For the traditionally brick-and-mortar industry of retail, one of the greatest ongoing challenges is finding new ways to create that in-person storefront experience in an increasingly remote, virtual world. Far more than just having a functional eCommerce site, digital spending in retail means reaching the customer with all the same humanity and personality as an in-person visit with digital means. We’ve already seen a dramatic jump in digital ad spending in the retail space to accompany this ever-present pressure: digital ad spending increased by 25.7 percent in 2021 alone, the biggest jump in the past five years.
But there’s far more than just advertising retailers need to set aside budget for. When it comes to going digital in retail, the possibilities are seemingly endless. But there are proven areas to focus on for the greatest results in terms of revenue stability and customer loyalty.
In this article, we’ll look at four areas retailers can and should dedicate more of their allotted digital transformation spend: TX, ecosystem partnerships, digitized products, and social responsibility.
TX for customer engagement
Total experience, or TX, means connecting customer experience with employee experience and user experience. In other words, a completely seamless experience for everyone engaging with the retail brand to connect, engage, and learn more about the products. This doesn’t just mean virtual or online components need attention (although they certainly do and are now considered standard core options by the average buyer). In fact, as the pandemic has waned and shoppers become more comfortable in-person again, a rise in “revenge shopping” is encouraging many brands to heighten the physical elements of their in-store experiences with digital enhancements.
Digitally elevating the in-store shopping experience may include more comprehensive demos of electronics, testing out beauty products with guided AI consultants, or establishing kiosks to create personalized maps of the specific products buyers are interested in and where they are located within the store. Another strategy is card-linked rewards that give shoppers additional benefits for any in-store purchase made. To do any of this well, however, retailers must effectively channel the wealth of customer intent data they’ll be collecting for additional research and retention strategies. This will require top-of-the-line CRM with seamless analytics integration such as that found in the Salesforce + Tableau offering.
Another key area for retailers to focus digital spending is on establishing or optimizing already existing ecosystem partnerships. These are innovative partnerships within or beyond the retail space that bring your products to a wider audience by playing off the loyalty of both brands at once. Even before the pandemic, we’ve seen a steady rise in these relationships for retail brands, and the trend is only going to continue in an even bigger way as in-person shopping makes a comeback.
Prime examples of strong retail partnerships include Walmart and Buzzfeed, Pinterest and Home Depot, Target and LEGO, and Adidas and Peloton. Whether it’s launching new co-branded products together, cross-marketing each others’ respective products, or launching co-sponsored events together, these partnerships reap big rewards as they delight customers with their favorite brands coming together to create a customer-centric experience. A strong community portal solution on the cloud is an essential digital tool to pull off and manage these partnerships.
Personalized and digitized products
Personalization in retail has already been an ongoing trend, but now there are more and more ways to digitally enable the customization experience for shoppers. Whether it’s in-store design kiosks that visualize the product with customer specifications to a tee or at-home AR experiences for eCommerce shoppers to more fully imagine the placement and functionality of a personalized product in their home, personalization is always evolving to mean much more than just a wider library of names to stick on products.
Additionally and complementarily, shoppers are becoming more interested in not just all that is custom and personal in retail but also digitized products. For example, in retail fashion, this is already beginning to take off with digital IDs tied to products to follow each item from manufacturing origin to customer use. These allow customers to interact with the product digitally, confirm specifications, or track where it’s been or who has owned it previously. Perhaps more importantly, the digital ID allows retail brands to gather even more data on the use of their products and understand the complete lifecycle of the product’s use.
Sustainability and social responsibility
Shoppers today are increasingly looking for even more from their favorite retailers—not just a product, not just a brand experience. They’re looking for social alignment. They want to feel the brands they financially support are concerned about and working to aid the same causes they are in their personal lives. This has been most prominently observed in sustainability causes—six out of ten shoppers are willing to change their retail habits to lower environmental impact. And that’s why more and more shoppers are insisting on only buying products from brands that display an evident priority to contributing to green-minded initiatives. This often means redesigning or reconsidering entire supply chains to make a true climate impact within their companies.
More largely, other retailers are prioritizing social responsibility as a corporation for many causes and broadcasting their efforts to target customers in order to build more loyalty and gain new shoppers from social justice-minded groups. Getting this message across, whether focused on sustainability or other social causes, requires coordinated omnichannel marketing efforts. Pardot and Marketing Cloud are essential Salesforce tools to keep your marketing initiatives consistent, thoughtful, and engaging, as well as to cleanly collect associated customer marketing data and generate leads wherever possible.
Going digital in retail is never a one-and-done project. Maintaining cutting-edge digital services and curating a total experience for the customer with all of the above elements involved requires pristine data management and top-of-the-line CRM tools at the ready to grow and adapt with you. Simplus can help create that infrastructure with industry needs in mind. Reach out today.