Merchant spotlight
May 18, 20209 min read

Smoooth Sessions – Fast tracking retail recovery.

Klarna K logo

by Klarna

That’s it, our first ever virtual Smoooth Sessions is over and what an event it was. In the words of Noel Mack, CBO at Gymshark, we pivoted and produced “one of the coolest live broadcasts I’ve seen from businesses during this time”!

Meet our panel.

We assembled an incredible line-up from the world of Retail, eCommerce and beyond to discuss how brands are adapting to COVID-19, and how businesses may need to adapt in the future to not just survive, but thrive.

Smoooth sessions Panel

If you didn’t manage to attend the event and don’t want any spoilers, now is the time to look away, or watch our recorded session right here.

Smoooth Sessions Youtube

Fast tracking retail recovery continued.

Following the lively debate, we ran out of time to ask our panel your questions, but don’t worry, after the webinar, we made sure that before they could enjoy the second DJ set from our fabulous friend Charlotte De Carle, we stole a few more minutes of their time to give you the insight and get the answers to some of your questions.

Do you think the retail world will be cashless in the foreseeable future?

Petah: Yes moving towards cashless is increasingly likely, particularly as there’s a fear around touching and handling cash. Retailers need to also consider those that are unbanked as well and make sure that they are not prevented from being able to buy through this shift.

How can Klarna help us as a small business recover from COVID-19?

Sebastian: As you would expect, we are seeing a rise in the number of retailers, both small and large speaking to us regarding offering our flexible payment methods. In the UK alone, we’ve seen a 20% increase in retailer sign-ups in the past two months. For SME’s, optimising their websites and listening to customer demand is essential in ensuring that they can compete with some of the larger players in the market. Many of the larger brands are operating with legacy platforms and systems and cannot implement changes quickly. SME’s need to use their agility in these times to stand out in a crowded marketplace.

At Klarna, we can help SME’s by promoting their brand to our network and by offering their existing customers increased flexibility when it comes to payment methods. We know that in the UK and the US, 70% of millennials don’t have a credit card so offering alternative options when it comes to payments is essential. We work in partnership with all of our retailers and try to promote them wherever possible through our website where we have a directory, in our newsletters, in inspiration articles or on our social channels.

Fascinated to hear about how businesses adapt from a small start-up to then a much bigger scale and all the challenges that come with it. How do you maintain that start-up mentality?

Noel: We never believe our own hype. This Gymshark thing is just getting started when you understand what our end goal looks like, so it really feels like we are just as much of a start-up as we were when Ben was hand-printing t-shirts in Mom’s garage.

Alexia: Silos pop up as you size up, so building flexibility and encouraging cross-team integration in everyday processes is really important. Prioritising an entrepreneurial spirit as a requirement in the recruitment process is also key; so that there is a good mix of enterprise-level specialists and talent from start-up environments to drive through more risky ‘test and learn’ innovation. You want to avoid becoming a dictatorship as you grow, so another discipline to maintain is delegating decisions and empowering wider teams to make them – this makes everyone’s job more interesting so will help with retention too.

Sebastian: At Klarna, we believe that our operating model is key to us maintaining a start-up mentality. With over 3000 employees in 17 different countries, it could be difficult to operate with agility and speed however, our operating model consists of more than 300 teams all responsible for their own problem space. Each unit operates like a mini start-up containing individuals from a mix of competences. By having lots of small teams equipped and empowered to experiment, we can try things out, fail fast and rebound faster. These traits of start-ups are combined with the benefits of a large company’s scale, resources and centres of excellence.

To Gymshark, how have you built a brand with such a cult following?

Noel: Our following is everything to us and we act as such, a lot of people say this but they’re quite literally at the heart of everything we do. When you constantly ask yourself ‘what would our audience want?’ and also ensure the answer fits in your values then the right decisions actually become really obvious. Often businesses are held back by what other businesses have done before and how they’ve gained their leg up, if we’d have done that we’d never be where we are today.

My question is for Alexia. Has Cult Beauty experienced a significant increase in revenue as a result of more people turning to at home self-care and if so, do you have a strategy in place to retain this increase to be a long lasting success once people start returning to salons, nail bars etc.?

Alexia: We have seen strong growth over the last few months, especially within the skincare and wellbeing categories as our customers focus more on self-care. As I said in the webinar – where ‘Big Tech’ was experiencing a growing negative sentiment before COVID-19, the way technology has enabled and facilitated all levels of society during this crisis has changed everything.This has brought about a habitual sea change in the way consumers want to consume and Cult Beauty is well placed to attract people who might not have tried eCommerce previously. In my experience retention is never just one strategy, it’s everything from the quality of the products you sell to your marketing voice to how you deal with a customer return – we build retention consideration into everything we do.

How do retail brands become a bigger part of the local communities they operate in and therefore become a brand of choice for local shoppers?

Dylan: By being mindful of the local community, it’s needs and demographic. There should be a greater variety of bespoke retail outlets that are appropriate for particular areas. Global brands should be as particular and as attentive regarding neighbourhood stores as they are about international stories – which means that Glasgow needs to be treated with the same care as Tokyo. Above all, brands need to respect local custom.

Do you think now is a good opportunity to try and re-educate shoppers to spend at full price and slow down the mark down cycle which has become so aggressive recently? The full price window keeps getting shorter.

Petah: Brands will need to spend the next few months marking down strategically so that they don’t get overwhelmed by unsold inventory. However, they should look to not make the mistakes made during the last economic crisis and mark down everything and devalue the customer proposition through this. If brands are able to realign delivery calendars more to consumer demand, and ensure that they are ordering the right amount of product there will be less of a need to markdown.

Noel: I’m not sure it’s our place to re-educate people on how to spend, but I can’t help but think people are more likely to spend at full price going forward with brands they trust and believe in, the brands that were there for them and really stuck by their values. As opposed to those who undercut and impersonate, because when the tough times came I didn’t see those guys trying to help their consumers or give back to the community.

With traditional advertising no longer appropriate, how are brands and media organisations adapting to these changes?

Dylan: Traditional advertising will return, and in some ways may even be stronger than it was before. Just as we saw with Brexit, there will be a bounce, with brands returning to partnerships with trusted brands. What will change though is the nature of those partnerships – brand will quite rightly be more demanding, and media brands need to step up.

It’s not just about our panel though, we asked all attendees (over 500 of you) to answer a couple of questions before joining us, and here are the results…

Do you prefer working from home or the office? 

Over 80% of you said that you prefer working from home!

What are you most looking forward to after lockdown? 

The top four things from our survey that you are dreaming of in a life post lockdown are as follows:

  1. 67% – Seeing family and friends
  2. 13% – Eating out
  3. 7% – Going to the pub
  4. 7% – Going to the gym