Gray Matters: up to date strategies, surveillance capitalism and bricks and the new life of retail

Where’s the customer?

“Many of today’s companies craft their multiyear strategic plans much as they always have – establishing assumptions, defining objectives, and allocating resources over a time horizon of three to five years,” says Jason Girzadas, Deloitte Global managing principal and member of the Deloitte Global executive team, Deloitte Consulting LLP, in an article in the Wall Street Journal. But the nub of Girzadas’ contention is that traditional approaches aren’t up to today’s challenge.

Many marketers and particularly those in smaller businesses are struggling to come up with strategic marketing plans that aren’t out of date before their completion. Some have turned for support to the likes of the Spark Lab and Spark Lab Futures advisor Frances Valintine, who specialises in providing some understanding of the recent advances in the business world while challenging assumptions and long-held views.

“While many legacy businesses are choosing to ignore the step-change in consumer expectations, some global players are responding to a new demand by adopting or developing new products and services,” she writes. Valintine gives insights such as: “Behaviour trends in the first quarter captured a shift driven by Generation Z, those under 22 years. This generation is turning their backs on fast-fashion and cheap clothing. They’re moving in unprecedented numbers to second-hand and thrift shops for their clothing.” And the observation that, “if competitors can provide options that better reflect the new generations’ core values of equity, fairness, sustainability and transparency, then they’re more likely to move than at any other time in history”.

The Spark Lab offers marketers a free set of templates to drive marketing success. The templates include persona development, a customer journey map, a marketing plan, a digital marketing strategy, and a campaign ROI calculator. These marketing templates help marketers build a blueprint that sets their business up for effective marketing.

Customer journey mapping is the marketing buzz du jour and CIO from IDG offer a white paper on the subject, which just might help marketers optimise their customers’ experiences over time.

“Customer journey mapping is a way to visualise the customer experience and how they interact with your business. Your goal in mapping that journey is to remove the obstacles and make the process efficient and intuitive,” says an article in Forbes. “The more seamless an experience you can create, the better the customer experience will be.”

Locally, research company Ipsos offers Ipsos Loyalty, a leader in the field of practical application of customer journey mapping. “We conduct stakeholder, customer and front-line interviews using ‘gap analysis’ to identify critical ‘moments of truth’, the company says. “Mapping the customer journey provides our clients with a complete overview of the customer experience.”

Last November, Amrutha Murthy was appointed director, leading customer experience, at Ipsos New Zealand, and is the go-to person for those interested in the subject.

Big Brother

New Zealand TV ad watchers will be familiar with the Trivago lady showing you how to find your ideal hotel for the best rate. Trivago is one of a multitude of travel websites that base their marketing model on personalisation and retargeting. However, an article in Skift asserts that “momentum is building for what could become one of the biggest disruptions to the way the travel industry – and other businesses across the corporate spectrum – market and advertise their products and services”.

Surveillance capitalism also known as the commodification of personal information, is the practice of, “tracking internet users across the web, in their homes, and on their commutes in order to re-target them and monetise the data with unrelenting advertising”.

The latest practice by big tech is to capture billions of images that are then used to instruct an algorithm how to identify faces.

The push for personalisation came from the likes of Google, Amazon and Facebook, but consultant Stuart Falk argued that “any potential backlash against the advertising business model could push companies to rework their advertising budgets and tilt them toward branding campaigns instead”.

Personalisation was meant to be the end of mass marketing but recently the public is fighting back against data intrusion. Forbes reports “a massive majority of consumers believe that using their data to personalise ads is unethical,” quoting a survey showing “only 17 percent of consumers believe personalised ads are ethical”.

RSA surveyed over 6,000 adults in Europe and America to evaluate how attitudes are changing towards data, privacy, and personalisation. “The results don’t look good for surveillance capitalism,” says the report.

Marketers need to “use tools like artificial intelligence in meaningful ways to create a personal experience without the customer feeling like the company has crossed a line into creepy,” says Brandi Smith, VP of demand generation marketing at Uberflip, on Forbes.

The same article alerts us to the rise of chatbots that are going to increase their presence in 2019. “In fact, 35 percent of consumers would interact with one to resolve a complaint or problem, and 33 percent would use one to make a reservation at a restaurant or hotel.”

That’s probably why customers are getting annoyed with the likes of Vodafone. People still like to interact with other people. The future trend is, however, going to be an increase in the use of chatbots that know more about the customers than those customers would like.

2019 is going to be the year of heavy exploration and implementation of artificial intelligence for brands. Nissar Ahamed, senior director of demand generation at Atomic Reach, believes that “as companies of every size start to realise that AI isn’t there to replace humans and jobs – that it is, in fact, there to augment and complement those roles – more brands will adopt AI in innovative ways through marketing”.

Modern-day shopping

I was sorry to hear this week Munns the menswear store is closing down after more than 100 years. Despite stores like Munns closing, an article in Forbes claims the mall isn’t dead and technology is, in fact, giving retail new life. Certainly, the foot traffic at my local Westfield mall would indicate that there are a lot of shoppers who prefer the bricks and mortar option.

Even in the US, only nine percent of all sales takes place online, according to research company, Statista. “Ultimately, the companies that are really winning are the brands that are going toward the middle – where physical and digital combine,” says Healey Cypher, CEO and cofounder of Oak Labs, quoted in the Forbes piece.

Transforming the in-store experience for the modern-day shopper appears to be the key for retailers. Stores like UK apparel firm Superdry which recently launched into New Zealand with a flagship store at Queen Street, has created a separate e-commerce website for Kiwi shoppers.

As reported in The Register, the localisation of Superdry’s digital store is the missing link. Superdry e-commerce manager Brenden Gillen was reported as saying, there was “an increase in customer demand for continuity between stores and e-commerce”.

The e-commerce website acts as a digital catalogue of all products available in stores, offering online exclusives and a ‘floor to door’ concept which will allow consumers to shop in-store and have products shipped to their homes if their desired style or size is not available.

It may be true that millennials are often browsing in-store and then buying online but capturing valuable data about buying habits and preferences can boost sales for those retailers that can combine online shopping with the attraction of the mall.

That does not mean that the dangers posed by online shopping are not there. Amazon now has nearly 50 percent of the US e-commerce market and New Zealand shoppers are heading the same way.

The long and the short of it

YouTube is working on a tool called a “Bumper Machine” that can cut down a longer ad into six seconds. This is all done automatically using machine learning. The Bumper Machine takes a 30- or 90-second ad and creates a six-second bumper ad.

About Author

Graham Medcalf is a freelance writer and owner of Red Advertising.

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