Mobile Marketing Must Be In Your Future

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Are you marketing your business without acknowledging that a vast majority of your shoppers are mobile-equipped? That means you could be communicating with them far more than simply when they venture into your store. With roughly 80% of internet users owning smartphones, and 40% of users’ internet time being spent on mobile devices, retailers need to incorporate mobile into their marketing mix.

Researchers are predicting that smartphones will account for 60 percent of e-commerce visits by the end of 2017. Mobile is disrupting how customers engage with brands. That means retailers shying away from mobile marketing will be left behind as customers increasingly report wanting to interact with their favorite stores on mobile platforms.

Ideally, a mobile strategy connects shoppers with retailers through smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices. Mobile customers can ask customer service agents questions, chat with agents, and get personalized information, including recent account statements and in-stock inventory.

Retailers can build loyalty programs into mobile marketing efforts to encourage customer trial and create shopping habits.

There are several ways of integrating mobile into your strategy:

App-based: Retailers don’t have to create an app themselves; various services are available to help design mobile ads that appear within third-party mobile apps. And Facebook lets advertisers create ads that are integrated into the social network’s mobile app. Promoted Post ads integrate seamlessly with Facebook’s news feed, so users often don’t realize they’re viewing ads.

In-game: These appear within mobile games as banner pop-ups, full-page image ads or sometimes as video ads that are visible between loading screens.

Location-based marketing: Advertisements appear on mobile devices based upon a user’s location. If they are in the mall where your business is located, they’ll receive a coupon as a text message, for example. Retailers choose specific boundaries on how far these ads can travel.

Mobile ordering: Offering ordering via an app is a great differentiator for a retailer. Customers expect a seamless experience, so building a robust app is crucial. The mobile order experience should include the elements of an in-store order within the app: view full menu, customize items, make a mobile payment, and complete the order.

It’s a mobile-first world, with increasing numbers of shoppers using their devices to complete or research purchases. The time is now to start building —or improving — your mobile presence.

3 Tips for Using Your Retail Data to Attract More Customers

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For retailers, much of the work that goes into making a sale is done before your customer ever sets foot in your store. Here are 3 tips for using your retail data to attract more customers.

 

1. Use outbound marketing as a targeted follow-up to inbound marketing.

Fresh, high-quality content is available to sales prospects 24/7. Whether it’s on the web, in stores, or via email, information is out there, waiting to be consumed by eager customers. Savvy retailers are using their content assets to attract customers, and it’s working: Interesting, relevant material attracts leads to a business’ site, social media presence and/or store. That content must position your company as a market leader. Valuable content that informs the customer is key. The more specific your content, the more focused you can be.

2. Collect data on your customer.

To really provide such highly focused, relevant content, you must understand customers’ interests and tastes, as well as their demographic information. Only then can you tailor both your content, which attracts customers, and the message, which will be used to close the sale. Outbound marketing only succeeds when it reaches the appropriate audience. Personalized campaigns can go a long way when you are courting a customer. Let the data you gather help inform the way you engage with customers.

3. Use predictive analytics.

Look back and use past performance to gauge future sales. Predictive analytics examines a variety of data and then systematically offers the makeup of the best leads. Big data crunching can help find those sweet spots invisible to the naked eye. In addition, sales teams knowledgeable in the science of data analytics can gain insight into purchasing triggers. Paying attention to small triggers can get your retail marketing campaigns out ahead of the competition’s.

 

 

 

Making the Most of Your Social Media Presence

 

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Understanding how social media influences consumers’ attitudes, motivations and behaviors is more important than ever.

Referrals are the lifeblood of retail. Having a satisfied customer base that will sing your praises is worth more than an ad campaign by the most sought-after advertising firm on Madison Avenue. People are more than five times as likely to buy based on a recommendation from a social peer than they are when they’ve merely been exposed to traditional forms of marketing, according to research from consumer giant Sony.

Today, referrals are made easier due to the proliferation of social media.

Understanding how social media influences consumers’ attitudes, motivations and behaviors is more important than ever. Social platforms are uniquely able to broadcast satisfaction from New York to Nepal. Retailers who embrace social media — and use it to interact with customers as well as engage so-called “influencers” – are finding it’s a valuable marketing tool.

More than any other age group, millennials use social media to research their potential purchases. In The Monogram Group‘s August 2014 survey of 21-to-32-year-old internet users in the United States, 52% cited social sites among places where they gathered information about “new products or brands that interest you.” That ranked higher than paid advertising (41%).

Many conversations take place on various social platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snap Chat, etc., prior to any purchase is actually made. It’s impossible to overestimate the importance of social media in business: It’s critical for getting their brands noticed as well as creating “buzz.”

Segments have key influencers — people that are tastemakers. What they say online sells — so find them and forge a relationship. Getting on their radar will greatly amplify your marketing message ad enhance your image with customers. Forging a relationship with an influencer, or getting mentioned in their blogs, could build your company’s reputation. To find influencers, engage with your customers: Which blogs do they read? Also, search on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook for keywords relevant to your segment to learn which of those accounts have the most followers. Social-listening software can also be used to flag certain topics of interest.

Seventy-six percent of retailers are spending more on social media marketing this year than they did a year ago, according to Forrester Research Inc.’s report “The State of Retailing Online 2016: Marketing and Merchandising.” Increasingly, retailers are taking a cue from millennials and rather than selling them products, they are aiming to add value to their consumers’ lives by solving problems. And one of the most focused ways to do that is through a targeted, engaging presence on social media.

Millennials and the Importance of Authenticity

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Millennials are coming on strong. Retailers expect Millennials – who were born between 1976 and 1994 — to spend more than $200 billion annually starting in 2017. Further, they are projected to spend more than $10 trillion during their lifetimes, according to Advertising Age.

Millennials currently account for $1.3 trillion in consumer spending, and with 80 million potential millennial customers, retailers will be rewarded if they can attract this segment.

AdAge estimates these young adults spend 25 hours online weekly. They are gathering information — retaining what is appealing, discarding what is not. To avoid having your content in land in the virtual recycle bin, it must be authentic.

Authentic means more than just being unique or having originated from your store. Rather, authentic means that the content “rings true” to the consumer. It is written in a manner that is familiar to the millennial, and that gives it credibility. Content that is not authentic sounds phony or forced and turns off this age group.

What that means is that most traditional advertising sounds fake to Millennials. According to Forbes research, a mere 1% of millennials surveyed said that a compelling advertisement would make them trust a brand more. One percent. Clearly, advertising budgets for this group need to be rethought.

However, remember all that time spent consuming content on the Web? Much of that is spent doing research on future purchases. Forbes said 33% of millennials rely mostly on blogs before they make a purchase, compared to fewer than 3% for TV news, magazines and books.

If you are looking to invest in TV commercials, you’re looking to attract baby boomers, not millennials.

In addition, millennials check sources of material for their authenticity as well. If they trust the content creator, they’ll trust the information.

All of that is great information to keep in mind when creating any marketing collateral for your company — and that includes social sites. It’s imperative to have a presence on the networks that make sense for your business, such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.

And millennials expect nearly instant responses to their comments: Getting back to a complaint on Facebook two days later is not acceptable. In addition, those responses must be personal and respectful.

Whole Foods offers a great example (click to enlarge):

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Seriously, if Whole Foods can reveal itself as truly caring about a customer’s trash bag selection, you can surely create authentic content about your product as well.

Ensuring retail success in the post-peak era

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Retailers have been pushing to extend peak seasons like Christmas to gain more sales, but modern consumers shop on their own schedule and retailers must adapt and cater to their off-season needs.

By Kerry Lemos, CEO, Retail Pro International

 

Christmas coming earlier every year might be a cliché for most people, but for the retail industry it’s a simple fact.

We’re already seeing retailers prepare for the festive season, identifying the key products that will be this year’s must-haves and gearing up their Christmas campaigns.

This is very much in line with the traditional retail business models built around spikes in activity brought on by peak shopping periods. With stock piled high and temporary recruits boosting numbers on the shop floor, activity can be ramped up for a few weeks before returning to normal levels.

In recent years, however, these peaks have become much less well-defined.

Take Christmas, for instance. The season now covers much more than just a few weeks. It now spans the extended period from the build-up to Thanksgiving through to Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the January sales, where some retailers might hope to do half of their annual business.

This period of retail chaos means retailers are in direct competition for the same limited number of festive shoppers for an increasing amount of time, with both shoppers’ attention and supply chains becoming squeezed.

 

A new world

At the same time, Christmas is no longer the only peak period retailers need to be aware of.

In the UK, the growth of festivals such as Eid, Diwali and the Chinese New Year has introduced new periods that retailers may need to prepare for. Beyond these major festivals, there are other times of the year that could be seen as a peak period to some, or all, of the population, from the first day of spring to the beginning and end of the summer holidays.

What all of these periods show is that many retailers’ approach to consumers needs to change. Customers cannot be treated as a single mass who all shop at the same time, in the same way, and for the same things.

Focusing attention on a single, defined peak period is a strategy that retailers must move on from: individuals have their own approach to shopping, and as such have developed their own personal peak shopping periods.

 

Giving the public what they want

 

The question for retailers then is, how do they support these individual peak periods without losing the ability to maximize the potential of established shopping seasons?

Here are 3 actions retailers can take that will tip the odds in their favor.

 

Cross channels

We haven’t just seen an evolution in when people shop, but in how they shop. Customers won’t restrict their peak shopping period to simply visiting a select number of brick-and-mortar stores.

On the other hand, few consumers will do a hundred percent of their shopping online, instead welcoming the opportunity to browse for certain items in the flesh. Retailers should ensure these customers have a seamless experience, whether shopping online or in-store, with access to the same information and interactions however they purchase their products.

Ideally, a customer should be able to begin their shop in-store and complete it online, or vice versa, in a consistent, omnichannel exchange.

 

Map the landscape

With “peak” periods becoming more of a constant presence, it’s important that retailers understand exactly when these periods happen.

For instance, the Christmas period now begins in November and ends in January; but within this, there are individual days which show still-increased activity or relative slowdowns.

Not only this, but retailers must decide how they switch to peak periods; does activity accelerate overnight, or is there a slow build-up and deceleration to ensure they can attract shoppers who are operating on a slightly different timetable?

 

Build profiles

While predicting and supporting the shopping habits of every single individual is beyond the reach of retailers, they should still ensure they have categorised how their customers behave in peak periods and act accordingly.

For example, what proportion of shoppers do their holiday shopping early, and which wait until the last minute? How many spread their shopping across the whole period, and how many spend everything on one or two occasions? And when exactly do their customers flock to the store?

Using this information, retailers can build profiles of their customers and anticipate their needs throughout the year as appropriate.

 

By offering an omnichannel experience, mapping out the peak calendar and ensuring they have profiled their customers, retailers can ensure that they are supporting peak shopping for all their customers; whether it happens at Christmas or Candlemas.

 

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Do You Offer a ‘Wow’ Shopping Experience?

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Much like their marketing strategies, sales procedures and product development efforts, retailers must put time into creating the ideal customer experience.

It’s one thing for a retailer to announce it wants to create a more experiential experience for customers, and quite another to do it.

Talk of creating a compelling retail experience has been around for several years, driven in large part by the competition to brick and mortars by e-commerce. In a day and age in which shoppers can shop quickly and efficiently online, retailers need to offer customers a compelling reason to step foot inside a real building.

The irony is that experiential shopping isn’t new, rather, it harkens back to a golden age. Back in the 1950s and 60s, shopping was an event. Stores provided hair salons and restaurants for “ladies who lunch,” for example. While clientele has changed greatly in the past 60+ years, the lesson to be learned is that shoppers enjoy being catered to. Retailers that build memorable experiences will be rewarded with larger shopping carts and loyal customers.

Case in point: Ulta, a purveyor of beauty products, has found it very profitable to provide customers an entire spectrum of items, some costing pocket change and others the price of a fancy dinner for two. The reason Ulta has become a destination, explained a Wall Street Journal reporter to NPR recently, is that it took the bold step of including such a wide array of products. Typically, manufacturers are loath to share floor space with brands that are elsewhere on the value chain, i.e., luxury and bargain brands don’t mix. But at Ulta, they do. And customers are thrilled.

Ulta management theorized that women who use a $8 mascara might want to come in and buy that product — and perhaps also indulge in something new or “special.” Combining that idea with free services such as mini-makeovers, and they had a winning formula. As a result, revenue rose nearly 24-percent last quarter, and a total of 970 stores are planned by the end of the year.

The strategy not only exemplifies how destination shopping can improve the bottom line, but it also speaks to the importance of promoting complementary purchases. In essence, Ulta counted on customers making at least one “impulse” buy while they were at the store: that mascara could use eyeliner; this foundation might benefit from concealer, etc.

In addition, the personal touch is not forced, rather, it is sought after by the customer. Associates greet each guest, and they offer to apply products and make suggestions — all at the request of the shopper. The customer is enjoying herself, doesn’t feel harassed and feels in control.

And that is a beautiful retail experience.

 

 

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The Critical Issue of Out-Of-Stocks

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One of the top complaints retailers hear from customers is the lack of product, or “out of stocks.” Few things are more aggravating for a shopper than arriving at a store and finding that the desired product is unavailable. In response to sagging sales as a result of empty shelves, mega-retailer Target is aiming to take control of the supply-chain problems and shore up its customer satisfaction as well as sales.

Online retailers and brick-and-mortar shops alike depend on good inventory management to run an efficient business.

Online retailers and brick-and-mortar shops alike depend on good inventory management to run an efficient business.

A study from IHL Group last year reported that overstocks and out-of-stocks cost retailers $1.1 trillion globally in lost revenue. Inventory management systems can help, because they inform managers what products are hot sellers. However, some products are must-haves for retailers to carry: For grocers, it might be ketchup, for an office supply store it could be reams of paper. Those are staples that have to be there no matter what. Barren shelves are an issue that, for instance, Wal-mart is criticized for frequently, and that Target has been under fire for recently as well.

But while Walmart’s woes seem to be related to being short-staffed and, therefore, unable to move inventory from the stockroom to the sales floor, Target’s stem from inventory management. There simply isn’t product in the stockroom to display. Last summer, during a conference call with investors, CEO Brian Cornell blamed the inventory problem on an antiquated supply chain strategy that didn’t account for a multi-channel approach to selling. The ability to buy online and pickup in store (BOPIS) had successfully depleted brick and mortar supplies. As a result, Cornell has since launched a strategy designed to take control of the supply chain — which previously had largely been outsourced — to get products onto shelves and into customer’s baskets.

The importance of customer satisfaction in this realm was not lost on the newly minted Chief Operating Officer John Mulligan, who was promoted from the role of Chief Financial Officer. ”Given the breadth and complexity of the business, it will always be a challenge to be in stock on every item in every store… but our guests need us to be consistent in delivering everyday essentials,” Mulligan told Business Advisor.

What Target is learning is that while those products need to be available, not every permutation of the product has to be stocked. For example, how many types of bottled water are needed to satisfy customers? How many bottles does each “case” have to have? Will a shopper walk out if the 16.9 oz. bottles are only available in a 24 pack?

Target is betting that narrowing those types of selections will be acceptable to customers and easier for the stores to manage. It seems to be working: Fortune reported that out-of-stocks were down a whopping 40% during the holiday shopping period. In addition, e-commerce sales rose 34% during the holiday shopping season, according to investorplace.com. Some of the resulting profit will likely fund Target’s expanding use of RFID for inventory, which will enable the retailer to wirelessly track products in stores, warehouses and en route to customers.

All of which shows just how interconnected multichannel commerce truly is: Keeping the shelves stocked on Main Street will keep shopping carts filled on the ground, as well as online.

 

3 Technologies Retailers Need In 2016

As we are in the last hours of 2015, it seems like an ideal time to reflect on three technologies that made a large impact on retailers this year, and that are poised to make a “huge”— to use a word commonly used by one certain presidential candidate — impact in 2016. Retailers looking to increase visibility as well as revenue should consider these implementations.

1. Beacons and geofencing
Beacons give retailers visibility over foot traffic, in addition to the ability to push relevant information to consumers’ smartphones.

Geofencing lets retailers promote products when shoppers enter a specific, predetermined area. It’s not difficult to see how these technologies can complement each other and drive quality customers through the door. However, geofencing works best when used in combination with beacon technology, and can provide a more complete view of customer behavior. Retailers are beginning to see the potential; according to luxurydaily.com, investment in geofencing will reach $300 million by 2017. The challenge for retailers is to get customers to enable location services and bluetooth on their smartphones. Such services use battery power and, to some, bring up privacy issues. Given the proper incentives by retailers, much of that resistance can be overcome.

2.  RFID
Yes, this technology has been around–and around. But it’s time to shine has finally arrived. Juniper Research recently reported

RFID tags can be used for a number of retail purposes.

RFID tags can be used for a number of retail purposes.

that Internet of things (IoT) technologies will be implemented by far more retailers in 2016; the firm expects merchants will spend an estimated $2.5 billion in hardware and installation costs, nearly a fourfold increase over this year’s estimated $670 million spend. And RFID is a part of that investment. RFID helps retailers with in real-time asset tracking, reduced labour costs and even dynamic pricing according to stock levels and online pricing. Software applications are catching up to what this veteran technology can offer. Linking the potential capabilities of RFID tags with beacons and geofencing promises more thorough business insight and an improved customer experience.

3. BOPIS: Buy online, pick up in store
Shoppers are looking for ways to streamline their lives, just like retailers want to make their operations more efficient. By facilitating “strategic strikes” — shopping trips that are meant for specific items, in which the customer is a buyer, not a shopper — retailers cultivate goodwill. A customer who knows a trip for a specific green sweater will be met with success and will require minimal waiting on a checkout line is likely to return. Look for BOPIS to evolve to include curbside pickup. Target and Kroger recently rolled out curbside pickup services in some locations, while Sears has expanded its in-vehicle curb services to include returns and exchanges. Curbside services acknowledge that the customer is patronizing the store for a specific reason and does not want to go inside. Rather than fight that fact and risk antagonizing customers with offers to “come inside for…” smart retailers are accommodating the desire to pick up merchandise and leave. They recognize that they’ll be back again, either for a quick trip or an extended visit. Either way, a sale is a sale.

 

Retailers Go the Personalized Route

Half the battle for success in retail is getting the customer in the door or on the website, followed by the challenge of closing the sale. According to MyBuys research, highlighted in Personalization Comes of Age, 75 percent of shoppers would buy from a merchant if they received a discounted price on the merchandise. In addition, roughly the same number would buy online if a special offer including free shipping was provided.

Seems obvious that customers want to hear from retailers with pertinent information. In other words, they want to know more

As merchants streamline their multichannel store operations and focus on enhancing the customer experience, many shoppers are choosing to return to stores to make their purchases.

As merchants streamline their multichannel store operations and focus on enhancing the customer experience, many shoppers are choosing to return to stores to make their purchases.

about products and services in which they’ve expressed prior interest.  Busy people appreciate a quick reminder about products left in shopping carts — or even about those they may have been researching — especially if a purchasing incentive comes with that reminder. Discounts or other benefits, coupled with personalized messaging and recommendations can provide customers information that will help them determine that the products they’re considering are just right. A substantial number, 70%, of shoppers want recommendations on retailers’ web sites: It’s always nice to corroborate a potential purchase.

That feeling of purchase satisfaction can’t be underestimated. The MyBuys research found that few shoppers (27%) buy when they perceive they are “settling” for a product. It’s not enough for them to purchase something “just like” the one that’s desired. “Close enough” just doesn’t cut it. Therefore, to achieve true customer satisfaction, it’s crucial for retailers to supply messaging that not only corroborates the purchaser’s decision, but also makes it an undeniable value.

Of course, the retailer must be conscious of not overstepping boundaries, which may not always be intuitive. For example, while MyBuys reported that 39% want to receive personalized messages on social media, such as in a Facebook stream, they may not want to be greeted in-store with the same message. It’s one thing to be wished “Happy Birthday!” in an innocuous post from a retailer on Facebook, but another, more unsettling, experience to be told that by a store associate who is a stranger. However, couple that social media greeting with a “get 10% off on your special day by mentioning this Facebook message,” and the retailer will likely be rolling out the welcome mat that day.

Proximity marketing, enabled by beacons and bluetooth technology, are also excellent ways of drawing in customers. New data from Juniper Research found that retailers will spend an estimated $2.5 billion in hardware and installation cost of such Internet of Things technology by 2018. MyBuys found that 39% of those surveyed welcome mobile advertising, such as proximity marketing, and that number is likely to grow as installations increase.

Retailers will look to beacons and beyond in 2016, and continue to invest in data science and analytics to better serve customers both in-store and online.

Digitally Connected Display Screens Are a Sign of the Times

Consumers are accustomed to seeing large display screens in retail stores, but those screens are rapidly evolving to not only provide supplemental information on products but also to predict what products a particular shopper might want to buy.

In North America, retailers are taking advantage of the benefits of Internet of Things technology by implementing solutions that help them monitor and interpret their shoppers’ behavior. In-store contextual marketing is gaining popularity as retailers aim to capture continuous, real-time streams of data. That information comes from mobile devices, online customer activity, in-store Wi-Fi routers/beacons as well as video cameras. Acting on the intelligence that information provides can result in an omnichannel experience for customers in which e-commerce and traditional retailers are interested.

Store displays highlight retailers' products.

Store displays highlight retailers’ products.

Digital signage initially was a one-way street: Stores pushed out information on merchandise to all shoppers. Today’s technology lets retailers be far more discriminating: Content can be tailored and can change depending on the customer viewing the display. The display itself can be equipped with sensors that can detect the height or even facial characteristics of a passerby, and deliver customized information. Such real-time adaptation can maximize a retailer’s potential profit.

According to the International Data Corp., the use of digital signage in retail outlets will increase to $27.5 billion in 2018 from $6 billion in 2013. That’s a 35.7 percent five-year compound annual growth rate. And it underscores the important role digital screens can play in the customer experience.

No longer are screens glorified televisions, relegated to keeping customers entertained while standing on checkout lines. Today’s screens can be programmed with content selected and even created by the retailer. Grocers wanting to beef up sales of steak can program content showing barbecue recipes. But even more than that, beacon technology can be integrated into an IoT signage system, providing retailers the means of offering customers discounts and product information that can be displayed. Signage can even tell what areas are “hot” in a particular store and through the use of heat-mapping technology, can upsell items based on those identified high-traffic areas.

In addition, signage is becoming more interactive. Touchscreen navigation can provide customers with relevant and personalized content, the ability to check inventory, or speak with an associate using video conferencing. Connecting to social networks and displaying customer’s posts is another way of connecting with customers, particularly Millennials.

Digital Signage Today reported that, according to InfoTrends, digital signage has increased brand awareness by 47.7 percent, purchase amount by 29.5 percent, sales volumes by 31.8 percent, repeat buyers by 32.8 percent, and in-store traffic by 32.8 percent. Around the world, retailers are discovering the many uses of digital signage, and the advantage of connecting the technology to the Internet of Things. The content fills a void in situations in which salespeople are unavailable. Signage is a piece of the IoT puzzle for retailers, and it can be used as a helpful tool to provide the service and extraordinary experience customers crave.