The fashion trend cycle is often said to repeat itself approximately every two decades. This means that styles and trends that were popular in 2003 are likely to resurface and become trendy again in 2023. A similar pattern can be observed in the realm of retail marketing.
The retail space is rapidly evolving with e- and m-commerce offering an often more convenient shopping experience, as advancements in other shoppable technologies mean constantly changing consumer behaviours, coupled with increasingly uncertain socio-economic cues.
However, somewhat surprisingly, methods that have been working for retail marketing recently are what was trending about 20 years ago with marketers heading back to the basics as retailers face challenging times.
Sitting down with marketing thought-leaders, household names in retail and industry outsiders, it came as a surprise to hear that traditional retail marketing is making a comeback.
What was once seen as the final part of the customer journey, getting the customer into the store and selling them a product is only the beginning.
“We are getting to a point where we are almost oversaturated with digital marketing and as retailers, we’re being bombarded from too many different angles and there’s just too much noise,” says Mark Presnell of Convergence.
With the return of in-store shopping experiences, Mark says now is the time for marketers to tap into in-store employees and existing databases to reach out to customers and ask them the real important questions; ‘how did you like your purchase?’ ‘What did you think of it?’
With tightening purse strings and rising costs, making use of those existing resources is going to save money which can be used for other marketing extensions.
Mark adds that now more than ever is the time to build on customer relationships and the best way to do so is using human-to-human experiences to create personalised experiences.
“We live in a time where we have access to way more information about our customers than we ever had before,” says Mark. This data is free and needs to be utilised to its fullest potential he adds.
These types of experiences can often be missed in digital marketing and don’t necessarily target the customers wanting to come back.
“At one point, people actually wanted to have everything in their inbox. They could unsubscribe or they could just ignore and so forth. Now the inboxes are getting so overloaded that people just don’t want that anymore,” says Mark.
Connor Archbold Co-Founder and Co-CEO of brand tracking platform Tracksuit says that retail marketing for stores is all about creating awareness and trust with foot traffic. He says that strategies employed by the likes of Culture Kings using celebrities such as Israel Adesanya and Shaquille O’Neal to leverage foot traffic has worked really well for them.
But the return of traditional retail marketing strategies doesn’t mean the death of digital. If anything, it is the time for blending both the traditional with the new.
Co-Founder of Tailored Studio and digital marketer Diana Marshall says a blend of both strategies is considering the customers journey from researching online to bringing them into a brick-and-mortar store.
“In 2023, New Zealand retailers will need to shift their thinking a little and allow their online and bricks-and-mortar presence not only to coexist but to strengthen and support each other,” says Diana.
Digital is all about reaching that audience base and getting them into store so you can offer the best possible brand experience, and opportunity to turn them into return customers.
Diana sees using Google business tools as a “hugely successful” tool for online and in-store conversion. The tool allow retailers to showcase their hours, store location information and also an opportunity to showcase new or best-selling products.
But it doesn’t end at getting that customer from online and into the store and Diana says it is all about nurturing that customer base.
“If a customer can’t find what they’re looking for during their visit, consider how you ensure that they walk away with an action to complete a transaction digitally or at least engage with your brand for future interaction, like a follow on Instagram or a subscription to email newsletters,”
Platforms like TikTok and Instagram have been a vital aspect of retail marketing. “There is a lot of value in [digital] platforms and especially the measurability and the targetability of those platforms,” says Mark.
Paid social advertising still remains valuable and helpful in targeting those specifically targeted demographics such as age group, gender and location.
“I mean, to be able to say, I want to put out a piece of advertising that is specifically targeted at a demographic, this age group, this gender, in this location and to have exact figures of how many people saw it, what actions they took and all of that is invaluable,” adds Mark.
“Social media and all digital marketing really is second to none in terms of its specific targeting ability.”
In the past year, TikTok has been an interesting digital platform used increasingly to boost brands further and reach an audience group that other platforms have been unable to reach.
Using platforms like TikTok and Instagram enables a brand to tap into storytelling, organically bringing that store experience into someone’s home.
“Influencers and content creators are another effective way to reach new audiences; invite them into your store and have them document their experience to encourage their followers to pay a visit,” says Diana.
Tapping into social media platforms like TikTok and creating original content is free and is a great way of marketing a brand on a budget.
Large retail company, Glassons has been finding a lot of its success with digital marketing, as it comes to an understanding that its core demographic uses TikTok.
As a brand that keeps on trend with fashion across the globe, Glassons has found that it also needs to stay on trend with marketing trends across the world and that is heavily reliant on TikTok.
But despite the brands heavy use of digital marketing, it doesn’t stray away from traditional marketing.
As of recent, Glassons took advantage of Out of Home (OOH) marketing to promote fun activations such as pop-up stores
Glassons CEO April Ward says that traditional retail marketing is never off the table, it is just a matter of understanding who your audience is, what they are consuming and where they are consuming it. And understanding your consumer base can be done so through data.
Marketing driven by data has also been crucial despite becoming more difficult in recent years, but Diana says that any chance to capture data should be taken advantage of.
Data marketing for retailers can be utilised to accurately reach a target market and gear those marketing efforts towards those with aligning interests. Using data, retail marketing now market smarter and better measure success.
In comparison, Above The Line (ATL) marketing has been a difficult space to operate in as there was never a clear understanding on the return on investment.
“With digital marketing, it’s so easy to understand where a lead has come from and deliver eyeballs or a return on investment,” says Diana.
“We’d recommend placing pixels on your website, setting up Google Analytics and utilising platform partner integrations.”
Across the world, larger and international retailers are incorporating artificial intelligence (AI) and digital or immersive experiences into their store to build hype and create an organic viral moment on social media in hopes to encourage others to visit the store.
The necessary shift in retail marketing can’t just be attributed to the pandemic, introduction to digital tools and the e-commerce boom, but also the shift in consumer behaviour.
Consumers all over the world are also facing similar socio-economic pressures the retail industry is facing, so it is key for retailers to communicate a message that resonates as they begin to look for value-based messaging.
“The retailers that will succeed are those with a clear understanding of what makes them unique, how that benefits the end user and then clearly and consistently communicate across each and every touchpoint to resonate with new and existing customers,” adds Diana.
With the increasing socio-economic pressures retailers are facing, she says that many businesses have a tendency chase the sale, revert to short term conversion based marketing. “While conversion always has a place in marketing, it needs to be balanced with nurturing a loyal following to ensure your brand’s long term success.
“People are going to connect with who you are and why you exist, not because you are selling product at 20 percent off.”
Not only is consumer behaviour shifting to become value-based, it is also key to note that customers are increasingly aware of the ethical and social responsibility a brand has.
“The shift now is an expectation from consumers that it just is. Responsibility shouldn’t be a brand pillar but a standard way of doing business,” adds Diana.
“My advice to businesses would be to have this information readily accessible to a new audience and
to regularly communicate to an existing, engaged audience for example on social media or through email marketing.”
And though other factors may influence customers, it is key to note that a well-rounded digital marketing strategy always considers a brand’s specific target audience and their interests.
“It’s about knowing your audience specifically and what motivates them.”
In the case of putting two and two together of traditional and digital, Tracksuit’s Connor says retail marketing should first start with establishing brand and performance marketing.
Once those two are established, Connor says to ‘Warren Buffet’ your brand layer and ‘day-trade’ your performance layer.
“This means changing your performance marketing strategy based on what’s working and what’s not, while staying consistent in your messaging with your brand building,” he says.
When it comes to any successful retail marketing campaign it needs to be creative, topical and provocative to ensure that “mileage and impact”.
The unique and original marketing ideas generate attention whether its on social media or on the news, and that means those messages are spread further for less.
So, despite the industry facing a time of high costs and changing consumer behaviour, retail marketing is finding traditional and basic strategies and blending them with digital marketing trends to create impact the best way going foward.
“The best marketing strategy is one that is well rounded and understands that a traditional channel can influence brand awareness and therefore drive digital interactions that then gives the marketer more data to work with,” says Diana.
This article was originally published in the June/July 2023 issue of NZ Marketing. Click here to subscribe.