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Review: Future of Retail Marketing event

Data is absolutely fundamental to the marketing efforts of retailers today but it is still widely misunderstood and misinterpreted and therefore not being used to the… View Article


Review: Future of Retail Marketing event

Data is absolutely fundamental to the marketing efforts of retailers today but it is still widely misunderstood and misinterpreted and therefore not being used to the best advantage of far too many organisations.

Speaking at The Retail Bulletin Future of Retail Marketing 2021 virtual conference Jack Sweeney, founder of JDS, suggested brands can often be “blinded by data” but to succeed he recommends retailers plan – to either solve a problem or to unlock an opportunity.

Planning the use of data

“In order to do this collect as much data as possible but then eradicate that which you don’t need or is not relevant. The biggest mistake companies make is having an opinion and then going into the data to validate this opinion. You should go into the data collection objectively and to find the truth,” he says.

Trevor Gordon, former director at Sodexo, agrees and finds many companies worry about the accuracy of data and the volumes, which holds them back from benefiting fully from data in their marketing activities. “Just get started and keep it simple. Not all will go right but you just have to bake it, which will take some time.”

Helping fill the data lakes out there is delivery data, according to, Katherine Biggs, head of marketing & communications at ParcelLab, who says there is an “abundance” of such information that retailers could be using to their advantage.

Know your groups of customers

“Take a step back and work out who your customers are. If they are regulars then they will be more relaxed about delivery than a new customer. Customers typically want important information via SMS as they’ll see this message. Work out what different groups of customers want and then work backwords from there,” she recommends.

Biggs believes there is a great opportunity for retailers to “take control” of the customer journey during the delivery element of the transaction. “We can help clients with a personalised approach that is more than just putting a name in an email and some products. If the customer buys a wardrobe then why not send them construction information and recommend coat hangers with a discount delivery code. Be the first retailer to do it,” she suggests.

Personalisation can certainly make an incredible difference. Nidhima Kohli, CEO of My Beauty Matches, says she has an open rate of 30-40% for personalised emails compared with only 2-5% previously and with the white label My Beauty Matches engine installed on retailers’ websites the conversion rates can increase 40-50% in only six months. The personalisation solution uses artificial intelligence to improve the customer experience online.

Senior management buy-in needed

Despite such evidence Shelagh Stoneham, fouder & CEO of Power Wearhouse, says the major challenge for retailers is that personalisation is not viewed as a priority by senior level management. “In big companies there will be other more pressing matters. The e-commerce element is still small versus bricks & mortar in legacy retailers and in order for resources to be allocated it takes senior leadership to make it happen,” she says.

Another problem, according to Alan Porter, director of product marketing at Nuxeo, is that when management are involved there can be a mismatch between their expectations and what actually gets done because of a failure to define the initiative. He recommends retailers take the approach of defining the common actions and interactions people take with the brand and then building personalisation (involving segmentation) around the customers’ common needs ahead of any communication with them.

One further complication comes in the form of cookies. Not only is there the impending removal of third-party cookies but Chris Liversidge, CEO & founder at QueryClick, says they are a very imperfect tool whichever way you look at them. At the heart of the problem is his belief that they are ineffective at identifying the same individual visiting a website on different occasions. To address this he has developed a solution that uses AI and machine learning to work out the probability of engagements being linked to the same person.

Keeping things simple

Amid such issues Emily Laws, senior marketing manager at Lucky Saint, is an advocate of a straightforward approach to personalisation. She points to the importance of knowing where people are in the purchase cycle: “They might have just bought a 48-pack of beers so you don’t want to then send them an email for a fridge top-up one week later. We also think about mindsets and not demographics. We know that all our customers are interested in health so when we send out health-related content it gets a 40% open rate,” she explains.

Another effective approach is to target specific audiences through influencers. “They know their audiences and it’s a good way to segment your audience. They can deliver your brand message that resonates as it’s in their words. This is a way of personalisation that is both time and cost-effective,” says Laws.

Andrea Brown, head of industry at Google, also recognises the power of influencers: “There is credibility around some influencers. They take you into their life but it’s built around technology. Influencers are becoming more important.”

Central hub for data

The rise of influencers involved with retailers highlights how technology has increasingly become part of the decision-making process for transactions, according to Desi Reuben-Sealey, senior UX manager at Victorinox. But he says that most value can be created when retailers’ data is held in a central hub and that this feeds into a marketing strategy involving distributing content to a variety of mediums – including apps, kiosks and online.

For this to be most effective he says: “I’d always recommend making sure the foundations [of the data] are clean. That there is one version of the truth. Only then can retailers have lean apps and [frequently] change their solutions, which then enhances the experience for customers.” The good thing is that Reuben-Sealey says the technology to achieve this scenario is affordable.

He also believes it is an imperative that retailers embrace digital: “If they do not go into the digital realm then you’ll only ever be local.” Brown agrees: “The urgency is now. Digital is the gateway to accessibility [to your brand]. Everyone wants to prove out projects but you just have to go in there. If you are apprehensive then test, adjust and optimise. The data points will always be changing so if you rely on them then you’ll never start.”

Words by Glynn Davis.  

Retail Bulletin’s next online conference, Digital Transformation Strategy, will be held on 18 November. Find out more and book your free place here

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