The future of retail

18 October 2018

Industry Insights

Competing for the customer’s attention.

Keeping them coming back for more.

Building a relationship.

Achieving a sale.

All of these things are key to any successful business, but given the amount of noise in the marketplace, you have to give the customer something more, something of value, something they are actually interested in.

Give them bland and beige and they won’t stay with you.

Content is generated by retail businesses on a daily basis, so it’s all too easy to fall into the trap of product promotion after product promotion. At this point you start blending into the background, expending more and more effort for diminishing returns.

Social media shouldn’t just be posts for posts’ sake. Nor should you have the same content across all your channels. You need to treat the customer with respect, particularly if you want their business and brand advocacy.

To do this well, you need to put time, thought and effort into both your content planning and production. This takes discipline, and it’s not something you should be delegating to an office junior.

To understand what to say to a customer, you need to understand what makes them tick, and you don’t get that by cutting and pasting. Forget the customer’s aspirations and motivations at your peril, and always have the target market’s needs in mind.

Content should be thought-provoking, engaging, aspirational; something that drives the customer to desire what your brand offers. This will develop your brand’s prominence, distinctiveness, popularity and buzz.

It’s good to remember that where we are today is actually no different than where we were 30 years ago. Sure, we have the Internet and social media and there’s a lot more communication trying to get the customer’s attention, but the same marketing principles still apply: raise awareness, create interest, call people to action and sell at a profit.

To achieve this, you have to add value in the customer’s mind regarding the offer. Understanding this value and translating it into words and imagery that ‘connects’ with the consumer is the challenge for everyone involved in marketing.

To connect, to have that emotional affinity with our customers, to make sure we are always front of mind: we need to offer value and keep at it.

So, who does this well?

Nike is very good, not only from a content viewpoint but a full consumer experience, and they’re always adapting to the changing market.

Mr Porter is another example of providing value added content to its consumers. Check out their editorial pieces here

But it’s not just mid- and premium-end brands that are succeeding. Primark has recently left rival New Look announcing store closures thanks to their broad offering of affordable fast fashion and a savvy social media strategy. It’s important to remember they don’t have an ecommerce website either. They boast 5.3 million Instagram followers and focus on connecting the public with the latest trends in-store through fresh, eye-catching imagery to create conversations.

Even though there are brands that are doing well, the retail sector is going through a period of turmoil, with well-known retail names wrestling with margin erosion and, in a number of cases, being unsure as to what their vision or strategic intent is or how to compete.

According to the BBC Business News dated 19 September, recent high-profile failures include Toys R Us and Maplins while Orla Kiely (handbag and homeware retailer) is the latest to announce they have ceased trading. All sorts of high street retailers have announced store closure plans and 22,000 jobs have been affected this year alone. New store openings are at their lowest for seven years.

The marketing communications industry has to respond. It’s our job not just to bring ideas to the fore, but to constructively challenge the core proposition and the chosen strategy. ‘More of the same’ just won’t cut it, nor will churning out offer after offer. If you want to stand out and have longevity, then its on you to add value by helping our clients along their own path.

The checklist:

Creating brand advocacy and a customer following requires an integrated approach to marketing. It can’t be done piecemeal. It’s like baking a cake, you have to follow the recipe; you don’t want a flat cake! Consider all channels to reach the customer not just the current trends or ‘fads’

Creating affinity and distinctiveness takes time, it doesn’t happen overnight. You need to be consistent and disciplined, ensuring what you are saying is what interests the customer, not what you think they want to hear

Use professional advice and support for creating engaging content to avoid falling into the product promotion trap. Be brave, not bland.

Ensure you understand what motivates your target market. Never assume.

Finally, consider the customer journey in engaging with you. Understand where obstacles can get in the way of the customer doing business with you and remove them. Ultimately, you should always make sure the journey is a delight for the customer.

To read the full report download it here