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Retail Resilience: How Brands in One of the Hardest Hit Industries Will Thrive Again

Retail Resilience: How Brands in One of the Hardest Hit Industries Will Thrive Again

By Allison Humphries, VP Strategy, Appnovation

In 2020, we saw our favourite retail stores close, reopen, close, move toon line sales, offer buy-online-pick-up-in-store (BOPIS) options – and that was before spring was over. One year later and (thankfully) a long way from panic-buying toilet paper, customers and brands alike are still adapting to a forever-changed retail experience.

Below are three strategies retail brands can implement to keep up with changing expectations in2021 and beyond.

Create Experiences that Matter

As online shopping continues to grow, customers are craving more personalized experiences. You’re likely already offering product suggestions based on customer preferences, location, and order/search history, which is a great start. The next step is personalizing some of your services, such as a chatbot to increase customer engagement and text messages that give order updates. Finally, bring that personalization in-store to create a seamless omni-channel experience that will help you stand out from other retailers and meet unfulfilled needs of your customers.

Throughout all these touchpoints, the importance of empathy can’t be overstated. Remember, although your brand may have endured significant challenges in the past year, so have many of your customers. Brands today, and into the foreseeable future, will need to meaningfully scrutinize every moment of engagement to make sure that each interaction is contextually relevant and actively helpful throughout the customer journey.

In Appnovation’s recent research into Shifting Consumer Expectations and Digital Readiness, over half of all North Americans surveyed consider technology-enabled solutions as important to have – if not a deal-breaker – when it comes to their retail experiences. Looking to the future, 84% of consumers expect brands to offer a seamless experience between online and in-store experiences within the next year.

Brands that prioritize these expectations and move beyond simply selling to both selling and serving will enjoy improved customer retention, more cross-sell and upsell opportunities, and increased overall customer satisfaction.

Combine Data with Instinct

Before you set out to create the experiences mentioned above, ask yourself if you truly know what your customers need from your brand.

Data is an important indicator of behavior, but it only tells part of the story. Use this information in tandem with both research and instinct to gain a comprehensive understanding of what motivates your customers to choose and remain loyal to your brand.

Defining the specific questions you want your data to answer is a great place to start and will allow you to connect the dots between “what data?” and “from where?” You can then map your data against the customer journey to better understand where in the experience your brand is excelling – or falling short.

With the right data strategy in place, you can more effectively tailor the experience to the individual, delivering the right content at the right moment and finding meaningful ways to delight them along the way.

Stay True to Your North Star

Brands today cannot operate with siloed thinking – it’s imperative to define a North Star strategy that anchors your Marketing, Sales and Technology teams to a unified way forward with shared goals. With digital being a significant underpinning to many brands’ competitive advantage, Marketing is primed to play a much more collaborative role in the overall customer experience. The Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) is the voice of your customer and the guardian of your brand experience, which means they’re uniquely positioned to set the tone for how all facets of the organization consistently and effectively bring value to the customer. 

If the past year taught us anything, it’s that the only thing that’s constant is change. What your customers need today will likely not be what they need tomorrow. Build brand resilience through a company culture that embraces experimentation to better adapt to unexpected shifts in customer needs. So while your North Star is your anchor point, you must remain agile enough to take some detours on the way.

Allison is a seasoned strategist with over 20 years experience creating innovative, business-building, multi-national experiences for some of the world’s leading brands. Her excitement for the future coupled with an innate curiosity about human nature have been the driving force behind her career. At global agencies including McCann World group, Critical Mass, Publicis Sapient, BBDO, and FCB she’s led cross-region collaboration for a number of global initiatives. Allison is now Vice President of Strategy at Appnovation, a global full-service digital agency. She is responsible for leading a team of strategy and insights professionals who partner with our clients to deliver positive outcomes for their customers and their business.