As European retailers start adapting to Black Friday as the next big thing to move customers, let me share an insight from working with promoting that particular peak in retail activities in the US. I am inclined to think you have already heard it: To some people, Black Friday equals Hell on Earth.
I could be talking about the customers fighting their way to that particular Epic Fantastic Awesome Offer, ducking flying HD flatscreen television sets thrown by crazed shoppers. Or even the mall cops making their final stand with Tasers and pepper spray against the horde stampeding to get their hands on an Almost Everything Off Now Special. But at this particular moment, they are not the ones on my mind.
I am thinking about the retailers, their marketing teams and the agencies working with them to achieve success for their businesses...success that always comes down to getting people in the stores. Bricks and mortar retail store owners have seen traffic dropping for years even on that be-all end-all day of the year that is Black Friday. Imagine the investment it takes to establish and maintain a bricks and mortar store, and the continuous investment in marketing and advertising needed to drive traffic. Seeing the customer head count in the store drop regardless of lower prices and a constant push on television, in print and at the store is nothing short of a nightmare.
So who’s to blame? Who’s the bogeyman of Bad Store Traffic?
Blame The Internet
Again and again we are presented with the idea that e-commerce, mobile media and even social media are to blame. People would rather shop from home. People would rather visit the store with mobile in hand to take their shopping elsewhere. People would rather use any little occasion to smear the store on social media than express their frustrations to anyone working at the store. It seems that in an increasingly digital world, there is no room for the physical store. That’s rubbish.
Mobile is the cutting edge of the online and social media sword, and there are a lot of people who are smarter than me thinking about what it can and will do. All their detailed indications and trends really boil down to one thing: if you think that the expanding mobile realm simply cannot co-exist with the good old physical store, you are wrong. And as you are missing out on huge opportunities as a store, you could be dead wrong.
I recently saw what can be achieved when you stop the bickering about whether the future of retail is built by code or by bricks. I cannot share the results, but please believe me when I say they are astounding. At different locations, traffic and therefore sales were rapidly increased, and I applaud everyone involved...sadly, this is where my NDA kicks in. But I can tell you what connected everything was mobile, and what added another dimension to the relationship to both new and old customers was interaction. The results achieved proved without a doubt that you can still inspire people to find their way to your store. When you combine everything in the right way you can expand the experience that is your brand across any point of contact you have with your customers, including your store.
To achieve a significant level of success, you will need to adapt to this way of thinking: this is not about your customers holding a mobile device, this is about your customers being mobile. No longer will you be able to pin people down in one single location, nor should you. Mobile marketing is transitional. It follows people and it moves people.
You will also need to change your way of acting, including your marketing procedures. Whether or not you are stuck in the 20th Century mindset, limited to email and direct mail blasts and mass communication bursts, will dictate how much change is needed. Handling media spending to the optimal effect has become a dynamic, hands-on continuous effort of tracking and optimization. It is not the game of blindfolded Battleships that many retailers are actually playing now, because doing otherwise would mean changing their ways and their habits. You need to unlearn the things you think you know and start learning what you need to know now. This time, change truly is for the better.
Act, Review And React
Once you get started in finding out exactly what platforms, key messages and content works for exactly which group of people, please realise that working like this is an iterative process, where you act, learn and react continuously. What you had planned in the beginning most likely will have to be changed on the fly. Do not panic along the way. There will be good days and bad days, and looking longer than that will eventually take you beyond the need for coming up with 24- or 48-hour panic solutions.
In conclusion, the question to the retailer is not really if you believe in the combined effect of legacy and new media, or even if you believe in the power of being with your customers from home to the store and back. The question is whether or not you believe in your business now … and into the future.
Reinvent Retail by ending the internal war between digital and the store and start prospering now.