DIG­I­TAL MAR­KET­ING: THE MISS­ING LINK BE­TWEEN YOU AND YOUR CUS­TOMERS

Images Retail - - CONTENTS - – By Shee­tal Choksi & Sharmila Cir­vante, Co-founders, Word Hat­ter

It’s no hid­den fact. De­spite all ef­forts, the re­tail in­dus­try con­stantly strug­gles to keep pace with what ex­actly is it that their con­sumers want. Ex­pec­ta­tions are tem­per­a­men­tal and be­com­ing in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult to live up to.

It’s no hid­den fact. De­spite all ef­forts, the re­tail in­dus­try con­stantly strug­gles to keep pace with what ex­actly it is that their con­sumers want. Ex­pec­ta­tions are tem­per­a­men­tal and be­com­ing in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult to live up to.

One con­ceiv­able way that can help re­tail­ers bridge the gap is by be­ing in a con­stant state of di­a­logue with con­sumers. For­tu­nately, we live in a world where tech­nol­ogy can bring the im­pos­si­ble to life. The world of dig­i­tal has cre­ated con­ver­sa­tions be­tween re­tail­ers, mall man­agers and con­sumers. While tra­di­tional me­dia like print and tele­vi­sion may still dom­i­nate the me­dia land­scape, dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing is now be­gin­ning to bite off a sig­nif­i­cant piece of the an­nual bud­get. Younger au­di­ences seek­ing more value, en­gage­ment and en­ter­tain­ment from their shop­ping ex­pe­ri­ence are en­sur­ing that re­tail­ers run at their pace of dig­i­tal adop­tion. If that weren’t enough, dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing is

an end­less evolv­ing dis­ci­pline. Not only should re­tail­ers learn how to en­gage their au­di­ences, they also need to bet­ter the en­gage­ment and keep bet­ter­ing it, every time.

DIG­I­TAL MAR­KET­ING STRATE­GIES: The 5 Proven Ones

We asked 13 Mar­ket­ing Heads across re­tail brands and malls to give us their Top 5 dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing strate­gies. The an­swers were var­ied. Each brand de­vises its own strat­egy ba­sis the cat­e­gory, the con­sumer, and their own ob­jec­tives. Yet, some fac­tors re­main com­mon. Each of the Mar­ket­ing Heads is look­ing for ways and means to stay rel­e­vant and en­gaged. Here are some of the key strate­gies they em­ploy to stay con­nected, ed­u­cate, in­form and in­flu­ence choice.

1. SO­CIAL ME­DIA:

Every re­tailer has a so­cial me­dia pres­ence whether with an ac­tive strat­egy or with­out. Con­sumers con­stantly com­mu­ni­cate to brands through so­cial me­dia. They re­view and rec­om­mend prod­ucts, ad­vis­ing for or against them, or even com­plain about them.

In­dian re­tail­ers are lev­er­ag­ing this space for mul­ti­ple ob­jec­tives; from cre­at­ing aware­ness of new col­lec­tions, to cre­at­ing en­gage­ment via con­tests, to gen­er­at­ing cus­tomer tes­ti­mo­ni­als.

Neha Shah, Head-mar­ket­ing, Pepe Jeans, says, “We cre­ate style guides to show vis­i­tors across so­cial me­dia plat­forms how to in­cor­po­rate items into their ev­ery­day life. This helps in cre­at­ing aware­ness of col­lec­tions sea­son on sea­son.”

It comes as no sur­prise that Face­book is the pre­ferred choice. Whether it is to cre­ate con­stant en­gage­ment through con­tests, or to en­sure that con­sumers can lo­cate stores (es­pe­cially for a pre­dom­i­nant off­line re­tailer like Toons Re­tail), or build pref­er­ence through tes­ti­mo­ni­als, re­tail­ers are lev­er­ag­ing the pop­u­lar­ity of Face­book to their ad­van­tage.

Crocs In­dia lever­ages Face­book to re­search prospec­tive buy­ers and im­prove tar­get­ing the right con­sumers. Con­tin­u­ous an­a­lyt­ics helps fine tune tar­get au­di­ences, re­sult­ing in more rel­e­vant com­mu­ni­ca­tion rather than car­pet bomb­ing.

Con­tests seem to have emerged as a strong hook to en­gage con­sumers. Whether it is through re­gion-spe­cific con­tests done by Crocs In­dia, or by cre­at­ing con­tent and con­tests around trend­ing top­ics, or for cre­at­ing rel­e­vant events for con­sumers like the World Shorts Day from the Fu­ture Group.

Ef­fec­tively us­ing Google Search and op­ti­miz­ing mar­ket­ing plans us­ing an­a­lyt­ics is also be­com­ing key to find­ing, con­nect­ing and en­gag­ing with ex­ist­ing and new users. Pawan Sarda, Group Head-dig­i­tal, Fu­ture Group, says “We use Google search very ef­fec­tively for our brands and for­mats. Use of dig­i­tal to in­crease con­ve­nience for our cus­tomers is very im­por­tant.”

2. E-MAIL MAR­KET­ING:

New age an­a­lyt­ics have helped e-mail mar­ket­ing evolve from a one-way com­mu­ni­ca­tion tool to an in­ter­ac­tive and im­pact­ful one.

Varun Arora, Head of Busi­ness - E-com­merce, Orra Fine Jewellery Pvt. Ltd., ex­plains how e-mail mar­ket­ing has shed its fuddy-duddy im­agery in the last few years. “Email mar­ket­ing has evolved from a static im­agery to in­ter­ac­tive in­for­ma­tion with an­a­lyt­ics in­volved. This means that we can de­cide our next line of email com­mu­ni­ca­tion to the cus­tomer de­pend­ing on how con­sumers re­spond to the emailer. It has be­come an es­sen­tial shar­ing tool with in-depth pre-and post-shar­ing anal­y­sis.”

3. IN­FLU­ENCER MAR­KET­ING:

In­flu­encer mar­ket­ing is start­ing to res­onate with re­tail­ers, be it for tar­get­ing on­line or in-store shop­pers. In some ways, in­flu­encer mar­ket­ing is noth­ing but a nat­u­ral ex­ten­sion of tra­di­tional word-of-mouth mar­ket­ing, with the friend at work or per­son next door be­ing am­pli­fied by on­line voices that have be­come trusted sources for rec­om­men­da­tions. The key dif­fer­ence is that re­tail­ers can now ex­er­cise some con­trol over what is be­ing said, in­flu­enc­ing in­crease in sales.

By com­bin­ing paid in­flu­encer con­tent with un­paid user­gen­er­ated con­tent (UGC), re­tail­ers have twice the op­por­tu­nity to cre­ate a pow­er­ful plat­form to close sales.

Bhavna Te­wari, E-com­merce and Dig­i­tal Mar­ket­ing Head, Crocs In­dia, be­lieves this is a key emerg­ing trend. To quote, “In­sta­gram led UGC cam­paigns to break the stereo­type of clogs as the main prod­uct of Crocs. Our prod­uct port­fo­lio has ex­panded since the days of just clogs. We have a stylish and trendy range that is rel­e­vant to a cer­tain kind of cus­tomer.

Dig­i­tal me­dia via strong cre­ative and tar­geted reach is help­ing us change the way the brand is per­ceived, and is help­ing gain ac­cep­tance for our com­plete range of prod­ucts.”

Smita Mu­rarka, Head-mar­ket­ing, Amante, MAS Brands, be­lieves, “Ef­fec­tive use of in­flu­encer mar­ket­ing helps build high SOV.” Ab­hishek Shetty, Head-mar­ket­ing, PR & Loy­alty, Ce­lio

Fu­ture Fash­ion, too en­dorses the fact that in­flu­encer mar­ket­ing is gain­ing im­por­tance in the Dig­i­tal Mar­ket­ing mix. He says, “We are also in the process of iden­ti­fy­ing dig­i­tal in­flu­encers and build­ing high qual­ity na­tive con­tent to get more brand con­ver­sa­tions go­ing.”

Neha Shah, Head-mar­ket­ing, Pepe Jeans, be­lieves that work­ing with in­flu­encers pro­vides the brand ac­cess to a new au­di­ence and gives con­sumers unique con­tent. She fur­ther em­pha­sises that in to­day’s day and age, “so­cial me­dia in­flu­encers are at the pinnacle of the dig­i­tal realm. Cu­rat­ing con­tent spe­cific to in­flu­encers who have great fol­low­ing, helps in not only re­tain­ing ex­ist­ing cus­tomer base but also in ac­quir­ing new au­di­ences.”

4. SHARE­ABLE CON­TENT AND GAMIFICATION OF CON­TENT:

Share­able con­tent is the bench­mark of suc­cess in con­tent mar­ket­ing and what every re­tailer as­pires for. Every mar­ket­ing head ac­knowl­edges the fact that good qual­ity and share­able con­tent helps de­liver value to con­sumers. To get it right, the in­dus­try is with­ness­ing ex­ten­sive ex­per­i­men­ta­tion with for­mats from blogs to video con­tent, from lis­ti­cles and in­fo­graph­ics to even gamification of con­tent.

Ef­fec­tively us­ing Google Search and op­ti­miz­ing mar­ket­ing plans us­ing an­a­lyt­ics is also be­com­ing key to find­ing, con­nect­ing and en­gag­ing with ex­ist­ing and new users. Also,new age an­a­lyt­ics have helped e-mail mar­ket­ing evolve from a one-way com­mu­ni­ca­tion tool to an in­ter­ac­tive and im­pact­ful one.

Jer­mina Menon, Head Mar­ket­ing, Re­liance Vi­sion Ex­press Pvt. Ltd, speaks of the ef­fi­cacy of blogs in ed­u­cat­ing prospec­tive cus­tomers about the lat­est trends in eye wear tech­nol­ogy, and con­vey­ing their ben­e­fits to con­vince them to buy. On the other hand, Ce­lio Fu­ture Fash­ion has been work­ing with the gamification trend to de­liver a unique ex­pe­ri­ence to its dig­i­tal savvy con­sumers.

5. DATA AN­A­LYT­ICS:

In­dus­try re­ports sug­gest that the on­line cus­tomers are go­ing to cross the 100 mn mark by the end of this year. With so many con­sumers on­line, data an­a­lyt­ics will be­come crit­i­cal to pre­dict con­sumer be­hav­iour. Says Puneet Varma, As­so­ciate Vice Pres­i­dent - Mar­ket­ing and Cor­po­rate Com­mu­ni­ca­tion, Inor­bit Malls (In­dia) Pvt. Ltd., “We rack con­ver­sa­tions around re­tail brands to un­der­stand per­cep­tion and feed­back.”

New tech­nolo­gies as well as con­stantly chang­ing con­sumer choices and be­hav­iours are keep­ing re­tail­ers on their toes with evolv­ing trends, and help­ing them align their strate­gies to walk with the times.

Re­tail Dig­i­tal Mar­ket­ing: The Top 5 Trends

Th­ese are not pre­dic­tions but trends that one must in­cor­po­rate in their dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing strate­gies to stay in tune and a lit­tle ahead of the curve.

1. MO­BILE WILL CON­TINUE TO DOM­I­NATE:

The num­ber of mo­bile users in this coun­try has been on the rise for more than a decade now. There is no stop­ping this jug­ger­naut from im­pact­ing every as­pect of every busi­ness, in­clud­ing re­tail.

In­ter­net us­age from mo­bile de­vices (51.26 per­cent) over­took us­age from desk­top de­vices (48.74 per­cent) for the first time in Oc­to­ber 2016, ac­cord­ing to data from Stat­counter. The same study also in­di­cated that 78.82 per­cent of web traf­fic in In­dia came from mo­bile de­vices.

Ac­cord­ing to Kaushik Tanna, Head-mar­ket­ing, Toonz Re­tail Pvt. Ltd., “In kids ap­parel and prod­ucts, our au­di­ence (par­ents) spends con­sid­er­able time on mo­bile for searches, con­tent, prod­ucts and en­ter­tain­ment. Lo­ca­tion based mar­ket­ing al­lows re­tail­ers to drive traf­fic through rel­e­vant, con­tex­tual mo­bile mar­ket­ing.”

Ab­hishek Shetty, Head-mar­ket­ing, PR and Loy­alty, Ce­lio Fu­ture Fash­ion, also be­lieves that mo­bile is the new way of con­sum­ing con­tent.

2. CON­TENT IS, AND WILL CON­TINUE TO RE­MAIN, KING:

‘Con­tent is King!’ is a phrase that makes dig­i­tal mar­keters cringe – con­sid­ered hack­neyed and over­done ev­ery­where. And yet, the state­ment con­tin­ues to reign true, even to­day. Re­tail’s mar­ket­ing ex­perts be­lieve that con­tent and its mar­ket­ing will con­tinue to re­main rel­e­vant for a long time, from build­ing loy­alty to build­ing brand.

Says Neha Shah, Head-mar­ket­ing, Pepe Jeans, “Con­tent mar­ket­ing is king. Along with in­creased fo­cus on up­ping the cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence, brands to­day must also fo­cus on build­ing con­tent that will help main­tain cus­tomer re­la­tion­ships. This in the long run, will help in pro­vid­ing value to cus­tomers. The only chal­lenge in this con­text is ris­ing above the noise cre­ated by other brands. One will have to tai­lor and cre­ate a unique strat­egy that doesn’t get lost in the chaos.”

Let’s look at the 5 key trends in Dig­i­tal Mar­ket­ing that Mar­ket­ing Heads have a watch­dog on.

The num­ber of mo­bile users in this coun­try has been on the rise for more than a decade now. There is no stop­ping this jug­ger­naut from im­pact­ing every as­pect of every busi­ness, in­clud­ing re­tail. In­ter­net us­age from mo­bile de­vices (51.26 per­cent) over­took us­age from desk­top de­vices (48.74 per­cent) for the first time in Oc­to­ber 2016.

Varun Arora, Head of Busi­ness-e-com­merce, Orra Fine Jewellery Pvt. Ltd., cor­rob­o­rates Neha’s view. He be­lieves, “Con­tent mar­ket­ing has been in the top 3 trends for the last 3 years. More busi­nesses are now us­ing a strate­gic ap­proach (40 per­cent) to­ward con­tent, so this is a trend we can ex­pect to see con­tin­u­ing in 2017. We can also ex­pect that there will be more fo­cus on Mea­sur­ing Con­tent Mar­ket­ing ROI as the cost and com­pe­ti­tion within con­tent mar­ket­ing in­creases. As we see a grow­ing as­sim­i­la­tion of on­line and off­line plat­forms, con­tent has be­come a cru­cial need of the hour. Fur­ther, SEO op­ti­miza­tion has helped users gain in­for­ma­tion and in­sights at a faster rate while be­ing bet­ter suited to their search queries.”

Ritesh Ghosal, CMO, In­finiti Re­tail Lim­ited (Croma), on the other hand, speaks of short con­tent mar­ket­ing as an emerg­ing trend. Long or short, video or writ­ten, en­ter­tain­ing or in­for­ma­tive or both, con­tent will con­tinue to re­main an in­te­gral part of all re­tail dig­i­tal mar­keters’ strate­gies.

3. MAN­AG­ING AND LEV­ER­AG­ING THE OM­NICHAN­NEL EX­PE­RI­ENCE:

Ev­ery­one agrees that Om­nichan­nel rightly pro­vides a con­sis­tent ex­pe­ri­ence whether cus­tomers are shop­ping on­line or in a store. The main up­shot for most re­tail­ers adopt­ing this ap­proach is that it al­lows them to max­imise both dig­i­tal and phys­i­cal as­sets. Nis­hank Joshi, CMO, Nexus Malls, be­lieves that there is a clear trend to­wards “off­line and on­line buy­ing syn­chro­ni­sa­tions. Shop­ping can be started at one place and com­pleted some­where else, and the use of new tech like Magic Mir­rors and VR will make shop­ping fun, ex­cit­ing and more con­ve­nient.”

Ac­cord­ing to Varun Arora, Head of Busi­ness - E-com­merce, Orra Fine Jewellery Pvt. Ltd., “To­day, the con­sumer is al­ready present across dif­fer­ent medi­ums as well as so­cial me­dia chan­nels and there­fore Om­nichan­nel mar­ket­ing has be­come a very im­por­tant as­pect for grow­ing and im­prov­ing one’s busi­ness.”

Orra’s suc­cess with Om­nichan­nel mar­ket­ing – not just for im­prov­ing cus­tomer ac­qui­si­tion and re­ten­tion but also in up sell­ing and re­duc­tion in stock - is only proof that this trend is get­ting larger and more dom­i­nant.

Neha Shah, Head-mar­ket­ing, Pepe Jeans, also be­lieves that Om­nichan­nel mar­ket­ing con­nects all touch points to get closer to the cus­tomer, lo­ca­tion based mar­ket­ing and on site per­son­al­i­sa­tion.

Puneet Verma, Inor­bit Malls, talks about Inor­bit’s foray into the Om­nichan­nel space. “Inor­bit is the first shop­ping cen­tre in the coun­try to of­fer an Om­nichan­nel ex­pe­ri­ence to its cus­tomers on their web­site and mo­bile app - the Shop On­line fea­ture. With mul­ti­ple ben­e­fits like ‘Shop/re­serve on­line and Pickup/buy from Store at the mall’ or the re­verse op­tion of ‘Buy at Store at the mall & get home de­liv­ery’.

Ev­ery­one agrees that Om­nichan­nel rightly pro­vides a con­sis­tent ex­pe­ri­ence whether cus­tomers are shop­ping on­line or in a store. The main up­shot for most re­tail­ers adopt­ing this ap­proach is that it al­lows them to max­imise both dig­i­tal and phys­i­cal as­sets.

4. VIR­TUAL RE­AL­ITY, AR­TI­FI­CIAL IN­TEL­LI­GENCE AND AUG­MENTED RE­AL­ITY: NO LONGER JUST JAR­GON BUT A CER­TAINTY

The re­search firm, Trac­tica, pre­dicts that by 2020, over 200 mil­lion vir­tual re­al­ity head-mounted dis­plays (HMDS) for con­sumers will be sold world­wide. Whether In­dia will fol­low the world and adopt AR/VR at a per­sonal level is de­bat­able, but star­ing us in the face is the im­mi­nent need to start im­ple­ment­ing AR/VR if we want to bet­ter our ex­pe­ri­ence of­fer­ing. Some re­tail­ers are al­ready ahead of the curve and have be­gun ex­per­i­ment­ing with vir­tual trial rooms and aug­mented mir­rors, which have given them pos­i­tive out­comes.

Gau­rav Balani, Se­nior Man­ager Mar­ket­ing, Unique Es­tates De­vel­op­ment Co. Ltd, says, “All tech gi­ants are telling us vir­tual/ aug­mented re­al­ity is the fu­ture of mar­ket­ing. With in­ter­ac­tive ads, 3D prod­uct demos and more per­son­alised mes­sages, users can al­most reach out and touch the prod­ucts, while sit­ting at their home. Vir­tual re­tail is still at its early age but will sig­nif­i­cantly im­pact the re­tail in­dus­try in the com­ing year.”

Jer­mina Menon em­pha­sises that AI will im­pact re­tail the most. From the use of chat­bots to im­prove the post sales and ser­vice ex­pe­ri­ence, to cus­tomers us­ing their smart­phone to nav­i­gate stores, lis­ten to in­for­ma­tion about prod­ucts and avail­abil­ity, and pay, AI will be in­stru­men­tal in com­pletely chang­ing the cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence both on­line and off­line.

AR, VR and AI will all be crit­i­cal to bring alive the con­cept of re­tail the­atre. Rima Prad­han, Sr. Vice Pres­i­dent, Mar­ket­ing, Vi­viana Mall is con­fi­dent that VR and AR will merge with the real world and re­tail will see lot of new in­no­va­tions in the fu­ture.”

5. IN­CREAS­ING IM­PULSE BUYS ON DIG­I­TAL: SO­CIAL PLAT­FORMS WILL COM­PETE WITH ECOM­MERCE

Con­sumers love to re­search and shop on their mo­bile phones. They would have done a lot of home­work be­fore they step into the store.

So­cial Shop­ping will be the way to go as large com­pa­nies like Google and Snapchat are adding the “buy” but­ton and sim­pli­fy­ing the tran­si­tion from mo­bile shop­ping to mo­bile trans­ac­tions. “So­cial me­dia al­ready in­flu­ences con­sumer be­hav­iour, but in 2017 it will be­come a big­ger driver of di­rect trans­ac­tions,” pre­dicts Bart Mroz, Co-founder & CEO, SUMO Heavy. To quote Gau­rav Balani, Se­nior Man­ager Mar­ket­ing, Unique Es­tates De­vel­op­ment Co. Ltd., “In­sta­gram re­cently rolled out a fea­ture that en­ables brands to tag prod­ucts; once clicked users can go to the brand’s web­site and ini­ti­ate a pur­chase. Face­book in­tro­duced the Shop-tab in 2015 and since then, they have re­vealed fea­tures that will boost ecom­merce on their plat­form, for in­stance, the prod­uct price and mer­chant name vis­i­ble be­low your daily posts. In 2017, so­cial me­dia plat­forms will give a tough com­pe­ti­tion to ecom­merce web­sites.”

The shift to­wards dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing is strong. More and more re­tail­ers are in­vest­ing money in this space. Here’s a quick snap­shot of the spends in dig­i­tal and the per­cent­age of over­all spends that they rep­re­sent.

We find that re­tail mar­keters are spend­ing more in the dig­i­tal space. We also see that while a third of the com­pa­nies are spend­ing less than 10 per­cent of their over­all bud­gets on dig­i­tal, a good 15 per­cent are spend­ing a third of their bud­get on dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing, in­di­cat­ing a grow­ing be­lief in this for­mat.

Go dig­i­tal: Get closer to con­sumers

In a world where foot­falls de­ter­mine how your day goes, a strong dig­i­tal strat­egy could build the bridge to your cus­tomers. It is en­cour­ag­ing to see more re­tail­ers and malls warm­ing up to the idea and ex­per­i­ment­ing with new tech­nolo­gies. Th­ese may be lit­tle steps to start with but as the land­scape evolves, so will con­sumers and re­tail­ers will be left with no op­tion but to con­tin­u­ally in­vest in new ways of cus­tomer de­light.

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