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Inside Retail & Emarsys

Industry leaders share key insights into what’s next in retail

At last week’s Power to the Marketer event by Emarsys, a group of industry leaders got together to share their experiences and predictions around the way retail is changing, and what customers are now expecting. 

The panel, which was hosted by Emarsys’ chief revenue officer Thomas Harris, comprised Michelle Rando, head of acquisition and engagement at Mosaic Brands, Shane Lenton, CEO at The Wishlist Company and chief digital & information officer at Cue Clothing, Barry Saunders, chief product officer at Oroton, and Mal Chia, e-commerce advisor and director at Ecom Nation, spoke about the changes to customer behaviour since the slowing of the Covid-19 pandemic, and what’s next for omnichannel.

Here are some key takeaways.

Instore is back in vogue, but omnichannel rules

As the worst of the pandemic has seemingly passed, and lockdowns largely become a memory, customers are becoming more comfortable shopping in bricks-and-mortar stores once again. 

However, the lessons they learned over the course of the pandemic won’t be forgotten: people are more digitally savvy than ever before, and retailers need to marry their online and offline experiences for customers.

“Retailers aren’t seeing the foot traffic they were before the pandemic, but the intention to buy from customers that do go in-store is far greater,” Lenton said. 

“And so, for us, we’re focusing on converting those potential customers into customers, or getting them to add their products to a wishlist on their account to provide a service to the customer. 

“All in all, behaviours have changed and things are starting to bounce back, but as retailers, we need to start to use new tactics and new ways we can work in this new world.”

One of these ways, Lenton noted, is creating a single view of a customer: ensuring that everything a brand knows about a customer is accessible in all of its channels, to ensure each customer is getting the most personalised service possible.

This becomes increasingly important as customers browse online, purchase through mobile and pick-up in-store – or whichever order suits them best at that moment. 

“We’ve all got enough data now, and we’ve experienced how much it costs to acquire a customer,” Lenton said. 

“But it’s important to understand that if you’re asking a customer for information, what are you giving them back? What’s the value exchange?”

The pandemic party has ended 

The last few years have been incredibly kind to online retail, but according to Mal Chia, the “party has ended”. Brands that performed incredibly well online throughout the pandemic, and predicted the buffet to continue, are now being faced with a harsh reality.

“In e-commerce, from a macro sense, what I’ve seen happen is that a lot of the businesses that grew over the past few years probably shouldn’t have. They suddenly had a lot of confidence and bought up a bunch of stock, and they weren’t expecting the party to end,” Chia said.

“And what’s happened this year? The party has ended. Even big retailers like Nike are feeling this. They invested heavily in their stock, and now it’s arrived late – their 2021 season orders are arriving at the same time as 2022 orders, and suddenly they have both collections competing against one another.

“If this is affecting Nike, it’s affecting everyone.”

Worse still, in an environment with high-interest rates and manufacturing costs, many retailers are being forced to put their stock on promotion – with the year’s biggest sales events, Black Friday and Christmas, just months away.

“To me, it’s a reflection of the fact that we’ve got so many downward pressures in terms of consumer confidence being low, interest rates being high, supply chain issues and overstocking,” Chia said. 

“These things are introducing a lot of challenges in a lot of markets, so from a performance side, we need to be thinking about how we can get that efficiency back. To me, the big one is focusing on what your brand stands for – your brand, and what makes it different, is the great unlock.”

According to Chia, communicating a business’ identity is key to winning over consumers as they’re inundated with promotions and sales events. Aligning a brand’s values with those of its customers is becoming more and more integral, as well as communicating those values in effective ways.