Digital Retail Revolution

In our acceptance of online retail, we have assumed that the majority of retail sales have exceeded our traditional in-store buying behaviour. Senior Analyst and Writer Bill Fisher, from EMARKETER, informed us otherwise in the opening of his panel debate on Stage 3. He highlighted that only 10% of retail sales are made online – a confusing thought in light of our current digital revolution. A topic hot on the tongue on Monday afternoon.

In making sense of this, the discussion was thrown to industry leaders Kate Newton (UK Retail Search Insights Manager for Bing), Nic Jones (CEO of Pureprofile and director of Advertising Week APAC) and Andrew French (GM and Smartly).

Starting off importantly with identification as to who the customer is.

Understanding who the customer is seems a fundamental point for any campaign. To know who to market to, and most crucially, who to target. Andrew pointed out that that customer needs to be the focus. “Campaigns need to be tailored to the individuals” that consume them and are interested by them. He made a note of highlighting a shift from marketing campaigns promoting what they think consumers want to see, to what they actually are interested in; a point making the customer central to all campaign decisions.

Why is targeting so complex?

Moving on, discussion of advertising as an ever-advancing industry, was dubbed the sector that never sleeps. New technologies such as Voice Searches offers new insights for how consumers shop online and participate in a retail journey.

“For example, whether a person searches ‘frock’ or ‘dress’ gives us clues into the demographic of the customer” Kate remarks.

Opportunities for a greater insight into consumer trends, particular brand terms and popular search and purchasing patterns are increasingly opening the door to consumer thought processes and behaviors.

It is becoming so significant and useful for brand names, Kate remarks, that soon “people will be need to be employed to code, understand and interpret” such analytical data.

 Search is therefore evolving.  It’s breaking its conventional borders into new technologies. And as a result, becoming increasing valuable for online retailers.

Andrew pointed out that brand terms are changing. Specific key terms and popular phrases are blooming amongst consumers but need to be picked up and incorporated by brands themselves in order to capitalize on trends and consumer transitioning.

In relation, Andrew noted that from a retail point of view, a discovery medium is needed.  “We can no longer just look at the last click” and identify where that has come from and analyze its specifics. “An awareness of journey needs to be formulated within marketing campaigns” he adds.

The funnel, he says, needs to be structured more holistically, to include the real-life discovery of an item, whether it be online or through a social platform.

It’s the “evolution of digital” after all.

Getting your hands on the data

With the digital world playing ‘catch-up’ with customer search trends and modes of discovery, retail needs to stay informed and understand the consumer decision journey. Discussion then moved on to consumer behavioral patterns and big data.

Whether it be their decision to add something to their basket or search their brand in the first place… What was their motive? How did they get here? How can this be measured?

Conclusion: Data storm.

“Keeping a grasp over what consumers tell you can be hard” Nic added. There needs to be an exchange of value: what will consumers want in return for their information and data? Examples here were given in relation to airlines surveys and hotel feedback forms and any rewards exchanged in return for data.

Nic headed such a response with: “It is about determining what people are willing to give”. He made it key that if the consumer understood the value of their data, they would “see a worthwhile shift in changes to the paradigm”. There is authorization, at this point to then turn the data journey in to a positive one.

He then relayed comment about a prominent “fear” of online purchasing, as people are frightened of data exchange. Especially those of an older generation. But relevant to retail: people need to be more comfortable with user data sharing to improve their customer experience. He noted the example of Facebook.

“There needs to be a greater understanding of privacy”, Nic added. If consumers can see settings and see where their data is being used. Users need to be aware they can delete and edit their privacy settings. Understanding this can naturally make people more comfortable.

Falling behind

Discussion then moved on to technology in the UK and our lag in technologically enforced transactions. Shopping online in the UK “we still pay with plastic or digital payment system that relies on plastic not digital wallets” Nic points out. “It is still something people are coming to terms with”.

Andrew remarked further, “China and India have both jumped a generation. We had browsers and internet. To China and India, the internet means mobiles and not computers”.

Discussion closed on the idea that retailers are trying to catch up on digital payment systems such as AliPay and although Andrew notes that it is “not a problem for retailers to solve” it is a gradual evolution to come.

Olivia Seed

Writer at Advertising Week
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