Are we connecting with shoppers effectively? And have we learned from past mistakes as we move to the future of omni-channel? These are questions posed by Jonathan Clow, managing director at content marketing agency, Edge.
About seven years ago, I remember the sudden flurry of excitement among agencies and brands alike that heralded the mainstream arrival of the QR code. Surely this new technology would solve all our problems in terms of connecting with individuals on the path to purchase, plus reduce the need to pay the major grocers handsomely for in-store marketing?
But QR codes rapidly dwindled into an underwhelming weapon, delivering a branded video at best, or a corporate website at worst.
As smartphone penetration rose, digital shopper marketing was born. With it, we saw virtual shops, branded applications, mobile commerce and proximity transmitters like iBeacon—each claiming to revolutionise the shopper journey and create a seamless omnichannel experience.
So, are we connecting with shoppers effectively? And have we learned from past mistakes?
Here’s what we’re getting right and wrong.
1. Shopper insights need to drive tech use.
The trouble with the way brands used new technology platforms like QR codes was their failure to speak to a definitive shopper insight. They weren’t solving a genuine customer problem. Did people really want to order a litre of milk while waiting for the bus? Did they feel the instant need to download an app so they could be served a sales message based on their proximity to the frozen pizzas?
2. Customers need to be wooed, not sold.
The second problem was the focus was on the technology, not on the content. If your content has inherent value to your target audience, you reduce your risk of disappointing users and wasting existing and future brand lovers’ time.
As most brand-love research points out – the shoppers of today are only interested in brands that can offer utility, value or fun. There is no point in investing in Oculus Rift technology if the quality of the experience is neither relevant nor inspirational enough to change the behaviour of your target market.
3. Retailers will set the agenda (and the opportunity) for brands.
Retailers will control how brands can partner with communication flow and associated technology enablers in their own stores. With many iBeacon tests in pilot, it’s clear how someone like a Woolworths can test and exploit opportunities from category management, creating richer, deeper shopping experiences to driving value, offers and promotions.
With mobile payments becoming more of a reality, it’s easy to imagine an experience that’s seamless in integrating loyalty rewards with targeted offers through basket IQ. The tech will be barely noticeable. New retail needs to be borderless and beyond channel. In store, retailers still hold the reins.
4. In-store shopping is learning from e-commerce.
When the first e-commerce platforms launched, shopping was pretty basic: based largely on an expectation that people knew what they wanted through basic search functionality. As online shopping became a huge data play, cross sell, suggested sell, incentives, VIP areas, personalised services, 360° views enabling mouse touch-and-zoom and video catwalks all followed, providing a more rounded ‘instant’ experience right there in your home.
Within fashion retail, social is playing a massive role in defining what is hip, trending and, therefore, in demand. Retailers like Nordstrom in the US are already beaming Pinterest trends directly into their in-store displays.
Australian e-commerce site Stylematch is adopting a new way to leverage content aggregation and curation to drive purchase. The platform aggregates more than 6,000 brands including ASOS, Neiman Marcus, Macy’s, David Jones and Topshop. Stylematch has become the first website to implement the new Shopspots developed by Stackla. Shopspots allows retailers to take user-generated images from social media and tag the products. We can expect more ‘socially powered’ shopping baskets in the future.
Smartphones are changing the retail landscape. They help us research, compare and purchase products not just online, but also within stores. The Google Shopper Marketing Agency Council and M/A/R/C Research state that 84 per cent of smartphone shoppers use their phones while in a physical store. Many are searching for an in-stock item that they may have viewed and researched up to 10 times prior to purchase. We are in the era of the Zero Moment of Truth. And retailers need to make sure they can close the deal by shopping through content.
5. Content, not product, drives shopping.
Editorial and magazine-style approaches to shopping have never more popular within fashion retail. If you look what Net-A-Porter, ASOS and, more recently, Supré are doing, you can see that content is making spontaneous shoppers shop. With so much choice, it’s nice to be guided and inspired to shop, rather than wade through infinite virtual warehouses.
Branded content is rapidly becoming the new darling of the advertising world after smashes such as Van Damme’s Volvo Trucks…
…Chipotle’s ‘Farmed and Dangerous’…
…and Ricky Gervais’ Optus Netflix push.
I think we can fully expect this trend to follow across other areas within retail, even directly into FMCG brands within the supermarket environment.
Take the humble recipe, which was has succeeded in driving sales in interesting ways since 1904 – not just by tapping into seasonal events, food trends and across categories, but by creating demand. Those from the UK may remember when Nigella spurred an overnight goose fat stampede in the aisles, just as Heston’s Christmas Pudding did here in Coles. Those in New Zealand will surely remember Marmageddon . Brand storytelling rarely gets better than when faced with influence, supply and demand.
6. Retailers need to connect, not interrupt.
Brands are now looking for new ways to connect, rather than simply interrupt. Knowing your audience is more important than ever. And while serving relevant and timely content is hardly a new thought, distribution channels continue to multiply and evolve.
Hence our obsession with tech continues, just as it did with the QR code, as we look to how existing and new platforms can help inspire the modern-day shopper.