Incentivize the customer shopping experience with these five strategies
Improving the customer shopping experience isn’t always about following the brands that provided the best examples of marketing. Sometimes, it can be even more beneficial to learn from those campaigns that didn’t perform quite as well as expected, despite being well-designed. With a flexible marketing strategy, it’s possible to turn failure into nothing more than pre-success.
Flexible marketing allows brands to correct campaign issues as well as small oversights that often create more significant problems. In the past, marketing strategies couldn’t be as flexible as digital strategies because of restrictive physical, printed marketing materials and retailer-specific limitations. However, today’s mobile apps can offer innovative options which create flexibility in the shopping aisle and enhance the customer experience.
Flexible Marketing Strategy #1: Cater to the Customer’s Journey
These days, consumers are striving for better overall wellness. They’re making healthier decisions for themselves and their families, as well as improving their impact on the planet. These decisions influence every purchase they make. Brands want to align their marketing messages with the values and ideals consumers adopt, but it’s often difficult to translate these complex, emotional issues into useful campaigns.
The Clorox Company suffered from a deficit here when the brand rolled out its "Being human takes guts" campaign for a new probiotic product. At the center of the promotion was a motivational film focused on diversity and inclusion. The film was extremely well-done, but failed to resonate with consumers. Brand CMO Eric Reynolds noted that the film—while offering a powerful, positive message—was unable to create a connection because it didn’t do enough to address the consumer directly. The brand decided to refocus its vision for the product and is currently working to establish the product as a solution for consumers.
Larger scale, high-minded concepts make for risky campaigns as they tie a brand to a big picture that’s often difficult to change. Smaller, mobile video campaigns can provide a bit more room to pivot. These mobile campaigns can allow for both A/B testing of potential large-scale campaigns, as well as offer a way to reach out to consumers in the shopping aisle.
Brands can create smaller-scaled mobile video marketing strategies around consumer ideals, and then use mobile video platforms to gain feedback from users. Any issues with the strategy can be ironed out before investing major ad-spend into expensive channels. The input gained from these smaller video campaigns can provide insight into which larger initiatives will best engage audiences.
Meanwhile, brands can make use of video greetings to connect with consumers in the store and briefly share messages about events and issues. Both of these methods strengthen the connection between the consumer and the brand while aligning them to one purpose.
Flexible Marketing Strategy #2: Use AI to Improve Conversion
Artificial intelligence (AI) isn’t a marketing strategy in and of itself. Instead, it’s an aspect of marketing that allows brands to target their messages more effectively. A recent study has shown that use of AI in digital marketing, in general, leads to higher engagement and improved ROI. The study by Blueshift, titled ROI Of AI Marketing: 4 Levers For Cross-Channel Success, found that AI algorithms helped the firms that used them to achieve an average of 28% increase in average orders, subscription upgrades, and form completions. They also found that content recommendations by AI led to a 2x increase when compared to non-targeted messages. There are many ways AI can be used in conjunction with a campaign, including:
Improved PPC advertising:
When brands use pay-per-click or pay-per-impression advertising, costs add up if too broadly targeted. PPC advertising with AI allows brands to scale their marketing to reach the users most likely to purchase from them, based on their purchase history and needs.
Enhanced search engines:
Search engines already work off forms of artificial intelligence, in that these algorithms are designed to recreate human thought processes. AI makes it easier to decipher the context behind a search with less consumer input. An advanced program, for example, could understand that a consumer searching for “nails” is looking for acrylic nails in the beauty section, rather than metal nails in hardware, based on their search history and prior purchase behaviors.
Enhanced customer service:
AI can streamline customer service while offering a personalized experience. Chatbots are already in service for many companies and allow consumers to ask questions and get answers quickly. Through digital assistants, brands can keep the unique personal touch of natural conversations while eliminating frustrating wait times for reaching customer service.
Insights on loyalty-likelihood:
A new use for AI and machine learning allows brands to gauge the loyalty likelihood of leads. Future behavior predictions come from analyzing aggregated consumer data. This data is anonymized, so the consumer’s privacy stays secure while brands better understand what actions, interests, and demographics drive loyalty.
AI works as a valuable resource in content marketing as it directs branded messages to the right consumers at the right time. This technology can automate many marketing processes while eliminating the need for personnel, saving brands money. AI creates a personalized approach which helps usher consumers along the path to purchase.
Flexible Marketing Strategy #3: Prime Consumers With Shopping Apps
Shopping apps can drive consumers to purchase through physical contact with products. These apps typically work through priming, which is a phenomenon that causes us to subconsciously attribute traits to certain things in our environments without realizing it.
We can see this in action through a hypothetical scenario involving Shopkick and its engaging mobile rewards app. While shopping, the consumer can view a list of featured products in which they can interact with, in exchange for free rewards points (kicks). They seek out those products and use their phone's camera to scan the UPC and collect the kicks. The incentive creates a positive experience for the consumer, which the consumer then associates with the product they’re holding. This small interaction increases interest in the product and makes a sale more likely.
Shopping apps are typically in use by household decision makers. As such, they offer great sales opportunities for brands. They’re also scalable, in that brands can easily control costs and measure their ROI without extensive investigation. By partnering with one, or even multiple, shopping apps, brands can establish flexible marketing channels that pay dividends.
Flexible Marketing Strategy #4: Run Simultaneous Campaigns
The most iconic example of a brand pivoting following a marketing failure comes from Coke and its famous “New Coke” campaign. In 1985, the brand was losing its market lead and decided to roll out a new formula to reenergize its audience. Consumers did not like the new taste—and that’s precisely what drove the success of the campaign.
Following the introduction of the new drink, consumers began buying the old one in bulk, causing sales to increase rapidly. Nationwide protests drew media attention and established Coke as an American icon. Finally, the reintroduction of the classic version in July of that year positioned Coke as a company that listened to its consumers. It was such a flawless pivot in a marketing campaign, some assumed the brand did it on purpose. Leadership later confirmed they hadn’t; it was just a lucky accident. However, it taught all brands something about consumers and brand loyalty.
Brands may want to reach out to new audiences, but completely changing the brand’s persona can alienate loyal consumers. While in some fortunate cases, this can get them to rediscover a product, but in most they’ll abandon the brand. As today’s consumers have so many options from which to choose, it’s implausible there will be a repeat of Coke’s lucky accident. Brands considering a complete shift should think of how that will impact their existing user base.
Often, running multiple targeted campaigns is a viable solution. Adjusting the message based on different demographics can reduce the risk of alienating loyal consumers while helping brands reach new audiences. Social media campaigns offer the best path for carrying out a multi-message strategy.
Using mobile app-based platforms like Snapchat and Instagram can be very helpful for brands that want to reach out to specific groups as they shop. Snapchat is a favorite among those in the QSR industry, as it allows them to reach about 41% of all U.S. adults ages 18 to 34. Offering digital coupons or running ads on this platform is an excellent way for brands to connect with this demographic.
At the same time, brands can look to other social platforms like Pinterest or Yelp to connect with users who are older and more affluent than their Snapchat counterparts. These individuals will be more focused on quality and experience, so the brand’s message will need to change. Social media offers all brands the flexibility and scalability they need to reach both groups as they make purchase decisions.
Flexible Marketing Strategy #5: Recreate Traditional Experiences With Innovation
When asked about the disadvantages of online shopping, most consumers point out the lack of product interaction. They can’t physically handle the product to determine if it’s right for them. This barrier is particularly prevalent in industries where consumers want to try on products first, like cosmetics or clothing. It can also act as a problem when the shipping of a product is expensive or inconvenient, like in furniture sales.
For these reasons, many have looked to technology to re-create in-store experiences. Target is a prime example of this. The retailer rolled out Augmented Reality programs for both beauty and furniture with its Beauty Studio and See it in Your Space features. Through these programs, consumers are able to digitally interact with products and test them out, which removed common online shopping purchase barriers.
AR can also improve the shopping experience in the aisle, though this is in the early development stage. With an app capable of Augmented Reality, consumers could navigate a store and gain more information on the products available by merely looking at them. They could plan their shopping trip down to the item, using their phone as their roadmap to the store. By taking this technology further, they could even checkout just by leaving the store and be automatically charged for their purchases. For brands, this means an increased focus on mobile optimization is needed, even for brick-and-mortar locations. Mobile will impact all parts of the consumer’s path to purchase, from discovery to delivery, and brands need to cater to that change.
This shift to mobile-assisted shopping will allow brands to direct consumers to their products in the store, while also providing a needed service by streamlining shopping for consumers. Partnering with third-party providers working on both AR and image recognition-based apps is critical for success.
Mobile marketing allows brands to improve the customer’s shopping experience while offering flexibility. It can help brands test campaigns, resolve issues with existing ones, and create different messages under the same umbrella to reach diverse audiences. Innovations with these mobile apps could even offer brands the opportunity to redirect in-store traffic and highlight their products as consumers shop. Flexible marketing helps brands discover better, scalable ways to reach traveling consumers, improve sales, and gain market share.