Technology was front and center at last month’s inaugural Shoptalk conference. That should come as no surprise to marketers. Shoptalk, which took place at Las Vegas’s ARIA Resort & Casino, brought together thousands of executives from across the worlds of technology, venture capital, and retail. Central among the themes was the need—and struggle—to build customer loyalty while improving the customer experience.
This common thread ran throughout the event’s many sessions: Startups have disrupted established industries in order to meet consumer needs, while brands have struggled to maintain customer loyalty in an on-demand era of endless choice. Marketers now find themselves in a technology arms race to improve the customer experience and provide high returns on their investments.
Shoptalk kicked off with a deep dive into the ways commerce startups are impacting retail. We’ve heard for a while now that startups and online subscription companies are disrupting established industries and brands, particularly among younger demographics. Need new glasses? Warby Parker has you covered. Not up for the trip to the grocery store? FreshDirect will bring groceries straight to your door. Chipotle doesn’t deliver? Fire up the Postmates app, and you’ll be enjoying a burrito in minutes.
The conference’s first sessions touched on the ways new brands are catering to shoppers who have come to expect high-quality products and services on-demand. As marketers, we have the unique opportunity to address the needs of the markets we’re serving, find the highest value customer segments within these markets, and devise strategies to build loyalty within those segments. Regardless of whether you’re a pure-play e-commerce brand or an omnichannel retailer, success will depend on your ability to keep customers top-of-mind as more and more choices become available to them. It’s worth considering piloting some of the strategies successful startups have employed to build loyalty, such as guided shopping experiences or monthly subscription services.
While brick-and-mortar stores still account for the majority of retail sales, the next group of Shoptalk speakers urged the importance of building loyalty through innovative omnichannel experiences. During the sessions it became clear that the best outcomes are achieved with a unified vision of the customer, which comes from a true omnichannel approach. Gone are the days that marketers decide how we interact with our customers. Instead, it’s now up to the consumers to choose how they interact with our brands. Technology will continue to will play a major role in how retailers execute this approach.
On the consumer side, the prevalence of mobile shopping has ushered in a wave of technologies aimed at engaging shoppers on their mobile devices. For example, proximity marketing technology, such as beacons, can send curated messaging right to your customers’ phones while they shop in your stores. Such tactics, which deliver the right message at the right time, also extend into the world of e-commerce. The panel from “Driving Repeat Purchases” stressed the notion of customer loyalty as it relates to the bottom line. Given that such a large portion of revenue comes from repeat shoppers, retailers that use innovative technology for life cycle and relationship marketing will see customer loyalty translate into dollars for their brands.
But how do marketers choose the correct technology to tackle this task? Just as consumers have more choice available to them, so, too, do marketers when it comes to technology. This leads to marketers struggling to prioritize their time and campaigns, as well as how to make all of these tools function together at the highest possible level. At Shoptalk, the resounding conclusion was that marketers must employ technology that is customer-centric, placing the value of customer relationship above all other metrics. When calculating ROI to evaluate new technology, marketers must include variables such as customer loyalty and customer lifetime value.
The major takeaways from Shoptalk spell good things for consumers in the coming years, as retailers make an even greater push toward creating a better, more personalized customer experience.