As 2016 ends, retail marketers and senior executives will take a long, hard look at their company’s margins over the last year, goals that were attained, best practices that worked and strategies that didn’t — all in an effort to reprioritize and gear up for success in the New Year.
Retailers should always keep in mind the most valuable asset of their business — the customer. Every year, marketers try different tactics to push out messages to potential buyers, with hopes to deliver their brand promise and create a loyal customer. It seems simple enough, right? However, not all retail marketers have quite nailed it. It’s easy to discuss how to take care of customers and give them what they desire, and just as easy to lose sight of the business side of things.
Retailers need to acknowledge and leverage five key marketing tactics in 2017 to better communicate with their customers and, more importantly, make the purchasing process enjoyable so they keep coming back for more.
Don't Forget the Basics
To start, email isn't dead. Many have predicted the death of email, and this rumor has gained more backers with the advent of social media. In reality, the channel is stronger than ever, continuing to grow in volume as well as its many uses.
Email and marketing should go hand-in-hand for retailers, as this channel drives traffic, engagement and, ultimately, transactions on an e-commerce website, mobile application or in-store. Email is the tissue layer of the web, and it's our unique identifier. We live in a world where consumers rely on their smartphones and tablets more than ever before, whether it's to surf the web in a quick and efficient manner or just to check their emails.
Whether marketers are looking to engage with Generation X or millennials, email isn't going away any time soon, and shouldn't be forgotten as a critical part of their toolkit. Moreover, according to research data from Radicati Group, email use worldwide will top 3 billion users by 2020.
Email is growing, and is a marketing channel ripe for innovation.
Overemphasized Strategies That Aren't Effective
Studies show that consumers want more personalization in exchange for their data. Hearing this may sound like church bells to retail marketers’ ears. However, over 50 percent of retailers struggle to recognize and engage their best customers.
Luckily, there are a vast number of products and services that can optimize your company’s return on investment by predicting customer behavior with the collection of data. These emerging technologies allow retailers to access data about their customers, which in essence helps marketers see customer purchasing habits and interests in order to deliver a personalized experience.
These data algorithms should be used to get your message out. However, the promotion or message you're trying to send should always be beneficial to the customer. Customers want personalization, but on a level that doesn’t cross the “creepy line” and appear as a privacy issue. When a marketer tries to scare away the consumer with “overpersonalization,” the consumer is most likely to opt out of your subscription services and not think highly of the brand.
One thing to always keep in mind with personalization is ...
Focus on the Consumer
Don’t forget that we’re all consumers, including marketers. Do you want to feel a brand has too much information on you?
As a retail marketer, keep it simple and remember the messages you push out should always be in favor of the customer. Use data algorithms to help you brainstorm the five to 10 messages you want to send to the customer, which briefly peppers in the brand’s messaging, but more importantly feeds the needs of the customer.
Customers don’t mind if their shopping interests and behaviors are used by retailers if the data will improve their overall shopping experience. For instance, a retailer should leverage personalized recommendation engines, which analyzes a visitor’s on-site behavior to identify brand, category, price, preferences and so on. These personalized product recommendations will show up in the form of a widget on the retailer's website, where it will note things such as "recommended for you," "people who bought this also bought," etc. This type of a personalized experience will not only promote the retailer’s products, but it will also cater to the customer's preferences by offering products they’ve been looking for or may have never seen.
Incentives Are Effective
Consumers are conditioned to wait for the best deal, and that’s why offering an incentive that makes your customer feel exclusive is vital for a brand.
An effective incentive strategy is one that breaks through the clutter by offering a deal that cannot be matched by your competitors. Most importantly, the incentive must be personalized to the consumer. Leveraging consumer data is the best way to offer personalized discounts, which target individual visitors with discounts on products they’ve either bought or have shown strong interest in.
Notably, retail marketers should examine data to help them determine who they want to share discounts or incentives with so that they're not cannibalizing their own sales. For example, you may want to offer incentives to a potential new customer to draw them into a store. Or, you may want to offer incentives and discounts to high-value customers who have been inactive to tempt them to come back and purchase again.
Moreover, leverage data to strategically identify ways to engage with consumers across different channels and share an incentive that's personalized to them. The trick to creating compelling incentive offers is to make your customers feel exclusive, whether they're buying a $2 cup of coffee or a $200 outfit. This means your loyalty program rewards must be available only to customers who have signed up for the program and have purchased products worth a specific amount of money that makes them feel like they're a “VIP” member, and, in essence, isn't just offered to anyone who walks through the door.
The Integrated Shopping Experience
Lastly, don’t forget omnichannel. Retailers must keep consumers engaged across proliferating channels … or risk losing them. Billions of consumers are changing their shopping behaviors faster than most retailers can adapt. We're now seeing that digitally transformed channels are growing, and simultaneously, consumer expectations are increasing.
Retailers cannot have a separate experience for online and in-store. The evolution of the internet has changed the way consumers shop. Long gone are the days when a retailer had a store where it sold its products and a customer would have to visit a store if they needed something. Now, most consumers are spending time shopping and buying products online.
In 2016, the worlds of online and offline collided. A consumer wants to start shopping in one channel and have it remembered in another. For example, whether the consumer is building a wish list in a shopping cart or starting research on a phone, the retailer should provide an experience that's transferrable across channels and that will help to build a strong relationship with a prospective or current customer.
Thanks to technology platforms that capture data, retail marketers can take control of their customers’ journeys by leveraging omnichannel marketing. This fundamental approach provides the customer with an integrated shopping experience, and the consumer gets to experience all the benefits a brand has to offer thanks to promotions across all channels. This is essential, as a consistent brand image and message will bring a heightened sense of familiarity with the brand.
Tomorrow’s customer will shop online from a desktop or mobile device, and the experience would be seamless. Marketers with a vision for success must use these tactics not only to bolster sales, but to provide customers with an integrated shopping journey. That is how you keep customers coming back for more.
Sean Brady is president of the Americas for Emarsys, a marketing cloud for predictive marketing, personalization, analytics and marketing automation.