As your business grows, it’s important to scale not only your technology but also your marketing efforts. There are constantly emerging new marketing platforms and customer acquisition channels that retailers need to leverage in order to grow. To reach today’s connected customer, companies need to craft integrated marketing growth strategies. We’ll guide you through the challenges of marketing to the connected customer with tips on how to develop an effective, modern marketing plan as well as the top technologies you’ll need to ensure success.
CHALLENGES OF MARKETING TO THE CONNECTED CUSTOMER
• The connected customer is constantly inundated with marketing emails and advertisements, which makes it difficult for companies or products to stand out.
• With smartphones enabling instant research, connected customers can easily find a similar version of your product if it’s overpriced, you don’t have the correct size in stock, your shipping takes too long, etc.
• It can be difficult to create and maintain loyalty when you aren’t meeting customers face-to-face.
• Customers have never had higher expectations for the experiences they have with retail businesses.
• While there are added challenges in marketing to the connected customer, it is possible not only to cut through the noise and grab potential customers’ attention, but to foster loyalty and gain repeat shoppers. To overcome potential barriers to growth, one of the first things you should focus on is creating a consistent experience for your customers.
Building an Omnichannel Brand
Customers want to be surprised by the unique products you create, not by the consistency they experience with your brand. The experience of shopping online versus brick-and-mortar stores is becoming more and more intertwined, as 68% of adults check the Internet on a smartphone while shopping to enhance their in-store experience, and 55% of shoppers say they use a retailer’s app while in the store. Whether customers are checking reviews or making sure the price listed in-store is the same as the price listed on one of your online channels, you need to know that this purchasing experience is the new normal. To streamline your branding efforts, you must pay attention to each aspect of a customer’s on and offline shopping experience and ensure cross-channel consistency.
Building a branded website, optimizing for mobile, nurturing customers via value-adding emails, and social media are all ways to enhance a customer’s online experience with your business.
• Creating a unique brand is more than choosing a logo or a color palette – it’s the visualization of the “why” behind your company. A strong brand is consistent, thoughtful, and memorable (think Apple or Coca-Cola). Your website should be branded, or personalized, so that it’s recognizable to your customers. You can use eCommerce platforms like Shopify (and Shopify Plus), Bigcommerce, Magento, and WooCommerce to help you quickly build and support your online store.
• Before you spend thousands of dollars committing to a website design, test several iterations. A/B testing is a great way to experiment with different designs and use data to make your final decision (which beats arguing in a conference room). Solutions like Optimizely allow you to test and iterate until your website reflects your brand and provides your customers with an experience authentic to that brand. While certain details may seem insignificant, sometimes the tiniest changes have huge impacts. For example, one mobile phone retailer increased sales by 27% after A/B testing.
• Once your website looks and feels like your brand, it’s time to make sure people find it. Since 75% of users never scroll past the first page of search results, it is imperative to invest in optimizing your website for search. Search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) are ways to drive people who are looking for products like yours to your website. You’ve invested in great products and a great website, so take the extra step to make sure anyone who’s looking for something similar to what you offer will make their way to your site. Utilize tools like Google Analytics, Google Adwords, and Moz to start tracking and improving your site’s SEO and SEM.
• According to a recent Chief Marketing Officer Council survey, by 2017, mobile devices will make up 87% of the total sales of Internet-enabled technology. Mobile purchasing is only going to become more popular, so it’s important to lay the right foundation now.
• Just because you optimized your website for search doesn’t mean these efforts will automatically translate to mobile. Thirty percent of mobile shoppers abandon a transaction if the shopping experience is not optimized for mobile; so pay attention. Things that work just fine on a desktop – like page speed and pop-ups – might not be as successful on a customer’s mobile device. One quick tip is to make sure your size and pricing tables are mobile-optimized. If you’re struggling to get them formatted for responsive viewing on mobile, turn them into image files that are more easily viewable on your mobile site. You can test and optimize your site for mobile with tools like Google’s PageSpeed Insights, and preview and perfect responsive mobile email designs with tools like Litmus.
• Mobile apps keep your company top of mind, and can make it easy for a customer to place an order or communicate with you. A glitchy or slow mobile app, however, might quickly make it to the trash, so be sure you have the proper resources to build if you decide to go this route.
• Mobile ads aren’t going anywhere – so this might be a great place to invest some of your advertising budget.
• Forty-one percent of consumers in a recent survey said they would buy more from retailers that send them personalized emails. While adding a customer’s name is a great place to start, determining where they found you, which product(s) they have researched, and knowing their previous order histories are all ways to help you make an email worth reading. For example, if a customer bought a bathing suit, send them emails promoting sunglasses, beach towels, and sunscreen.
• Personalized emails are 6 times more effective than bulk emails at lifting transaction rates and revenue-per-email. When customers are segmented for more personalized offers, email open rates increased by 39%, emails were seen as more relevant by 34% of email recipients, and unsubscribe rates reduced by 28%. Email marketing software from companies like MailChimp, HubSpot, and Marketo can help you automate, personalize, and segment emails to your customers and target audiences.
• According to Shopify, product discovery via social media and ad targeting has increased 202% in recent years. With more platforms embracing the ‘buy button,’ it’s easier than ever for shoppers to purchase a product directly from their favorite social media channels.
• Facebook accounts for 50% of total social referrals and 64% of total social revenue, according to Business Insider.
• While the social landscape is ever-changing, Pinterest is the fastest growing social network right now, and is arguably the best place for product marketing. With the ability to add “buy-it” buttons to your product listings, shopping (and selling!) via social has never been easier.
• Online reviews matter. Positive reviews can bump up a product’s price by 9.5%, while negative reviews have an 11% chance of changing a person’s intent to purchase.
• Before you overzealously create accounts on every social media channel you can think of, keep in mind that effectively managing social media takes a great amount of time and effort. If you don’t have the bandwidth to respond to customer comments or questions on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, then you probably shouldn’t create accounts for all three. It’s better to be fully present on one social channel than sparingly posting and engaging on five.
• While a strong social presence is critical to attracting and maintaining customers, your brick-and-mortar store(s) should also reflect consistency of brand. Customer counting tools like Countwise or ShopperTrak can help you identify peak shopping hours so you can be sure to build staff schedules accordingly. Not planning properly for your busiest hours creates long wait times and low bandwidth for addressing multiple customers questions or concerns.
• Foot traffic means impulse purchasing. 47% of consumers buy on impulse in a brick-and-mortar compared with 25% of online shoppers. Whether it’s allowing returns of digital purchases in-store or hosting events or special promotions, try to get shoppers into your store.
Retail Growth Strategies
Now that you’ve created a loyal customer base, it’s time to think about maintaining and growing it. According to Forrester, one loyalty program member spends up to 13% more than two non-members. Here are a few ideas to keep customers coming back:
Gamified customer engagement activities: Gamification is a great way to engage customers in a way that is mutually beneficial. Companies have built entire software platforms around this type of customer advocacy, but these activities can be simple. For example, ask customers via social media to post a picture of themselves wearing your product. Have them tag your company and from these submissions, select a winner at random for a $100 gift card to your store.
Social sharing campaigns: The most effective social sharing campaigns are engaging, interactive, and inspire people to get behind your brand enough to share it with their network(s). Stay true to your brand – for example, if you’ve built your company on witty, hilarious content, it might appear inconsistent to place an ad designed to tug on someone’s heart strings.
Customize promotions: When thinking about promotions, don’t email blast your entire customer base. We’ve all received the 30% off email that practically begs us for our business, and desperation isn’t attractive. An alternative to promotional spam is a promotion for a specific network or event, as 33% of consumers have acted on a promotion on a brand’s social media page. Consider an Instagram only Valentine’s Day promotion – when your followers see that they didn’t see the promotion on your other social media channels, they might follow you just in case you have a Memorial Day promotion.
Leveraging industry influencers to promote your brand is one of the least expensive, most effective marketing methods. To begin bolstering an influencer marketing program, retailers will typically send free products to influencers within their industry or target audience to use and hopefully talk about. The goal is for these influencers to love your company’s products enough to promote and recommend them to their networks and audiences.
Both the influencers you choose and the social channel through which they’ll promote your product will vary based on industry. For example, if you sell apparel, you might want to look for fashion bloggers with substantial followers whose style aligns with your current line. A McKinsey study found that, “marketing-induced consumer-to-consumer word of mouth generates more than twice the sales of paid advertising.”
The major benefit of working with influencers is often you send one free product, the image is seen by the influencer’s thousands of followers (with your brand mentioned or tagged), and you can track resulting sales. Here are some additional benefits of influencer marketing:
It’s authentic: A consumer would much rather read about your product in an article by their favorite blogger than see it featured in a paid ad – of which they see up to 5,000 per day. Influencer marketing creates buzz organically by reaching consumers when and how they want to be reached.
The price is right: Not all brands are taking advantage of influencer marketing, leaving competition (and cost) relatively low. Depending on the influencer’s scope, they may be highly selective or simply excited for a free product. Either way, it’s free to send an email and make an ask. While some influencers will charge fees on top of receiving your product for free, in many industries, such as apparel, all it costs you is the price of sending an item for free.
It’s highly trackable: Provide influencers with a special promo code to use when they talk about your product, and you’ll instantly see the effectiveness of a social campaign. If you don’t want to discount your product, simply provide the influencer with a trackable link to the product featured on your site.
CUSTOMERS ARE TALKING. NOW WHAT?
Increasing your presence across multiple channels provides your business with more public visibility, which can be both positive and negative. Customers will inevitably make comments – good and bad – about your products, and it’s important to respond to both. Thanking someone for a positive review shows customers that you appreciate feedback and are engaged with your customer base. Tactfully and thoughtfully responding to a negative review shows customers that you take service – and your brand – seriously. Empathizing with a customer’s poor experience with your product shows there are humans behind your brand.
How to Ensure Success
The intersection of data and marketing is where the real impact happens. Whether the goal is market expansion, testing new products, or improving customer loyalty, developing a clear plan of how you will measure success is critical. All too often, retailers hop on the latest social meme or Amazon-driven marketing trend without thinking about how it works for their business. Here are four things your team can do today to increase the impact of every marketing campaign you launch.
Hire a data operations lead or data analyst:
It’s a big investment, but worth it in the long run. As you scale your business, it’s important to recognize that time when your team goes from “generalists” to “specialists”. And if you’re at the point where your marketing coordinator is stretching across customer service and analyzing the unit economics of your business, (s)he is doing too much. Hire a data analyst that can assist your entire team – marketing and then some – to align clear objectives and assess them properly.
Set up a proper tracking code methodology:
Your marketing strategy is only as strong as the system you use to track it. If you are not sure how to track the data, where to find it, or if the data is even trustworthy, you have a problem. Find a way to create consistency among all of your tracking links that tie back to your campaign.
Implement post-mortems for every campaign:
It’s important that everyone on your team understands the “why” behind your successes and failures. After a campaign is complete, gather your team members to discuss what went well, what didn’t go well, and what needs to be changed for the future. This is also a great time to reiterate the unit economics of your business and help people understand the financial impact of the marketing campaigns you run.
There is a reason why so many technology companies have jumped onto the agile marketing model – quick iteration means failing fast. This “fail fast” mentality is not only applicable to the tech world. If you’re looking to improve on your marketing efforts but don’t want to take on a big campaign, leverage tools like Optimizely and free tool Google Analytics Content Experiments (GACE) to quickly test if your hypothesis is correct.
Things You Can Do Today
- ✔ Think about all the ways customers interact with your brand, and whether these experiences are consistent.
- ✔ Assess the traffic you’re getting from the social media channels you’re already on, and whether you have the bandwidth to engage with customers on each platform.
- ✔ Ask the questions you’d like to know about how customers engage with your content, and research solutions that can help you get the data you need.
- ✔ Make a list of top influencers in your industry: who do you read, listen to, or look to as a leader in your vertical?
- ✔ Segment your customers, even if it’s just into two tracks at first. This will help you deliver relevant content and track in a way that can inform business decisions.