Omni-Channel Marketing Meets Consumer Engagement

Omni-channel marketing seeks to provide the consumer a seamless shopper experience whether in-store, online, desktop or mobile. Retail marketers like Starbucks, Sephora, and Crate & Barrel have made moving towards this goal a priority, investing in processes and platforms to ensure consumers enjoy a familiar and consistent interaction whether brick, click, swipe or scan. As this continues to become the norm, consumers will expect frictionless interactions with all brands.

This sets the bar high for CPG marketers, where a seamless experience remains a challenge. Some marketers are making strides because they’ve adopted an integrated approach to consumer engagement. Others who keep their marketing teams siloed and focused on short-term reactive programs will struggle. Social Engagement, Shopper, Influencer, CRM, Loyalty and other touchpoints aren’t united around the customer, decreasing efficiencies and sending multiple, conflicting, or inappropriately timed messages.

The silos that companies insist on organizing around are meaningless to the consumer. Omnichannel? Touchpoints? Consumers don’t think that way. To them, there are no channels; there are no boundaries. Just one brand experience. And often it’s not a good one.

What could be conduits for personalized messaging are being used as broadcast channels sending one-way messages to everyone. This does not bode well for the future of CPG brands, as younger consumers prefer personalized interactions. American Express’ research found that 48% of Millennials expect brands to customize offers to suit their needs, and 39% will go out of their way to use a customized offer.

More and more, consumers expect brands to recognize who they are. Better targeting online has taught them that in-the-moment relevance is possible: research area rugs, see ads for area rugs, get promotions for area rugs. A recent study by Virtual Incentives found that 56% of consumers said that receiving a personalized incentive would improve their consideration of the brand. Sixty-three percent wanted to be rewarded for their purchase loyalty. The vast majority also indicated that use of personalization made a brand seem smart, unique and caring.

The good news for CPG brands is that consumers are more open than ever to share their details, attitudes, interests and behavior to get at a meaningful brand experience. A study from Magnetic/MyBuys reports a majority of consumers willing to be tracked by companies if it means a more personalized experience through messages and offers that are for the right thing at the right time.

So if digital media can do it, then brand engagement efforts should do it as well.

A Place to Call “Home”

One way CPG brands can begin moving towards an omnichannel experience is to provide consumers with a brand-owned home base. Through this community of actual brand users, marketers can recognize who their most loyal customers are and begin personalizing engagement as the consumer moves from discovery to post-purchase usage to relevant advocacy. This improved consumer/brand interaction drives meaningful, two-way communication, leading to increased loyalty and sales.

Rally Around One Customer, One Journey

Rather than separating marketing teams by touch point with programmatic goals, a brand-owned home base unites marketers around the consumer and their journey. The shared goal becomes delivering a consistent experience, with the right messages delivered at the right time, one consumer at a time, over the long term. This requires abandoning the short-term, quick-hit thinking that lacks a plan for building a lasting relationship beyond the promotion.

Continually Improve the Brand Experience through Real-Time Insights

The community also becomes the brand’s consumer insights engine, offering real-time access to the attitudes, behaviors, opinions and ideas of their actual purchasers — not a panel of likely users arranged via a third-party vendor. These insights enable continual improvement of the brand experience — from product development, line extension, messaging, packaging, promotions, channel mix and more.

The days of consumers tolerating fractured, one-way interactions with CPG brands are numbered. Marketers should consider a platform that enables a fluid brand experience whether the customer is online, on their phone, on social, through email or in store.

Originally published by , Columnist, January 16, 2017, 11:00 AM

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5 Trends That Will Change The Way Your Customers Will Shop In 2017

At first glance, the queues for 2016’s hot-ticket holiday item, Snapchat Spectacles, might not have looked all that different from the round-the-block lines that formed for the Tickle Me Elmo craze of 20 years ago. But a closer inspection reveals how the simple act of shopping has been quietly transformed during that time.

Rather than waiting at the mall to make their purchase, Snapchat’s hopeful customers were lining up to buy specs at Snapbot vending machines in exotic locales such as the Grand Canyon, the Rose Bowl and Big Sur.

From limited releases of hot products sold in the unlikeliest of places to personalized shopping experiences that meld the online and offline world, the world of retail is poised to get even more interesting in the year ahead. Here’s a look at what’s in store:

Stores are out, experiences are in

Ten years ago, walking into a cool boutique to see a DJ spinning was novel. Today, it’s about the least a store can do to keep up with the times. Brands that are standing out are pulling out the stops to turn shopping into a rich and immersive experience.

Back to Snapchat, for example: selling those specs via vending machines was a quirky touch, but the real genius was in putting them in oddball locations. By doing that, Snapchat turned the simple act of shopping into a treasure hunt and adventure — even for those who didn’t manage to snag a pair before they sold out.

Similarly, brick-and-mortar outlets are also upping their game. Now that anyone can buy anything online, stores that are staying relevant are offering highly curated and immersive experiences. Whether it’s yoga classes and running clinics at Lululemon or grabbing a haircut and an espresso at Frank + Oak’s flagship Toronto store, we’ll see stores become less about being a place to consummate a transaction than a place to immerse yourself in a lifestyle.

Forget faceless brands, connection is key

Back in the day, you had a personal connection with the shops on Main Street. Malls and big-box stores changed all that. These days, however, we’re no longer content to buy from faceless — even if well-known — brands, and smart retailers are using creative tools to build a personal relationship with would-be buyers.

Currently, nowhere is this trend more pronounced than in the world of celebrity. Last year, for example, the likes of Drake and the Weeknd extended their personas into popup shops and full-scale brand lines that give fans more of what they want: direct ways to connect with their favourite personalities.

Meanwhile, Kith NYC designer Ronnie Fieg recently used Instagram to create a real-time window into a product launch event in Aspen. What we’re seeing in all of these cases is online sellers leveraging technology to humanize and personalize a transaction — emphasizing the link between maker and user — which is a far cry from the kind of shopping experience you get in a big-box store.

Evolution — and democratization — of the flash sale

Flash Sales are a time-honored tradition in the world of retail. But enter the Internet and things get a lot more interesting.

These days, putting a time limit on a product or price isn’t just a means to unload overstock, it’s become standard practice for product launches. Celeb cosmetics queen Kylie Jenner has expertly employed this technique, with her limited edition birthday and holiday collections flying off the virtual shelf.

But, of course, bots and resellers have also infiltrated the online sales space, with everything from Kanye West’s Yeezy sneakers to Hatchimals winding up on eBay for several times the retail price. In the year ahead, you can expect smart companies to come up with ways to ensure the right people — actual customers and fans with a history with the brand — are being ushered to the front of the queue. (Shopify launched one product aimed at solving this problem this year, which allows buyers to check out with one tap and sellers to handle thousands of orders per minute.)

Direct-to-Consumer takes a bigger piece of the retail pie

This holiday season, US shoppers spent as much online as they did in actual stores. But behind that headline is an even more interesting story: the direct-to-consumer revolution. From Michael Kors to Oreo, more companies are sidestepping the middleman. Ditching department stores in favour of selling directly to consumers will continue to be a powerful force transforming the way we shop in 2017.

Why? Selling straight to customers creates an intimate and immediate feedback loop that leads to a better customer experience. Companies like AYR, Bonobos and DSTLD jeans are pioneering a highly responsive approach: using sales data and customer feedback to adjust their styles, cuts and size runs in real time. A reality where your favourite store is never out of your size or preferred style is right around the corner.

Shopping gets more social

Imagine browsing your social media feed and buying any product that catches your eye with the swipe of your thumb. In 2017 this will become a widespread reality. Social media platforms like Pinterest, Houzz, Twitter and Instagram are already breaking the browse/buy barrier with options for in-app impulse buying. Now add to that streamlined pay systems like Apple Pay, which is poised to go from a niche payment option to a mainstream expectation, and ordering that eye candy will become almost dangerously easy.

Meanwhile, online sellers are also teaming up with services like UberRUSH and Postmates to solve the delayed gratification problem posed by buying online. Teaming up with innovative services gets products into the hands of customers on the day they buy and contributes to a shopping experience that’s faster and more convenient.

With the retail world in the midst of a reinvention powered by technology, one thing’s for sure: the only limitation today’s merchants face is their own creativity. The bar for retail was raised in 2016 and it’s set to go higher in the year ahead. The good news for consumers: there’s never been a better time to be a shopper.

This articles was originally published on http://www.forbes.com/sites/harleyfinkelstein/2017/01/16/5-trends-that-will-change-the-way-you-shop-in-2017/#9334305387f0

Technologies That Will Revolutionize Online Retail

Customer Experience quality triggers eCommerce trends. It is the most competitive area through which eCommerce brands are trying to distinguish themselves from the lot and earn brand loyalty for a longer and stronger business run.

With players like Amazon setting benchmarks in customer experience, right from same-day delivery to drone-delivery testing, there are a lot more trends that could become a norm for eCommerce players by the end of the decade. Here are some of the interesting eCommerce trends that will come our way by 2020.

1. Virtual Trials will replace Showroom Experience in Fashion

Augmented reality-based trails will become common in retail fashion outlets, limiting stock only to warehouses or stocking rooms. The pleasure of going for a garment trial will be turned digital with the help of AR.

Result: Space saved but not at the cost of conventional retail shopping experience.

2. In-App Messaging will help Brands connect with Consumers in a more personalised manner

A majority of online retailers have already turned or are turning to mobile apps to reach out to customers but, the fact is, user engagement across apps is still a major challenge even for companies that have adopted a mobile strategy earlier. In-app messaging is one of the eCommerce trends to follow for multi-vendor marketplace websites and apps.

Result: A closer understanding of customer behavior helps in knowing what’s important to them to leverage on successful opportunities.

3. Beacons to connect the dots in Omni-Channel experience

Suppose you have both a marketplace website and a retail store. Customers who jump across multiple mediums are likely to use online medium for placing orders and pick up products from the retail store. Such customers can be targeted with additional offers during their retail store visit as a part of extending their omnichannel experience.

Result: Seamless brand experience, personalization and opportunities to upsell and cross sell.

Now, let’s move on to the practices and adoptions which heavy duty eCommerce websites like multi-vendor marketplaces and exclusive eCommerce stores will have to implement by 2020.

4. The rise in number of Customer Touchpoints

With the emergence of multiple devices like wearables, Smart TVs, connected appliances, and much more, the touch points through which customers can reach an eCommerce brand have increased.

Result: An increased level of shopping convenience and brands can study which channel is effective in driving sales.

5. The sharing and renting trend in Travel will infiltrate other domains

One of the top eCommerce trends will be the sharing and renting idea that has been globalized by some players like AirBnB into other domains, mainly hardware. This will have a negative impact on the hardware manufacturing and selling business but the fact is, businesses will have to face this stiffness soon.

Result: Shoppers can save money by renting or swapping instead of owning.

6. Online Stores will get physical with showcases for winning Customers’ trust

Shoppers have more than enough options from exclusive web stores and marketplace websites but you must first earn their trust to garner healthy conversion rates. The question is how?

Physical stores created by online brands for the sole purpose of providing a glimpse of the product face-to-face will be one of the top 10 eCommerce trends by 2020.

Result: Win customers with your showcase stores and turn them into brand evangelists forever.

7. Pop-Up stores to help Manufacturers better

Popup stores are set to catapult sales and brand reach of manufacturers. As popup stores demand less storage space without a need for maintaining and managing it for long-term, manufacturers and private-label retailers can improve their sales through this practice.

Result: Added advantage for manufacturers in the retail eCommerce market in the coming years

8. ‘Click and Collect’ will help in facing order fulfillment challenges

Order fulfillment challenges of online retailers, especially hefty multi-vendor marketplace websites will be taken care by a ‘Click and collect’ model. With a few players like Amazon leading by example, it will become a one of the highly adopted eCommerce trends by 2020 with more brands perfecting the art. However, same-day delivery will also become a must-have factor for brands.

Result: Less investment of logistics and deliveries with increased order fulfillment.

9. UX improvements will help in better conversions

User experience will be a deciding factor for brands to cash in on a customer’s mood to buy. Web and mobile apps with great user experience will play a significant role in reducing cart abandonments and app uninstalls. Mobile apps that lead to products and carts with swipes, drags and taps actions will be the breadwinners.

Result: The smoother and more connected the screen transitions are, the better conversions will be.

10. The Social world will probe commerce

Social media platforms where users are available in abundance, will come up with their own marketplaces to leverage their rich user bases. Additionally, their insights over user behavior and preferences will help social marketplaces provide more personalized suggestions.

Result: Online retail brands have a highly equipped channel to help them reach their potential customers.

Originally published in SiteProNews
http://www.sitepronews.com/2017/01/12/technologies-that-will-revolutionize-online-retail/