The pandemic continues, but we are starting to see signs of what retail will look like in a post-quarantine world. Simultaneously, brands are navigating the shift to ecommerce. Evolving digital retail trends, paired with government aid and store reopenings, is starting to build momentum for brands.
In fact, retail spending increased 17.7% in May. Since government aid was announced on April 13, ecommerce spending has more than doubled and is up 47% year-over-year.
How do retailers keep the ecommerce momentum going as physical stores continue to reopen? Furloughs, budget cuts and supply chain challenges are straining marketing teams at a time when engagement is crucial.
At the same time, the marketing mix is fundamentally changing as retailers have used this disruption to measure the impact of significantly reducing top-of-funnel brand marketing and shifting to digital tools to drive revenue. They are leaning into digital to maintain customer engagement and drive growth by enhancing proven strategies like SMS and email. This omnichannel approach uses targeted messages, tailoring relevant content to timely consumer trends.
Countless new customers have been introduced to ecommerce in the past few months, an acceleration that is likely to continue into the post-quarantine phase. As marketers focus on the digital landscape, increased competition necessitates keeping core customers engaged with your brand. Therefore, it’s crucial to make sure the various digital channels, including email, SMS, and social work together to ensure a unified voice across all consumer conversations. It’s critical to engage with your loyal customers wherever and whenever they want.
An example of this can be seen with Alastin Skincare. The brand recently held an Instagram Live product tutorial to connect with consumers. Given its conversational nature, social is an ideal platform for this kind of interactivity. To amplify their reach, Alastin used SMS to direct brands to their social page once the broadcast was live. Leveraging the strengths of SMS, high engagement with short, action-oriented messages, the brand drew more consumers to the tutorial. Moments like these build customer relationships and are maximized through a cross-channel approach.
Understanding the strengths of each channel is increasing in importance, allowing marketers to send the appropriate content. For example, implementing a keyword and short code makes it easier to help customers opt into SMS marketing. This extends to physical shopping, as retailers can promote SMS on in-store signage and train associates to encourage it. Stores can have signs for customers to text “Welcome Back” to a five-digit number to receive an exclusive promotion. A quick text elevates their store visit and opts them in for future updates.
Building trust is a key priority for retailers. As consumers learn to shop in a post-quarantine world, these digital channels can be used to guide shoppers, step by step. One way to do so is by using geo-targeting to communicate with local customers. To start, let people know when nearby locations reopen or share updated store hours. Then move to the shopping experience.
Brands should share information on limited-contact offerings like curbside pickup, mask policies, store capacity numbers or new methods for testing products. Helpful messages will make customers feel safe, supported and ready to engage with stores in a way with which they are comfortable.
We know that consumers expect highly personalized shopping experiences. Giving them more options to list their preferences or opt into customized product recommendations includes their voice while also ensuring that a brand’s marketing list stays relevant.
Detailed customer preferences are incredibly impactful when marketers use automation tools to retarget customers. Something as simple as sending quarterly surveys, over email or SMS, will help personalize your marketing outreach. By understanding shopper behaviors and preferences, retailers can tailor specific emails and SMS with product recommendations and inventory alerts.
Sending the Right Message
An obvious point that still needs reinforcing: Brands must be keyed into new consumer trends when planning marketing content, making sure they feel messages are personalized. Summer used to mean vacation that are now suddenly staycations, meaning spending in new ways. For example, the Listrak ecommerce index for housewares and hardware sales increased 109% year-over-year since the stimulus packages were announced. Homebound consumers are investing in their live/work spaces with items like outdoor furniture, new bedding, landscaping materials and office equipment.
Context also matters. For an apparel company, this looks like promoting comfortable clothing and athleisure. For home goods and hardware, messaging should zero in on redecorating or sprucing up the backyard or kitchen, with so many cooking at home. Brands that do not adapt their messaging to consumer behavior will see lower engagement rates. Beyond that, they may lose customers altogether if they come across as out of touch or tone deaf in their marketing.
Even imagery matters. Showing lifestyle images with large crowds or packed restaurants that may have been ideal just a few short months ago now make some people question if you’re paying attention.
As the world begins to emerge from the shutdown, many retailers are poised to weather the storm. But as we do, the new world of both shopping and consumer engagement will look very different. During the pandemic, ecommerce has been incredibly important for retailers, and will remain so as they continue to adapt to evolving consumer preferences. With marketing teams stretched thin, it’s crucial that they use the available tools to share thoughtful, targeted and relevant information.
Ross Kramer is the co-founder and CEO of Listrak