Omnichannel driving industry change

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It’s a dynamic time to be involved in the converging worlds of advertising, data, content and digital, particularly for anyone operating in the retail space. Big retailers are starting to innovate (or at the very least planning and working on the appropriate strategies) to leverage the change that technology’s forcing upon them.

But what’s forcing what? Media is being consumed very differently to the conventional ways that took hold when television adopted a dominant position in New Zealand households back in the sixties and seventies. Today screens are portable and multi-sized, and increasingly people are viewing multiple screens at the same time.

It doesn’t matter where you are, you have the internet, television, movies, music, news, correspondence, as well as instant access to your friends through a device that fits nicely into your pocket. It’s highly likely that you’ll have this device or smartphone tucked inside your pocket or bag everytime you enter a retail store. And it’s equally likely that staff inside the store – with or without management’s approval – will also be connected to the internet via their smartphones.

What goes on these pocket-sized screens, and how they interact with the environment around them, is the new battleground for consumer attention – and a number of savvy retailers are already leveraging this.

As sponsor of this year’s ‘Retail NZ Top Shop Retail Excellence Awards’, we’ve been attending events throughout New Zealand. Not suprisingly, these events provide a forum for hearing from retailers what’s going on in their industry and what they’re passionate about. Right now, the industry buzz is about online and ecommerce, omnichannel including content, loyalty programmes and (big) data.

Online focuses on the increasing need for many retail categories to offer an online store as an option. This enables the customer to ‘act now’ whether they’re in store, going to the store, have just left the store or sitting on the sofa at home. The buzzwords are ‘webrooming’ and ‘showrooming’, but essentially it’s about the intrinsic value of an online offering enhancing your overall retail offering.

As an advertising partner to many retailers and service organisations, we continually adapt our services and expertise to help our clients market to customers. Yes, we still make ‘big TV ads’, but increasingly we’re developing multi-channel campaigns where TV is a gateway to a world of content that explodes the idea into different streams of consumer relevant content across digital channels, in bite-sized chunks. This content might be funny, informative or instructional, but the shared values tend to be affordable production values and brevity while being engaging and ‘consumable’.

Another big discussion point with retailers is the interaction of data with in-store. We’re still some way off a more realistic version of Google Glass in everyday eyeware, and for the moment the smartphone is the device that can bring together your data, connection with the brand, and product and price information (usually leveraged through a loyalty programme or, at the very least, an App), with instore.

The customer will benefit from a better shopping experience because they’re connected to the retailer and therefore being served relevant information that recognises their previous retail behaviour. As marketers, we can motivate customers to shop more in store by delivering content to their screens in real time.

It’s also interesting how these innovations alter the make up of people working inside an ‘advertising agency’. Let’s face it, the moniker is becoming slightly anachronistic even if it’s a useful shorthand for ‘the people that help us make our communications engaging and relevant’. We need more people who can make ‘film’ (i.e. content), more people who can connect technology, data and customer experience, and clever project managers who can make the process even easier.

The changes taking place in our industry are invigorating. They’re prompting new conversations, new ways of working and stimulating new work. However, let me conclude with a few words of caution; there’s a very long tail in consumer media consumption so don’t expect classic channels like TV, letterbox and direct mail to lose their potency in the foreseeable future.

Author: Ben Goodale, Managing Director .99 / justONE