Technology is no longer an add-on, but an integral and integrated part of our lives. In fact, our children are learning to code at the same time as learning to read and write. For those holding the purse-strings, what we see, desire and decide is increasingly interwoven with algorithms and interfaces that seek to know us better than we know ourselves. These are strange days some may say, and indeed did, at a recent LS:N trend briefing where implications of rapid communications evolution for next generation retail were explored in depth.
Mega-systems vs. retail intimacy
With mega-systems such as Google, Apple and Amazon now driving how we discover, share and make purchase decisions, and social commerce becoming the norm, the boundaries of retail spaces are now blurred. But at the same time, challenging the ubiquity of these mega-systems, creative upstarts such as Secret Sales, Stylist Pick, Rue La La and Achica are introducing gated retail spaces and walled reward programs that cultivate a feeling of exclusivity and intimacy for users.
From bricks to clicks and back again
In parallel to this cyberspace battle for attention, consumers still like to visit bricks and mortar stores, even after having made purchasing decisions from the comfort of their mobile devices. FMOT (first moment of truth – the moment a customer experiences the product on the shelf) has been replaced by ZMOT making the path to consumer consideration and purchase more complex than ever. Communications professionals now need to understand more about target consumers: from media preferences to social sharing behaviours, while retailers need to look at ways of providing more than the traditional shopping experience across multiple platforms.
Sofa retailer CSL has embraced this challenge on mobile, extending its in-store offering to enhance the buying experience. The CSL app allows consumers to browse and virtually try sofas in their own room, get hints and tips from furniture experts and easily recommend CSL to friends and family via an incentivised sharing feature.
Insight and improvisation in the age of super speed analytics
Computing speeds have increased 2000 fold since 1980, enabling us to buy and consume all kinds of media in seconds, from viewing ancient manuscripts within museum archives to peering into the Amazonian rainforest. Given the rich and rapid evolution of behaviour that has accompanied this constantly accelerating trajectory, last quarter’s consumer surveys no longer provide adequate insight for effective communications planning and execution. Speedy access to sophisticated data analytics is enabling those who can adapt fast enough to respond to user behaviour patterns instantly.
SAP, the world’s largest business software developer, introduced Hana in 2012 – reducing point-of-sale data analysis times from one day to 10 seconds. CEO Hasso Plattner explained to LS:N Global that SAP plans to go even further, “In the next three years we might be able to achieve everything we do today in around a second.” Businesses have already begun using this high speed data analysis to make more accurate purchase predictions, eliminate inefficiency from supply chains and offer consumers a seamless shopping experience.
Evaluating earned influence, point by point
So this new retail paradigm means communications professionals can reach people in a more timely and relevant way. It also means that we can no longer rely on out of date AVE (advertising value equivalency) metrics to measure success. Instead we have access to analytics that track the entire consumer journey from awareness through to acquisition, and can capture conversion data which proves where earned coverage, influence and interaction is impacting the bottom line.