Well, kudos to all the marketers out there for fabulous results on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. According to the Huffington Post, half of all Americans shopped on Black Friday and an increasing number of them (33%) did it online, rather than wait in line at crowded (and increasingly dangerous stores).
Cyber Monday — where stores actively court online shoppers — also showed a dramatic increase in sales. And, while these numbers may not be sustainable throughout the holiday season, they were enough to send Wall Street decidedly north.
These numbers show consumers are increasingly turning on their computers and smartphones to shop rather than their automobile.
But, is your marketing plan optimized to take advantage of these connected consumers?
Or, is your marketing plan stuck in the age before digital marketing?
Anecdotally, I’d say many retailers have marketing plans that haven’t entered the digital age. For instance, a conversation on my Facebook wall claims the inability of Ann Taylor to take orders through smartphones and a website that crashed under the traffic from their Cyber Monday sale.
Ok, you ask, how do I update my marketing plan to optimize for connected consumers?
Well, I’m glad you asked!
As with any marketing plan, your digital marketing plan should start by gathering some information, then setting goals, and finally planning strategies to accomplish your goals. So, let’s start by asking some questions.
1. What technology do I need?
Retailers and their marketing departments are still married to the notion of retail stores and don’t put enough planning into their digital marketing plans.
In the case of Ann Taylor, there was probably a bandwidth problem coupled with a website that wasn’t optimized for mobile. But, that’s a pretty simplistic way of looking at it. A more systematic problem is marketing and IT aren’t working together to build marketing strategies for the digital age. Marketing isn’t forecasting demand on the website and communicating that information to IT so they can provide necessary resources to meet demand.
2. Think outside the box
But, marketers also need to think outside the box (in this case the store) to predict what connected consumers want from a retailer. Macy’s is a good example. They’ve filled their retail stores with QR Codes providing more information about nearby products. Unfortunately, most malls where they’re located don’t have WIFI and their 3G reception is spotty. It was a great idea, but are consumers really going to power up their smartphones only to find they don’t have service to read the QR code?
Wouldn’t it make more sense to provide WIFI in the store to enable mobile access?
And, once you have reliable WIFI access, why have customers standing in line to pay for items. Why not just let them scan the item, then pay using their digital currency?
Poof! No more lines and shopping cart abandonment (yes, it happens in real life, too) declines dramatically. Now, instead of standing behind the register to ring up merchandise, store employees are free to help customers find items, suggest additional items, and help in the fitting rooms. Customer satisfaction climbs and so do sales.
3. Find customer pain
In a way, a marketing plan is like a physician — constantly asking customers where they hurt. For instance, I hate the grocery store but it’s a necessary evil. And, I don’t like grocery shopping online, so that’s not the solution.
So, why do I hate shopping in the grocery store? The aisle are crowded with stuff that wouldn’t fit on the shelves, I can’t find the stuff I want, and I hate lugging things out of my shopping cart, then back into the shopping cart in bags, then hauling it out to my car. The stuff is heavy and I have to re-arrange things to ensure I don’t crush the bread or break the eggs.
A marketing plan for a connected consumer might allow me to shop aisles full of information, rather than products. I can use my smartphone to scan bar codes for the items I want. I then download my information at the checkout or simply use digital currency to pay for my items. I enjoy a cup of coffee while my items are being picked then pull around to have my groceries loaded into my car. Easy, simple, painless.
You can even allow customers to pick their own produce and meat — the only things customers really care about seeing before buying in a grocery store.
And, while the grocer now needs to pay people to pick the merchandise, they no longer have to pay for them to stock the shelves. Grocers replace high-priced retail space (since they’re not displaying items in the store, just a picture of the package) with cheap warehouse space. No more shoplifting — there’s nothing in the store to steal. Much less breakage, fewer items passing their expiration dates, and less frequent stock-out, as warehouse workers now control inventory. And, I might even buy more as my cart never gets too full to add more items (plus, perceptually, I’m likely to buy more when I don’t see a mountain of stuff already in my cart).
These are just a few ways I need to adapt my marketing plan to optimize for connected consumers. What are some other ways? Add your advice in the comments below.