The most successful retail brands right now are focused on enhancing the digital experience for their customers.

This comes as no surprise, considering the rapid digital transformation that began in 2020. No need to rehash the trials and tribulations brought on by the pandemic, but needless to say, it spurred customer demand for satisfying, personalized experiences across any and all channels. And the pressure was placed on retail brands to evolve, and for marketers to deliver.

The retail evolution continues now, well into 2021. Retail marketers are putting into practice what was learned from 2020, and adapting to new challenges that 2021 presents, so that they can continue to satisfy customers and drive results for the business. 

In a recent webinar, Alex Timlin, SVP Verticals at Emarsys, shared some of the important actions brands must take to succeed in 2021. 

Here are a few key takeaways from the session.

Be Willing to Pivot

During 2020, brands had to pivot to survive. Sometimes, that is easier said than done. But successful brands made these three critical pivots:

#1. For better customer engagement, go beyond offers and discounts

A hefty discount or flashy sale can get a customer’s attention. But will it really lead to a long-lasting relationship with a customer? Not likely. 

Focus on ways to forge connections with customers that don’t require big banner sales events of 50% off coupons. Loyalty programs are a good way to do this, but you can also offer relevant, meaningful, in-the-moment personalization to connect with customers. 

#2. Establish a stronger online presence

As e-commerce grows by leaps and bounds, a strong online presence is a must-have. This is becoming especially pertinent for retailers who traditionally relied on brick-and-mortar stores for building customer relationships. 

But strengthening this online presence requires brands to be able to deliver personalized 1:1 experiences online. With all the competition out there, you need to be able to provide unique, tailor-made experiences to customers in order to stand out. 

#3. Lean into data

Without data, you can’t provide the level of personalization required to truly engage customers and secure their loyalty. And with all the changes to data regulation and privacy that impacts third-party data, you’ll have to really lean into your customer data (and start capturing it more adequately). 

Brands who are using first-party data successfully utilize it to drive sales not just online, but across the entire in-store experience as well. You’ll need to have the technology in place that allows you to connect all your channels so you can provide seamless 1:1 omnichannel experiences to customers. 

“Data is the foundation of customer experience, and the foundation of success. And it’s also the main cornerstone in the building blocks of personalization. Without data, you can’t recognize and communicate with your customer in the truly personalized way that they both deserve and increasingly crave.”

14 Alex Timlin
Alex Timlin
SVP Verticals, Emarsys

Have a Strategy for Earning Data

Toward the end of 2020, Apple dropped a bombshell with their announcement that they were taking away the automatic opt-ins of mobile app users. Although this is a positive for the customer, the fact is, it makes it harder to obtain the data that is integral to your marketing efforts. Now, you’ll need to have a customer’s consent to capture and share their data. 

Fortunately, most customers are willing to give you permission to capture their data, so long as you are transparent about how you are going to use the data, and are willing to provide value in exchange for their data. 

Your strategy for earning data should include a clear value exchange. What are you going to give the customer in return for their information? Articulate the benefit the customer will receive. 

Will you offer more personalized product recommendations? Relevant back-in-stock updates? Reduced friction when shopping on your website (i.e., one-click purchase, etc.)? Consider the extra levels of service you can offer customers, instead of relying on discounts and coupons.

Remember, this isn’t just a ploy to get data. You truly can provide a superior experience to customers if they share their data. Your job is to deliver on the promise, and hold up your end of the value exchange.

“To be able to track a customer’s behavior, you need to get the customer’s permission. To get the customer’s permission, there needs to be something in it for them. They need to [receive] more than just access to your website or your mobile app. They need to get something that helps them use the website more effectively, or get value from that app in a different way, and you need to build value in your communications and your offer strategy to make sure the customer gives their consent.”

Leader Ship 14 Alex Timlin
Alex Timlin
SVP Verticals, Emarsys

Make Loyalty an Integral Part of the Customer Experience

According to Emarsys data, 56% of revenue across 1,500 of the largest, most successful retailers in the world comes from customers who had already shopped with the brand previously. And customers that are members of a formal loyalty program spend 18% more in terms of incremental revenue than non-members. If revenue is the goal (and, of course, it is), make loyalty an integral part of the customer experience. 

The brands that are driving business results understand this equation: Engaging existing loyal customers to shop more often equals significant increases in revenue. 
Beyond the revenue implications, another benefit of a customer loyalty program is that it allows you to collect unique data and information about your customers that your competitors won’t have, giving you a tremendous competitive advantage.

“If you can predict what [existing customers] are going to buy and what they are likely to engage on in terms of the device, that information gives you a competitive advantage, because you have information that your competitors do not. And it’s increasingly harder to get this information from customers as they download apps and engage with websites, because they need to know what’s in it for them before they allow you to use this rich information to personalize their experience. So promoting your loyalty offerings, promoting your email program, promoting your mobile program, is a unique opportunity to move away from mass discounting and move toward personalizing offers and incentives.”

Leader Ship 14 Alex Timlin
Alex Timlin
SVP Verticals, Emarsys

Final Thoughts

Retail changed so much during 2020. But it’s an evolution that continues. Successful brands are less worried about trying to predict what will happen, and instead, prepare themselves to adapt so that they can deliver highly relevant, satisfying 1:1 experiences to customers under any conditions.

This post only scratches the surface of what’s discussed in the unPredictions 2021: Embracing Earned Data Strategy, Permission-Marketing & Omnichannel Loyalty webinar. To learn more about what your brand can do now to enhance the customer experience, drive true loyalty, and accelerate business outcomes, be sure to watch the full recording.  

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