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Retailers need intelligence, insight and technology to achieve success

By David Ballard | Creative director

Lick Creative

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The Drum Network article

This content is produced by The Drum Network, a paid-for membership club for CEOs and their agencies who want to share their expertise and grow their business.

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March 27, 2018 | 6 min read

Helping brands or services stand out in the retail environment can be tough. There is limited space, limited budget and competitor brands and retailers are vying for the same slice of the action or target demographic.

So what can we as marketers do on the ground for retailers? The answer, of course, is no one single thing but rather a combination of thought processes, strategies and activations. First and foremost, it's important to think like a planner and take the shopper’s viewpoint in any activity. Give them what they want!

A graphic of a family supermarket shopping.

Insight into customers is a crucial factor for bricks-and-mortar retailers.

So without further ado, here are three ways to help you stand out and succeed in the retail environment:

Intelligence is your secret weapon

That’s right, good intel is key. One of my old college tutors used to say that you cannot pull a rabbit out of the hat unless there is one in there to begin with. Similarly, you cannot expect to come up with a blinding idea or solution unless you have proper knowledge of the store environment and customers you are dealing with. This often involves having to become an expert as you research a sector you may or may not have had much experience of.

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Of course some insight is readily available, but don’t shy away from doing your own and don’t simply expect somebody else to do it for you. Go to stores, take pictures, talk to customers and staff, look at the competition, and see for yourself what works, what doesn’t and what is best in class. The effort you put in will be more than equaled by the findings that come out of it.

Insight is a lame duck if you don’t have a good strategy

Insight is often regarded by some as a golden arrow that will magically fix things all by itself. Don’t get me wrong, great insight is crucial, however understanding its full implications are even more crucial.

This brings me on to the single most important factor in anything you do and that is ‘strategy’. This is what you should spend most of your time on, as much more valuable than the insight itself is what the heck you do with it and what customer-led approaches and activations it inspires.

A good strategy will include multiple touch points and provide real benefits to consumers along the path to purchase.

Not all activities need to achieve the same outcome, or even necessarily achieve a sale. They do, however, need to connect the shopper to the insight in a way that stands out and engages. Be prepared to be the first, create the element of surprise and do new things.

Stay ahead with technology

There's no denying that customers want and even expect digital and technological enhancements to their in-store shopping experience. Shoppers face a problem however, as research conducted by Vista found that 70% are familiar with innovations such as AI applications. Yet two thirds say they have yet to encounter the technology in a store. Retail is clearly missing out because all the evidence suggests such technologies boost sales.

Even worse is that the IBM 2017 Customer Experience Survey found the sophistication of the digitally integrated in-store experience is rated “adequate” or worse for the vast majority (91%) of brands

The problem is not lack of interest. Many brands and retailers are keen to be up on the ‘store of the future’ wanting to find the latest gadget that will bring cash flowing through the tills, but many are slow to implement anything due to cost and perhaps vague return on investment.

There is no doubt that investing in these technologies can be costly, but retailers and brands should think about how they can deploy them effectively and get on with the actual implementation in stores. Consumer expectations are only getting higher and we to need be just as excited about technological improvements and be much bolder in deploying applications of these technologies.

Shoppers are enjoying the technologies they use at home or on their smart-phones as it makes shopping easier, and smoother. The high street retailers though, are in danger of being too slow to implement new technologies and could find their customers going elsewhere.

The real beauty of many technologies is that they are of course multi-purpose and can be adapted to show different content as required so the investment is long term. A screen or projector selling beer one day can sell beauty products the next. Not only that but they can be part of a ‘soft sell’ approach to today’s better-informed customers. The end goal may still be a sale – but not necessarily on the day or from the same physical space.

In the concluding part of this blog, we'll look at the use of in-store events and the value conducting primary research in achieving retail success.

David Ballard is creative director of Lick Creative

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Content by The Drum Network member:

Lick Creative is a multiple award-winning shopper marketing agency. We provide the full spectrum of in store marketing solutions designed to help retailers and brands engage shoppers, improve customer experience and ultimately catalyse sales. With our unparalleled experience, insights and analysis we help clients to connect with shoppers at every touch point in their shopper journey.

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