As the tech industry looks to capitalise on the burgeoning tablet and 3D sectors, leading retailers say the market needs to simplify the way in which it communicates to customers or risk losing them.
The argument of whether the industry should abandon ‘geek-speak’ in favour of more clear and accessible language often divides opinion, but this month some of the UK’s biggest retailers have spoken out against a culture of techno-babble, asserting that the industry should move away from this sometimes confusing practice.
“While it’s still important to provide this information to the people that want it and we do it’s also vital that customers can see clearly what it means in plain English,” said Rene Wright, Best Buy UK’s head of computing. “For example, in Best Buy stores we have always had educational signage in the computing section, as well as other areas of the store like cameras and MP3 players, that explain what 16GB actually means like 4,000 songs or up to 16 hours of video, or how many images it will store. It’s not just about listing specs.”
Ed Connolly, head of buying for consumer electronics at John Lewis, a firm which has gained praise for making its tech offering appealing to a wide audience, added: “The complexity of the industry has grown faster than most people can keep up with. People now fall into different levels, from expert to beginner, so as a retailer John Lewis has to cater for them all. If my mum comes in to John Lewis I want her to receive a different level of information than someone with more technology knowledge.”
Smaller independent shops usually associated with niche, hardcore tech sales, have also noticed the need for change.
“I now see more people than ever that need help choosing the correct PC for them,” said Craig Hume, of PCR Award Winner Utopia Computers. “PCs are now part of everyone’s daily lives, like many other modern conveniences. How many people could tell you how much horsepower their car has, or what wattage their stereo system is? It’s important that we don’t alienate customers who don’t understand this language.
"Manufacturers like Intel could do a lot more to help the market become more open to less informed customers. Currently Intel’s CPU model numbers are a bit of a minefield. I’m sure most of us in the industry have a bit of a headache keeping up with them, never mind the end user."
Last month, Tesco told PCR it was attempting to cater to the mass market and leverage its considerable brand trust to snap up less tech savvy consumers. Dixons Retail, the firm that would have the most to lose from increasing incursions by supermarkets, insists it is best to cater to both.
“They can sell as they want, but clearly when you’re a specialist retailer you’re going to have some clear competitive advantages. We can range an awful lot more than any non-specialist can,” said head of media relations Mark Webb. “We can explain the benefits of each product so much better, and of course because we’ve got the Tech Guys, our after-sales work is always going to be far superior. I would say our competitive advantages are value, choice and service and that’s where your supermarkets or whoever else can’t compete.”