This article was written by Adrian Hoon is COO / CMO of Global Poin Indonesia, the GetPlus coalition loyalty program’s leading operator in Indonesia. A seasoned loyalty/marketing professional with over 20 years of experience in marketing and CRM technology in Asia- Pacific. Adrian leads his teams to formulate tailored strategies and marketing solutions that drive marketing ROI and efficiency for industry-leading Travel, Retail, Media, CPG, Insurance, and Telecom companies in APAC. www.GPI.id
Many brick-and-mortar retailers face many challenges today – falling footfall and frequency due to online competition, increasingly savvy and sophisticated shoppers, turning unknown shoppers to knowns, and underinvestment in loyalty programs. While consumers are flocking towards digital shopping, I believe physical retail stores are not dead, and consumers are not abandoning it. However, when consumers visit a brick-and-mortar store, what sets it apart will be personal advice, human connection, and an emotional bond with the brand.
Retailers need to rethink both digital and in-store sales to change their priorities and operations quickly. They need to work towards being adept at managing and accurately pricing a complex array of products, optimizing category assortment, personalizing the shopper experience, crafting the right omnichannel strategy, and using data and analytics to make informed decisions.
Quotes from Chief Innovation Catalyst at Acoustic, Melissa Tatori, stated the retail industry and the current four significant trends:
- A shift in “personalized” shopping
- The newfound importance of community after isolation
- Rising equity in sustainability
- The emergence of high-tech store
With an emphasis on these trends, retailers can accomplish:
- Increased revenue
- Revitalized loyalty
- Trust within community
- Expand available channels
- Get back to the top of the retail game in 2021
Personal shopping takes on a whole new meaning
Brands have focused for decades on creating elevated customer experiences in their stores, as well as online. Excellent shopping experiences are about much more than the physical ones in-store — consumers expert personalized interactions when they’re spending their money digitally, too. Brands can provide a more personalized digital experience through 7 effective strategies:
Gather a 360-degree view of data
Brands have to become their consumers’ best friends. We likely have work friends, school friends, friends of friends, family friends, and the list goes on. Each of them might know a particular “side” of us, but perhaps our best friend from childhood knows us best as they’ve been there for every stage of life and understand all aspects of our personality. Brands need to do something similar with customers’ data. Please get to know customers like best friends by engaging with their data in every channel: email, search, mobile, app, social, events, and in-store.
Personalize your communication
What retailers do with the holistic data approach is paramount. They must consider these behaviors in their communications and personalize marketing communications to customers by sending only the most relevant messages and curated experiences. Customers only interested in hiking gear won’t want emails about other sales. But this also goes beyond topics and interests — retailers must evaluate which channel each customer will be most likely to engage on, what time of day works best for them, and the frequency at which they prefer to receive communications.
Marketing in the moment
The holy grail of marketing is perfecting the time each piece of communication reaches every customer. Advertisements that aren’t brand-safe can become an unfortunate gaffe. Brands must be cognizant of when and where their advertising and marketing communications live and distributed.
Word of mouth
There’s no more outstanding marketing than word of mouth (WOM). Customers loving a brand so much that they tell their friends and family about it are the ultimate customer acquisition goals. It costs nothing but has high revenue potential. While many retailers don’t have a documented WOM strategy, they should recognize social chatter’s ability to escalate conversations quickly. Retailers must do all they can to protect critical gateways to WOM: customer service and product quality.
A product perfectly customized to a shopper’s liking is the epitome of a powerful personalized shopping experience. Retailers must consider ways to tailor products to meet customers’ desires without hurting their bottom line. Even if it’s not a fully customized product, brands can still see positive impacts from partial customizations. Levi’s recently launched its NextGen store, which includes a “tailor shop” that allows customers to purchase bespoke items. These digital experiences are what customers love and will ensure they come back to a brand time and time again.
Brands that go above and beyond for their customers are more likely to win loyalty in the long-term. Retailers who value their customers’ needs will go further. Consider Nordstrom Local – small storefronts that Nordstrom runs to manage shipping and returns, express alterations, styling services, and more. These ancillary offerings show customers retailers are willing to go above and beyond for them.
Customers want to be rewarded for their continued support. In a digital world, brands must make their memberships available and easily accessible across every channel. If it’s difficult to sign in, hard to find a membership card number, or if retailers poorly communicate rewards and benefits, loyalty programs will suffer. Brands can optimize their loyalty efforts by running promotions their customers care about based on their data.
These seven strategies can create the best digital experiences across every channel. More personalized push notifications, curated product recommendations on desktop, targeted social media ads, and predictive marketing on voice – and then some ensure the possibilities for retail success are endless.
Personalization can increase success metrics, but it may not create the entire experience customers want. In what seems like another life, when we did go to malls more often with friends and family, shoppers enjoyed a sense of community. Brands need to offer this sense of community when shopping via digital channels as well.
Building community has never been more critical.
We have spent the vast majority of 2020 keeping our social circles small and enjoying many home-based activities. We’ve limited travel, canceled concerts, forgone public events, and plenty of other things that created a community in our lives.
Retailers have historically focused on community-building. Crafting classes at art supply stores, offering cooking lessons at grocery markets, and hosting how-to demonstrations at consumer tech stores, are just a few examples. Retailers have always prioritized gathering their audiences together. These types of community-building events not only increase revenue but offer consumers a sense of belonging in stores.
These efforts can look quite different in the digital world, but they’re arguably more important than ever.
These four strategies can help brands build community, even sometimes when that community is virtual:
- Connecting customers who trust in each other
- Consumers love product reviews. Brands are beginning to take product reviews and crowdsourcing feedback to a whole new level. They’re utilizing product reviews for product discovery by tagging search data with the content of a product’s reviews.
- Building digital community platforms
- Good content is paramount to success in retail. Building direct-to-consumer channels and content centers on these owned properties will elevate retailers’ community connection functionality. Retailers should host demonstration videos on their site instead of on third-party providers such as YouTube. They can also invite customers to virtual events, as long as they align well with the brand personality.
Retailers should also lean into the customer experience and create relationships with like-minded customers through testimonials. Consider what Sephora has done with its “look of the day” community. Each photo has shoppable tags, and both customers are rewarded with loyalty points – the poster and the purchaser.
Getting creative with shop local
Shop local has been a trend for years, but the pandemic has expedited local commerce’s power. This is good news for even the biggest of brands. Aldi, as an example, has created a digital space for connecting its customers with personal chefs in their area that also shop at Aldi. By connecting customers, Aldi creates positive experiences that simultaneously deepen loyalty.
This could be applied to so many retail categories. Think of a home improvement store connecting customers to plumbers or electricians in the area who also shop with them. These types of connections would benefit local economies and small businesses as well as the “big box” brand offering them.
Lean into branding
The return of the hero product has catapulted community connections in new ways. Think of the most prominent hero products out there – Stila Stay All Day black eyeliner is an example from the beauty category. Customers are incredibly proud to own hero products. The hero product bolsters a brand’s image, and there’s an instant community between customers who both own it. Creating a hero product through intelligent marketing can be challenging but highly rewarding.
By matching the right audience and the right product, brands can create instant community simply through owning the brand’s product.
Building community is critical in 2021 and beyond. But to truly build community, brands must ensure they do not destroy it. Sustainability in retail has become more critical than ever. And while the continued prosperity and health of the world should be enough to convince brands, customers are also taking a stand: to care about your community is to protect it.
Retail has changed, likely permanently. While devastation occurred in 2020, 2021 can be a more successful year for brands now ready to take on the challenges that 2020 created.
By taking on the above strategies to lean into today’s trends instead of fighting against them, brands can find great success in the new year. Personalize digital shopping, build community as consumers face fewer social experiences, forge a sustainable business path, and add high-tech offerings to physical stores. Through these trends and strategies, retail can prove that the industry isn’t anywhere close to going extinct. It’s merely changing.