5 Top Wishlist Items for Retail Marketers

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What industry experts hope to receive this year (or should) to make their jobs and customer experiences better

Photo credit: max-kegfire from Thinkstock by Getty Images

Like their consumers, marketers are bombarded with products they “have to have” to make their lives easier or better. We wanted to know what marketers are truly hoping for this year, so we asked around. Here are five things that are (or should be) on retail marketers’ wishlists.

1. A bigger budget

Like many marketers, Peter Maldonado, co-founder and CEO of Chomps Snack Sticks, would like an unlimited budget. The head of the grass-fed jerky brand says he would use his endless flow of dollars to drive customers to the company’s retail displays and grow its social media marketing.

“We use social media to promote new store launches and in-store promotions to drive our followers to the store,” he says. “The spikes in sell-through, as evidenced by weekly scan data, show us that our efforts are effective. If we had unlimited resources to continue to grow that following and increase ad spend, we would do a lot more of it!”

While he likely won’t receive a blank check anytime soon, Maldonado, and other marketers, might see an increase in social media budgets. According to the 2016 Data and Marketing Association’s Statistic Fact Book, social media is expected to account for 24% of marketing budgets within five years—a significant increase from 10% today.

2. Mobile payment options and in-store associate devices

Marketers today are experiencing a shift—one Rob Gaf, VP of industry strategy and insights for CRM giant Salesforce Commerce Cloud, describes as a move from pull to push: Instead of pulling consumers to their physical and digital retail properties with mass messaging, he says, marketers are now pushing their brand to wherever their consumers are.

“We call this the democratization of retail,” he notes.

Because mobile ties these physical and digital worlds together, it’s important for marketers to create frictionless experiences, Gaf says. Unfortunately, consumers still face a lot of mobile tension, especially at checkout. Consider: In its “Mobile Shopping Focus Report,” Salesforce stated that mobile devices have a 52% checkout completion rate; however, this rate is about 11% lower than the overall rate across devices and it actually fell 1.5% year over year when comparing 2016 to 2015.

It’s this friction that leads Gaf to encourage marketers to invest in mobile payment options. Removing distractions, offering guest checkout, and leveraging digital payment technologies like Apple Pay or PayPal One Touch are just some of the aforementioned report’s recommendations for streamlining the mobile checkout process.

Even with these recommendations, marketers will still face their fair share of mobile payment struggles. According to the “2016 Mobile Payments State of the Industry” report by Mobile Payments Today and Networld Media Group, 42% of global professionals surveyed say the speed of consumer adoption of mobile payments has been slower than expected and 45% say the same for the deployment of mobile payment applications.

Gaf also suggests investing in devices for in-store associates. Ninety percent of all retail sales are captured in-store, according to data put out by consulting firm A.T. Kearney in 2014. So, there’s a big opportunity, Gaf says, to arm store associates with mobile devices and deliver more “high-touch” customer experiences, such as by alerting store associates when certain shoppers arrive and being able to pull up preference and product information.

“It’s not about thinking about mobile as an afterthought,” he says. “It’s about thinking about mobile first and understanding that’s how consumers are interacting with your brand.”

3. More retention marketing resources

“Finding new consumers is hard,” says Ken Krasnow, VP of digital and consumer activation for The Sun Products Corporation, a Henkel company “but losing them is easy.”

It’s this philosophy that leads the executive to wish for more retention marketing strategy resources—something he says the company (home to brands like Snuggle and all) is investing in already.

Brands like Amazon and Netflix have trained consumers to expect better, more personalized experiences, Krasnow says, and failing to provide them can result in lost business. “Today, if a brand doesn’t engage customers in the right way, at the right moment, in the right context, they’ll be replaced by a brand that does,” he says.

Krasnow says marketers need to leverage their data to produce messages and experiences that adjust based on consumers’ preferences, behaviors, and needs in key moments—a feat, he adds, that requires having a customer-centric focus, infrastructure, and process. By anticipating consumers’ needs and problems, he says, marketers can create memorable end-to-end experiences that drive loyalty. And while this certainly isn’t easy, Krasnow suggests that the efforts are worth it.

“If we succeed, the returns are big because highly engaged consumers spend much more with brands each year,” he says.

4. Intelligence

Similar to Krasnow’s response, Gaf says retail marketers should invest in intelligence. Intelligence, based on Gaf’s definition, is using when, where, and how the consumer wants to shop to deliver a personalized experience. 

He cites a consumer’s trip to the Bahamas as an example of how intelligence can be applied. The consumer might be doing online research to find the right hotel or flight schedule. If a retailer is using a data management platform, he says, that retailer might be able to build a profile on that consumer and make recommendations for related products, like shorts or sunscreen. Then, if the consumer visits the retailer’s brick-and-mortar location, a store associate can access that intelligence via an in-store mobile device and provide tailored services.

“The real game-changer, if you will, is operationalizing that intelligence based on a rich set of profile preference and shopping history that retailers are collecting in various systems,” he says, “and being able to serve that up to the consumer and in-store associate.”

5. Voice-activated capabilities

In addition to his mobile and intelligence recommendations, Gaf advises marketers to invest in voice-activated capabilities. “I see voice as the next shopping interface,” he says, suggesting that swiping and typing will be eventually be supplanted by voice.

While retail marketers are still figuring out how to best leverage voice, including tapping into voice-activated virtual personal assistants (VPAs), Gaf recommends thinking about the implementation of voice search capabilities. So instead of typing out “pocketbook,” he explains, a consumer could just say “pocketbook”. He also advises retail marketers to ensure that their product inventory and pricing are in sync with their voice capabilities so that consumers don’t command their VPA to order an item only to find out that it’s out of stock.

Updated March 3, 2017: The final subhead was updated from voice-activated virtual personal assistants to voice-activated capabilities. 

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