Marketers are missing out on revenue as cash falls through the cracks between different digital channels. From email to social media to mobile, digital integration has never been so important for creating engagement, building long-lasting and profitable relationships with customers.
Engagement begins when brands and retailers make it easy for consumers. The aim is to make any transaction simple, straightforward and pleasurable for the consumer and maximise rewards for the brand.
We live in a mobile age, where the old model of men and women working nine-to-five, with consumption largely confined to weekends and leisure time has gone in the way of brown leather footballs and carrier-pigeons: consigned to history.
So why, when mobile technology offers every brand and every retailer the chance to ensure they’re always open for business do only 40% of the top 100 brands, such as Tesco, B&Q and Boots, have websites fully optimised for use by mobile devices? That’s according to recent research by the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB).
The same research shows that advertisers with a mobile-optimised website enjoy increased engagement: visitors stay for an average of five minutes, two minutes longer than for non-optimised sites; visitors also view an average of 19 pages each – up 33% on sites that are not ‘mobile friendly’.
Of course, a truly healthy relationship works both ways: brands need to know more about their consumers, so they can build the relationship further, bonding in a personal and deeper way; while consumers need to feel they can trust brands and retailers to deliver their offer.
The IAB study also shows that 30% of consumers say they wouldn’t buy an item, or would purchase it from another website, if their first choice of retailer didn’t work on a mobile device. How many businesses would close their doors to one customer in three? Yet that’s what they seem willing to do.
The major supermarkets have all learned this lesson: Sainsbury, Tesco and Asda offer optimised sites and apps to engage consumers, while click and collect makes access easier.
Retailers now partner with banks and mobile service providers to offer quicker and easier payment methods, such as QuickTap, paytags, swipe and pay and Wallet.
Tesco blend both online offers and in-store promotions to ensure their consumers are fully engaged. Their site is fully optimised, and they promote themselves across channels and platforms: customers using loyalty cards have voucher offers tailored to reflect their purchase history as standard, while consumers who access the site via Tesco’s own data plan are rewarded with treble points.
Elsewhere, gift-giving via social media sites is rapidly growing in popularity, offering brands fresh opportunities to create impact and generate extra sales. Its supporters claim it may eventually supplant traditional physical vouchers – the kind currently found in the High Street for anything from music downloads to spa weekends, magazine subscriptions to balloon flights.
In Social Gifting, the consumer sends a gift card or voucher via Facebook or a mobile app from any of the sites currently springing up in the way that Groupon and other discount voucher operations did a few years ago. All the recipient has to do is to log to the app or Facebook and claim the voucher waiting for them.
It has the advantage of simplicity, and piggy-backs on the ever-spiralling reach of social media. Will it succeed? As ever in marketing, Social Gifting will stand or fall by the quality of experience it offers consumers. Content will be key here. The sites must ensure they partner with brands of the right quality and status.
Meanwhile, according to research by the Ebeltoft Group, Debenhams is the best UK retailer at connecting sales channels. The study analysed features such as whether brands use click and collect, sell via smartphone or have in-store kiosks where consumers can buy additional items.
Overall though, department stores fared badly in this research: an indicator that old-style thinking still hampers too many familiar High Street names?
Communicating and selling to consumers in a variety of ways but is good – but retailers must move on. They need to take the leap from multi-channel to cross-channel marketing. It’s about fully integrating channels so that the experience for the customer is seamless.
So the consumer can buy in one store, return items in another, or engage online – or via mobile: wherever they are, they can buy and the process online mirrors that in the physical bricks-and-mortar store, and vice-versa. Surprisingly perhaps fashion shops also score low in this survey, although both M&S and Oasis are taking cross-channel marketing seriously.
Oasis has equipped its sales staff with iPads and is enabling super-fast delivery in key cities. Customers can now request different sizes, colours or styles and even by-pass queues at the checkout by paying via mobile from the relative comfort of the changing room.
M&S has tasked key members of it board with supervising its own implementation of cross-channel retail.
Smart brands recognise the value of smart technology.
Still smarter brands use the information they gather from interactions with consumers to build and deepen their relationships with them – increasing brand awareness and loyalty.
The smartest brands of all ensure such a fulfilment that consumers become ambassadors for them: proving that in this multi-channel era, the 21st century version of word-of-mouth endorsement can also play a key role.
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