5 Tips to Re-Energize Your Retail Marketing Strategy
Consumer behavior has shifted.
While many shoppers now prefer smaller, more customer experience-oriented retailers, at the same time, they value e-commerce because they believe it offers better choice, convenience and price.
While more than half of today’s consumers are regularly completing transactions online, several industry experts are finding that customers still want to feel connected to the brand and expect the same experience they’ve come to know in brick-and-mortar locations, just in a digital landscape. For retailers, this means offering a simple and individualized shopping experience with instant support. With this demand on top of all else, many retailers might be struggling to keep up with the pace of marketing innovation. That’s why marketers need to think differently. They need to make current efforts smarter, faster, more nimble and more relevant.
As you begin planning retail marketing budgets and strategizing what new tactics you might deploy, consider the five areas below. Doing so will help align your brand with today’s consumer needs, wants and habits, and that will lead to continued success and more effective marketing efforts in the years to come.
1. Start with emotion, then think promotion.
If you want to champion marketing efforts, build loyalty and increase sales for the long term, focus on building the brand name and connecting with consumers via shared values before you discount services or products.
Many retailers make the mistake of starting with promotion. Consumers almost always have an emotional connection to what they buy, and then use logic to rationalize it. If this is true, promotion is the logic (the rational piece), not the emotional part.
For example, consumers might think, "I need to have an Apple watch to be fulfilled in life." They likely don’t consider other wearable tech providers because they identify so closely with the Apple brand. To account for this emotional approach, retailers should balance their communications to include both promotional and emotional messaging. By balancing both, marketers can tug on those emotional heartstrings while using other calls to action to justify the purchase.
2. Get personal.
Consumers want to feel that emotional connection beyond shared values and beliefs — they want to be recognized. This can be a challenging feat in brick-and-mortar locations, but in the digital space it’s a bit easier because it doesn’t require much to identify a customer.
We have countless ways to recognize customers. Most commonly, brands use persistent IDs, like cookies or pixels, to track consumer behavior and connect that behavior to the consumer’s name, email or phone number.
Upon each visit to your website, greet customers by name; show them new, relevant products that might be of interest; and remind them of categories or products viewed during their last visit. This level of personalization can also be applied to email communications and digital ads.
This may seem daunting, but it’s becoming table stakes among the most successful e-commerce and digital marketers. To compete, retailers need to use some of the highly effective tools available that can simplify these processes and automate relevant procedures.
3. Rethink loyalty programs.
Long gone are the days of simply rewarding consumers for purchases. Today’s customers expect interaction, personalization and shared values, as well as new experiences, products or services, and offers.
With this, modern loyalty programs should drive engagement and retention by delivering multiple consumer benefits via several touchpoints. Specific milestones or behaviors should still be rewarded, but retailers should also provide educational value, meaningful surprises, individualized incentives and unique opportunities. This taps into the customer’s emotional decision making and gives them a sense of status and exclusivity.
Sephora’s Very Important Beauty (VIB) Insider program is a great example. With more than 10 million Beauty Insider members, Sephora’s tiered loyalty program delivers different incentives based on loyalty points earned. Its tiered method is so effective because of the exclusivity its upper tiers create.
The tiers that Sephora has set ($350 for VIB and $1,000 for Rouge) have effectively segmented customers. The VIB Rouge status is tough to reach, but obtainable, which leads to the most effective form of motivation. Tiered programs are effective when the upper tiers have a minimal amount of members, typically around 10 percent. Furthermore, being vocal about the percentage of customers in each tier will increase engagement. You want your most loyal customer to feel like they achieved something that others could not, and encourage other customers to achieve it.
Sephora also aligns its rewards with what the brand stands for — prestige, quality and luxury. Rewards include exclusive products and events, access to the beauty studio, and early access to products and sales. These rewards create a sense of luxury and assign an exclusive status to members in the upper tiers. Sephora's customers want the latest in beauty (i.e., products that others cannot get), making the VIB Rouge reward program the perfect motivator.
4. Embrace marketing automation and artificial intelligence.
Marketing automation provides the ability to engage with each customer at every relevant step of their journey.
Customers should receive emails after all key interactions. Examples include a welcome email when a new member joins a loyalty program, a thank-you email when a purchase is made, a notification of an abandoned shopping cart, and a win-back email to incentivize customers who haven’t made a purchase for an extended length of time. Automating these types of communications allows for a more relevant customer experience.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is wonderful at predicting what kind of emotional response people will have, not just their transactional response. Using different tools, marketers can target customers based on their offline and online shopping preferences, what products they're viewing, dwell times on products (i.e., how long they're spending on products and services), and even the motivations and intent for coming to the brand’s website or brick-and-mortar store and not making a purchase.
5. Optimize for mobile search.
Mobile devices account for more than half of the searches completed online, which means retailers which aren't optimized for mobile searches might be losing significant business to competitors. Mobile queries can include searches completed on a phone or tablet, or voice-activated searches through a smart speaker like Amazon Echo or Google Home.
SEO is the starting point of all mobile searches. Therefore, following its rules when building your website and content provides a notable competitive advantage. This is the start of the customer’s experience; therefore, seamlessly integrating them into the customer journey with easy-to-find answers and products is critical.
While the above ideas may seem basic, many retailers are still not embracing these simple ways to modernize existing marketing efforts. In the years ahead, personalization will triumph in communications, and retailers that embrace tools to more efficiently and effectively dial into customers’ emotions and meet their wants, needs and habits will win the day.
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