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The future of retail marketing at The Big Bang 2019

The Drum 12 Feb 2019 09:49
Panelists discuss the unpredictability of the retail marketing space at The Drum's Big Bang event held last week.

It’s an unpredictable time for retailers as high street stores battle to stay open while ecommerce vendors increasingly open up new physical shops, proving that there’s no one size to fit all. The Retail Panel, hosted by The Drum at the Big Bang event held at the Science Museum last week, discussed the trends affecting the industry. Panelists agreed that ultimately, it’s not about embracing technologies like AI or questioning whether online or offline works best but figuring out what consumers really want and developing the right strategy and tactics to meet their demands. Microsoft’s strategic sales director, Ben Irons, warned, “Get away from the shiny things; [your approach] needs to be fit for purpose.”

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With representation from Bing, Google, Facebook, Marin and Feedonomics, the panel – led by The Drum’s senior reporter Rebecca Stewart – addressed the currently instable retail market especially post-Christmas, comparing the recent acquisition of HMV with M&S’ experimentation (and success) with Instagram Stories.

Tapping into consumer’s desires is critical. Of all the ecommerce retailers who have opened physical outlets, they have been surprisingly successful – something Langston put down to “their proper understanding of what consumers are doing online and offline.” Some 50% of purchases offline are still influenced by mobile even though the majority of people are buying offline, suggesting that marketers should prioritise mobile primarily as it can help to boost physical sales and drives the consumer purchase journey before they even step foot instore. Wicks agreed; the traditional physical shop is changing. “It needs a rethink,” he said. “But it’s tough, because many retailers, especially the traditional high street ones, are locked into long contracts which are hard to get out of. Offline is going to be around for a while yet.”

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Feedonomic senior director of global accounts, Patrick Hentschel said: “It’s all about marketplaces in terms of what we're seeing as a growth trend. That presents immediate challenges for retailers to work out order synchronisation for the first time. Before that, they just had to keep up with their website, now they have to figure out how to maintain their inventory counts between these disparate systems.

Is there a perfect measurement solution for ecommerce?

“We’re all trying to engage consumers - whether it’s from a platform POV or brand POV,” said Irons. “As we engage consumers, we need to process the data that’s coming in, in real time. The feedback is instant. And we can see how people are engaging. It’s constructive attention. It should be there because that’s the nature of branded performance. If you’re clear with what you’re measuring, then the results can feed into the decision-making process.”

“Measurement as it is today – and I foresee this for the next while – is going to be based on a combination of science and assumptions. Done is better than perfect; you’re better off having something that’s 70% of the way that you can launch ASAP rather than wait years.”

So long as we continue to feed AI relevant information, there’s no need for creatives to feel threatened by AI, assured the panelists. Wicks agreed, “automation will save you some time – you gain efficiencies, in time and spend. That time can be best spent trying to figure out what data to feed in and what assumptions to make and what decisions to help power the machine.”

“Retailers have got to remind themselves that the customer comes first and must be at the heart of everything we do,” said Wicks. “How they’re treating their data, the type of experience they have on their website, they’re thinking about how they’re engaging with their ad units and ad formats - the customer really has to be at the heart of everything.

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Michael WicksAIBen IronsMarin SoftwareAmazon
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