If you love fast-paced, heart-racing, stress-inducing drama and intrigue, it's a great time to be in retail marketing. On any given day, the news vacillates from the impending retail apocalypse to the emerging golden age of direct-to-consumer; from Amazon.com disrupting the online retail economy with Experience Centers to retailers embracing out-of-the-box business models and integrated online and in-store experiences.
Therefore, if you’re a retail marketer, rest easy. As you prepare for the uncertainty of 2019, there are a few areas you should focus on to maximize performance in the coming year:
- Embrace the direct-to-consumer trend. No, you don’t have to shift your marketing strategy to feature amusing, fast-paced commercials shot in your warehouse — feel free to continue your sponsorship of the local football/baseball/e-sports arena. However, there are cues from the DTC world you need to pick up on. Specifically, owning the relationship with your customer. Don’t allow intermediaries or agents to get in the way of your most valuable asset. DTC brands own the customer, the journey, the message, the fulfillment and the ongoing relationship. They're likely smarter about their technology choices, vigilant about efficiency, and move faster than you can. In order to keep up, take a step back, look at your customer and engagement strategy, and then adjust. DTC brands are creating a brick-and-mortar presence to drive experience — you already have that channel well-established. Create a truly omnichannel approach with connection to the store, and be bold.
- Reach each customer, individually. Personalization isn’t a fad. It doesn’t even have a cool TLA (three-letter acronym). True personalization is the culmination of just how far we've come. Personas? Old hat. Demographics? Did demos ever accurately predict consumer behavior? Personalization means connecting all the data points you have on a customer — e.g., device, store visits, engagement — so you can speak to them directly, and not as part of a larger audience. Not with a generic offer. Not differently across different channels because different people or platforms are managing them. Show your customers that you know and understand who they are and what they want. If you do, you'll see engagement with your brand multiply.
- Start small. Developing a blockchain, artificial intelligence-powered, one-to-one chatbot strategy from your customer data platform isn't going to give you better results tomorrow. Start with the basics. Get a single view of your customer and not a fragmented one. Figure out where you're duplicating efforts, such as creating multiple customer data repositories, managing disparate platforms that have similar functions in the customer journey, or pulling together analytics from different sources without forming a single, consolidated view. Instead, design a basic but comprehensive omnichannel personalization strategy across your most important media channels: search, social media, display, and email, as well as on your site. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You should demand transparency and control, but that doesn’t mean you have to do it all yourself. When your vision gets the technical support it needs, you’ll have a clear path to success.
2019 will be an exciting year for retail as the industry responds to corresponding shifts in advertising and marketing technology. There's no need to jump on a fad. Employ tools that help you focus on your customer and their journey. Do it omnichannel. Nail the basics. Retail marketers, you got this!
Christopher Hansen is chief product officer at IgnitionOne, a customer intelligence platform.