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3 ways marketers can deliver unique brand experiences to meet customer expectations
August 12, 2022
Since the pandemic began in 2020, we have been discussing the evolution of retail and how to adapt to challenges. While many of us hoped that we had overcome that period of uncertainty, in 2022 we now face new issues and customer priorities that continue to push marketers to innovate in order to stay up-to-date.
In this article we examine three key features of the current retail environment and how marketers can adopt a forward-thinking approach to deliver unique brand experiences that live up to heightened consumer expectations.
Shoppers want it all, and they want it now
Today’s on-demand consumption necessitates brand presence wherever and whenever consumers are ready to engage. Faced with more choice than ever before, ongoing supply chain crises and rapid inflation have challenged product availability and costs of production. In March 2022, Adobe Analytics reported over 60 billion out-of-stock messages appearing on product listings between March 2020-February 2022. Yet despite known challenges, consumer patience does not extend far towards brands who fail to deliver. They are increasingly willing to go to any lengths with any brand to get the products and services that they want – irrespective of brand loyalty. Flailing brand affinity further tests consumer trust. PwC reports that 32% of consumers would walk away from a brand they love after just one bad experience. With APAC shoppers browsing an average of 7.9 different websites/platforms before making a purchase (up 52% from 2021), brands must work harder than ever to deliver a seamless stand out experience across touchpoints. Where product curation, brand reputation and brand affinity were once the key pillars of purchase consideration, brands must now pivot towards product availability, shopper convenience, seamless payments and speed if they wish to drive conversions, boost order value and build loyalty.
Waking up to web3
The world is turning away from web2, a space governed by social media and corporations such as Meta. Taking its place is web3, a decentralized internet that gives control to communities and users. We’ve all heard plenty about the metaverse already, but web3’s full potential stretches far beyond that. Brand marketers must hurry to upskill around the new technologies that will define the next era of online engagement, from blockchain basics to NFT novelties, and identify the relevant opportunities for their own brand or else risk committing a faux pas or worst still, obsolescence.
Brands can use this time while web3 is still gaining traction, to define and action their future retail strategy. From reimagining retail storefronts in the metaverse, to creating new revenue streams with direct-to-avatar products, taking a “wait and see” approach will detract from any brand impact and audience attention. Forward-thinking brands such as Nike and adidas are already engaging with the web3 community. Adidas teams up with the NFT community of Bored Ape Yacht Club, and Nike filed patents for ‘cryptokicks’ digital sneakers.
After questioning the effectiveness of loyalty programs in recent years, marketers are quickly recognising that web3 also provides a fresh opportunity to create truly gamified, exclusive and rewarding customer loyalty programs. A 2022 study reported just 6% of UK and US consumers feel loyal to e-commerce brands, and a KMPG survey showed that points-based schemes are less likely to earn loyalty than transparency and honesty in every country. Future-thinking brands are already finding places to combine loyalty programs with web3 tech, from crypto rewards that bridge traditional loyalty rewards and the cryptocurrency market, to token-gated commerce that provides exclusive access to content for NFT/crypto-holders.
While the brand-appropriate web3 engagement drivers are still being tested, one thing is sure - brands must be prepared to adapt in order to organically merge their company purpose and values with the channels and platforms of the coming decade. Web3 content should seamlessly integrate with the rest of the digital-physical retail path to purchase, not stand in isolation as a one-off marketing trends.
Revitalizing the in-store experience
Brands were quick to drive in-store experiences when the pandemic appeared to start abating. However, inflation was quick to change shopper behaviour once again, forcing us to re-evaluate the purpose of physical stores. While shoppers are happier to visit stores in-person, they have renewed expectations for what physical experiences should entail.
Brands are once again tapping into retail innovation and conducting direct research on how, when and why their customers engage with their stores. As cost-consciousness becomes a key purchase consideration, brands can rethink they way that they operate their stores and create better-suited retail experiences to meet demand. With increased price sensitivity, browsing digital channels for the lowest prices is also increasing, forcing brands to further differentiate their stores to drive footfall and brand loyalty.
Concept stores can offer a unique and compelling physical brand experience. For example, Nike’s Rise store in Seoul combines physical and digital with ‘Inside Track’ technology, an interactive RFID-enabled table where customers can compare footwear digitally to evaluate product benefits, footwear technology and online reviews by simply placing their chosen shoe on the table.
Similarly, JD.com launched its physical store Wellio in Indonesia to bring to life JD.com’s online convenience. Allowing customers to try products in-person, they can then scan them online and choose in-store pick-up or home delivery. The space is further enhanced by a gaming area that is designed to further engage customers. Many brands will find that like JD.com, their brand’s sweet spot is in combining physical and digital channels.
Marketers should adopt a test-and-learn approach to stay at the forefront of retail innovation, trialling new technologies to find where their brand fits best. Digital-savvy shoppers still crave exceptional in-person experiences to engage and excite. Brands that take a digital-only approach fail to recognise the value that the traditional retail environment still holds. Commerce is increasingly becoming a means of entertainment – or entertainmerce. 29% of shoppers indicate that entertaining shopping experiences prompt them to make purchases, with this percentage increasing amongst high-income earners (32%) and millennials (33%). We must re-evaluate the purpose of different channels and the ways in which we unify the experience for today’s multi-channel, multi-purpose shopper.
Brand experiences are once again being challenged by economic factors, but rather than shying away from customer expectations, marketers have the opportunity to experiment with the technologies of the future to transform the customer experience.
There is no one-size-fits-all for how brands should use emerging tech and platforms. Rather, we must ensure that we truly understand what our audiences want and need so that we can meet them where they are while staying true to our brand identity and purpose. In doing so, we will define experiences that will last far beyond the challenges of today.