Time is running out, but the opportunities are great for tech savvy retailers looking to innovate and experiment this holiday season.
Predictions are starting to flow in, as experts pontificate about the sales prospects for this year’s holiday season. Analysts foresee holiday sales anywhere between 2.4 percent and 4.5 percent up this year, depending on which source you tend to believe.
In the worst case scenario, where sales rise just 2.4 percent and store traffic decreases 1.4 percent, this could potentially be the industry’s worst performance since 2009.
To prepare for the worst, marketers need to work smarter, not harder. That means you must utilize the power of your customer data and communities with the latest technology and multi-channel marketing know-how to optimize customer interaction and drive sales. With that in mind, here is a list of a digital tactics that are getting a little juice thanks to advances in technology.
Bridging Print/Digital Connection: Belly Up to QR codes – This Time It’s Different
It’s estimated that as much as 70 percent of all purchase decisions are made at the point of sale (POS). In addition, redemption rates for coupons are typically higher on mobile devices than in print. So what’s changed over the last year to help marketers bridge the gap between print and digital and increase holiday sales this year? Passbook and iOS7.
With iOS7, the newly updated Passbook will allow marketers to rethink their coupon strategy this holiday by allowing consumers to add print coupons via QR codes to their Passbook and share with others. Millions of consumers will be armed with Digital Wallets filled with lots of sharable incentives and discounts, if marketers do a little planning ahead.
Rethink your print ads, billboards and in-store signage to not only create better shopping experiences, but also drive purchases and overall average revenue per transaction with coupon offers that can be added to Passbook. Tap influencers and advocates across your various social communities and encourage them to not only spread the word, but to share these offers with their friends and family. Consequently, expect adoption and use of Passbook to skyrocket this holiday season.
iBeacon: An Unknown Feature with Immense Promise
Another huge benefit of iOS7 is iBeacon. An iBeacon is a radio that can be placed in a retail store or aisle. When an iOS device is detected, users can receive information indoors about a product or event based on their micro-location. This battery friendly capability will get some marketers experimenting with ways to enhance the shopping experience and collect data to analyze shopping patterns. iBeacon signals may also be tied to apps and/or trigger messages such as sale items on your locked screen as you walk through the aisle – yes it is that good. Look for tech savvy retailers to experiment with iBeacons this year in select stores as they look for additional ways to drive sales and differentiate the shopping experience.
In-store Wi-Fi: Shopping Just Got a Whole Lot Better
In-store Wi-Fi is increasing in popularity. For retailers that are embracing and testing in-store Wi-Fi, it offers numerous opportunities including the ability to measure in-store traffic and competitive online shopping and price comparing. However, the future and opportunity of in-store Wi-Fi will continue to evolve. It will enable marketers to have the ability to capture important consumer behaviors during a brick-and-mortar experience, and potentially serve up offers to individual shoppers based on their behaviors and interests with the appropriate permissions.
Finally, Wi-Fi offers and shopping behaviors may even be tied to POS systems, enabling marketers to close the loop on the journey from pre-shopping communications to behaviors during an in-store visit, to post-shopping up-sell/cross-sell offers.
Search and Destroy: Cross-Channel Remarketing Off a Segment Pixel
Search remains an effective and efficient vehicle to drive sales, as consumers are actively researching products to purchase this holiday season. However, search remains underutilized and for the most part disconnected from cross-channel marketing.
Think carefully about corresponding landing pages from AdWords and look to integrate segment pixels that help identify known users. Once identified, known users can be retargeted with display, should they abandon the page or fail to make a purchase. However, with the right technology, that site visit may also trigger an email follow up or even SMS message, depending on the permissions captured against that known user. For unknown users, incorporate alert sign up and registration opportunities. Implemented correctly, your search marketing will pay bigger dividends than ever before.
Be of Service & Value: Automated Alerts and Updates
Promotional text and service alerts (i.e. shipping/delivery notifications, etc.) continue to comprise the majority of SMS volume/traffic. Think about implementing automated programs that will help consumers find or get what they want, where they want it, at the price that they want to pay for it.
Leverage the power of data, APIs and channel preferences to automate key services messaging streams such as wish lists, product availability and price drop alerts, shipping notifications and more. While automated alerts have been common place in email, now is the time to leverage the power of the mobile device and offer this service via text messaging. Finally, offer sign up opportunities across all key touch points in store, on websites and in customer service lines, to see your consumers opt-in in droves.
Unstructured Data Becomes Useful - Combine Past Purchase Behavior with Social Interest and Intent
Unstructured social data posed incredible problems for marketers in the past. However, the emergence and growing popularity of Hadoop-like systems has allowed many marketers to query long strings of unstructured data and transform them into usable attributes for multi-channel targeting.
While past purchase behavior is always the best predictor of future intent, add new data sources such as social data to existing models to help fuel more dynamic offers tied to expressed interests, as well as past purchase intent. To do so, leverage social data captured via a permission-based authentication process (social sign-on, Facebook Connect) to capture critical social profile attributes like location, birthday, interest as expressed by “likes” and more. Combine this data with past purchase information to help drive dynamic offers and content across email, text messaging and more.
Reward Best Customers
Create unique and enhanced experiences for your most loyal customers. Leverage social, email, display and mobile data to identify those who are most engaged and build personalized programs that reward these users for their loyalty. Big data that cuts across multiple channels not only allows brands to identify their most loyal audience, but also provides insight into channel preference by engagement. Programs may include online pre-sale events, special store hours or events, added or enhanced incentives or benefits including points, sweepstakes and more.
Time is running out, but the opportunities are great for tech savvy retailers looking to innovate and experiment. Those who do will find themselves well positioned to accelerate sales well into 2014. Happy Holidays!
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Michael Della Penna is a seasoned marketing professional with a long, proven track record of launching successful marketing, branding, and sales strategies for leading public and private companies. Most recently, Michael was the senior vice president of Emerging Channels at Responsys. His responsibilities included spearheading the overall strategic direction, partnerships, and solution offering across key emerging channels including social, mobile, and display for the company. Prior to Responsys, Michael founded SuiteDialog and Conversa Marketing, a full-service email and social CRM agency that helped brands ignite conversations and cultivate relationships with customers across the social web. Conversa Marketing, was acquired by StrongMail Systems in 2010. Before branching out on his own, Michael served as chief marketing officer for Epsilon, a leading provider of multichannel, data-driven marketing services. Michael's other key marketing leadership roles include CMO at Bigfoot Interactive, vice president of strategic development at CNET Networks, Inc., and vice president of marketing at ZDNet. Michael received a B.B.A. and an M.B.A. from Hofstra University.
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