The Future of Retail Is Localized and Programmatic
Retailers and CPG brands are preparing for the holiday selling season and planning their 2015 digital strategies based on the successes (or losses) they see in late November and during December. According to eMarketer, U.S. retail sales will climb 5 percent during this time. That’s up from last year, but competition will be even fiercer – with more promotional content released and consumers whose demands are growing, but attention spans are dwindling.
For those fighting to push ecommerce-only retailers back from their turf, one thing is for certain: Holiday planning must be equally focused on digital connectivity and the physical store. AOL research found 92 percent of online users say technology has impacted their shopping habits. They’re looking for recommendations on social media, researching deals in online circulars, clipping digital coupons and comparing prices available at other nearby retailers while on a showroom floor. And there are no signs indicating consumers will lower their high standards and expectations. They demand seamless, personal, locally relevant and meaningful shopping experiences at every point of their shopping journey regardless of the devices they are using.
This holiday season, “going omnichannel” means taking actionable, turn-key steps to activate and scale local marketing while connecting programmatic buying with programmatic promotional content. This is the best way for retailers to drive maximum brand exposure, consumer engagement and cross-channel sales.
We chatted with John Gregory, an expert in retail marketing and marketing consultant, to share what retailers can do to increase their returns as this sales year draws to a close.
What advice would you give retailers looking to maximize their returns – both online and offline – this holiday season?
John Gregory: I would say that aside from focusing on the seamless delivery of their brand experience between online and offline channels, it is important that they not lock out any test opportunities during the holiday shopping season. While this isn’t the time of the year for retailers to be taking irresponsible business risks, it is probably the best environment to test new marketing or media strategies, particularly on a localized level by optimizing promotional content in real-time and pushing it out on a regional or national scale.
Ongoing innovations in data management and sales measurement have made this an easily realized possibility and retailers must be more aggressive about taking advantage of that new technology. The riskiest thing retailers can do is repeat last year’s marketing strategies – which for many did not pay off as well as they’d hoped – and expect a different outcome. The industry is just way too competitive for anyone to take things for granted.
Can you give us some predictions for the future of digital marketing that retailers should plan for as we approach 2015?
John Gregory: First, I would say while mobile devices are now being used primarily for browsing activities, you will see a greater shift towards mobile sales as innovations around “one-click” purchasing are adopted by consumers and retailers continue to deploy easier-to-use mcommerce experiences.
I also think retailers will begin taking advantage of iBeacon, RFID and other technologies to reinvent and reinvigorate the in-store experience. These types of innovations serve to augment reality and bring a higher level of engagement with online shopping activities that ultimately drive in-store sales. Essentially, we’ll see the online and offline retail environments begin to merge into a synchronized experience.
A third prediction would be that due to continued concerns regarding security, those who can afford it will begin to move the data management function in-house instead of relying on third party vendors. Customer and sales information is probably one of the biggest assets of retailers and it must be protected at all cost.
I would also add that in order to further reduce operating costs and optimize marketing spend, more national retailers will begin to rely on programmatic media buying for digital and television strategies. We can now connect programmatic buying with programmatic content, so it’s to a retailer’s advantage to optimize for this.
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.