"The distinctions that we talk about today between stores, apps, pick-up, delivery and sites are continuing to blur into the background for customers. As proof of its thesis, the retail behemoth founded by Sam Walton recently achieved success in halting nine quarters of slumping online growth and registered robust growth in its online sales. Meanwhile, Amazon, the very model of online retailing seems to have big ambitions to launch physical stores. It will be interesting to see how the e-commerce giant's strategy to delve into the physical space, with its own omni-channel approach to the market, unfolds in the long run. The world of retail is clearly going through a profound transformation.
Intelligent and mobile technologies have dramatically altered the customer journey, all but erasing the line between digital and offline consumer behavior. Whether tapping on their smartphone, speaking to a home device, or interacting with their car's connectivity systems, consumers continuously engage with a wide array of digital systems when they want to learn something, do something, or buy something. It doesn't matter if it's a high-end purchase like a large-screen TV or a more mundane sundry like deodorant--it's becoming second nature for consumers to steal moments throughout the day to answer any question that comes to mind, using an ever-increasing variety of devices. The more personalized and relevant the results, the more meaningful these engagements become. Therein lies the new marketing opportunity for brands: building a data strategy to collect and analyze the trails of data consumers create, uncover insights, and take action to boost the value of these engagements.
As the retail industry is seeing a shift with digital in how brands are approaching marketing and establishing a store presence, retailers are looking for ways to provide timely relevant content that consumers demand to master the omnichannel approach, fully connecting the online, mobile and in-person experience. A study by RetailMeNot revealed several key trends that are impacting the retail industry and change the types of marketing decisions being made in the future. Seventy-eight percent of retailers surveyed will spend more in 2018 on social media marketing. And although 67% said they will use email marketing and driving mobile conversion as a way to get more customers, some (10%) of the largest retailers reported they will keep their budgets exactly the same as 2017. "Brands are looking at social media not just for brand building but for acquisition and performance media," said Marissa Tarleton, CMO at RetailMeNot Inc. "In the past, marketers were putting aside a social budget for brand building, but brands are now putting more investment on social media because they can see a return on investment."
All these terms and more get thrown around when it comes to marketing to today's consumer, and for good reason. They're all used in an attempt to address the core problem faced by every brand competing for shoppers' increasingly divided attentions: building real, one-to-one relationships with customers -- at scale.
E-commerce has gifted retailers an abundance of data on consumers' visiting, browsing and buying behavior, but physical stores remain a data black hole: beyond traditional footfall measurements, retailers have typically had little access to robust, granular data on in-store visitors' behavior. However, many forward-thinking retailers and mall owners are now integrating their online and offline propositions to meet the changing demands of consumers and better position themselves to use everything they know about a shopper to deliver a highly relevant experience. By bridging the online/offline gap, retailers can better target their marketing and brand-building efforts across multiple customer touchpoints. In the wake of challenging traffic and store closure trends, many traditional retailers are now prioritizing omnichannel retailing and leveraging in-store analytics technologies to track, measure and analyze shoppers' activities in stores and shopping centers. This information can be used to understand the shopping patterns and preferences of individual consumers.