A few years back, experts predicted that brick-and-mortar is on its last leg. Contrastingly, retail is entering an entirely new era now. Online players such as Amazon, Alibaba.com, Lenskart, and Nykaa have started investing in brick-and-mortar stores; offline stores like Max Fashion, D-Mart, Chaayos and Shoppers Stop have made their online presence by launching their websites and apps.
Although e-commerce, with its digitized outlook, is here to stay, physical retail stores will thrive too. The key is to intertwine online businesses with the offline world. The offline-to-online (O2O) synergy - the next frontier for retail is here.
Today, buying happens in various forms: Consumers do a thorough research on the website before buying a product; many have also adopted the click-to-collect route where they place their orders on the website/app and pick it up from the store; some walk into the stores, try the products and place orders using the kiosks.
Products also get delivered to doorsteps on the same day - thanks to the concept of hyperlocal stores. Given the fast-paced lives modern consumers are living, they are also following the micro-trips routine - a shopping trip that takes about five minutes. It’s a behavior that is becoming common as grocery stores let customers place orders online and pick the products up in person.
In addition to the multi-screen, multi-medium buying behavior, the human element and emotional connection play a significant role in shaping the consumer buying patterns. Undoubtedly, modern consumers have become smarter, impatient and demanding. But the desire to receive flawlessly humanized experiences remains.
This radical shift in the buying patterns of modern consumers has given roots to the online-to-offline synergy for the retail universe. Regardless of the channel and medium the purchase happens on, consumers must be fed with appealing omnichannel experiences - experiences that are linear online as well as offline.
Sometime back, Shoppers stop (an Indian department store chain) invested about 60 crore rupees in omnichannel capabilities and digitization. Today their investment is paying off and the number of customers visiting the store has only doubled.
Seeing this visible change in the buying patterns of consumers as well as the multi-medium offerings by retail businesses, B2B marketers like us had sensed the future and recognized the need of the hour - the marketing automation technology. Marketing technologists comprehended that the key to creating an effective omnichannel strategy is understanding how consumers interact with the brand at each step of the customer journey.
In simple terms, a marketing automation platform enables retail businesses to capture online as well as offline leads and convert them seamlessly through cross-channel engagement. It aids marketers in elaborately implementing this process - gather the online and offline data, combine the data and access it on a single platform, understand the user behavior with a holistic view, and deliver data-backed omnichannel experiences. The technology facilitates engagement across channels like email, SMS, browser and mobile push, in-app messages and so on.
Two years back, online Indian eyewear retailer Lenskart invested about 100cr to open physical stores across the country. Today the brand has over 400 stores across India. Their customer services are well aligned offline and online, as well. As a customer enters the store, the store representative instantly logs into the Lenskart website using the customer’s information and offers products based on their previous online activities or stored information. It is so delightful that consumers do not have to fidget around the entire store and get exactly what they want, even in person. It's like consumers are treat like best friends.
While most retail brands have discovered that a ‘mass approach’ no longer does any good to their business, there are several which haven’t yet dipped their toes into the O2O synergy using the right technology to grow their business. The reason is either the dilemma in choosing the right automation tool or the lack of awareness. So even today, a large chunk of consumers remain dissatisfied with the experiences that they have with the retail brands. Modern consumers clearly dislike content and experience that is shady, irrelevant or disconnected.
To make it easier for businesses, some marketing automation platforms also facilitate deep analytics of the data. Retailers can dive into the customer data to find out every customer’s buying behavior, attributes, and motivations. Further, segments of users can be created based on similar attributes and information.
Moreover, businesses can devise lifecycle marketing campaigns for these segments. Using this, retailers can orchestrate an entire set of communication for every stage of the customer journey. Additionally, cohorts automatically get created on these platforms.
Cohorts are simply a group of consumers who share a significant experience at a certain period of time or have one or more similar characteristics. For example, people who bought a particular product in a particular area of Mumbai on the Christmas day become a cohort.
A retail bookstore can have a cohort of customers who bought a book of the specific genre from a particular store. The store can then use this information to target this cohort with an email about a few other books of the same genre.
A retail lingerie website can have a cohort of all those ladies who bought a particular colored set of lingerie on a particular day. The brand can send an SMS to this group offering a special discount on similar sets of lingerie items.
Retailers can literally visualize their marketing abilities to drive quality growth, maximize customer loyalty and supercharge user engagement through highly personalized, omnichannel experiences. This reassures the convenience, consistency, and customization of consumer experiences.
Marketing Automation has been a gamechanger for the retail industry globally. Evidently, O2O space is slated to become a multi-trillion-dollar industry soon. By thoughtfully utilizing the O2O data and designing campaigns that make customers feel wanted, retailers can witness a complete transformation in their growth and engagement strategy. In the age of customer-centric marketing, retailers can deliver omnichannel experiences which create an emotional connection by employing marketing automation.
The scope of growth using marketing automation is certainly enormous for retail businesses - retailers can do wonders by promptly embracing the technology.
The article has been penned down by Avlesh Singh Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer at WebEngage