large, it has not necessarily changed our science – responding to evolving customer needs and maintaining their trust in our brand. I believe this to be true for many other industries and sectors, as they look to recover. The truth is people don’t change; only environments do.
This year, we again revamped our offering, adding new products to our Baby, DIY and Décor offering, and revamping 75% of our homeware offering. This has allowed us to keep up with changing consumer needs around work from home solutions and alternative power sources, for example.
Having a social media presence is a must
The continued rise of social media has given the customer a place to instantly voice their opinions about their personal experiences with businesses and brands – and brands have a responsibility to ensure they are listening.
This meant that brands had to respond with further investment into their presence on digital and broadcast platforms, and work harder on delivering on their value propositions, or risk losing customer loyalty and market share. This presented a creative challenge to brands who depend largely on foot traffic into physical locations. For our Winter Blues campaign in 2020, 2021 and in 2022, for example, Game launched a digital music festival – that supported local musical talent while bringing entertainment to consumers who were stuck at home and using their social channels more than ever before. While this may have seemed like a strange idea for a retailer, it was well received by our audience on social media and allowed us to remain relevant in the minds of our consumers. Now customers are still enjoying musicians in our stores, they can now see them live. The theme has evolved along with the customers.
Understand what consumers want
In 2021, the landscape continued to shift, and we saw many retailers returning to advertising via print mediums. A Game survey carried out in March 2021 found that more consumers are using leaflets to compare prices than Google search.
In line with this, investments into customer relationship management data collection became indispensable in enabling brands to customise their offering more effectively. For retail specifically, the pandemic had a massive effect on the customer’s budget. The March survey found that over half of respondents were bargain hunting more than they did in previous years, with 75% saying they wanted to save wherever they could – no matter the discount. One of the more surprising findings was that groceries became a more popular category than appliances for consumers redeeming Game’s Price Beat Promise – through which we commit to beating any price in the market on all items we stock.
After seeing our consumers through seven recessions, the COVID-19 pandemic and being affected by looting and unrest across the country, I can confidently say that remaining flexible is what will see a brand through any crisis. Remaining true to our founding values and keeping the customer at the heart of all we do has kept our brand alive for over 50 years.
Keep following the customer and stay flexible!