Online shopping vs IRL (In real life) shopping

If you’re like me and you love to shop you will know the struggle of finding the time to look properly while trying to do everything else that is going on like Uni, work and socialising, of course. There are two different types of shoppers, there are those who only shop online and people who actually love going in to shops.

There are pros and cons to both these ways of shopping…

Online shopping pros;

It’s right at your finger tips… Literally AB2

There are so many apps now on our smart phones for shopping the latest trends and even our groceries can be bought online and brought to our houses. We don’t even have to leave the house or if we are in work we can do it on our break, basically we can shop anywhere and everywhere, I think that is the appeal for most consumers. I have shopped online a few times because compared to normal stores there is an endless amount of clothes and styles on those apps, I mean endless you could spend hours just looking at tops alone. These sites also give you suggestions so you barely even need to look that far because they’ve already picked a look for you. With online shopping you also don’t have the stress of having to fight your way through people especially when it comes to Christmas time and Belfast City Centre is completely packed with everyone trying to get what they need. A perk I also enjoy from online shopping is getting it delivered to work because it’s like getting presents while I’m there, this defiantly helps with the 8 hour shift I don’t want to do.

Online shopping cons;

When we order online we have to wait usually 3-5 working days for our parcel to arrive and if there is a weekend in between then that’s two extra days added which is just unfair in my opinion, yes there is next day delivery but for most online shops that doesn’t apply to Northern Ireland… defiantly unfair. Then we have the charge of postage, although postage usually isn’t that dear it’s still charge on top of your items but if you’re like me and you see ‘free postage on orders over…’ and your order is just under that priceAB1 then I will buy something else, now this makes no sense because you are most likely now spending more money but it’s all about the principle of it, well that’s what I tell myself anyway. Sizing can be a problem, I like to try things on before I buy them because sizing in some shops can be completely different than sizing in another so if I order online half the time I usually send the stuff back or have to get another size which means I have to wait another 3-5 working days and that is just way to much waiting about for my gifts from me to me.

I prefer IRL shopping one reason for this is because I am a student and I can go into the city centre on a Monday at 10am when no one is there which makes it a lot easier.

IRL shopping pros;

When you go into a clothing shop and you can actually see what you are buying, you sometimes find that it looks nothing like what you saw online(which has happened to me quite a lot) so you know exactly what you are getting. You can try on the clothes before you buy them like I pointed out earlier, this is defiantly a good thing for me because I don’t have to send half of my order back. Customer service as annoying as it can be at times I still prefer to talk to a person rather than do everything through technology, having someone tell you they love what you’re buying at the till makes you feel good (even if it is a lie). We get what we want straight away. This is a big pro for me because I can be very last minute so being able to get and outfit and go works well for me and my at times unorganised lifestyle.

IRL shopping cons;

We all know how busy Castlecourt and Victoria Square can be at the best of times and it AB3is even worse around Christmas so if you aren’t a student or you can’t work from home you have to shop at the busiest and worst day to go into the city centre… A Saturday. It really is a horrible day to be anywhere near shops because everyone is off and then trying to get home after you’ve fought your way through the crowds is another nightmare, you could sit in traffic for hours. Being told they don’t have your size… this is to say the least, heartbreaking news, I hate, hate, hate when I have found the perfect outfit then the sales assistant tells me they don’t have my size then I have to start the process all over again or worse they tell me to look online, and you now know how shopping online makes me feel so you can imagine how I feel when that line is thrown in my face.

So, those are my thoughts on online vs IRL I’m sure some of you will share the same thoughts as myself in this department and if not you now know my views on two methods of shopping xo

 

Aoife Ni Cheallaigh Bairr is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at: LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/aoife-ni-cheallaigh-bairr-a42534164/

From the table to the top

When I think about what I want to be when I grow up (I say ‘when’, but it’s about time I admit – I am grown) I don’t exactly know what it is I want to be, but it’s safe to say that if I was as successful as Sophia Amoruso, I’d feel pretty good about myself. Or better yet, who’s seen the Devil Wears Prada? I’d settle for being Miranda Priestly. But at the moment my life is a lot more like Andy’s before she got the really good bangs and the jeans that made her go from a 2 to a 10.

When I snap myself back to reality, catch myself on and accept that bopping about New York in Louboutins is a bit farfetched… I can take some little bit of comfort in the fact that some of the most successful business women in the world, turned their kitchen tables into booming brands and became leaders in their industry.

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Huda Kattan: Founder of cosmetics line ‘Huda Beauty’

The Huda Beauty story began when Kattan followed her lifelong passion of beauty and enrolled in a makeup training course in LA, resulting in gaining a massive clientele including Eva Longoria, Nicole Richie and even members of the royal family. She then set up her blog, HUDABEAUTY.COM in 2010.

So how did blogging result in Huda producing some of the best make up in the industry? Basically, she never liked any of the eyelashes she was using on clients. She was constantly cutting them up or stacking different styles on top of each other to reach the desired look. It was then that her sister, Mona, who had the light bulb moment. Why not create your OWN lashes? So she did. They launched at a Sephora store in Dubai Mall in 2013 and sold out the same day.

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From that very day the Huda Beauty brand has grew and grew, resulting in Huda being approached by investors, having been offered $1.5m for a 60% share in the firm in 2014 – which was turned down as Huda had her own vision for the company that she didn’t want anyone or anything to interfere with,

“I was so afraid of losing the magic of Huda Beauty if we took investment,”

During an explosive growth period, Huda Beauty literally couldn’t keep up with demand. Orders grew and grew, so much so that they didn’t have enough products to distribute, and they couldn’t even increase production as they didn’t have enough money to hire more staff. So it was in 2017 that Huda Beauty partnered with TSG Consumer Partners investment firm,

“It was truly a long process in finding the right partner for us because we wanted to partner with a company that really understood our company’s vision… but it has honestly been such an amazing partnership and they’ve allowed the brand to flourish.”

Huda Beauty is now the number one Beauty Instagram account with over 26 million followers, the 61st most followed person on Instagram.

Ella Mills: Food Author and Entrepreneur under the brand ‘Deliciously Ella’

The Deliciously Ella story began in 2012 whilst Ella was in University and had just been diagnosed with Postural Tachycardia Syndrome. In the simplest of terms, she had digestive issues and chronic fatigue and was fed up with her medication not having any positive effects. This resulted in her hitting rock bottom both mentally and physically. Not really what any university student needs.

So she took it upon herself to find other ways to manage her condition and soon realized it heavily depended on her diet and lifestyle, in which she had to massively change. Although there were a few problems:

“1. I couldn’t cook.

2. I had no idea about plant-based food

3. I had lost all of my sense of drive and passion”

(honestly Ella, SAME)

So… she decided to combat this and used a blog as a way to keep track of her culinary efforts and people LOVED IT. Hits began to grow and her audience wanted more. She soon began hosting cookery classes and “supper parties”. Her blog successes resulted in publishing opportunities, with the first Deliciously Ella cookery book being published in 2015, becoming the best-selling debut cookbook ever in the UK.

She then met her husband Matt and it was a true culinary love story. They joined forces by using her creativity and his business mind to open the first Deliciously Ella Deli in Seymour Place, London. This lead to the launch of the Deliciously Ella food range including energy balls, granolas and frozen meals that are sold in over 6,000 stores in the UK including popular food stores Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Holland & Barrett

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Sophia Christina Amoruso: Founder of ‘Nasty gal’

From an online eBay store to the CEO of one of the fastest growing companies, Sophia Christina Amoruso has had her fair share of success… so much so that she was named one of the richest self-made women in the world by Forbes in 2016. Sophia’s success story started at the age 22, when she started an online eBay store selling vintage clothing and other items, which she named “Nasty Gal Vintage”. She handled the whole thing herself, from buying the products, writing product descriptions and taking pictures of the products to share with her customers. Two years later she moved the store off eBay onto its very own website, rebranding as “Nasty Gal”

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This was just the beginning of Nasty Gal’s growth. Each year it grew and grew from opening its headquarters in LA in 2010, reaching $24 million revenue in 2011 (11,200% three-year growth rate) to opening their first brick and mortar store in 2014 in the famous LA Melrose Avenue.

Despite her evident success, Sophia’s journey was not smooth sailing as she called herself a “young, naïve founder.” Sophia stepped down as CEO of Nasty Gal in 2015, after admitting “she felt incompatible with the demands of being a CEO”. Soon after, Nasty Gal filed for bankruptcy, resulting in Boohoo Group purchasing the brand for a whopping $20m.

Although it was the end of Sophia’s Nasty Gal journey, it was not the end of her. After stepping down as CEO, Sophia had time to reflect and wants to pass on the wisdom and hard-learned lessons. You gotta learn from your mistake, am I right? She used her own experience to help others and founded GirlBoss Media in 2017, named after her best selling memoir #GirlBoss.

“Girlboss is a community of strong, curious, and ambitious women redefining success on our own terms. We are here to inform, entertain, and inspire action through the content and experiences we create. We are unapologetic in our beliefs and values of supporting girls and women who are chasing dreams both big and small.”

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So yeah, as much as our biggest career goals may seem totally out of reach – if there’s anything that the twenty-first century constantly teaches us, it’s that business opportunities are literally at our fingertips. It only takes a blog or vlog to build a public persona, Instagram to forge a brand, and eBay to have a proper business from home. It’s not impossible and our idols prove that. I wouldn’t suggest giving up the day job…  but don’t give up on the dream either. After all, the expert at anything was once a beginner.

Catherine Maguire is a 3rd year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University, currently on a placement year at The Irish News. She can be found on Instagram: catherinelauram and LinkedIn: Catherine Maguire

“Would you like a bag with that?” What retail taught me about PR!

Retail is a mad environment, a mad environment that I’ve had the dubious pleasure of working in for nearly 5 years! Don’t get me wrong it’s fun but it’s also fast-paced and tough, standing on your feet for 8 hours hurts, running back and forward like a mad eejit to get items for customers will increase your fitbit steps considerably, as will dealing with difficult situations and moving fixtures to name but a few! If you have worked (or currently work) in retail you’ll be able to relate to this blog in some way, shape or form! If you don’t work in retail – no worries, I am hoping you’ll get a glimpse of life from behind the counter and what retail workers deal with daily!

Before starting university, I didn’t realise how much I’d learned in the world of retail nor how much it had prepared me for my future career in Public Relations. Who would have thought that retail makes you quite the PR professional…OK, maybe not a professional but you’ll definitely develop a bit of a flair for it. As I am a student, I will include some academic writing just to prove my point (and to sound highly intellectual).

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Trust me, it will all make sense!

Public relations is all about building, maintaining and managing good relationships though communication, according to the two academic legends Grunig and Hunt, who wrote this in 1984. Apply their analysis to a retail setting, or any setting where a customer/client relationship is involved, and you must deal with them appropriately, right? In retail you encounter a wide range of customers with some extremely unique characteristics. The ones who’ll quip “well I’m hardly going to carry that around now am I *insert laugh*” after you’ve offered them a bag; or my all-time favourite “if there’s no price on it that must mean its free!” I have heard that 6 times today… Bet you’re reading this, and you’ve said that yourself more than once! Haven’t you?

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Regardless of who or what you encounter, having good public relations skills will ensure you make their retail experience a pleasurable one which they will hopefully repeat regularly. Imagine you are a customer purchasing goods and the sales adviser is rude, arrogant and totally unpleasant – you would be outraged and leave feeling annoyed at the situation. You would have little or no inclination to shop there again and at worst, you would give the shop a poor social media review.  If you’re of a “certain age” you might prefer to phone and ask to speak to a member of staff. Imagine poor customer service in a PR agency?  You’d be out of business in no time.

In retail the customer is your priority and in a competitive market they expect the 5* treatment.  Ever heard the expression “kill them with kindness?” I’m pretty sure that was written for retail workers. To be successful you must always be polite and attentive, listening to their needs, communicating with them effectively and showing a genuine interest in them. Remember us Irish love retail therapy!  But BALANCE is key🔑 in all of this as an over-zealous approach can also be off-putting and have customers behind the mannequins in lingerie like an episode out of “Fr Ted”.

Similarly, in PR, when working closely with a client, it’s vital that you listen to their needs, concerns and ideas – showing that you care about them. By remembering customers’ names, their likes and dislikes, whether they want the receipt in the bag or in their hand your customer will hopefully feel they are appreciated. They must feel that your world revolves around them.

In retail you need to be able to multi-task to the best of your ability, including doing 10 different jobs at once!   Merchandising, deliveries, not to mention manning the tills whilst also bending over backward for your customer while a queue begins to form with impatient coughs beginning to resonate towards you.  Yes my friends, if you can do all this under tight deadlines and still keep that smile on your face, then you should be able to work in PR……

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Sometimes you might wonder “why do I bother?” but in the PR world you need to be highly motivated all the time – adapting to every situation that is thrown your way.  There really is no such thing as a typical day!

Often in retail you can find yourself in a situation you’d never have dreamt of, smiling as you deliver a suitable response to an unhappy customer in order to survive.  Time to shine a light on your problem-solving skills – this might be rhyming off your companies return policy to Susan who clearly bought the item in a different country and wore it 100 times, or how the bags cost 5p and it’s not your fault.  Let’s not forget the customer who will not believe that you genuinely have none of that item left!

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You guessed it! Us PR Wizz kids need to work with other managers to solve communication problems. Being able to act quickly during a difficult situation calls for a crisis communication plan. Now, in the PR world this will be most likely be on a mass scale, it might involve writing a press release, releasing a statement to the organisation’s publics on social media and taking calls from members of the press to ensure the same message is communicated to all.

I am thankful for all that I have learned during my time working in retail, I feel it’s a rite of passage for us millennials.  Now to graduate, get a job and enjoy some retail therapy of my own.

Alannah Stephens is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. Alannah can be found on Twitter @AlannahStephens and on  Linkedin https://www.linkedin.com/in/alannah-stephens-ab1525127/ 

The High-Street Hustle

Success within a changeable industry

 

As reports of huge retailers filing for bankruptcy or closing a multitude of stores grow increasingly regular as the weeks fly by, it’s pretty hard not to think about what the future really holds for the High Street as we know it. As an Assistant Manager of a popular Belfast Retail Store (and frequent over-spender), I for one have struggled to keep up with the changes in Belfast City Centre over the last year with so many stores moving premises, rebranding, or ceasing trade entirely.

The world has gone online, and it’s more and more obvious by the day just how much of an impact the digital age is having on our High Streets. A recent report by The Office for National Statistics published in August 2018 states how online spending has “continued to increase to reach a new record proportion of all retailing at 18.2%.” With no doubt a strain is evident, what is the secret to achieving a steady turnover in a world dominated by Amazon Prime?

 

Brick and Mortar

The key to maintaining success in this increasingly competitive high street market is to focus on customer perception. Why may a customer choose to head into the City Centre for a bit of shopping on a Saturday afternoon, rather than snuggling up on the sofa with their iPad and a nice cuppa, scrolling through ASOS for hours on end.

The answer? Communication. That all important customer interaction is what keeps people coming back. This is something that you will not get online, and for many tends to categorise shopping as an enjoyable pastime rather than a necessity. How many times have you found yourself engaging in conversation with a Sales Assistant (usually surrounding a completely random topic), and left the store with a smile on your face. Equally, a less enjoyable encounter may reduce the likelihood you will rush back to that store.

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Carrier bag 5p, Experience Priceless

Belief in your brand is vital. Customers do not want to be sold a product, but a lifestyle. Present your belief in the item, the company, and most importantly your genuine interest in the people who are giving you a reason to switch on the lights.

If you’ve ever worked in retail, you have undoubtedly heard the infamous comment that a particular item is cheaper online. Fast fashion is rapidly available, but isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. For this particular group of individuals, the price point will not be the pinnacle when contemplating a purchase (although I’m pretty sure there is a good percentage of Belfast’s population who’d happily switch to the online market just to get out of having to pay 5p for a carrier bag). A friendly, positive attitude and a soft-sell, non-scripted approach is best-practice. A customer should never feel as though you are pushing an item in exchange for an additional cocktail on Saturday night. Let’s just say Disneyland would not hire me pre-morning coffee, but the secret is simple… buy the Latte, pop on that retail smile and put your best self on the floor.

 

I can’t, but we can

The team. The word itself says it all. There is no ‘I’ in team, and the foundations for the successful running of a Retail Store will always come down to those representing the brand. A customer doesn’t know the Managing Director, they don’t know who runs the Warehouse or who manages Payroll (and probably don’t particularly care either). All they are interested in is the product, and respectively the individual selling it to them. A company can have an incredible hierarchical back-bone, but in most cases the customer will not see beyond the Sales Assistant.

Your team members are your forefront, the lead on your reputation, and act as the focal pull to the potential customer. Training is vital, and can make or break a retailer. Build a strong, dependable, enthusiastic team that will do all necessary to avoid providing a customer with reason to grow disengaged with the service implemented in-store.

Buy now or cry later

Visual Merchandising is your best friend. Creating a visual atmosphere that draws people in will change your life (well maybe not your life but your footfall counts at least). You may be surprised by how many people prefer to see an item in person before purchasing. The opportunity to touch it, feel it, and try it on… (spoiler alert: you’ll also save yourself the bother of repackaging an unwanted item and carting it to the Post Office).

I personally find myself more likely to develop an attachment to an item that I have held in my hand, as opposed to the multitude of items on my Topshop ‘online WishList’. We have the ability to view short catwalk snippets, and even spin online images 360 degrees to view the item from all angles, but is this really the same as viewing the item in person and physically touching it? A glimpse at how the item looks partnered with your style, how it feels, does it look the same as advertised… (pretty much all of the guess-work involved in an online haul).

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Sink or Swim

I am sure Brexit alongside other factors will bring more ups and downs to our Economy, our High-Street and our Retailers. This is a bridge we will cross when we come to it. The present is our priority, and we are more than capable of continuing to thrive (and even grow). Do we give in to the online market? Or do we present an experience that will make the customer want to return to the store. Online retailers are here to stay, but I believe in the importance of brick and mortar and believe that many others do too. Know your competition, monitor KPIs, set targets and aim to exceed them. Provide unmatchable customer service and respect the sales team (they are the face of your brand). Sell an experience over a product, reiterate the importance of a consistent Brand Identity and implement Consumer-led Strategy. Take every chance you have to thrive.

To remain competitive and relevant in a constantly evolving industry may be a challenge, but remind yourself that impossible is only an opinion. If your work isn’t fun, you’re not playing for the right team.

Nora xx

 

Nora Brennan is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be contacted on: Instagram – @noraellenb / Twitter – @noraellenb / LinkedIn- Nora Ellen Brennan.