Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Flexible marketing is the best Christmas present for retailers

By Alex Feiglstorfer, CTO and co-Founder of Storyblok

I’m not going to start by saying the usual clichés that the last eighteen months have been ‘tough’, ‘challenging’ or ‘unprecedented’ for retailers. You will all know much better than me how the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns have hit the sector. What I do know is marketing. Specifically, from our work with our clients, how consumer behaviour has radically changed and this has necessitated the overhaul of marketing to adapt. For many retailers, taking a brand new approach to marketing may be the last thing on their mind. Nevertheless, with Christmas less than three months away and, fingers crossed, the worst of lockdowns behind us, now is a golden opportunity to look again at how you engage with your customers and promote your brand.

Before I dive in, let’s take a moment to think about one other major trend that has emerged in the past year – instant grocery delivery. In many cities in Europe, startups like Gorillas, Dija and Zapp are burning through millions in funding to launch huge marketing and scaling operations. You may think this is perhaps only of interest to corner shops and established large grocery retailers. However, what this boom is indicative of is a huge change in how customers buy products and services. People are much more comfortable buying everything and anything online, and critically, they expect it to be delivered right away. This instant delivery concept brings a new dynamism into retail and soaring expectations to match.

A retailer obviously doesn’t have to have 20 minute or even next day delivery to be successful. The point is that technology, logistics and consumer behaviour have met to enable snap decisions and impulse buys all via apps. Ecommerce is replicating another aspect of the high street experience. This blurring of the lines between real world and online experience, together with raised expectations and increased competition means that to stand out retailers need to be more innovative, disciplined and tactical with their marketing initiatives. In short, your marketing needs to be as dynamic as your customers have become.

So where do we begin? First, marketing effectiveness is only ever as good as the technology that underpins it. The big mistake many companies make is in thinking that getting a big tech stack from a well known brand is the best and easiest way to enable a successful marketing output. Not only is this usually an expensive approach, it may mean being locked into using products that don’t fit your business’s changing needs. On the other side of this, there are businesses that simply don’t invest in any significant marketing infrastructure.

The reality is that there are now a huge range of new solutions available that, via APIs, can usually be easily integrated together. This means you have the freedom to build a suite of tools that work for your business. In addition, you also have the flexibility to swap out different solutions as your marketing develops.

Identifying just what you need comes down to how you think about the future of your business and its marketing output. The trends I’ve highlighted, alongside a general fracturing of the media landscape, means that people consume content from a huge range of different channels and expect more personal, up-to-date content. As a result, creating a suite of tools that enables you to quickly and easily amend content is essential. So too is the ability to leverage existing customer data and other information streams to provide tailored and relevant marketing messages. Headless CMS aligned with good data infrastructure is a combination that enables this type of marketing strategy.

The final major piece of the puzzle is building the expertise you need to maximise the impact of your marketing. Gone are the days when a catchy email subject line or funny tweet would be enough to draw significant attention to your brand. Consumers expect the entire customer journey to be personalised and offer the best user experience. Everything from delivering dynamic content on your website through to post-conversion follow up needs to happen. This requires having a marketing department that is multidisciplinary and cross-functional. They need to have data, development, commercial and marketing skills and, critically, the team cannot be isolated from the rest of the business. Information flow between marketing and other departments is both desirable and essential. For example, data gleaned from marketing can inform product development and data gathered from areas such as customer service are needed to enable a truly personal experience.

If all of this sounds very overwhelming, do not worry – Rome was not built in a day. Start small by auditing your existing outputs and looking closely at the data to ascertain your successes and pain points. From there you will be able to identify a pilot project where you can trial a new approach to your marketing. As this trial develops you’ll have a greater appreciation of the type of tech stack you’ll need and the skills you need to bring into your business. When this is completed you’ll be able to create a plan that can execute the points I’ve highlighted above. You may not be able to do this in time for Christmas, but getting the ball rolling now means that you’ll be able to set your business up for a prosperous 2022.