What 2014 has in store for retail marketers

Content, personalisation and the changing path to purchase are all top of the priorities for retail marketers next year.

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Content is king

Retailers used the crucial Christmas shopping period as an excuse to trial new marketing methods online and on mobile based around content and that will get a boost next year as brands attempt to offer an experience that better supports the one customers find in store. Key is to engage customers, particularly on mobile, which is increasingly used when customers are killing time on the bus or while watching TV.

What they want is interesting articles on the latest trends, full of images and videos. It also lets brands visualise the online browsing process, bringing products to life online and helping drive people to digital stores and, eventually, to a purchase.

Content can also increasingly be made clickable, letting consumers click on items in a video or image. That’ll open up the ability to shop from anywhere on the web, not just by typing in a retailer website into the address bar or search engine.

Also expect more moves into longer form content along the lines of the Sainsbury’s Christmas film. If nothing else it makes for a good PR exercise.

The new path to purchase

The huge range of products and places to buy them from means the path to purchase is changing. Both online and offline the number of ways that brands can communicate with their customers keeps growing, from direct email marketing to Twitter updates, TV ads and wish lists on Pinterest.

That makes the current model of marketing online increasingly irrelevant. Marketers are still measuring last click, but increasingly that isn’t the deciding factor in what we buy but merely the last thing we do before making a purchase having already made up our mind what to buy.

This year, that should change as marketing metrics start to take into account all the sites customers visit on the way to making a purchase from a retailer. That should also improve ROI for retail brands, helping them to understand which parts of an ad generate a reaction and helped customers along their path to purchase.

Customer insights

Tesco Clubcard

There’s nothing new about retailers wanting to know more about their customers. Loyalty schemes from companies such as Boots, Tesco and Nectar have been around for years. Yet despite the fact that they are expanding online and to digital, very few retailers offer anything much more complicated than a plastic card that tracks what we buy and offers us deals or promotions to get us to spend again.

We’ve said this before, but this might be the year that finally changes. Retailers are waking up to the opportunity that social holds in really understanding their audience. Those that can link up their customer database with what sites such as Facebook and Twitter know about us could reap huge rewards. Firms such as Mothercare are making moves towards this and hopefully big launches in the world of social CRM will come next year.

Mobile targeting should also take off. Apple has finally launched iBeacon (albeit only in the US) and it holds the promise of being able to geotarget consumers like never before. That’s an opportunity to send content to phones, showcasing products and offering promotions and discounts.

Global brands

The increasing popularity of online shopping means retailers are no longer restricted by their physical locations. Social media lets them reach customers wherever they might be while faster shopping times means delivery also won’t hamper sales. Sites such as Asos are making the most of this, offering British retail brands the opportunity to reach a wider international audience.

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