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The state of retail marketing

More of a good story than just a good price

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In retail marketing, the commodity and the price itself have, for long, been the very matter of competition. That competition is getting harder to win thanks to big players like Amazon, and, so, marketers are changing tactics. Embrace the good story and speed up the time to market.


Lifestyle-related storytelling

Storytelling is a powerful tool. First of all, we are 22 times more likely to remember a fact when it has been wrapped in a story. Why? Because stories are memorable. Thus storytelling is a powerful tool to make a brand stand out. And if you look at where retail marketing is heading these days, one of the directions is clearly towards more storytelling.

Next, if you then ask Peter Grønbæk, our Business Director at Encode, how storytelling is incorporated into retail marketing at the moment, he points to lifestyle as the center of the story.

There is a shift in the way retailers market themselves now. It seems like a lot of retail marketing is moving away from the product to lifestyle. It’s about telling good stories,” explains Peter Grønbæk and mentions a recent advertising campaign from a prominent Danish DIY-retailer, which has garnered a totally different reception to the company’s previous video campaigns: 

More than 5 million views is a lot if you are used to having 10.000 views,” says Peter Grønbæk. 

In fact, before 2020, this DIY-retailer was putting out lots of well-planned and executed videos about how to do it yourself. The product was in the center of the story, and the story was rather factual: This is the product/s you need to do it yourself. Fast forward to 2020, and the market is “saturated with product offerings” as Peter Grønbæk coins it.

Retail marketing has, for years, been synonymous with a product, a price, and a message that showed up wherever you went on your digital journey. I think there is a tendency to move away from this strict competition into more lifestyle-related storytelling because you need to address a fuller picture than merely price and product.

Time to market is still critical

But the shift towards storytelling is not a one-dimensional move. The number of people working in organisations is not increasing. And there is a general need to do more with the same amount of resources. So in order to stay competitive, you need far more than good storytelling: You still need to think of campaigns in terms of how you set them up, execute them, and evaluate them.

Previously, newspaper campaigns and catalogs played a huge role. And even today, you still have most retailers campaigning through leaflets delivered by post. Whether it’s digital or offline, the campaign is still an integrated part of retail marketing today. And that is a competition which has more to do with time to market than storytelling,” tells Peter Grønbæk.

He points to the example of STARK, another prominent Danish DIY-retailer, which has embarked on a new journey recently. The company is handling 623.000 item numbers and using Encode’s supplier portal to manage the workflows that make up the marketing lifecycle.

It’s part of a digital transformation that is taking place in some of the retail marketing’s future-oriented companies. STARK has been using the supplier portal to integrate their suppliers and make life easier. Now, a supplier has direct access to STARK through the supplier portal, and it is in real-time. This effectively shortens the time to market, and it corresponds with the need for agility, according to Peter Grønbæk.

A large part of the work that a retailer already does is with the suppliers. They feed the retailer with data. And if something in STARK’s promotion is misspelled or has the wrong information, the supplier can amend it directly within the supplier portal,” explains Peter Grønbæk.

Across different touch points

In a world where everything turns digital, there is still a need to consider marketing as both a physical and a digital act. Cross-media marketing, where retailers can use a potent combination of print and digital marketing that work together to form a unified message, is very much part of a retailer’s marketing effort. The number of touchpoints that customers encounter a retailer is rising, and the marketing investment needs to reflect this shift.

And with Amazon and other major internet players developing their own brick-and-mortar networks, it is becoming increasingly clear that retail’s future belongs to companies that can offer a true omnichannel experience.

Part of the success of the Danish DIY-retailer jem & fix is the combination of e-commerce and brick-and-mortar stores. In fact, jem & fix has adapted their e-commerce to that of the physical universe that customers have come to while the chain has been expanding throughout Scandinavia the past ten years.

They have transferred the experience of visiting a jem & fix store to the internet. You will find the item immediately. You have your store's physical space online," explains Peter Grønbæk. 

However, the aspiration of servicing customers across different touchpoints will only be achieved once you truly integrate the various departments across the company, not physically necessarily but certainly through a digital hub. The data available to IT and Marketing will need to be available to e-commerce also. Procurement will have to be included, and so on. 

Years ago, I used to say that Encode is what links it all together. It’s still valid today. If you want your marketing efforts to reflect your omnichannel ambitions, you need a digital hub that can be accessed from across the company, from across touchpoints. That’s Encode if you ask me.”

Digital acceleration over the next year

Going into 2021, we will see the acceleration of digital commerce trends such as experience, live and social commerce off the back of the digital acceleration happening during the current pandemic. These will redefine the customer journey as we know it today. 

These richer approaches are designed to help retailers forge stronger bonds with the hearts and minds of customers. But will all of these evolving commerce options still require the same underlying information and content as we have today? 

If you ask our Product Director, Stuart Lynch, then yes: 

Price, quality, and convenience are the most important factors for customers, but they’re not enough to raise the bar in customer experience. Customers are willing to pay more for retailers that provide exceptional service, share their values, and continue to deliver memorable experiences.

It is forecasted that in 2021, the global social commerce market will increase by about 34%. Social commerce has the potential to bring the immediacy and engagement of physical retail to the virtual space. Like Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and TikTok refine their social shopping options by introducing a frictionless checkout experience that does not require users being redirected to the retailer's website, the gaps will be closed between planning, running, and measuring campaigns – introducing more immediacy and agility into the marketing process. 

This year, we have seen a growth in shoppable ads across our customers,” confirms Stuart Lynch. 

Improving the creativity and variety of engaging lifestyle and promotion content across the social platforms will also reduce customers’ ad fatigue. 

With the volume and variety of all content types needed, we expect that more retailers who operate across many markets will look to creative automation instead of trying to meet the growing demands for engaging content manually.” - Says Stuart Lynch. 

A foundational platform for commercial and marketing operations, and content services, such as the Encode Hub, is vital for success – to deliver not only the content required for great product experiences but also to manage the development of the brand, lifestyle content, and virtual events that are supplementing the physical experience.