- By Colleen McNamara
Is the retail world really in a “crisis”? It’s a question that we’ve been examining all month. Many experts are saying that retailers should be bracing for a complete meltdown, while others are saying we need to stop panicking, make a plan, and embrace the new pace of change.
We invited a few industry experts to our monthly #SweetIQChat to help unravel some of these issues. Take a look at what we had to say, and feel free to share your own insights with us on Twitter – we’re @MySweetIQ.
Several experts are claiming that #retailers should be bracing for a “crash” akin to the 07/08 financial crisis. Agree or disagree and why?
Brad Wing: Disagree – retailers are seeing major success as they adapt strategy to the hyper-local + modern consumers and tweak for in-store experiences.
Mohannad El-Barachi: Disagree. Successful retailers are thriving because they embraced online & connected online shopping to offline experiences.
Brahm Booth: Agree. There’s a huge connection in real estate. This feature in Forbes explains.
Ken Lonyai: Crash: no. Slow/continuous decline: yes. Commerce is transitioning – only smart/strong retailers can survive
Our tendency is to blame e-commerce for brick-and-mortar troubles. Do you think this tells a complete enough story? Why or why not?
Brad: You can have success in both aspects – thinking of separate entities is outdated! Today’s customer journey stops and starts in so many places.
Mohannad: Blaming e-comm is being in denial. Retailers must take a holistic approach & pay attention to how they link online searches to offline sales.
Brahm: No. Store presence is a problem & lack of an omnichannel strategy. Many retailers can’t compete until they have fewer stores.
Ken: E-commerce is merchant evolution. b&m retailers are responsible for their own ignorance/cowardice to adapt/evolve
How can retailers leverage new digital marketing strategies to protect themselves against instability?
Brad: Think way beyond the basics, but know clean data is still important. Use Snapchat geofilter campaigns for Gen-X, Insta for millennials. Create experiences that engage.
Mohannad: Use the same channels as your consumers. Snapchat geofilter campaigns are a great example on how to target a hyperlocal audience. Gen-Z is our next big target.
Brahm: Retailers need to embrace 360 customer service, omnichannel technology, endless aisles and robust attribution models.
Ken: “Skate to where the puck is going” — use digital channels/platforms/tools that reflect your market
What’s the most common marketing mistake retailers make when connecting their digital strategy to their offline marketing?
Brad: Thinking in silos: not taking the time to look at analytics that connect online to offline marketing. Our e-book on data is a great resource for online-to-offline thinking.
Mohannad: Failing at building & optimizing a clear and accurate online path for customers to engage with your brand. Evolve or dissolve.
Brahm: Retailers need to look at last mile logistics. They approach offline and digital together, and then silo last mile. They need a cohesive A-Z strategy.
Ken: “Connecting” is the mistake. Integration is the key. Integrated marketing is one facet of omnichannel that is NOT optional.
What tactics can retailers leverage to achieve omnichannel marketing to their consumers?
Brad: Try Facebook’s new coupon/offers button, use location data from Google to re-target consumers. Experiment with new geo-fence ad opportunities on Snapchat.
Mohannad: Have touch points on every step of your customer’s journey. Launch campaigns that keep your locations on their top-of-mind.
Brahm: Retailers’ big mistake is ignoring/downplaying that 99% of consumers have smartphone in their store. Use, Measure, Market it.
Ken: real-time inventory, out-of-stock contingencies, multi-platform dialog capabilities, AI
What’s the single most important digital strategy retailers must apply to their plan to “keep up” with change?
Brad: Find the perfect balance between simple and novel: get as much #data as you can & keep it clean. Offer something novel in-store to share online.
Mohannad: Use clean data to target your customers where & when they are looking for you. Offer them an experience they can share.
Brahm: Don’t assume. Explore, test & try. Look at this feature on Facebook. Try again, test again. Look at the competition.
Ken: C-level management must be on-board and driving change/innovation else nothing is effective and old habits don’t die.
While retailers like Macy’s and Radio Shack struggle, other retailers thrive. What are successful brands doing differently?
Brad: They’re thinking 10 years ahead into the future, not 6-months. Incorporating AI online and VR in stores and turning their best clients into brand ambassadors.
Mohannad: Being in everyone’s social feeds. UGC gets the ball rolling with Social Proof while driving consumers to your locations.
Brahm: I think it starts with poor leadership and iterates downwards. Strong/Forward leaders are already advanced in omnichannel.
Ken: Opening up to the change in consumer habits, performing user research, listening, adapting rapidly.
Name three retailers who are weathering the storm and coming out on top.
Brad: Little Burgundy, Sleep Country Canada, Amazon, ARITZIA, and A&W Canada (I know, A&W isn’t a retailer, but their strategy is still relevant!)
Mohannad: Ulta Beauty, Indigo, and Aldo
Brahm: ALDO, Marks Canada, and Sephora are all really doing some amazing things and innovating and staying ahead.
Ken: Home Depot, HomeGoods, Starbucks.
Describe what the retail landscape will look like 10 years from now.
Brad: All paths leading to the physical store will be digital. In-store experiences will be hyper-curated to each person. All ads will come from your own social network.
Mohannad: Data will drive new tech to emerge and disrupt, success in retail will result from proactive & tailored customer experiences.
Brahm: Well, fewer stores for starters. Retail will be brand, ecommerce, tech and experience.
Ken: Digital integration and analytics will not be talked about because those that survive will have mastered it.
Any other comments?
Brad: Retail is actually incredibly exciting. We’ll see a major shift back towards physical stores when we the retailer truly nails down the O2O path.
Mohannad: Embrace new tech! Find ways for it to connect to your locations Deliver seamless experiences no matter where the customer is.