Retail changing dynamics | Post-Covid-19 shifting consumer mindsets, marketing data and intelligent analysis
Dr. Evangelo Damigos; PhD | Head of Digital Futures Research Desk
- Competitive Differentiation
- Sustainable Growth and Tech Trends
Publication | Update: Sep 2020
The retail industry is undergoing unprecedented changes, redefining retail marketers’ understanding of consumer behavior.
One change is obvious: Shopping experiences for today’s consumers are no longer defined by traditional brick-and-mortar. Instead, retailers are rapidly shifting from offline experiences to primarily online experiences, aimed at satisfying consumer expectations for at-home shopping convenience and guidelines.
Retail has reinvented itself multiple times over the past couple of centuries, and now more than ever, we’ve evolved into a new age of modern shopping. Consumers expect retail brands to meet them wherever they are, without boundary.
Meanwhile, the proliferation of digital technology means that consumers have more access than ever to product information and reviews that ultimately impact their purchasing decisions. As a result, retail marketers are tapping into more and more data sources and channels to give customers the relevant, engaging, flexible experiences that they expect throughout the shopping journey. This retail industry transformation presents a real challenge for retail marketers, but also an extraordinary opportunity. It’s never been more important for retail marketers to understand the changing dynamics of the industry and how to best reach their customers, while also driving efficiency across their entire marketing budget.
Marketers have struggled to keep up with changing customer preferences in recent months, as consumer confidence levels have fluctuated and behaviour has changed at a rapid pace.
Shifting consumer mindsets during the pandemic mean brands need to take action on data in real time, but this is only possible when silos are broken down.
According to Steve Hemsley, Marketing Week author, Real-time data is more important than ever in an increasingly virtual marketing world, to ensure campaigns resonate with customers right now. However, according to a Salesforce Datorama’s ‘Marketing Intelligence Report’, 80% of marketers do not have access to daily or real-time data reports.
Brands can use data and measurement to evaluate how each message and tactic is resonating, but it is crucial siloed data sources are unified to give consumers what they want.
The Datorama report reveals that 42% of marketers are still operating in silos and measuring performance independently within each tool or platform, which makes it hard to react quickly.
Impact on retail
The retail industry has been particularly affected by the pandemic, with social distancing regulations and the mandatory closure of physical stores forcing operators to make rapid moves to ecommerce.
Consumers are reporting that interactions with retailers’ products, services, and brands across touchpoints are disconnected, with only 13% of consumers saying companies generally excel at delivering connected experiences. Meanwhile, brands rated the biggest consumer challenges as engagement and discovery (32%) and awareness and acquisition (24%).
As they look to the future, retail brands are attempting to focus their investments and resources in the right areas, aiming to double down on messages that drive top-of-the-funnel traffic.
It’s clear that retail brands need to improve their connections with customers, but how will they get there?
They can start by identifying and understanding some of the underlying pain points.
Marks & Spencer International has been utilising products across the Salesforce ecosystem including Salesforce Commerce Cloud, as well as Salesforce Marketing Cloud products such as Datorama. With Datorama, M&S International has been able to gain a better understanding of customer behaviours and seamlessly connect its data, to gain efficiency and greater value.
“There have been massive shifts from in-store to online shopping, a downturn in some product categories versus growth in others, cancelled summer holidays and a rapidly changing competitive landscape,” says M&S International’s senior digital marketing manager, Matthew Johnston. “All have contributed to a volatile retail environment. Meanwhile marketing budgets are more heavily scrutinised than ever before.”
M&S International has taken on an extremely agile test-and-learn mentality, focusing on a few key areas: visibility and controls on its spending, an understanding of its cross-channel metrics, and resource efficiency.
Datorama does the heavy lifting in terms of connecting and integrating M&S International’s data, so the retailer’s international marketing team has the confidence to make tough decisions as the business moves from a stage of resilience to recovery.
“We have combined our marketing data across Facebook, Google, influencer and affiliate programmes, plus display advertising to gain more of a holistic view of all our marketing activities,” says Johnston. “This helps us to set and forecast budgets and monitor spend.”
There have been massive shifts from in-store to online shopping, a downturn in some product categories versus growth in others, cancelled summer holidays and a rapidly changing competitive landscape.
Matthew Johnston, M&S International
During the pandemic, every retail brand has to build strong relationships with customers across their omnichannel journey by connecting and analysing data to gather deeper insight. However, this has not been easy for some.
Research by Salesforce reveals 55% of retailers struggle to establish relationships with customers in normal times because they are unable to turn data into insights. Their messaging becomes disjointed and lacks authenticity.
The solution is to automate data integration and management and use marketing intelligence platforms that offer cross-platform and cross-channel analytics to deliver instant data visualisation and intelligent recommendations.
For example, now could be the time for a brand to shift their media mix. Perhaps they should move some of their budget from billboard advertising to video streaming services or mobile gaming if this is where customers are spending more of their time?
Noble Foods, which owns the Happy Egg Co brand, brought forward much of its marketing spend from the winter to this summer and switched budget from in-store to television during lockdown. TV viewing figures were higher than normal and there were media deals to be had. The timing made sense as the government was encouraging people to make sure they were getting enough vitamin D. The ingredients in the Happy Egg Co’s bird feed means its eggs have 28% more vitamin D than other eggs.
“Around 95% of households buy eggs and we managed to turn the campaign around in six weeks, sharing data across agencies and using platforms such as Microsoft Teams to share insights and ideas,” says head of marketing Matt Davis. “We also spent more on social media and working with influencers.”
Indeed, social media usage has soared during the pandemic as people give their views on the political, social and health issues of the day. Customers are quick to tweet about a negative experience with a business or post a picture of a product on Instagram if a brand has made them happy.
Marketers need to understand current brand sentiment and use social listening platforms to gain an overview of customer feedback, to see whether campaigns are resonating with the target audience.
Marketers can note how many times their brand or business is mentioned and use sentiment analysis to monitor positive references and flag negative ones. When social listening data is harmonised with performance across other media through marketing intelligence platforms, the marketing team has a more complete view of brand health.
Ultimately by monitoring sentiment, the target audience informs the marketing strategy at a time when consumer behaviour is less predictable.
Ravi Parmeswar, VP of consumer business intelligence at Johnson & Johnson Consumer Health, says its marketing and R&D teams have been busy harnessing data, including social listening data, to gather deep consumer insights.
“Data is always at the forefront of our decision making,” says Parmeswar. “Data analytics is an asset we leverage to identify insights and accelerate decision-making to unlock growth.”
Early on in the pandemic the company’s Listerine brand team noted an uptick in conversation on social media, speculating about the ability of the mouthwash to fight Covid-19.
“The science does not support this and, based on the social listening data showing confusion and misinformation, we moved quickly to update the owned channels to dispel myths and provide the facts that Listerine mouthwash has not been tested against any strains of coronavirus,” says Parmeswar.
He adds that data enables brands to be consumer-obsessed to better understand people’s needs, preferences and unique experiences in difficult times. “Be curious, be agile, and test and learn,” he says. “Leverage real-time data to drive effective decision-making and embrace an ROI mindset across all consumer touchpoints, whether that is ecommerce, media or promotional activities.”
Taking a data-driven approach also means brand messaging is more likely to fit the tone of today’s economic and health conversation. Examples of brands getting the pitch right include Nike, which was one of the first to promote the social distancing message. Coca-Cola and McDonald’s even adjusted the letter spacing in their logos to emphasise the importance of safe distances.
Brands are realising that in such strange times they will only unlock short- and long-term growth if they tune into their customer community, and adapt to changing behaviours by prioritising empathy and trust when communicating. They can only do this effectively if they use data and measurement to evaluate the resonance of every message they convey and tactic they employ.
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