Discussion Point Omnichannel Marketing in the 2014 Holiday Season

Discussion Point: Omnichannel Marketing in the 2014 Holiday Season

8 minute read
Tom Murphy avatar

Marketing technology vendors love to preach the value of sending consumers personalized offerson the device they're using at just the right moment.

Though we're only emerging from the developmental infancy of omnichannel marketing, several companies offer software and services that promise to do just that. Chief marketing officersat major retailers are spending more of their budgets on collecting data,analyzing actions and monitoring social media -- all with an eye towardincreasing sales in their hyper-competitive sector.

Costs vs. Value

If a holiday shopper browses for gifts on a desktop computer, today's technology can see if they are more interested in the lowest price, best reviews, immediate availability or another factor and compare that with other customer data.

Cloud-based analytics platforms can tap all available data sources and translate all that information into special offers. Advanced content management systems can push carefully tailored content to shoppers across smartphones, tablets, store kiosks, laptops and other devices. Geolocation systems can even deliver the message to phones as shoppers drive onto a mall's parking lot.

Of course, this isn't cheap. And evenwhen the technology works perfectly, there are questions about training staff touse it correctly, fending off consumer privacy concerns and weighing thebenefits against the costs.

 In a retail industry that struggles to eke outprofits from single-digit margins, there has to be a very clear return tojustify the investment. Many retailers will watch this holiday season closelyfor signs of whether data-driven marketing can improve their financialperformance in a measurable way.

Will the answer come this year or is ittoo early? Will technologically advanced retailers exceed sales expectations orwill the added costs drag their profits down? With Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday sales coming up fast, we turned to fourexperts for their opinions.

The Question

Will omnichannel marketing prove its worth forretailers in the 2014 holiday shopping season?

The Answers

Jim Lundy, CEO and Lead Analyst, Aragon Research

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Lundy has worked in technology and management for 29 years as user,vendor and analyst. He specializes now in social business strategies, mobile,content management and related fields. Before founding Aragon, he spent 12 yearswith Gartner, where he formed and led its collaboration team. He hasalso worked with Saba Software and Xerox, where he held several sales andmarketing positions. Tweet to JimLundy.

Many people we have talked to are very comfortable shopping with their PC or theiriPad. I hear more people talking about doing all of their holiday shopping online. 

Many of the mobile apps and e-commerce enabled websites are making it much easier. Many retailers have made the online buying experience much more user friendly. Apple, for example, has made their Apple store app easy enough that you can buyApple products from a phone -- no PC required. We see more stores shifting to offer a mobile store appversus just buying via a browser.

Online buying can be addictive and it can cause people that are not careful to spend more. They also want to ensure that their purchases get delivered before the holidays, so many want to be sure they can track their purchases.

Mark Floisand, Vice President for Product Marketing, Sitecore

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Floisand has two decades of experience in managing teams in software and hardware. He has previously worked with large companies like Adobe, Apple, Business Objects and SAP, as well as smaller firms that included eVox TV, Internet Strategies, ScaleXtreme, Total Defense, Untangle and WeVideo. He is also the founder of Interim VPs, which provides consulting in marketing, sales, business development and product management for startups. Tweetto Mark Floisand.

Yes. Analyst firms are predicting that US retail sales during November and December will be higher than ever with more wallet share moving online and more mobile shopping.

Shoppers used to receive weekly flyers through the mail, advertising the specials and the coupon clippings from competing supermarkets and stores ahead of the weekend. Now brands target shoppers with online advertising and emailed coupons that attempt to change where they buy, whether it be online or in person. So I expect people to switch-shop this season based on the digital offers that are best targeted at them. Shoppers will reward brands that serve them the most relevant offer at the right time.

Marketing technology is increasingly empowering brands to target the right cross-sell to the right person at the right time. While people’s propensity to spend is still governed by their budgets, I do think we see average order values increase when the offers are relevant and proportional to the product being ordered. 

Retailers with a large customer base, like those with a national reach, have clear opportunities to touch their customers across a variety of mainstream cross-marketing channels. However, smaller local retailers can also take advantage ofhyper-local options that may only be available in small markets or retail pockets that perfectly suit them.

As a rule, ads that are well targeted and offer people products that meet their specific needs are better received than those that don’t. And ads that offer you something that you’ve already bought are just annoying. I think we’re already seeing consumers respond better to relevant, well-timed advertising than to the “spray-and-pray” approach they have endured to date. 

Learning Opportunities

Think With Google’s recently released Digital Impact on In-Store Shopping study found that85 percent of shoppers would be more likely to shop in stores that offer personalized coupons and exclusive offers. This holiday season, retail brands have the opportunity to own the experience of every customer that engages with their brand – engaging and delighting shoppers in new ways that will earn their trust and loyalty. Shoppers want to feel that their preferences are understood. Personalization empowers brands to accomplish that and communicate with customers on a human level.

Paige O'Neill, Chief Marketing Officer, SDL

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O'Neill joined SDL, which sells customer experience technologies, inOctober 2013. Before joining the UK-based company, she spent more than three yearsas vice president for marketing at Aprimo until its acquisition by Teradata.Earlier she worked as vice president of marketing at Aravo. Tweet to PaigeO'Neill.

I think it's difficult to put a timeframe of a particular holidayseason on it. Do I think it will happen this holiday season? I think there willabsolutely be retailers who will say they've made an investment in customerexperience and omnichannel that have seen an impact to their revenue. 

But I alsosuspect that we're at the very tip of the iceberg in terms of consumersunderstanding, expectations of omnichannel, retailers embracing the technologyand implementing the strategy. To say that it's going to play out this year in any significant way, Ithink that's over-setting expectations.

My gut is that we're on a multiyearjourney to get to what that looks like. But I've seen studies come out, evenrecently, taking things beyond just the millennials who are expecting thisconsistent experience and saying that other generations are starting to adoptthe behaviors of millennials because they see it all around them. 

All the datawe have say consumer expectations around this are growing. I think retailers andcompanies in all industries would be wise to keep moving in that direction withtheir investment and creating that experience.

Michael Fisher, President, Yes Lifecycle Marketing


Fisher oversees Yes Data and Technology Services, Yes Agency Services, and Yesmail Interactive,which deliver vendor messages to customers by aligningmultichannel platforms with analytics and agency services. Previously, he wasSVP of sales and marketing for the Americas at Alterian, VP and general manager of the financial services group at Epsilonand SVP of sales for DoubleClick. Tweet toMichael Fisher.

Cross- channel, personalized consumer communications have never been more important. Consumers are demanding consistent experiences across all channels and wanting access to brands, on demand, based on their preferences. Add in the broader adoption of mobile devices and the expectation becomes even greater. One might open an email on a phone,then order from that email on a laptop. The experience must be seamless. Coordinated experiencescreate opportunities for frictionless transactions. And this holiday season, the easier a brand makes it for a customer to buy, the more they will sell. 

Marketing technologies that enable more real-time, contextually relevant, communications that incorporate insights-led creative will continue to prove valuable. In fact we see customers achieving greater than20 percent lift over their high water marks for digital marketing when highly personalized relevant communications are delivered at the right time and within the right channel. Simple things for this holiday season might focus on weather event triggers tied to holiday experiences. 

We also see greater adoption of enabling technologies that incorporate social communications where revenue attribution extends beyond the notion of a like, apost or a tweet. Coordinating social channels and the subsequent tracking, and ROI measurement where social lives and participates in the broader digital marketing ecosystem, will be more prevalent this holiday season. 

Brands should look for solutions that leverage technology to enable their customers to sell to their networks when the brandscannot.

Title image by Asa Aarons Smith / all rights reserved.