Within a few short years the retail experience has gone from walking in a store or maybe ordering via catalog to ordering products by just thinking about them. Ok, I’m exaggerating – but not by much.
In the span of a couple of decades, retailers have been forced to play catch up with a new breed of companies that not only have a dynamically updating profile of your purchase behavior but a taste profile on anything you click on. Literally, every product you digitally “touch” will influence what you are then offered.
The good news is between Amazon, Google, Facebook, Netflix and the major digital companies pushing the concept of recommendations, consumers now expect to be told what they might also want. Whether it’s a new pair of pants to go with the shoes he just ordered or a Facebook page she should like because she liked its competitor, consumers are, for better or worse, used to companies taking their data and using it to give them back a next step along the consumer journey.
Imagine yourself in a supermarket with an app, a robot, or a drone that tells you, “you bought waffles, you need syrup, here put this in your cart.” It’s an experience that breeds a concept of dependability and results in repeat business. Now you too, armed with data, can leverage optimization techniques to deliver more relevant offers, more timely discounts, more exciting content that generates a response.
And the (sometimes) bad news? You’re not Facebook, Netflix, or Amazon—but you still need to keep up and you need these digital platforms to help. You can leverage those platforms and systems and lower your margins and hope for bigger volume. And you should.
So how do marketers, with a myriad of channels, utilize data to drive that same kind of respect and dependability from consumers? It depends on how well you can leverage your advantages.
The first place your brand can win is in the realm of experience. While these engines of the new economy are powerful tools to unearth what people “might” buy next, they are not able to deliver against all the senses. The look and feel of a web domain or mobile app can hold no power over the flirtatious sales person, the sweet smelling candles, the things you can actually touch before you buy them. Nor can these engines of relevance listen to words and how they are delivered, understand nuances of intonation (good, bad, and ugly) that can be delivered on a call with customer care, and so on.
That being said, brands must make use of the technologies at hand to organize around these advantages. It’s virtually impossible to be closer to the consumer than they are to their phones. So yes, try mobile marketing– but try to make it geo-targeted. And of course, don’t discount the fact that being blocks or minutes away from a consumer’s desire is one of the strongest advantages brands have over every algorithm. Since you aren’t able to be smarter than those engines that incubate your profiles, you aren’t always likely to be more relevant in what you say– unless of course your sales agent has the ability to read moods, mention the weather, and utilize one of the oldest techniques in sales and commerce on the planet; human connection and empathy.
The world has changed– there is math and even better systems based on proprietary data that only your brand has and you can use that to create an omni-channel marketing strategy that is always learning, growing and changing as time goes on. But sometimes the advantages of relevance aren’t locked in a super machine; they are the basics that drive us all. It’s the smartest companies that know how to marry the two.