Bricks-and-mortar retailers continue to navigate challenges posed by digital ecommerce and actions such as showrooming, where consumers visit a store to check out products only to buy them online.
Stores are combating digital sales creeping into their bottom line with plans ranging from personalized shopping services to loyalty programs. Some retailers are tapping into the brand equity they have built on social networks and launching initiatives that tie into in-store visits.
“For a brand to succeed as a publisher, it needs to invest in four areas: process, content, technology, and people. Most brands are lacking in all four,” according to Huge’s Brands As Publishers report.
Brands are taking note – and action. It’s nothing new that bricks-and-mortar retailers are turning to digital platforms for several purposes including: connecting consumers to the brand, customizing the consumer experience, marketing of sales and discounts and rewards programs.
What is new is how retailers are speaking the same language as their customers and being relatable by understanding their needs.
Offer personalized and useful tools to help consumers with shopping decisions. One way to do that is by using online resource tools to customize the shopping experience. On Jan. 6, 2014, CVS launched its Family Vitamin Center. The online hub includes information about hundreds of vitamins and supplements, an interactive questionnaire, and tools that provide personalized supplement recommendations to fit health goals, according a CVS news release. There’s also an automatic vitamin replenishment service, discounts and free shipping.
“The Family Vitamin Center helps CVS/pharmacy customers save time, money and lead healthier lives, which is the intent of all of our digital resources,” said Brian Tilzer, Senior Vice President, Chief Digital Officer for CVS Caremark, in a company news release. “More and more of our customers are engaging with us across digital platforms to enhance their pharmacy and drugstore shopping. Until now, there has been a lack of guidance online to help customers decide which products might be best for them. Our new Family Vitamin Center is a one-of-a-kind tool that fills this information gap by providing customers with the facts they need, helping to put them on their path to better health.”
Launch date: Jan. 6, 2014
Goal: Empower customers to learn more about vitamins and supplements to support their health goals
Source: CVS news release
Use a cross-platform, cross-department plan to handle customer service needs on digital channels. Putting customers first in a cross-department, cross-platform effort is how Cabela’s Social Media Manager Adam Buchanan described overhauling their hope-for-the-best approach to customer service. Before the revamp, only one-third of messages were responded to in 72 hours, leaving customers waiting a total of 3,600 hours for a response each week, according to Buchanan’s Slideshare presentation.
Cabela’s rekindled its customer relationships with a focus on people, process and passion. Using a three-person social team, two customer relations reps, two corporate communication reps and those reps responding directly on social and the process of ignore, acknowledge, respond and escalate, according to Buchanan’s deck.
“Your customer’s content is better than yours. Pass them the microphone,” Buchanan’s slides say. That’s what Cabela’s has done with campaigns like its show us your #ultimatesmore contest with a chance for fans’ smores to be turned into one of Cabela’s fudge flavors and a $500 Cabela’s gift card. Buchanan’s advice: “Make sure you have the 50+ years of ‘happily ever after’ in mind with your customer”.
Goal: Improve customer relationships
Results: Average response time five hours
Respond to 90% of messages they receive
Increased followers on social channels 2-4 times
Source: Adam Buchanan’s Slideshare deck
Empathize, listen and act on customers’ ideas. J.Crew empathized and listened to a customer’s public request, but then backed it up with action to win her over.
In August 2013, the contributor to New York Magazine’s The Cut made a plea: J.Crew bring back the classic scoopback swimsuit. Avins signed the open letter to J.Crew’s creative director “fingers crossed”.
Not only was the personal request granted, but J.Crew’s response was customer service gold. In early April 2014, J.Crew responded to Avins’ request with a full-page ad with a handwritten note from Jenna Lyons. Well played.
Launch date: April 2014
Goals: Brand loyalty, empathy, customer service
Results: Full-page ad response
New York Magazine follow-up blog post
Source: New York Magazine
Demonstrate practical, everyday solutions for consumers. That’s exactly what the IKEA Home Tour has done with its web video series.
Meet the IKEA Home Tour Squad
by IKEAUSA via YouTube
In April 2014, five IKEA employees from California, Florida, Georgia, Minnesota and Virginia with backgrounds in home furnishings and interior designer were selected from nearly 40 applicants to make up the Home Tour Squad, according to The New York Times.
“We wanted to reach even more consumers with our different solutions … and demonstrate the unique ideas we have at IKEA to make everyday life at home better,” Leontyne Green Sykes, chief marketing officer at IKEA U.S., told The New York Times.
The squad documented the road trip by filming, producing and sharing their stories on the IKEA Home Tour YouTube Channel with content such as before and after the projects, behind-the-scenes interviews and more. They posted real-time updates along the road trip using Twitter and Instagram. The campaign uses the #IKEAHomeTour hashtag. The tour so far has performed two makeovers at each of these cities: Charlotte, Washington D.C./Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York. In each tour city, shoppers could meet the squad and get personalized design device at in-person events. More cities are expected to be announced.
HomeTourCampaign.com features web videos, a Pinterest board, a design blog, design ideas, the squad’s bios and IKEA’s tweets and Instagram posts. A section on the web page invites visitors to sign up for more information about the tour, emails and their catalog.
Launch date: April 2, 2014
Goal: Grassroots approach to tackle common home furnishing and designer challenges with genuine solutions
Results: Pinterest Home Tour Makeovers board: 107,827 followers
#ikeahometour Twitter hashtag = 357,557 accounts reached
IKEA Home Tour playlist of 64 videos has 188,021 views
IKEA Home Tour Makeovers playlist of 16 videos has 207,793 views
Media recognition Agencies: Ogilvy & Mather World Wide, Ketchum, MEC
Estimated campaign budget: $1-2.4 million
Source: The New York Times, IKEA, Tweetreach, YouTube
Tie digital incentives with in-store visits, offers and exclusives. H&M partnered with Boiler Room to announce that the underground music community known for holding events in secret locations, was coming to Poland for the first time. They launched what was called Poland’s first Snapchat chase. H&M hid 20 exclusive tickets to Boiler Room’s sold-out music event at stores in Krakow and Warsaw. To find them, consumers had to follow the Snapchat hints.
Launch date: May 2014
Goal: Highlight partnership and let people know about event via digital engagement
Results: 943 Snapchat followers
An estimated 200 game players
3.8 million unique users reached online
344,016 cumulative livestreams
Source: H&M, Lubie.to, Digital Training Academy
H&M launches Poland’s first Snapchat campaign
Bricks-and-mortar retailers are well aware of the hurdles they face in an increasingly dominant digital and mobile shopping landscape. They’re working to tackle these challenges with value-added tools aimed at personalization; content that addresses a need; grassroots outreach to connect with consumers and in-store events and promotions.