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5 Retail Marketing Trends to Watch in 2017

The first half of the first quarter of 2017 has come and gone, and while consumers might be reneging on their resolutions, marketers aren’t afforded that luxury for their campaigns. So if you’re the VP of marketing at a retail brand and you’ve recently realized that you’re not on track to get the return on investment you were banking on when you set your Q1 goals, you’re probably stressing. Big time.

Don’t despair: new hope for retail marketing resides in new technologies and understanding consumer data, and can lead to a marketing transformation. If numbers are worrying, maybe it’s time to try counting different metrics—ones that show exactly what’s bringing in the bacon and what isn’t. If it’s figuring out customer service strategies that don’t result in consumer frustration, try streamlining the process of getting help with new applications. If it’s better understanding the consumer journey—not just online and in-store, but the full scope of a consumer’s needs and habits—consider updating online to offline tracking systems.

As the second quarter of 2017 gets going, it might be time to start iterating your marketing strategy. Take a look at what other brands are working on and see if it might make sense to give them a try.

Custom Experiences That Don’t (Have to) Break the Bank

Though it’s no longer open, the Made By Google pop-up shop was exciting for many, and it was a great showcase of some home-based Alphabet gadgets that would prove to be big competition for Amazon: Google Daydream, and the new Google Pixel. Obviously, not every retail marketer can afford to rent out space in SoHo to show off its newest product launch—but the space itself wasn’t the most important thing about Made By Google. What was most interesting about the pop-up was that it was exclusively democratic: everyone could get inside and experience the new products, but they had to wait in line for half an hour or more to enter.

What this confirms about the future of retail is that consumers, especially millennial consumers, will continue to prefer experiences and takeaways to actual products. They want to be able to show off their rich, unique lives on social media. Made By Google did a fantastic job of capturing this sentiment—it was an inviting destination for all who wanted to come, and it provided numerous opportunities for consumers to promote it via their social channels and to their friends without it feeling like a forced production.

Offline to Online and Back Again

In early December, Amazon debuted its retail concept: Amazon Go. The YouTube video showing how the store would work has since racked up more than 8 million views as stunned marketers and businesses watched digital payment systems in action. A person’s digital self was seamlessly integrated within the overall shopping experience, creating a no-hassle situation for consumers. Here’s the video again to refresh your memory:

Though the technology isn’t available to other retailers just yet, retail marketers only need to look at such brands as Cos Bar. Cos Bar is using the RetailNext platform to track consumers’ movements around stores, and to document what products they pick up, what they put back, and what they eventually buy. They also are using the system to get a sense of the market outside the store. Is there enough foot traffic passing by? Have consumers noticed the marketing on the outside, or should signs be reconfigured so that they attract more attention?

Video, Video, Video, and Artificial Intelligence Chat Bots

If you haven’t already added video to your content strategy, go and do it now. As consumers will eventually reach Amazon Go-levels of integration within retail stores, video is a key tool that can help consumers understand how a product is used or how it works in the absence of an available sales person. Additionally, some companies, such as BlueSmart luggage, are experimenting with live chat options via in-store tablet displays so that if their products are part of a department store, a consumer can still get specialized help from the company directly. Especially since BlueSmart is selling a relatively new product, it helps that there’s always a way for the company to manage its customer service presence. When live chat isn’t possible, some companies are experimenting with artificial intelligence options—not to completely replace a human experience, but to better understand human needs without going through a ton of menus to reach the correct customer service person at a call center. These advancements could help speed up product returns, which makes for happier shoppers.

Measuring Actions, Not Words

It’s easy to be excited by big social media numbers. Likes, views, and shares all seem like great brand building—and don’t get me wrong, they are—but a marketer’s main objective is to aid sales. If your retail marketing efforts aren’t fueling sales, it’s not working. Take online retailer ASOS, for example. The brand has a conversion rate that’s twice as high as most other retailers: a whopping 6 percent, compared to the industry average of 3 percent.

How does ASOS double its sales? The brand strives to keep customers on its website as long as it can, and it concentrates its efforts on making the design more shoppable and engaging. This has nothing to do with social media—and that’s the point. Conversions happen when customers are comfortable and satisfied with their online experiences. Even retail marketers with brick-and-mortar stores along with ecommerce sites can learn from this: the longer a consumer sticks around, the more likely they are to buy something.

Free Shipping

When other options are exhausted (or won’t work), there’s always free shipping. If December’s Free Shipping Day is any indication, more retailers will start to offer free shipping on an ongoing basis because it was so successful during the holidays. It’s also a smart way to undercut your competitors who don’t offer such perks to consumers. It’s not exactly a marketing transformation, but it’s a start!

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