Ending Retail’s Mad Dash

How can retail marketers evolve from the fast-paced, get-it-out-the-door mentality of monthly campaign cycles, to being able to meaningfully – and cost-effectively – tailor their activity for local retailer needs? And more to the point, how can this process be measured and optimized?

Many Clients are asking us these questions. Our role is to demonstrate how technology not only shortens these processes, but also fundamentally redefines what’s practically and economically viable.

Traditional retail marketing

Some Clients are starting from an entirely offline creative process, where Agencies are emailing concepts/adapts for them to mark-up, scan and email back. Others are a little further down the line, with online collaboration tools reducing the admin time of manual artworking by reaching signed-off work without too much fuss.

In each case, the next step remains almost exclusively manual. Based on the limitations of a spreadsheet, materials are assigned to (or selected by) retailers and then deployed to print, direct to stores (e.g. for digital POS), or to local media.

More often than not, this process is pretty much one-size-fits-all, with very little segmentation over and above store/branch/restaurant format.

Innovation and targeting

So far, so standard and so inflexible. And that stands to reason, particularly when it comes to printed POS materials; they’re perceived as slow and costly to produce, which presents a sizeable hurdle to the idea of tailoring messaging for local needs.

Digital in-store media is different story. By using technology to mass-localise master content (e.g. in Flash, in the same way as online display), it can be tailored. And not just for location or local demographics and pricing, but also for real-time stock levels, day-part, Social Media sales promotions etc.

But in fact technology can enable similar tailoring in offline POS and local paid-for media. The challenge is to overcome two limitations of the traditional production process:

  1. the high cost of artworking new versions
  2. the administrative burden of capturing and managing the needs of what are often wildly differing retailers.

Tailoring printed POS

What about print, I hear you say. Fair comment. The tailoring of printed POS may not be cost-effective down to store level (and I stress the ‘may’). But, as is often the case, once you introduce technology, the game tends to change.

For example, imagine a single online retail Marketing ‘hub’ where retailers:

  • can create and save unique profiles for your store(s)
  • strip out admin by having the system intelligently auto-fill your order
  • are automatically advised on best performing materials / promotions based on your profile, demographics and recent order history
  • create your own localised messaging; changing imagery, pricing, promotions etc with brand and legal compliance baked-in
  • order bespoke volumes/formats, virtually eliminating the waste of traditional one-size-fits-all POS kits
  • reorder on the fly between promotional cycles as stock changes / needs change etc
  • self-audit by reporting on compliance.

The efficiencies achieved and savings realised are huge.

And from the Agency’s standpoint, the cost-savings tend to lead to higher volumes of creative work as the Client is able to afford greater variation and invest in new ideas.

Sounds good, right? In fact, there’s another equally powerful game-changer that this type of retail Marketing platform creates – and it’s not limited to any particularly media type.

What if you could report on the effectiveness of your activity?

From efficiency into effectiveness

Once you have a single hub for the management of retail Marketing, you can quantify and direct what’s happening. Who’s using the system, how often they’re creating materials, which materials are most popular and so on.

The next logical step is to close the loop and show which activity is most effective.

For instance, think of the usual performance metrics, for example:

  • sales
  • footfall
  • click-through (e.g. from local online content)
  • coupon redemption
  • tweets, check-ins, test-drives, recommendations, data capture, whatever.

Plotting metrics at store-level against the activity that ran is extremely powerful. It means you can quickly report on and visualise (via a dashboard) the best performing stores and the most responsive campaigns/materials.

And of course, knowledge is power. So best practice gets shared and the most effective work gets used more often. Likewise, areas of weaker performance can be tracked and managed.

The future of retail Marketing

The importance of this Technology in retail (and other sectors) shouldn’t be understated. The efficiencies gained by shortening and automating more of the production process reduces wasted money and time – both of which are freed-up almost immediately (so if you’re an Agency and your Client asks you to cut your rates, here’s your answer).

And enabling retailers and central Marketing to make smarter, better-informed decisions adds a new dimension to the effectiveness and accountability of their marketing activity.

Put those benefits together and you can see why so many clients are looking to Technology to redefine their operational model for retail Marketing.

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Using your community – There’s another significant benefit of systems like these. That’s the fact that your retail network is a Social Network. That includes everyone from retailers, franchisees, local Marketers, head office and Agencies. But that’s another post… 

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