Innovation has always been integral to marketing. As technology continues to develop and offer endless opportunities for reaching consumers, retail brand managers should be considering how outside-the-box thinking can impact their ROI. As current marketing trends center on customer experience, here are some ideas for how retail brand managers can increase their loyal customer base through innovative strategies.
Use Innovative Strategies to Make Connections at Point of Sale
At stores like Walmart and Target, you can often find a small digital display promoting a certain product. At gas stations, you can watch ads on a tiny screen as you pump gas. At Walgreens and Kroger, you might find a smart screen doubling as a cooler door, providing a real-time inventory display with dynamic merchandising integrated, much like the online experience.
Each of these options uses imagery and smart screens to catch consumer attention. The typical six-second ad becomes a way to deliver content to users in the seconds before they make an in-store purchase. Cooler Screens, the company behind the Kroger and Walgreens smart screens, provides a digital media and merchandising platform for physical retail that not only showcases ads — it also delivers data to brand managers and helps stores manage inventory. Identity-blind sensors detect consumer presence and interaction with the coolers. Brands can choose between full-format ads, banner ads, product filters, and product attribute callouts. They can quickly measure what’s working and what’s not.
With marketing options like these, brands no longer have to rely solely on packaging and shelf placement to influence buyers. Contextual marketing, such as a pop-up ad that suggests a certain beverage based on the weather, allows brands to provide responsive, localized marketing in brick-and-mortar locations and at the point of sale.
There’s a delicate balance between implementing new strategies and overburdening consumers with gimmicks, so make sure that whatever solution you choose, it works in favor of the consumer’s seamless and efficient shopping experience.
Personalize the Brick and Mortar Experience
Amazon just opened their first in-person Amazon Style store, giving consumers the chance to browse clothing samples on racks and scan barcodes on items they’d like to try on in their size. Inventory is stored in a warehouse behind the storefront. It’s sent to dressing rooms when requested by a shopper via their smartphone. Touchscreens in the dressing rooms suggest further items the wearer might like. This allows consumers to view a greater variety of products than in a store that needs to keep multiple sizes of each item on the floor. It also gives shoppers access to the personalized experience they’re accustomed to online.
Amazon has an unusual depth of resources to create this integrated shopping experience, but other brands can still take notes. In fact, this principle has been in place for years. Grocery stores send coupons based on past purchases; many stores accept online returns at physical locations; and order-ahead grocery shopping exploded thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.
QR codes have existed for years, but they also exploded thanks to COVID-19 in an attempt to curb physical contact. Suddenly, you had to pull out your phone to scan a code for a restaurant menu or check in at a hotel. Most phones started including QR code scanners as part of their cameras and browsers, rather than forcing users to download a separate app. This tech resurgence provided marketers with a potentially inexpensive way to personalize the in-person shopping experience.
Ask yourself: How can your brand create content specifically for brick-and-mortar locations? How can you connect with consumers as they use IoT devices and shop in stores that carry your product?
Get Creative Influencers On Board
Influencer marketing isn’t new, but as free-to-use platforms including Instagram and TikTok continue to grow, it’s becoming a harder-to-ignore part of brands’ core retail strategies. Users with large followings build trust with their followers and recommend favorite products, while they also share stories about their daily lives. This model allows influencers, and thus, brands, to build trust with consumers. Advertising takes on a personal recommendation feel, and influencers create content that they know will resonate with their audiences. Brands often provide discount codes to influencers, leading to purchasing spikes when the influencer shares the code.
Brand managers looking to grow a loyal following should consider how influencer marketing can factor into their retail strategy. Do you need to encourage customers to look for a product on shelves? Do you want to build a cult following for a certain product? You may need to reach out directly to the influencer or go through their management company, but either way, this is a huge part of the future of content marketing.
To think even further outside the box, it may be worth including influencers in your brand’s R&D strategy. Many influencers only promote products they can personally vouch for; otherwise, they risk losing the trust of their followers. Sending samples and getting feedback while developing new products means that influencers can hype up products before they even hit the shelves, and makes them more likely to take an ownership attitude when creating content about a product down the road.
Consider the Context
Here’s what you, as a retail brand manager or content marketer, should be thinking about as you consider innovative strategies that could work for your product.
- What medium can you use to share your content?
- What context will consumers experience around your content?
- How can you turn your content into part of the retail shopping experience?
- How can you use traditional packaging and other marketing strategies alongside more innovative options?
As you explore how you can use innovation to your advantage, be sure to experiment, test, and adapt. Watch your consumer base respond. With some out-of-the-box thinking, you may earn some new loyal customers.