It’s clear that with the rapid pace of change, increased consumer expectations and new competitors popping up daily; retail is not getting any easier. Those succeeding seem to be the brands using new (and sometimes not so new) technologies in innovative, customer engaging ways; business as usual is clearly on the out. Here are a few of our takes on the trends, how we would execute them, as well as pitfalls to avoid.
Change Your Story
One of the key takeaways from this section is that testing and experimentation are the way forward and that brands need to be able to pivot quickly when it makes sense to the customer experience. One idea that came to us after listening to this presentation is that consumers could be given a say in what appears in store.
Using emails, a retailer could preview upcoming collections, and allow the consumer a say in what hits the shelves. For example, the email creative would show two options for an upcoming season’s dress in red and pink, and the consumers can vote on which one gets produced. Voting could easily be executed via a landing page, SMS (with a tool like our Mobius platform) or even simply clicks logged through an eDM. As long as the lead time is reasonable, customers will keep a lookout when the collection drops to see their choice. No doubt we’re not the first to think of this. However, we can’t recall seeing this in Australia recently so perhaps some trailblazing retailer will give it a try.
Shift to the serviced lifestyle
If it fits with the nature of a product, replenishment can be great for business. We built a replenishment program for our client PETstock around their medication category (think flea and de-worming products). In their preference centre, we added functionality that allows the customer to set reminders when to administer the products to their pets, and automated email reminders (based on purchases) that are sent to prompt re-purchasing before they run out.
The concept of service through communications can be expanded to include taking the hassle out of reviewing, repurchasing, or renewing products/services. For example, send a follow-up email one week after a purchase was due to arrive and request a review. Ensure the subscriber clicks through to the review page and aren’t left to click around and find it. If a company asks and makes things easy, they are more likely to receive.
We love the idea of brands using social messaging apps, (as 20th Century Fox recently did so brilliantly with their takeover of all the Snapchat filters and Skyscanner are starting with their Facebook Messenger bot) but have some reservations about the lack of control over data. In apps such as Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp, we can’t see a way in which companies would be able to append the interaction back to a customer profile. The rewards are clearly outweighing the risk at this point and the channel is still very much an area of experimentation. However, we can see this becoming an issue in the future if retailers continue to dedicate more marketing efforts towards this space.
Data + Culture
The idea of using data to tell stories resonates with us. We love what Jawbone do in this space, and see this trend only growing as more and more data gets collected by companies. In this age of rampant selfie sticks, brands can appeal to consumer’s narcissistic sides and give them data wrap-ups on their activity (whether as a telco with phone habits or an airline with travel stats). People are more likely to open an email when it has personalised content, a concept proven by the emergence of new companies such as Photospire. Text editing app Grammarly is another example of data put to good use. On the surface, they would seem not to have much of an excuse to communicate with their users, but they manage to do so in a meaningful way with their stats and helpful information-filled weekly email newsletters. Those who don’t want to read about grammar will still open them to see how their accuracy and volume stacks up against other users. Trip Advisor also appeal to their subscriber’s competitive sides, with statistics-filled emails encouraging on more reviews on their site.
Creating content and automations with data does not have to be Trip Advisor or Jawbone complex. Take a look at what data is currently being collected at your company. Are any stories able to be told with it? If not, what can you do to gather some data that can?
A brand’s 1% (or VIPs by whatever metric chosen) are arguably one of the most important customer segments to nurture. Although many of the examples in the presentation featured brands bringing offline exclusivity (flagship palazzos, personal shopping and parties, etc.) to this club, we would suggest that supporting this with all other communications would help drive the experience home. Put this segment into a dedicated silo and ensure what they receive is personalised and targeted, providing the option to offer exclusive offers online to match the bricks and mortar experience. Having a monitored reply email inbox would be a nice final touch.