Ringing Up a Better Retail Experience through Content

content

If you want to significantly disturb consumer shopping patterns, it doesn’t hurt to create a sales holiday.

That’s just one of the many retail marketing outcomes to learn from the success of one of retail’s most powerful brands: Amazon.

The so-called “everything store” launched its members-only one-day shopping extravaganza, Prime Day, in 2015 and has since continually chipped away at the post-Thanksgiving Black Friday’s sales supremacy.

Fortunately, you don’t have to alter the calendar to influence your audience members’ purchasing process or convert them into customers.

In fact, the retail environment is so rich with opportunities that all you may need is the right content experience and a bit of creative insight.

Let’s look at a few of the biggest forces impacting retail and e-commerce businesses, as well as some top content opportunities you should explore to remain competitive and prepare for the next wave of challenges poised to shake up the marketplace.

Retail content is a mixed (shopping) bag

According to Deloitte’s 2018 Retail, Wholesale and Distribution Outlook, U.S. retailers stand to benefit from a robust economic outlook and confident spending throughout 2018 thanks to a strong labor market, low unemployment rate, healthy stock market, and rising rate of disposable personal income.

However, a recent economic tension between the United States and some of its strongest trade partners which includes China, Canada, and Mexico could result in trade wars.

And as a result of that could send the cost of goods and services sharply higher in the near future, affecting nearly every retail segment.

Cost containment is increasingly important

Even without the possibility of a trade war, profit margins in the retail industry are extremely thin.

Every retail brand must continue to be highly strategic when it comes to its marketing spend.

Fortunately, content marketing’s overall cost efficiency makes it a highly accessible technique for retail brands at any budget level.

Furthermore, as Shopify’s content marketing lead Casandra Campbell points out, content marketing can even help retail brands to decrease paid traffic customer acquisition costs and build more sustainable businesses.

“Using strategies like blogging, you can create warm traffic to remarket to later, with a much lower CAC than cold traffic,” Casandra says.

Execs aren’t the only permission you need

Even if you manage to secure the buy-in to build stronger customer connections through content, there are plenty of other hurdles to overcome.

For example, there’s the data complications and flood of opt-outs marketers expect as a result of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR).

In an industry like retail, where success depends on a brand’s ability to continually re-engage interested consumers, content marketers stand to be particularly impacted by the new data collection standards and practices introduced by GDPR.

As Robert Rose recently remarked, the implications of GDPR’s vaguely written rules for personal data aggregation and opt-in transparency may not fully come to light for years.

But for now, he advises marketers to view the new data privacy regulations as an important opportunity to lean on the insights supplied by those consumers who decide to remain on the contact lists.

Fragmented audiences still demand frictionless experiences

Beyond issues of cost, executive support, and consumer permission, there’s the need to continually adapt your content marketing strategy to account for one big disruptor that all marketers must face: the rapid pace of digital innovation.

As new devices, new media channels and platforms, and other tech trends arise, they create remarkable opportunities for retailers to deliver desirable and even personalized content experiences on demand.

But in fragmented landscapes, it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain the consistency and quality of your content experience across every possible consumer touchpoint, let alone keep tabs on and analyze all the interactions happening.

To maintain some control, Casandra recommends tracking and measuring every piece of customer data your content can help you generate.

“You never know which data will provide great insights down the road,” she says.

The more accurately you measure performance, the easier it will be to make smart decisions on how to repeat and scale your content marketing.

The rapid pace of technological advancement also has elevated the service expectations of demanding retail customers.

While not everyone subscribes to the belief that human attention spans are shorter than that of a goldfish, evidence mounts that tolerance for digital frustration has become alarmingly thin, especially on mobile.

If the experience you offer on a consumer’s preferred channel or device isn’t as flawless and frictionless as possible, you run the risk of losing their interest and, worse, their business.

Some light at the end of the funnel

Despite all the difficulties across the modern retail landscape, producing a standout content experience can make a lasting impact on your audience’s buying habits.

But to attract the right consumers at the right time and translate their content engagement into quantifiable sales you may need to get more creative in your understanding, more inventive in how you deliver that content, and more responsive to the customer’s needs and preferences throughout the purchase process.

Agility, anticipation, and preparation are key

The Deloitte report recommends retailers look for ways to modernize their digital presence across channels and platforms to accommodate consumers’ growing preference for tech-enhanced shopping experiences.

Recommendations include:

  • Implementing a more smartphone-centric content strategy
  • Investing in automation
  • Experimenting with voice-response tools and internet of things connectivity

Of course, the call to “get on with the times” doesn’t just apply to digital brand interactions.

As the Deloitte report points out, now that consumers can make their purchases online, it’s essential that your retail business provide them with compelling reasons to want to visit your physical store locations a goal that content marketing is well positioned to drive.

Take Amazon’s Treasure Truck pop-up experience, Amazon Prime customers who want to take advantage of a specially discounted deal of the day must pick up the merchandise in person at a designated Treasure Truck location in their city.

Upon arrival at the venue, they are rewarded for their extra effort with an exclusive experience such as a live performance, movie screenings, and other fun surprises.

amazon-treasure-truck

Deloitte also suggests embarking on strategic partnerships with complementary online players such as social media networks, video, music, or gaming brands to extend your retail ecosystem.

Not only can these deals set the stage for generating new revenue streams, they can help you offer a differentiated experience that your consumers will appreciate.

Consider the expanded benefits retailer JCPenney can offer to beauty-conscious shoppers, thanks to a partnership with Sephora.

According to Deloitte, online JCPenney shoppers can browse an expanded array of Sephora products and order them online for same-day pickup at a Penney’s location.

In addition, exclusive in-store events such as group makeovers, beauty classes, and other special experiences have increased foot traffic at the retail outlets of both brands.

Content that sells a brand’s advantages

Need a little inspiration for your next content effort?

Take a look at a few ways your fellow retailers have been using content to pursue a brand advantage:

Grace & Lace cultivates an inspiring space on Instagram

Storytelling can help users connect with your retail brand in a positive way and build a connection that might motivate them to initiate a new retail therapy session.

Consider the example set by Grace & Lace, a clothing retailer that appeared on ABC’s Shark Tank.

The company keeps its Instagram community members engaged by sharing motivating anecdotes, real-life experiences, and behind-the-scenes moments that its audience can relate to and feel inspired by.

grace-and-lace-instagram
Source: Grace and Lace

Dunkin Donuts gives fans a sweet AR treat

Augmented reality (AR) features can offer a more immersive way for fans to express their passion for their favorite retail brands.

For example, to promote National Donut Day, Dunkin Donuts sponsored an AR lens on Snapchat that let users turn their faces into donuts complete with animated sprinkles dropping into cute donut mouths.

dunkin-donuts-augmented-reality

Ikea’s ReadMe Magazine sets high standards for employee engagement

When it comes to retail marketing, one of your most important audiences may be your built-in army of brand supporters – i.e., your employees.

Ikea’s Readme print magazine aims to educate and rally the company’s workers around the brand by making sure they are the first to know about company strategies, policies, and business practices.

The magazine reaches all employees and is produced in 23 languages.

It is also available in digital mode, and video assets are included to magnify products or important issues, such as sustainability.

ikea-readme-magazine

Bed Bath and Beyond takes shopping convenience to a new level

This big box store for bed and bath merchandise added a nice “beyond-level” feature to its mobile app the ability to shop outside the store by using visual search.

While going about their day, app users can snap pictures on their phone of design inspirations they encounter or products they find appealing.

The app uses photo-recognition technology to identify and categorize what’s in the picture and instantly suggests Bed Bath & Beyond products that might match their needs.

bed-bath-beyond-mobile-app

Apple Today prepares its customers for the future of computing

Apple always had its Genius Bar in retail locations, but in 2017 the company expanded its educational content by offering in-depth training sessions in all 495 stores under the brand Today at Apple.

today-at-apple

Patagonia wins big in the court of public opinion

If a cause is appropriate for your brand to support, it’s worth weighing the potential alienation of some customers against the attention and loyalty you could earn in return.

Outdoor apparel brand Patagonia has grown comfortable with taking a strong stance on important environmental issues, as evidenced by some of the more controversial content pieces it has shared across its The Cleanest Line blog and other media channels.

Fortunately, its risks seem to be paying off:

The company’s content efforts denouncing the U.S. president’s decision to exploit protected national monuments including an Instagram post declaring that “The President Stole Your Land” and a 360-degree interactive video experience, This is Bears Ears – sparked an ongoing flood of support for Patagonia on Twitter around the hashtag #MonmentalMistake, as well as an uptick in sales.

patagonia-this-is-bears-ears

 

 

 

 

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