Retail success is defined by engagement. The reach of retailers and brands now extends to any point at which a shopper encounters these brands. Engagement by a consumer may be through a physical encounter, one involving mobile or online channels, via social networks, or in a transit environment.
As we enter this new world, you stand to profit by offering your customers solutions for all these targeted opportunities to connect brands to consumers.
But before you can do that, you must understand the retailing environment of 2013. It is an environment notably different from earlier iterations, says Carol Spieckerman, president of newmarketbuilders, a 13-year-old retail strategy firm. “Engagement by retailers has changed, in that it has shifted a lot of other dynamics,” Spieckerman says. “It’s driving a lot of other changes.”
First, the new “shopper marketing” is “user marketing,” she says. Retailers have grown comfortable with the idea not every path taken by consumers is a path to purchase. They accept consumers may not buy, viewing engagement with the retailers’ own brands, or brands they carry, as a positive development. That’s because engagement keeps consumers engaged with brands, and it can also be measured by retailers, regardless of whether a purchase is made.
“That data by engagement is very valuable,” she says. “Retailers are developing capabilities to track any time an individual might be playing a free game, engaging through social media and commenting on something, reading a review, or using an application for entertainment purposes. These are not path-to-purchase activities. They are just engagement activities. But that‘s okay with retailers. They are encouraging it, because they have the capability of tracking engagement activities, and marrying that with point-of-sale data and path-to-purchase data. They are developing the capability to combine all that to get a much better read not just on what consumers have purchased in the past or what they‘re purchasing now, but what they intend to purchase in the future.”
Along with this user focus comes content, which is vitally important to the imaging community. Content includes print, images, videos, anywhere content resides. The largest focus for any retailer is developing compelling multi-touchpoint content marketing programs, Spieckerman says.
The old standard about right-sizing content for the right screens or print has given way to finding the right message for the right medium. The diversity, granularity and targeting of content are areas of focus for today’s retailers.
“They represent very big opportunities for the imaging community to adopt this language, and position it as being part of retailers’ overarching content marketing strategies,” Spieckerman observes. “And along with that to talk about the role they do play and don’t play in being a thought leader.”
Leverage your Specialty
The good news for PSPs, she adds, is that retailers have moved away from the era in which they were seeking one-stop shops, or single providers that could handle a number of different capabilities. Now they are returning to the search for specialization. They are looking at not growing their own solutions, but partnering with specialists, and in some cases acquiring specialization.
As a result, print service providers “should think about how to leverage what they are already really good at, and how that fits into a total content marketing strategy for a retail or brand marketer,” Spieckerman says.
Put another way, some PSPs may be eyeing new equipment purchases, or initiating efforts to get into dynamic signage, when they should instead be looking at how their messaging specialization fits into the big picture for retailers. “The big picture is often the missing part,” she observes. “When you bring value is when you demonstrate a grasp of their total content marketing strategy.”
There’s been considerable conversation in the imaging community about whether print is dead, Spieckerman says. But when the entirety of content marketing is considered, it’s obvious that instead of any one element dying off, there are shifts taking place across that broad content marketing spectrum.
The key for imaging companies is to track the shift, and be able to articulate how its solutions address those shifts, “rather than getting into a lot of hand wringing about what’s becoming obsolete,” Spieckerman says.
“They also must customize their positioning, the ways they position their offerings, to retail and brand prospects and customers, based on those unique content marketing strategies, because no two are the same.”
For instance, she says, one retailer may be very involved in print, while another may be entirely phasing out print. Others may be involved in a mix.
For visionary companies among print service providers, there may be an opportunity to play a coordinating role. This is where it becomes vitally important to understand the other media and the total content platform, Spieckerman says.
“Once you do that, you have the chance to coordinate other players, and really transcend what you do and play a more consultative role,” she reports. “That’s where the expertise really comes in. Retailers are no longer challenging themselves to learn everything, they’re embracing outside expertise.”
POPAI, the global association for marketing at retail, comes at the issue from a different point of view. Understanding the shopper’s decision process, the complex interplay of factors that determine how, where and when shoppers make their decisions, is emerging as a priority for product manufacturers, retailers and brand marketers, asserts POPAI president Richard Winter.
POPAI’s series of shopper behavior research, dating back nearly 50 years, has helped educate marketing and retail professionals about where the ultimate purchase decision lies. That locale is at the point of purchase.
While it’s true that shoppers’ decisions are no longer limited to in-store, POPAI’s 2012 Shopper Engagement Study found that now more than ever, shoppers are making an overwhelming number of purchasing decisions in store.
In fact, the in-store decision rate has climbed from 70 percent in 1995 to 76 percent in 2012. With today’s shopper increasingly mobile, social and in control, what’s changed to push that in-store decision rate to all-time highs?
Todays’ shopper’s behavior is very different from that of shoppers years ago. The advent of smart phones, shopping applications, mobile coupons and other developments has made it very different, Winters asserts.
“Yet, when we look at the data from POPAI’s series of long-running shopper research projects aimed at providing new information on how shoppers behave when they are in different types of stores deciding which categories and brands to buy, we see that it all comes down to one thing—in-store marketing.”
Three key components comprise the in-store decision rate measuring the true number of decisions made at the shelf, an indicator POPAI has long measured. Those three are generally planned purchases, brand substitution and unplanned purchases. The data show an important part of the marketing mix is the use of materials and devices that stimulate sales “where the action is,” at the point of purchase. Often, the decision-making process of shoppers does not take place until a product is actually seen on the shelf, Winters says.
“Therefore, the ways a product is displayed in a store, and is supported by in-store marketing materials can often be instrumental in leveraging sales,” he says. “The 2012 Shopper Engagement Study provides compelling evidence about the importance of having, in addition to a strong and integrated pre-store advertising campaign, a robust in-store marketing plan in place to support the ongoing dynamic sales cycle feeding back into the shopper’s discovery journey.“
While fewer shoppers than in 1995 are reporting visiting stores without a list of some sort, more than half of shoppers operate without a physical list, making them more susceptible to the temptation of impulse buying.
Few shoppers visit each aisle or section of the store. More than half of shoppers, or 54 percent, visit only the aisles and sections from which they plan to purchase. “Interestingly enough, a linear relationship exists between number of aisles visited, and percent of basket purchases on impulse,” Winters says. That suggests, he adds, “shoppers on longer trips enter an exploratory mindset, and are more accepting of departures from the shopping plan.”
newmarketbuilders works with larger print service providers that want to go after retail business, or are already playing in that space and want more.
In addition, Spieckerman encourages companies to step outside the bubbles of their own industry, to stay in touch with the world of retail as a whole. Look at specific retailers’ and retail brand marketers’ financials, press releases, quarterly reports and earning statements to get a sense of the big picture.
From there, challenge yourself to frame your specialty as part of the top initiatives of retailers and brand marketers and how they relate to content.
“Retailers in particular have never been more unique,” Spieckerman says. “Many PSPs say, ‘I want to position to the retail sector.’ But today, you’re dealing with specific brands, and very specific brand points of view. I’m urging them not to position to the retail sector as much as to individual brands, and to get to the heart of brand point of view, as expressed through content marketing.”