5 Things Retailers Need to Crush the Competition in 2017


With 2016 firmly behind us, no one can deny that digital has forever shifted the way consumers shop.

But even though the majority of companies recognize the role digital plays in consumers’ shopping journeys, many still aren’t providing the kind of digital experiences that consumers want and expect. As Deloitte pointed out in their 4th annual report:

“[E]ven as digital influence has risen, retailers’ ability to influence the purchase journey has decreased. Why? Because the large e-commerce players, as well as digital platforms such as Pinterest, are operating at such scale now that they are shaping customers’ definitions of what a great customer experience is.” [1]

In simple terms, that means customers expectations are growing. And if you can exceed them, you’ll the one to capture their loyalty.

Here are 5 ways to do just that with your digital marketing in 2017.

1) Partnerships with Brands

As the line between digital and in-store experiences disappears for customers, retailers and manufacturers need to come together to create a seamless experience for consumers.  

There are budding opportunities for you to partner with brands for digital marketing campaigns, in order to nurture the consumer from inspiration through to purchase. Campaigns that highlight products to your audience will benefit both you and the brand partner — driving increased sales and loyalty.

2) A Killer Customer Experience

As companies become increasingly price competitive, customer experience will become the new differentiator between brands.

But it’s not enough to be “middle of the pack.”  Customer expectations are growing at a lightning pace — and those expectations are based on their best experiences, not average ones.[2]

While 52% of companies believe they’re ahead of their competitors, only 7% are exceeding customer expectations.[3]

That’s bad news for brands and retailers, as Forrester found “[t]here is a clear link between customer experience improvements and loyalty-driven revenue potential, based on increases in retention, enrichment, and advocacy.”

Having an excellent customer experience is no longer a nice add-on. It’s the only option if you want to capture and sustain market share.

3) Game-Based Marketing Campaigns

While the buzz around game based marketing may have faded, it’s potential still hasn’t been fully realized.

There are still many aspects of the customer journey — such as loyalty programs or product exploration — that can be made more enjoyable and convenient by gamifying the experience.

But game tactics need to be tied to both existing modes of interaction with your company (for example, browsing your website) and clearly outlined business goals.

When consumers take action within the game, the result of that action should help achieve specific business goals.

Gamification can’t just be tacked onto your customer experience. Instead, it needs to be used as a tactic within an overall strategy to make your customer journey simple, convenient, and enjoyable.

4) Helpful Personalization

Too many companies approach personalization as a way to increase sales, instead of a way to offer value to their consumers. As a result many personalization attempts are essentially annoying ads that follow you around the internet and scream “I’m tracking you.”

You need to use personalization as a way to offer value to consumers — not a way to improve the efficacy of your marketing campaigns.

For example, despite shoppers’ desire to be at the helm of their shopping journeys, they are often overwhelmed with the amount of information available to them. You could make shopping easier for consumers by narrowing their options with product recommendations.

However, recommendations have to be based on an understanding of the consumer’s wants and needs. They have to provide value to the consumer first and foremost.

It can be tempting to turn product recommendations into pushy retargeting campaigns. But it’s important to remember that selling more products is the result of effective personalization, not the main goal.  

It’s “hey we thought you might like this” not “buy this now.”

5) A Big Data Strategy

Due to its sheer size, Big Data tends to be clumsy. Companies tend to collect large amounts of data blindly, and don’t know how to cleanse, transform, store, or consume it effectively. [4]

The problem is having a lot of data is useless unless it’s properly used. And there’s no point in gathering data you’re not going to use.

Instead of gathering as much data as you can, focus on updating and collecting the data you actually need.

Game-based promotions, like contests and sweepstakes, are actually effective ways to update individual data and fill gaps in your profiles. Because customers have to register to enter, you can collect individual level data for each customer instead of relying on segments.  

You can also build promotions to gather information you are missing. Simple preference quizzes are data mines for personalized marketing. You can find out a customer’s preferences, interests, hobbies — pretty much anything you need to personalize their experience. Just ensure the information you are collecting makes sense within the context of the game and that the game provides value to your consumers.

The Bottom Line

It’s a new world for retailers and CPG marketers, but if you can master this new journey and exceed customer expectations, you’ll be well on your way to dominating the marketplace in 2017 and beyond.

It’s game on folks. Make sure you’re in it to win it.