Today’s consumer is all about customization and efficiency. They voluntarily participate in the sharing economy, opening up their lives to complete strangers, and controlling it all with their tap of a finger. Still as true as ever, they don’t care about your business. But beyond just caring about themselves (What’s in it for me?), they now care more about their networks.
What you and your shoppers have in common is an increasing desire for powerful, smooth and systematic business operations. And as shoppers become more open and entitled, your content can no longer exist for the sole purpose of selling things. You must instead use your communications to transcend the current single-channel environment to build a community of followers whose loyalty you can depend on over time.
To ensure this level of purposeful efficiency, it’s critical that your marketing team take a customer-centric approach to people, processes, and technology.
Every fall, I return to Sephora to buy all the deep lipsticks I lost over spring and summer. I also buy gift cards throughout the year for friends’ birthdays, and I once tried and failed with their hair care products. Sephora is an experience – it’s interactive, I can try on different items, touch anything I want, and ask the makeup artists questions.
While other marketers might rely heavily on posts and blasts to their database with a few F2F interactions in the mix, retail marketers have the unique advantage of quickly extending messages beyond online communications alone. Your in-store reps can both collect and act on behavioral data in real-life, and they might possibly be the most influential role in growing your customer community.
How are you enabling your in-store colleagues to drive customer behavior? Are they part of your email marketing strategy beyond asking for reward memberships at the register? Do they even know the content of your emails or the tools/solutions you have in place for info-gathering, such as guest-Wi-Fi? When I worked in retail, I certainly did not.
It’s easy to get caught up in our computer worlds (I do it all the time!). So be sure to employ every possible avenue to support your digital messages, including your in-store resources.
Marketing operations demand deliberate and methodical planning and execution, much of which happens offline. Beginning with an idea of your team and company goals, market segments, success path(s) and potential detours, you can then collect data to better understand your audience and optimize for success.
On the RetailNext marketing team, we segment by buyer, store count, and lifecycle status. And we understand, being a revenue-driven B2B company, that our sales cycle is going to be long. By nurturing our audience through each stage of awareness, consideration, and interest, we’re constantly providing customer-focused value beyond our products and solutions throughout the stretch.
Retail is much quicker. But a systematic approach to personalized marketing still makes sense here. Perhaps your success path is aimed at getting people into your store, or pushing seasonal attire once there. Your email marketing strategy should still include nurture and segmentation, likely based on product activity, behavior history or general promotions and rewards – each of which could have their own scoring model.
Customers, no matter if they’re business or consumer, have a quickly growing sense of entitlement to receive only what’s relevant to them. So if I buy dark lipsticks every fall, I expect to see an email about it towards the end of summer. The only way that happens is by segmenting and anticipating my shopping journey based on comprehensive planning, knowledge of trends and the environment, and actionable record keeping.
Ok, raise your hand if your marketing stack has gotten either out of control or downright confusing. As marketers, we’re constantly bombarded with solutions to make our jobs easier; so much so that we’re ironically good at ignoring sales calls. But to cut us some slack, we are just like every other customer – we want value and relevance too!
So here are the basics:
- Marketing automation. All that segmentation stuff I mentioned up there is made much easier by a powerful marketing automation tool. This isn’t plug and play; it requires forethought and foresight to use effectively, but once up and running, it’s one of the best ways to target and communicate value to your prospects and customers. It also helps smaller teams reach many more people than 1:1 emails alone.
- Social media management. Every social network provides a certain level of analytics, but a social management tool helps you see all at once, increase your reach, and amplify your messages in a timely and intuitive way. The goal, however, is to build a real following of people who actually care to engage. The insight from social media management will help you keep your lists clean and data actionable.
- Website analytics. Part of knowing your customer success path is acknowledging the digital landscape they live in. Your website is often a crucial part of the shopping journey, and insight about pages and abandonment, for example, can help guide your in-store marketing efforts as well as your SEM.
- Mobile engagement. Yes, mobile devices are always in our hands or within arm’s reach. Mobile engagement solutions help you take advantage of this fact by placing relevant content and offers right where your customers want to see them: in their browser. Your customers determine what they want to see, which then closes the gap on fully leveraging that hard to capture in-store behavior.
Of course, there are a multitude of tools you can deploy to reach your customers beyond just these. But, if the goal is to build a strong community by remaining laser focused on the customer, this is a great start.
As customers needs evolve, so must our outreach efforts and strategy. The more efficient your operations, the more likely consumers will add you to their network: sharing what works, what’s valuable, and even what’s entertaining. This, in turn, leads to higher conversion rates for you, and ultimately more sales for your business.
Be purposeful about community building. Be intentional about efficiency. Make your content count.