Three Ways To Develop A Multi Touch Strategy For Connecting With Shoppers

With consumer behavior has changed so significantly, retailers today are faced with a new challenge: connecting with consumers in a non-linear way. Consumers are visiting stores less frequently and spending less time in stores when they do visit. They simply have fewer in-person opportunities to discover new products and brands. Yet they still expect retailers to be attentive. As both circumstances and customer behavior changes, brands and retailers must adjust to connect with consumers and meet their evolving needs.

Three Ways To Develop A Multi Touch Strategy For Connecting With Shoppers
Three Ways To Develop A Multi-Touch Strategy For Connecting With Shoppers

In this article, we’ll explore why the traditional, linear marketing approach no longer works, and how developing a multi-touch strategy for connecting with shoppers is vital for retailers today. What’s inside:

  • Why the traditional cause and effect marketing approach doesn’t work
  • Understanding the gaps in the typical omnichannel approach
  • How retailers and brands can use non-linear ways to effectively connect with customers and harness data insights from all customer touchpoints

Table of contents

Why the traditional cause and effect marketing approach doesn’t work
Gaps in the typical omnichannel approach
Three non-linear ways to connect with the customer
Create a strategy that includes all of your shoppers’ retail touchpoints.
Use that multi-touch strategy to improve the ability to gather and use data.
Prepare for the long game.

Brands and retailers often talk about connecting with consumers, yet frequently miss the mark on creating timely, personalized messages.

That miss isn’t due to a lack of effort. Many brands and retailers strive for an omnichannel approach. They send customers emails and texts. They develop apps and ensure their websites are mobile-friendly. They make sure their products are displayed enticingly on store shelves. They have ads on all social media platforms. And yet, they often fail to use all of these strategies (and the data they get from them) to connect with the shopper in a genuinely individual and relevant way.

Shoppers expect companies to find them wherever they are and communicate the way the customer prefers. Customers aren’t particularly forgiving when those expectations aren’t met. Salesforce found that 57% of customers will leave if another business is better attuned with their needs.

It’s always been important that retailers understand the shopper and provide what they need — but it is especially vital now that consumer behavior has changed significantly. Consumers go into stores less frequently and spend less time there, which means less opportunity to discover new products and brands.

They also expect the retailer to be attentive, even when the consumer is not there in person. For example, Forbes found that 64% of consumers expect companies to communicate with them on whatever channels they use, in real-time. Brand loyalty is affected as customers buy available brands — and as a result, they may find new favorites.

More consumers work and study at home, and are more connected to their devices. In March, internet use increased by 70%, with more people using social media, streaming movies, and playing online games. With this usage, even when consumers are not intentionally shopping, they are connected and available for brands and retailers’ marketing messages.

As both circumstances and customer behavior change, brands and retailers must develop an in-depth understanding of their connected customers and use that understanding to meet their evolving needs.

Three Ways to Reach the Modern Shopper:

  1. Create a personalized, omnipresent strategy that aligns with your customer’s behavior
  2. Be patient but consistent, working across organizational silos to get and share data
  3. Get, understand and use the right customer insight and data to deliver relevant messages

Today’s consumers use a variety of technologies to interact with their world: email, text, websites, and apps. They connect through social media, home assistants like Alexa, and Google Home. They get information on their laptops, phones, and tablets, but also via devices like the Apple Watch or smart appliances.

Why the traditional cause and effect marketing approach doesn’t work

Even as brands and retailers strive to connect with their customers, they must realize that with the combination of connectedness and the changing consumer behavior, the linear approach used in the past no longer works.

With the traditional, linear marketing approach, the cause and effect on consumer behavior were easy to see. A retail sales circular in a newspaper would draw customers into the store to buy jeans that were on sale in the circular. But that A to B approach doesn’t match how consumers shop today.

Now, a shopper might still receive a sales alert in an email and go to the retail store website to add jeans to their online shopping cart. But that email may not have been the only message that influenced the decision to buy. What’s more, the consumer may not even buy directly from the retailer’s website.

Since today’s consumer is estimated to be exposed to around 4,000-10,000 digital ads a day, they are constantly in the shopping mindset. They may not be actively shopping when they check Instagram or Facebook but see a product advertised several times in several channels they are likely to end up buying it directly from the social media site.

Even when the process is somewhat linear, it’s still hard to track. “A sales associate in a store has no idea that the person in the store was also previously online. That inability to connect customer information makes it complicated to determine what marketing strategies work,” said Stefanie Smith, owner of Double S Consulting. Before opening her consulting firm, Smith was a senior regional marketing manager at IKEA, where she set strategic direction and ensured execution for a high growth US retail business.

With consumers now exploring and buying products in non-linear ways, retailers and brands must find new ways to reach their audience. Although many companies try to use an omnichannel approach, they still struggle to be effective.

Gaps in the typical omnichannel approach

When most retailers and brands attempt an omnichannel approach, there is a lot of fragmentation, said Aaron Kechley, general manager of media and data at Inmar Intelligence. In his work helping brands reach unique retail audiences through data-driven retail advertising, Kechley sees the gaps that can occur. A consumer may get a deluge of marketing messages via different channels, but they aren’t coordinated or relevant, he said. Those ads just create unwanted noise.

That noise often occurs because of silos within organizations. Traditional marketing departments, along with loyalty, media, shopper marketing, advertising, and social media departments, are all vying to reach customers both in-store and online. As a result, they aren’t able to create a unified platform to deliver consistent messages.

Retailers and brands also don’t reach customers as they want to be reached, Kechley added. “Retailers, such as grocery stores, for example, are not that adept at having a digital experience on their app that is convenient for the customer, such as through a well-designed store app,” he said. Or, retailers and brands may send email marketing to consumers who prefer text or send coupons to a non-couponing customer.

Beyond not reaching consumers using the most effective channels, retailers and brands aren’t providing messages consumers care about. “Relevance is the number one issue,” Kechley said. “How well are retailers using the data about the shoppers? How well are they bringing the message to the shopper via mobile, web, offsite media, or in-store media?” Because the approach is fragmented, retailers and brands can’t pull together data for a fuller customer profile — one that would lead to more relevant marketing messages.

It’s not the omnichannel technology that is problematic, said Spencer Baird, chief transformation officer at Inmar Intelligence, where he guides and accelerates the development of solutions across marketing, commerce, and operations to speed the industry’s digital transformation.

“It’s much more a planning and coordination problem than technology. Only 13% of businesses spending money are happy with the returns because they are spending on symptoms, not causes.” In 2019, U.S. retailers spent more than $28 billion in digital ads alone — making it painful when those marketing efforts don’t yield results.

Despite the challenges of reaching but not fatiguing the always-on customer, or improving the omnichannel approach, there is good news: when it comes to knowing their customers, brands and retailers have many of the puzzle pieces. They just have difficulty putting the data together effectively to create a connected relationship with the customer.

It’s much more a planning and coordination problem than technology. Only 13% of businesses spending money are happy with the returns because they are spending on symptoms, not causes. – Spencer Baird, chief transformation officer at Inmar Intelligence

Three non-linear ways to connect with the customer

Since customers don’t shop linearly, retailers and brands need to find non-linear ways to connect.

Three non-linear ways to connect with the customer
Three non-linear ways to connect with the customer

Create a strategy that includes all of your shoppers’ retail touchpoints.

Reaching customers requires an omnichannel approach with both traditional and nontraditional customer touchpoints, such as offsite media, onsite media, influencer marketing, incentives, and loyalty offers. When companies take the non-linear approach, they are meeting their customers wherever they are.

IKEA is a brand that created a multi-touch strategy for its shoppers, Smith said. The furniture brand was known for its print catalogs, but to build more of a connection with consumers, IKEA developed a shoppable version of the catalog on Pinterest, where consumers already pin home designs. Additionally, IKEA created pop-up locations in different cities with life-size catalogs so shoppers could have an in-person engagement with products.

It’s not always easy for companies to create the right strategy for their products and shoppers like IKEA did, said Kechley. “One solution for creating an ecosystem is the Inmar Retail Cloud,” he added. The suite integrates media, incentive, and commerce solutions to drive sales and shopper loyalty. Retail Cloud uses a unique data platform called ShopperSync™, which connects across marketing channels and directly integrates with commerce transactions. “At a fundamental level, this changes the way retailers and brands connect with shoppers.”

Beyond being omnichannel, brands and retailers need to be omni-linked. In other words, they need to focus on doing the right thing for customers, Baird said. The most important strategy for brands and retailers is to shift to a different perspective, one that focuses on customers. “If you are there to meet the needs of your customers, trust you’ll sell products.”

It’s not wishful thinking, Baird said, but a way to approach all decisions you make about your business. “Once that mindset is installed, you question everything congruent and everything that is incongruent.” Grocery retailers, for example, will stop looking at all categories as equally important. If some categories are responsible for the majority of sales, be very intentional about pricing and deals at the right times and right platforms, he said.

Use that multi-touch strategy to improve the ability to gather and use data. It doesn’t matter if you reach customers at the right touchpoints if the message isn’t relevant. Use customer insights to create messaging and offerings that are timely and useful. To determine how to craft those messages, retailers and brands need to improve their ability to gather and use data. “You have to collect clean, consistent data at every touchpoint and then understand from the data how your customers are segmented,” said Smith.

By looking at the customer data to determine where they interact, brands can focus their marketing efforts on that customer’s most effective touchpoints. For example, the brand sends coupons to a customer, but the customer routinely doesn’t engage. Maybe they aren’t a couponing customer. Look at other touchpoints where the customer is actively engaging, like on social media, and reach them there. Customer insight can go even deeper. Let’s say the same customer used to buy the brand’s pasta but hasn’t interacted with the brand in three months. Customer data, available from a combination of touchpoints, might show that the customer has been buying a lower-cost competitor. To win back this shopper’s loyalty, craft a plan that shows the value of your product over the lower-cost competitor, and incentive purchase with personalized offers.

Retailers and brands are not lacking customer data but may not know how to best use it. Customers are often willing to share data, but only when they get something in return, such as a better experience, a tailored product recommendation, or custom offers. Brands and retailers shouldn’t be afraid to use customer data but should make sure to do it wisely and relevantly, to avoid consumer privacy concerns.

Technology like The Retail Cloud’s ShopperSync™ helps solve the coordination problem many siloed brands and retailers face by pulling together online and offline shopper data to create personalized shopper experiences, real-time attribution, purchase and behavior optimization, and help marketers reach customers the way they really shop, Baird said.

Prepare for the long game.

No matter what technology is used, creating a non-linear strategy requires a long-term perspective. Smith said that could be hard for marketers expected to show immediate results for a specific campaign. “With some metrics, you get a read in a minute, such as KPIs, impressions, or reach. The question becomes, ‘why did we spend money on those experiential aspects?’ And you can’t always come up with causal connections to the bottom line,” she said.

In marketing, the Rule of Seven adage says a customer needs to see or hear your message seven times before they will take action. “We know as marketers that when you reach people in different modalities, you get better results than when you don’t. When you combine tactics effectively, you get better results,” added Kechley.

However, in today’s environment, it can be impossible to identify whether a YouTube ad, influencer video, television commercial, or text message contributed to the customer’s decision to engage.

Go beyond measuring metrics like the number of shoppers, frequency of shoppers, and average basket size said, Baird. The technology and data silos retailers and brands traditionally use form unintentional roadblocks to connecting with the customer, Kechley said. By working across divisions, sharing, and using information and insights, retailers and brands can reach customers with meaningful messages.

For years, retailers and brands have thought about onsite media and offsite display as the most viable options, but the retail media toolkit has so many more possibilities. With 45% of the current population using social media and 77% of consumers participating in loyalty programs, brands and retailers must consider how to use all consumer touchpoints in their marketing.

Retailers and brands are up to the challenge of change, Baird stated. The last few months have accelerated the customer-centric movement, but this acceleration highlights change that has long been in the works. “We’ve got to be there for shoppers, however, they want to shop. Consumers will be the beneficiary of a more cohesive experience.”

By using a non-linear strategy that connects with shoppers wherever they are and harnessing data insights from all customer touchpoints, retailers and brands can create genuine relationships that build sales and loyalty, helping separate them from the competition.

Source: Inmar Intelligence