The Bottom Line Remains The Same: In-Store Still Matters
Consumers today are digitally savvy and empowered to make simpler, more informed and more efficient purchasing decisions. Their patience and tolerance of mass-targeted messages and impersonal, irrelevant offers – be it online or in-store – is low-to-nonexistent. And with Deloitte predicting that by the year’s end, $1.5 trillion dollars, or 50 percent, of all in-store sales will be influenced by digital devices, the time for retailers to get smarter with their digital dollars is now.
Digital and brick-and-mortar must work together. This happens to be the subject of our panel session – Kicking the Tires of Old School Retail – at Advertising Week. On Wednesday, October 1st (11 am ET), our own Mark Marinacci will take the stage alongside Jennifer Kasper (Group Vice President, Digital/New Media and Multicultural Marketing, Macy’s) and John Gregory, an expert in retail marketing and marketing consultant, to share real-world examples of how all three companies are collaborating and using digital to reinvent the circular experience.
As the panelists will discuss, not only does their collaboration help the national department store make good on the promise of personalized experiences and offers that can be adapted to consumers’ local needs in real-time, but it also drives in-store sales and fosters loyalty among both new and returning customers.
To drill deeper into the subject, we chatted with John Gregory, an expert in retail marketing and marketing consultant.
Everyone loves a comeback – and an underdog story. Do you think in-store is experiencing one of its own? Where does digital fit into this comeback story – enemies, friends or somewhere in between?
John Gregory: I don’t think the importance of an exciting in-store experience has ever been dismissed. What’s happening is that traditional brick-and-mortar retailers are beginning to realize that providing a dynamic and engaging physical environment is something their eCommerce-only competitors can’t deliver in a meaningful way.
During my years at Bloomingdale’s, the notion that shopping is a form of entertainment was always top of mind; it was part of the brand heritage and constantly reinforced by senior management. Unfortunately, in the struggle to maintain market share and profitability in such a competitive retail landscape over the past 20 years, many retailers were forced to pushed aside all the things that used to make their stores interesting places to shop.
What we are now seeing is resurgence in the development of innovative store experiences as a point of differentiation. To take it one step further, the best retailers are ensuring that all consumer touch points provide the same brand experience whether it be in-store, via an eCommerce site or media experiences in the path to purchase. Technology and digital marketing innovation have made all this possible for those retailers bold enough to take advantage of the opportunity.
Just like mobile in 2013, content marketing has been a hot topic with brands this year. What do you think content marketing should really mean within the shopping experience and how should it be executed by brands?
John Gregory: Content is simply one of the building blocks in developing your brand environment. The important thing is delivering the appropriate experience that is most reflective of your brand and relevant to your target audience’s needs, whether before, during or after purchase.
Due to the proliferation of mobile devices, the convergence of advertising and branded content is more critical than ever. As AOL’s own research has shown, 92 percent of online users say that technology has impacted their shopping habits and over 50 percent of smartphone and tablet users say they look at things to buy every day.
The “always on, always connected” consumer is already predisposed to brands of interest in their everyday browsing, so it’s important to ensure you are top of mind when the tipping point to sales conversion takes place. Bringing your brand to life with the most relevant content is a key factor in grabbing that attention.
As a consultant and digital marketing expert, John Gregory leverages his 25+ years of retail and brand marketing experience to grow the category. His past work includes work at AOL where he provided category leadership by defining differentiated positioning for AOL, informing product development and packaging of digital media solutions specific to retail and providing thought leadership to internal and external constituencies. Follow John on Twitter.