By Jonny Grum, CMO & Founder, Trouble Maker
How do you turn around an ailing retail reputation with digital marketing?
It’s not easy to do – but the ubiquity of digital channels provides a plethora of opportunities to stay relevant in the minds of the modern shopper.
However, the industry has viewed these channels through a prism of attribution and not attention. This has created an online arms race to demonstrate the highest ROI at all costs, weaponising attribution models at the expense of longer-term strategies and brand building. This comes with automated ad platforms that feed on cookies, removing the human element, reducing the quality of the creative and ultimately leading to a poor customer experience and a detrimental impact on your brand.
The good news is that if you look beyond your conversion dashboards, your organisation may already be sitting on more useful material for turning this around than you think. ‘Digital estates’ of retailers have grown exponentially in recent times as more consumers shop online, and the number of potential communications platforms swells alongside the tech revolution that’s transforming the sector.
We all know retail has and is going through a tough time, with businesses trying to rebuild from the pandemic while striving to embrace consumers increasingly switching from physical stores to online shopping. It’s also easier than ever for retailers to come unstuck from a reputational point of view; one false move in the era of social media can be catastrophic for the bottom line.
So, while consumers will view your brand holistically, based on their experience of your physical and digital estates – what are the strategies you should adopt to build a better long-term future relationship with them?
How to stay relevant in the digital era
Let’s start with an admittedly over-used term, but one that’s especially relevant in retail: being human. Okay, it’s not my favourite phrase either – but it sure has an impact.
Being human means maintaining a relevant and authentic profile, everywhere. More and more, that means matching on- and offline messaging to ensure they have a joined-up and seamless experience, no matter which channels they use to interact.
But how can we be more human, you’ll doubtless be asking. This is where your marketing assets come in. Namely:
Faces of the brand. Working with celebrities or influencers that resonate with your target audience is extremely common but are you missing a trick by focusing on fame over personality? If you can identify a pool of creators who embody your brand’s ethos, spirit and tone of voice – they can feature in above-the-line advertising as well as on digital and social channels. Use their personalities as an extension of your own brand, by tapping into their ability to authentically communicate about products they use to create a human connection with the consumer that goes deeper than a display unit.
Insights innovation. Alongside customer surveys and ecommerce data, it’s also important to seek the thoughts of your employees. They have direct communication with customers, know what’s popular and where pinch points are. Check social media sentiment too. These data points will often be owned by different silos within the business. By combining them, you can quickly get to a holistic approach to gathering and driving insight from data to make strategically sound decisions that can drive innovation.
Channel champions. With a holistic approach to insight gathering comes a more informed approach to channel planning. Too often, retailers are siloed with teams sitting in brand, ecommerce, retail and so on. Choose a partner that has broad media expertise and is also channel agnostic, to remove bias from the planning process and to focus on long-term outcomes as well as the short-term outcomes.
IRL x URL. Too few stores focus on experience – and many suffer for it. Synching your in-store and online offering makes a huge difference,with key insights provided by both formats. Recent surveys indicated that 81% of global consumers say a brand’s digital presence is as important as its in-store presence. We’re seeing this becoming more of a focus for brands on the front-foot. Lancôme, debuting its first temporary virtual flagship in Singapore, in summer 2020, offering 3D shopping experiences, consultations and educational events, is one example. They built a cross channel experience that was authentic to the brand, while creating a moment that can both spark conversation and be measured across IRL and URL touchpoints.
Don’t be afraid of humour. In these troubled times, don’t underestimate of leaning into the power of humour to build bonds with your audience. if it’s right for your brand and category. A little, funny human understanding goes a long way – if it’s authentic to your brand. If humour doesn’t fit for your brand, provide value and understanding of the reality your customers experience in a difficult environment. Like John Lewis did last year when it introduced a festive initiative to help customers manage Christmas costs – offering to help them “spread the cost of Christmas” and extending its seasonal returns window. These strategies stretch successfully across all retail categories. They’re useful for the bad things in life, like regenerating a seemingly spent-force retailer or forging connections with consumers to turn around a damaged online reputation. All in all, digital can be the foundations of a new retail strategy: rebuild it and they will come.