In the world of digital-first retail, how can your brand (1) reach shoppers wherever they are (2) with highly relevant products and offers that will drive critical revenue (3) without breaking the bank?
Achieving all three of these goals is key to success in today’s hyper-competitive retail environment, but is it even possible? Like the age-old trifecta of timing, quality and price, do you have to pick only two of the three?
At first glance, it’s easy to assume the answer would be yes, but achieving all three is actually not only possible, but even easy to do with the right investments in people and technology.
How 2020 Forever Changed the Future of Retail
First, it’s important to understand the new environment in which we’re operating since everything changed rather unexpectedly in 2020 to accelerate the arrival of digital-first retail. Specifically, eCommerce started to represent more than 50% of revenue in 2020, speeding up the transition to digital by as much as 4-5 years for some retailers.
This shift to eCommerce made discovering new brands easier than ever, as consumers found they were no longer limited to nearby stores and instead only limited by what they can discover online and the digital experiences those brands offer. This reality makes it no surprise that the percentage of purchases made by first-time buyers for retailers increased 119% during 2020 — adding tremendously to what was already quite a high number.
In turn, a lot changed for retailers too. Until 2020, brands relied heavily on the in-store experience to aid in discovery and provide personalized recommendations through store associates. The moment shoppers stepped in the door, brands had the opportunity to put their merchandising and messaging strategies front and center while capturing shoppers’ almost full attention (keeping in mind that capturing shoppers’ undivided attention in stores became nearly impossible with the rise of smartphones). 2020’s sudden shift to eCommerce flipped that model on its head and left a gap in many brands’ ability to provide a personalized experience in store to encourage a purchase.
Capitalizing on Today’s Incredible Opportunity for eCommerce Growth
Without the traditional in-store experience, brands need to find new ways to reach shoppers to facilitate discovery and drive purchases in a way that leads to continued revenue growth. This shift can be challenging, but many progressive retailers actually see this as a positive business opportunity to lead the tide of innovation.
For example, recent conversations among members of Bluecore’s DTC Collective, a community that brings together influential, global voices to realize the potential of digital retail, reveal that leading brands feel well-positioned to capitalize on eCommerce growth in 2021, in part by using 2020 as a learning opportunity on where to invest.
These industry leaders have consolidated around a handful of key approaches to successfully accelerate digital transformation in their organizations:
- Maintaining deep customer-centricity by meeting customers where they are across a variety of digital channels, largely by investing in organizing teams around customers rather than channels.
- Introducing a hyper-focus on relevant messaging to communicate brand value and create a 1:1 experience for shoppers that stands out in an increasingly broad and competitive space.
- Investing in technology that aligns with key retail goals such as driving repeat purchases, preserving margins and facilitating product discovery — all of which sit at the heart of a customer data-centric approach to marketing.
Investing in People and Technology to Support Digital-First Retail
Delivering successfully on these approaches can help achieve the three-prong goal of reaching shoppers wherever they are with highly relevant products and offers that will drive critical revenue, without breaking the bank. And it all starts with making the right investments in people and technology.
Investing in People for Digital-First Retail
On the people side, organizing teams around customers and even products rather than channels will help create a more seamless customer experience. For instance, you might have one team focused on customer acquisition and another focused on customer loyalty.
Regardless of how exactly you split it, this type of organization helps your marketing team focus on delivering messages and products to a specific group of customers wherever they are and should create more consistency for those shoppers as they move across channels as a result. In contrast, when teams are organized around channels, if they don’t maintain constant communication, customers will end up with disjointed experiences as they move from one channel to the next.
Investing in Technology for Digital-First Retail
On the technology side, you need a platform that can power seamless multi-channel personalization and is purpose-built for retail. The multi-channel element is so important because if you can use the same data to build audiences and power campaigns across key channels, including paid media, email and your eCommerce site, you can ensure a consistent and fluid personalized experience for your customers. This consistency will also support a move to organize teams around customers rather than channels.
According to Michele Etgen, VP eCommerce & Technology Strategy at Lane Bryant: “If we gather data in a totally different way for the website than we do for email or anywhere else, then we’re likely to create engagement opportunities that are contradictory as customers move across channels. Bluecore helps us avoid that contradiction and create a more fluid experience by using the data we already have consistently across channels.”
Meanwhile, ensuring the solution is purpose-built for retail is also important, since this vertical focus allows for deeper use cases to solve a more concentrated set of problems. Specifically, it can help drive outcomes around key goals like surfacing more conversion opportunities through merchandising insights (e.g. replenishment, next best purchase), turning casual shoppers into loyal, lifetime customers through shopper-level optimizations for repeat purchases and optimizing for increased margins and sell-through.
Eric Gohs, VP Performance Marketing, Credit & Loyalty at Ascena Retail Group, adds: “We view Bluecore as an engine that can power a lot of customer activation channels to create a unified experience. We’ve seen great success with Bluecore as an audience creation and activation platform for paid media, email and site campaigns. This type of consolidation makes sense from a cost perspective, but more than anything it makes sense from a customer experience perspective.”
Make Your Multi-Channel Marketing Vision a Reality
2021 will no doubt be the year of eCommerce. In this new world of retail, reaching customers where they are with personalized messages is everything. On top of that, doing so in a way that doesn’t break the bank, particularly on paid media channels, will be critical to success.
Organizing your marketing team around customers and investing in technology that provides a centralized source for customer data to power personalized marketing campaigns across any channel is the key to achieving those goals.
Ready for more on what it takes? To learn more about the shift that’s underway and how top brands like Ascena Retail Group are leading the way, watch the on-demand broadcast on Beyond Transactional Commerce: Driving profitability in a digitally dominant world. Click here to watch now.