Switchover partners

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Electrical independents have been performing a critical role in ensuring that the TV switchover goes smoothly for their customers. Mark Nicholson, Trade Marketing Manager, Digital UK, reviews the progress of the partnership between Digital UK and the independents.

The digital switchover has been a significant commercial opportunity for independent electrical retailers. It not only helped them to increase sales of switchover-related equipment and their specialist services but also to secure longer term loyalty of the customers who received their advice and practical help.

This successful partnership is one of the reasons that switchover to digital television continues across the UK, on time and according to plan. Following switchover at the Angus transmitter in the STV North region in August 2010, a quarter of homes across the UK have made the transition to digital-only television – almost 7 million households. For the vast majority, the process has been straightforward.

Digital UK provides comprehensive information, support and training for electrical retailers, manufacturers and installers about the switchover to digital television. The Digital UK Retail Support Team made a total of 6,556 individual visits to independent retail outlets last year. Digital UK’s Retail Support Team begins visiting electrical retailers in a TV region one year before switchover. The team signs up retailers to the ‘digital tick’ logo scheme, delivers point of sale materials, offers a comprehensive training programme and identifies sales opportunities in the region using switchover tracker data. To date, the team has delivered this programme in the West Country, Border, Wales, Granada, West and STV North regions. Face-to-face briefings closer to switchover cover a wide range of topics: dates; detailed technical information about re-tuning; equipment issues; stock challenges; frequency changes and troubleshooting.

Progress assessment

Digital UK conducts regular mystery shopping exercises to assess the quality of advice retailers are giving to their customers. The most recent wave, conducted in February and March 2010, shows that:

• Of all store types, licensed independent retailers (those signed up to use the ‘get set for digital’ promotional licence) continue to provide the best all round information about switchover, and are most likely to explain issues with greater clarity and depth.

• Nationally, eight in ten of all stores visited cover basic switchover and digital TV information; switchover, its implications and the options for going digital were discussed.

• The trend for stores providing more detailed information closer to switchover continues.

The research also identified three areas where independents’ efforts could be improved:

• Provision of accurate date information in areas where dates have been announced: store staff were not always confident when questioned about the exact dates of switchover. Digital UK always encourages use of the postcode checker, and is introducing date-specific PoS material to assist.

• Re-tuning should be mentioned when discussing Freeview. Having to re-tune equipment is part of adopting the Freeview platform and should be a purchase consideration. Reminding customers that instructions are included (or even showing them how to do it) will save retailers time at switchover.

• Recording: staff are still not identifying digital TV recorders as a convenient way to convert, with the added benefit of improved recording functionality.

In general, the main questions customers ask independent retailers are about the type of equipment that’s suitable for their needs and their existing home set-up. During switchover, these questions tend to focus on re-tuning and how to connect peripheral devices.

Independent retailers who have been through switchover tell us that sales of digital boxes and IDTVs of all sizes continue to increase, up to and during the switchover period, and even beyond it. The greatest sales opportunities exist for pro-active retailers who contact their customers to assess their needs, and advise them of any services available, such as in-home re-tuning services.

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