Megan Dacey comments on the need to engage with consumers on a local level and what this means for the delivery of retail PR.
The way people shop is ever-changing and that in turn changes the way we communicate with them.
Online shopping has continued to grow exponentially for a number of years but according to Mintel this growth is now beginning to slow and we are already seeing the effects of this up and down the country as stores and centres adapt to entice customers who shop online and offline interchangeably.
Retail communications is no longer ‘grab and go’ – we are reverting back to offering experiences and personal rewards to visitors as the focus shifts from footfall growth to increasing spend, dwell time and encouraging repeat visits.
At St David’s Cardiff – Wales’ leading retail and leisure destination – this hyper-local approach has seen great success throughout the year. By tapping into the pride of the Welsh, a number of campaigns have been delivered that resonate with shoppers and get tongues wagging.
The centre and cult local brand I Loves The ‘Diff have embarked on a partnership that brings the spirit of the city to life. From events that give away personalised Cardiff themed prints, to huge artwork being displayed throughout the centre, the collaboration has brought Welsh humour and quirkiness into the country’s largest shopping and leisure destination.
2016 has been the year of the Welsh and with unparalleled success in the Euros, the centre decided to close early for the semi-final to enable its 4,000 staff to watch the game. This bold decision resulted in nationwide conversation and praise – another way that the centre has placed itself at the heart of the city.
Consumers cannot be squeezed into a certain audience set because behaviours and interests are varied, and individuals are continuing to look for an experience that fits and resonates with them. Across the UK, shopping destinations are beginning to realise that it’s not all about quick transactions, it’s about celebrating the people that walk through the doors every day.
In the last of our 8for16 trends blog posts we consider how, in an era of instant price comparisons and product reviews, brands must foster direct emotional connections with consumers who expect consideration and customisation at every turn.
Relationship marketing has never been more important and in 2016 art will triumph over science and imagination will matter at least as much as effective data crunching. Given that it’s about five times more expensive to acquire a new customer than keep an existing one and that on average loyal customers make up 20% of a company’s business but 70% of sales, it’s well worth investing in cultivating and keeping them. As it becomes ever easier for shoppers to access multiple providers and switch loyalties on an hourly basis, organisations must show that they are attuned to their needs and willing to give back. In place of personalisation gimmickry will be more meaningful connections with individuals that transcend bespoke packaging options.
At the heart of this will be great customer service – which researchers have shown triggers the same cerebral reactions as feeling loved, sometimes even increasing heart rate. Millennials are looking for a hybrid experience that combines streamlined user-friendly digital options with empathetic solution-focused human assistance on hand where appropriate. Amazon Fire users need only tap the Mayday button to connect face-to-face with their own personal tech advisor. And all organisations will need to become more proactive –listening to social complaints and checking in with customers and letting them know what to expect rather than waiting to hear from them.
Reward schemes will need to be increasingly relevant and personal to encourage consumers to spend more and keep coming back. Harvey Nichols’ new Rewards app is a fast track pass to exclusive personalized perks and stylish money-can’t-buy privileges. As well as rewards, each loyalty tier will have its own set of benefits such as gift wrapping, express alterations and at-home styling. Companies will be looking to splice customer spending data with social media intel to deliver hyper-personalized rewards. Global travel rewards currency, Avios launched a hyper-personalized campaign, ‘Do More with Avios’ enlisting the help of customers’ friends and family to use banner ad spaces to nudge collectors to spend their Avios points on doing things together.
We’ll see Emojis pop up everywhere from menus to feedback forms as companies find more direct and intuitive forms of engaging their audiences at every stage of the purchase cycle.
Emojis are no longer just the language of teens – four in five UK adults use emojis on a regular basis and more than 60% of over 35s identify themselves as frequent users, saying they express their feelings better than words. Aloft Hotels TiGi (Text it. Get it.) Emoji Room Service is designed to meet the needs of its guests who simply have to text an emoji of what they want to the hotel’s front desk and within minutes, the delivery is made. Even Goldman Sachs recently launched its report on the spending habits of Millennials with a 22 emoji executive summary on Twitter.
Targeted experiential campaigns are also on the rise with 87% of consumers saying live events reach them more effectively than television advertising, and 98 percent saying a live event motivates them to buy a product, according to EventTrack. Mobile tours, pop-up stores, in-store experiences, entertainment partnerships and sampling events are joined by direct to consumer activities such as Uber bringing kittens in need of a home to meet stressed out workers in need of a cuddle. Gen Y and Z in particular want memorable on-brand experiences that provide them with personal content to share online. This Christmas Burberry is allowing customers to star in and share a personalised version of its Christmas ad alongside celebrities such as Elton John and Naomi Campbell via the “The Burberry Booth” at its flagship Regent Street store.
Ultimately trust – in 2016 more than ever – will be dependent on delivering great brand connections and genuinely personal experiences at all stages of the customer journey.
We’ll see rapid changes in consumer behaviour, as the sharing economy mainstreams across markets. Nothing is sacred – expect new models for everything from finance to healthcare, as the next generation rips up the rule books and reimagines the future.
Reinventing the Wheel
As a highly respected and outspoken advocate of ‘first principles’, Elon Musk is channeling his inner-Aristotle, who first coined the term nearly 3,000 years ago.
Aristotle said that a first principle is the “first basis from which a thing is known” and that pursuing first principles is, ostensibly, the key to creating step-changes in thought and action.
In a 2012 interview, Musk gives a clear and concise description of Aristotle’s teachings:
- The normal way we conduct our lives is we reason by analogy… we are doing this because it’s like something else that was done or it is like what other people are doing… iterations on a theme.
- [With] first principles… you boil things down to the most fundamental truths and say, “What are we sure is true?” … and then reason up from there.
- Somebody could say, “Battery packs are really expensive and that’s just the way they will always be… Historically, it has cost $600 per kilowatt hour.”
- With first principles, you say, “What are the material constituents of the batteries? What is the stock market value of the material constituents?”
- It’s got cobalt, nickel, aluminum, carbon, some polymers for separation and a seal can. Break that down on a material basis and say, “If we bought that on the London Metal Exchange what would each of those things cost?”
- It’s like $80 per kilowatt hour. So clearly you just need to think of clever ways to take those materials and combine them into the shape of a battery cell and you can have batteries that are much, much cheaper than anyone realizes.
It’s that thinking that helped Musk (and the team) create and develop PayPal and has been integral in his pursuit of Space X and Tesla. It is also the kind of thinking that has led to the development of Uber, AirBnB, KickStarter, Funding Circle and many, many more disruptive companies.
Many people have made causal connections to the development of the sharing economy to the idea of first principles. While there is myriad anecdotal evidence to support such assumptions, the history and heritage of first principles mean that it is unfounded.
That said, it is safe to posit that the increase in availability of connective technology will bring about an acceleration in such innovation and thinking.
Let’s All Share
The roll-out of UberPool demonstrates how people are searching for different value exchanges… The sharing economy has disrupted many notions of ownership beyond recognition.
From Millennials and beyond, the paradigm has shifted away from antiquated notions of ownership and toward the concept of access. Access to experiences, to people, to information, to ideas.
The use of open source R&D was something that powered SpaceX and later drove Tesla. What Gen X talked about during their wellness retreats, the Millennials have brought to life; they have destroyed the illusion of ownership, thus beginning the end of the idea of a consumer and creating the paradigm of the user.
This shift will see a spike in combinatorial innovation, as users and brands remove the shackles of fixed thinking and start to fuse ideas and innovations from other fields and sectors.
The new ‘rock stars’ in business will be those who connect seemingly disparate ideas and make something fresh, or those who combine the best of two fields to solve a problem in an elegant manner.
One company doing the latter is Ossur, which recently trialed a mind-controlled prosthetic leg.
But the fun will come from those who push and play in equal measure. 3Doodler is one such company, creating a tool that allows for 3D printing technology to be placed in the palm of your hands, so that you can free draw sculptures in mid-air.
Play Left Field
Essentially, the take-away is this. Verticals should be viewed as ingredients in an ideas mixer. Blend them together in a shaker and see what concoctions you can make; some will be foul, but others could be the signature drink for years to come.