Woman using tablet and holding Black Friday shopping bag while standing on the stairs with the mall background
Customer Experience, Thought Leadership

Will Black Friday revive European retail?

Black Friday is here. And for retailers across Europe this US-originated shopping extravaganza is set to provide a vital indicator of what 2019’s Holiday Season has in store for us.

So why does the day after Thanksgiving, a holiday that has no resonance for us Europeans, drive so much of our retail strategy? Are we just jumping on the bandwagon in an attempt to boost sales, or is there some method behind the Black Friday madness?


Almost 70 years of Black Friday tradition

Black Friday originated all the way back in 1952 in the States, as American shopkeepers infamously marked the 4th Friday in November as the day that their books turned black (positive) from red (negative).

So why has it taken European retailers so long to also promote Black Friday as the start of the holiday shopping season?

The UK first popularized Black Friday just 5 short years ago. PWC’s report this week explores retailers’ original reluctance:

When it was first popularized in the UK, there were reports of crowds storming stores and websites crashing under the weight of traffic as shoppers rushed to bag the best deals. But some retailers were concerned that this cannibalized higher margin, full priced sales in the run up to Christmas.’


Europe takes just 5 years to catch up

Despite this reluctance, 5 years has been all it has taken for our European sales figures from this event to have almost caught up with our American counterparts. As shown by Adobe Insight’s 2019 report:

Holiday spending in Europe will grow 10% this year [2019] , just below the US estimate of 11%. However, Black Friday itself has grown 124% over the past four years.’


UK, Germany & France dominate Black Friday sales

So where in Europe is Black Friday having the biggest impact? According to the same report for 2019:

‘Most money in Europe will be spent in the United Kingdom and Germany, who will both grow 10 percent to 27.1 billion euros and 22.9 billion euros respectively. Holiday sales in France are forecast to grow 11 percent to 14.3 billion euros.’

And Black Friday sales have particularly grown in the Nordic Countries, where sales have increased by 187% since 2013 compared to 66% elsewhere in Europe.


What does Black Friday 2019 have in store?

It will be exciting to see if Black Friday tips the scales in Benelux this year to become the biggest shopping day across the whole of Europe. Given how quickly Black Friday has taken off, one year could be all that it takes.

So, like it or loathe it, our bet is that your store will have a Black Friday promotional strategy in full swing this weekend. These figures have demonstrated that it is indeed more than just hype, or us jumping on the American bandwagon.

Ultimately, all that really matters is customer experience and expectations. And with our shoppers being hit with Black Friday adverts over the last weeks, smart retailers will be set to capitalize on that.

I can already hear the cash registers ringing. May the holiday shopping season commence…

Unleash MobieTrain Win
News, Thought Leadership

The future of work: MobieTrain vs. the Robots

Let’s be honest. Are you concerned that robots or machines will steal your job? Artificial Intelligence was a key theme at Unleash, the world’s biggest HR event, when we attended last week. But we, for once, are not scared.

Want to know why? Well…IBM’s CEO, Ginni Rometty, phrases it perfectly…

“Some people call this artificial intelligence, but the reality is this technology will enhance us. So instead of artificial intelligence, I think we’ll augment our intelligence.” —

Ginni Rometty

The Human Factor

Humans are still at the core of our workforce. Everywhere we look, customer experience is every company’s key driver. It’s certainly at the core of MobieTrain, and that is why we were honoured with winning Unleash’s biggest ever startup competition last week. But more on that later…

What really matters is what us winning says about the future of work. Empowering your employees and ‘unleashing’ their potential was the theme of the conference, and this in itself is telling. We weren’t being told to retrain as coders, or pack up our laptops and head for the hills.

Instead, we were shown how more and more companies are, and should be, placing their emphasis on empowering their employees. On using technology, not to replace workers, but to help them…to ‘augment our intelligence’ as Rometty says, and in doing so, to drive real change and results that impact the bottom line.

Augmenting Our Intelligence

Intelligence. Knowledge. Empowerment.

Isn’t it great to see that, despite the doomsday predictions, the mobile and AI revolution still has these values at its core?

And that is why we won at Unleash. As in Rometty’s quote, our mobile-learning platform ‘augments our intelligence’ with technology. It empowers employees, not machines. 

Personalisation is key. And, through integrating Artificial Intelligence into our platform in the coming months, it will help us to improve the performance and job satisfaction of real employees, and improve the customer experience of real customers. We’ve known for a long time that data is our friend. So too is artificial intelligence, if harnessed correctly.

Why microlearning?

“Winning Unleash’s startup competition just reinforces our core idea-that knowledge is power. And micro-learning is the best way for the mobile workforce to not just learn, but use, that knowledge to make real impact.’

Guy Van Neck, Founder, MobieTrain

Unleash has given us even more incentive to keep pushing forwards with our product. Our vision is to set the global standard in mobile-learning, and with victories like this we are getting closer to empowering more and more workforces worldwide. But first, we focus…

‘It’s better to attack the market with a knife instead of a hammer.’  

Jerome Ternynck, Host at Unleash 18 Competition

Our focus on the retail sector, alongside our micro-learning approach, is what gave us the edge on the finale day. But from 2019 onwards, we’ll also be venturing into other industries including financial services, logistics and food and beverages.

The microlearning market is expected to reach USD +14 billion by the end of 2022 with +11 % CAGR during forecast period 2018-2022.

Microlearning is booming. It is driving the future of work, a future that still revolves around employees. And, as our success at Unleash shows, the future of work is now.


The crowd in the center of Rome
Thought Leadership

Are you prepared for the strongest December for retail in 10 years?

Twas the weekend before Christmas,

And all through the stores,

The cash tills were ringing,

Like never before’

Ok, I’m no poet. The festive season has gone to my head. But there’s a very real reason why I’m even more excited about this holiday season than normal.

Christmas Day falls on a Monday this year. Which means that last-minute shoppers, and you know who you are, have two whole work-free days to hit the stores.

When you combine this with another record-breaking Black Friday and very positive holiday retail forecasts worldwide, then you have to be excited about what the weekend before Christmas will bring.

‘Partly thanks to that extra Sunday, the National Retail Federation (NRF) predicts that holiday retail sales in November and December will increase between 3.6% and 4%this year from 2016.’

And that’s just in the States. Across Europe, the outlook looks even brighter, with the Netherlands reporting the biggest retail revenue increase in 10 years in Q3, and the UK predicting a 5% seasonal increase ‘adding nearly £4 billion to holiday sales and taking the seasonal total to £78.7 billion.’

So what are you doing to prepare?

Extending Super Saturday

‘The last Saturday before Christmas, Super Saturday, is by far the biggest shopping day of the holiday season. The term was coined by retailers to mark shoppers’ last-minute scramble (the alternate name on Wikipedia is “Panic Saturday”). Many retailers offer one-day, in-store discounts and incentives, and stores are typically open for extended hours.’

We all know about the extended opening hours for ‘Super Saturday.’ But an increasing number of retailers will also be extending their opening hours and offering in-store deals and incentives on Sunday 24th also this year.

Once this is planned, and extra stock is delivered and accounted for, there really is only one thing that we need to focus on. And that is our staff. Are they ready?

A Crash Course in Seasonal Shopping

Our store associates really are the superstars this holiday season. There’s no denying it. The extra hours, frantic shoppers and huge anticipated footfall will make working the weekend before Christmas very physically demanding.

So what can we do to support them?

This is where your training process is really key. Supplement your usual L&D programme with a crash course especially equipped for the seasonal season. This will be especially useful for any temp workers that you get in for Christmas.

Microlearning is important here. Make sure all training is delivered in short, bite-sized chunks so that your associates and temps can get up to speed quickly and feel prepared before those doors fly open next weekend.

Christmas and Beyond

Once Santa has been and gone, we enter sales season as the last few days of the year bolster what is predicted to be the best December in retail for a long time. The processes and insights learnt from Super Saturday and Sunday should set you up for this and beyond into 2018.

We hope that it’s a prosperous one for you.

Women and shopping
Customer Experience, Thought Leadership

Undifferentiated retail won’t survive

Nike made a big statement last week by telling investors that it is changing its business model to move away from ‘mediocre’ retailers. Is this another hard blow for brick and mortar retailers in the wake of the digital age?

In a word, no.

Before we all start to despair, yet again, at the future of physical stores, I want to draw our attention to the keyword in Nike’s statement. And that word is:


As reported in the Wall Street Journal’s article, ‘Nike plans to continue working closely with 40 partners, ranging from brick-and-mortar standbys like Foot Locker Inc. and Nordstrom Inc. to newer partners like Amazon (…) on new apps and in-store experiences.’

So yes, Nike is pushing its digital selling strategy. But, vitally, not at the expense of brick and mortar retailers. What it is really doing is recognising the importance of in-store experiences, and being more selective by no longer partnering with ‘undifferentiated, mediocre’ retailers.

Which is fine right? Because who amongst us would want to be described as ‘mediocre’ anyway?

So how can we ensure that we are never described in this way?

How to avoid mediocrity by putting customers first

As Nike and so many other retail giants are doing, we have to focus everything on customer experience.

As I reported last week, 82% of millennials still prefer to shop in store because of the experience. So the first, fundamental action item is to re-assess your associates’ training and knowledge to ensure that it exceeds your shoppers’ expectations.

The second step? Mystery shopping and customer feedback 

We may think that we know how our stores are operating. Our associate training program may be second to none. Our sales may be through the roof. But the only way to ever be certain is to see your business through your customers’ eyes with a network of professional, unbiased evaluators.

Through hiring a mystery shopping company, you are able to identify any missed opportunities and get the feedback needed to drive change across your stores.

You can also supplement this by asking your real customers for feedback through short questionnaires or pop up surveys on your website and social channels.

Which brings me onto the third step.

Data and business insights

The real benefit of the last decade’s surge of technological innovations is the ability to track, analyse and optimise all of your business data. Beyond sales, stock and the bottom line, we need to track every element of operations- from each associate’s skill levels and the insights gathered by evaluators through to supply chain logistics and footfall. So let’s embrace the technology and platforms that enable us to do that.

This data is what really empowers us to innovate and drive exceptional customer experience. Combined with a motivated and high performing team, an openness to change, and a stand out store design, this can ensure that we avoid mediocrity, no matter what sector we are in and what goods we are selling.

So, don’t be disheartened by the headlines. Be inspired about how the change brought about by eCommerce is actually driving better customer experience in our stores. We can all be a part of this, and part of the future of retail, as long as we are smart about it.

Because, let’s face it, none of us were born to be mediocre.

future of L&D microlearning mobile learning
L&D Approach, Thought Leadership

The future of Learning & Development

Many organisations struggle to implement new hypes in learning development such as Social, Lean, 70-20-10, Blended or Flip learning. What to choose? Where to start? What is the cost of change? Is your organisation’s culture ready?

I have written blogs before on those different ideas that all involve learner empowerment, social tools and their impact on culture. This time I’d like to go back to one of my blogs on communication and collaboration tools used in organisations in order to answer those questions.

“Due to globalisation and corporate conversations evolving from top down broadcasting to collaborative multi-way inclusion, the need for platforms has grown. Employees become engaged in a new social thinking strategy to create a sustainable climate for personal and corporate growth.”

So how does this affect your organisations structure? What is the role of Human Resource, Learning and Development, Communication and IT? Can they still survive in their bunkered silos?

Social HR and Business Integration

The role of L&D is changing rapidly. But how can you change a department that is seen as a cost without a clear view on the positive effect this will have on balance sheets, competitive edge or an attractive company culture?

In his book ‘Socialized’, Mark Fidelman elaborates on the importance of culture and a “Digital Village”:

“The purpose of creating an internal social business is to help employees, customers, and suppliers collaborate, share and organize information“ – Mark Fidelman

Many successful businesses understand that the power of an organisation is in it’s human capital, creating an innovative culture powered by systems to support it. According to a study from McKinsey, these are the values of creating an internal Social Office

– 20% increase in customer satisfaction
– 20% of time it takes to bring products to market
– 30% cost reduction in talent management
– 30% reduction in the time it takes to find knowledge experts

Instead of trying to solve the puzzle of how to reorganise the L&D department, we should break down the walls between corporate departments and integrate Communication, L&D and HR into one social department powered by a strong ICT infrastructure.

Technology as a strategic driver of lean learning development

Let’s assume that an organisation wants to become a social enterprise, is ready for level 5 collaboration and ready to bridge their internal knowledge gaps. Thereby taking advantage of the collective expertise from their human capital and the extended community with partners, customers and even competitors. Those organisations understand that information needs to FLOW in the ecosystem as a critical factor for organisational processes and performance outcomes.

So why would we merge departments and how does that lead to Lean Learning Development- that is ”Eliminating all waste that is not adding value to the learner?”.

Take the test in your own organisation. Who is responsible for transferring news? Probably the communication/marketing department is sending and receiving relevant news to keep the business going. Maybe you even have a conversation manager or listening manager sharing the news over your Enterprise Social Network (ESN)?

So who is responsible for communicating learning to you and how do they do that? Perhaps it is your Learning Manager sending relevant learning material to you or pointing it out in the LMS? Or maybe you already have a social LMS with some social features for communication and social learning.

Let me ask, what is continuous learning and what if you don’t get all the relevant updates from your peers, partners and customers? Would you be able to perform your job in 5 years from now?

It is estimated that in Western Countries 75% of employees are knowledge workers relying on accurate information for successful performance. Therefore we can’t risk that relevant information is lost in noise or that learning content is not relevant to the receiver. News and learner content both depend on personalised and accurate information, fast transfer, easy search options and a safe environment.

Using social networks that are implemented company wide, without the barriers of old departmental authorities, are not only lean but they empower employees to take their own personal development in hand and thereby lift the organisation and its ecosystem to higher levels of performance.

The social office and the role for L&D

Coming back to the title of this blog. What can we do to secure our organisation for a sharing and learning culture ready to take the competitive advantage?

L&D professionals should be more social focused and understand the requirements and moments of need lean learners have. They should be aware of the danger of information overload and take advantage of people-centred performance management systems and learning eco-systems.

Reach out to colleagues from Communication, break down the departmental silo’s and build together a strong internal Social Office with ICT support.

“Capital is only one key resource of an organisation and is by no means the scarcest one. The scarcest resource in any organisation is performing people” – Peter Drucker

(This blog post was contributed by Katja Schipperheijn on our board of advisors)