Retail’s unrelenting pressure, as we suggested in Part 1 of this two-part post, has been brutal thus far in 2020.
Between the COVID-19 pandemic, the current state of international economic relationships, and apparently never-ending financial crises, retailers are undergoing a truly Darwinian experience in attempting to survive and prosper.
It’s like a twisted version of “future shock” – that condition Alvin Toffler wrote about back in 1970.
Future shock is the condition we experience when the rate of change in society exceeds our ability to assimilate the changes in a healthy way before we’re swamped with even more change.
We are definitely there.
To help you cope with the changing retail pressures of 2020, we offer you the remaining five of the ten survival strategies we promised to share with you. Here we go…
6. Go Universal: Invest in PWAs
A PWA or “progressive web application” is a mobile web app that works quickly and securely across all platforms. It’s reliable, friendly, flexible, accessible, and customizable.
However, it’s not the sort of app you find in an application store. It’s essentially a website with app-like functionality. If you need an example, think Twitter on your mobile device. Your customers can use PWAs from just about any device and can work with all the functionality users expect from normal mobile app interfaces. A PWA runs in its own window and users can launch it in a variety of ways on their devices.
A properly designed and implemented PWA is fast. Its ability to run quickly and smoothly doesn’t diminish over time. It’s easy to update, and having users get access to your PWA is never a problem. After all, it’s a website, even if it behaves like a responsive mobile app. This also means lower setup and maintenance costs.
Even if you’re a small retail business, you can benefit from having your own PWA. Your customers will like the experience of using a site that behaves like an app on their mobile devices, and that will boost engagement and conversions.
It’s your opportunity to create a direct link to your customers that feels personal when they visit your site. You improve the quality of their user experience while enhancing their ability to make purchases quickly and safely from a mobile device.
We think you should seriously consider your own PWA in 2020.
7. Master the Obvious: Blogs, Subscribers, Newsletters & Automated Email Marketing
We know what you’re thinking. This stuff is old news. So…
Let’s be clear: by the end of 2019, there were already nearly 4 billion email users worldwide, and that figure continues to go up. The number of internet users was even higher.
That’s an awfully big pool in which to go fishing for conversions. You’re not going to run out potential customers – ever, as long as you’re able to reach out to them effectively. That’s why you should be thinking about automated email marketing to go along with your social media presence.
The statistics don’t lie: if you’re not taking proper advantage of email marketing, you’re missing huge opportunities to maintain and grow your business in 2020.
Of course, you do need a serious customer email list.
That’s what your blog is for, in addition to its primary purposes of customer education and ongoing engagement. It’s your means of attracting site visitors, turning them into subscribers, and then developing an automated email marketing program around your subscriber list.
The chances are good that if you’re an online retailer, you may already have a blog. But the fact that you have one doesn’t necessarily mean you’re using it to your best advantage.
◊ Take to heart what we told you in Part 1 about content strategy and content marketing, and invest time and resources in current best SEO practices to encourage traffic. Review the quality of the user experience your blog offers customers, and be proactive about content development, quality, targeted copy, and analytics.
◊ If you’re just setting out to build (or rebuild) your website and blog, remember that being mobile and fully responsive is key.
◊ Build a subscriber list by direct pitches, CTAs, and targeted cold emails. Offer a well-designed, consistently timed newsletter keyed to the posts and developments you write about in your blog. On your posts and selected pages, use plugins (for example, Hashbar Wordpress Notification Bar) to make opt-in offers tied to newsletter subscriptions.
◊ Inform yourself about the email platforms you can use to automate your email marketing, generate a great-looking blog newsletter, and more. There are plenty to choose from, including SendinBlue, Mail Poet, mailchimp, Campaign Monitor, and others.
Remember that your newsletter is your means of keeping customers up to date with new products, promotions, posts about relevant issues, and important information for your user community. Your automated email marketing system gets the message out to existing subscribers and lets you to engage new subscribers, turning them into paying customers.
Do it right and your customer base will grow. So will conversions and revenues.
8. Find Your Flair: Invest in Research
The sheer speed at which recent crises have changed retail over the last six months or so took everybody by surprise.
Retail was caught in an information vacuum. In fairness, part of that was circumstantial.
But part of it was that retail – even when more or less up to date with conventional market wisdom – often tends to be reactive when it comes to digging into critical issues that seem remote.
Retail proactivity in key areas was apparently in short supply in the lead-up to the pandemic.
How many retailers, including both brick-and-mortar and online, have regularly spent time and money over the last year working proactively to anticipate new risks and changing trends outside the bounds of conventional wisdom? How many have implemented strategies to build greater resilience into their enterprises, regardless of size?
How many of them actually did any research of their own, instead of relying on conclusions drawn by others? How many are now discovering that their efforts are too little and too late?
Sadly, we know the answers. We also know that in order to avoid future devastation in the industry, retailers at all levels must learn a new “preparation paradigm” that involves original and ongoing proactive research into emerging trends.
This is especially true where immersive technologies and evolving consumer expectations are concerned.
It’s no longer sufficient to react after the fact to developments you failed to anticipate because you didn’t do enough of your own homework to foresee potential problems.
And the worst part?
There’s no excuse, because there’s always a wealth of relevant information available if you’re prepared to go digging for it.
◊ There are recent statistics on which you can base reasonable projections and take preemptive action.
◊ There are case histories and recent data that are cautionary, and that point directly to retail areas or practices to beef up before they fail you when crisis mode hits again.
◊ There are areas you know are currently hot in terms of building retail resilience, and they’re going to stay hot. You should address them proactively in your business. It might not even be bad to build a little overkill into the measures you take, just in case a particular problem turns out to be worse than anticipated.
You know – like the pandemic.
Research and planning are no longer somehow separate from the daily course of your business or your relationships with customers.
We think research, proactivity, and development initiative have to become ongoing concerns for retailers to survive in 2020 and beyond.
9. Shoppable Posts
When we talk about shoppable posts, we’re really talking about Instagram posts or stories that allow users to make purchases from direct links.
The retail potential of shoppable posts is enormous, and it’s not yet fully realized. If you haven’t thought about leveraging Instagram to grow your business in this way, we really need to talk.
◊ Millions of Instagram accounts and customers waiting for your stories.
◊ Endless opportunities to develop your brand story-telling for personalization and ongoing engagement.
◊ The opportunity to enable immediate conversions in an environment that yields better results than many original retail websites.
◊ The ability to enable purchases as parts of brand stories integrated in a larger customer Instagram experience.
◊ The ability to enable purchases from multiple countries in different currencies.
◊ The ability to create posts with multiple clickable tags for linked products on offer, thereby boosting sales.
It’s a fact that Instagram users are treating the platform as a kind of search tool they can use to explore particular interests and groups. When instantly buyable items appear in users’ search results, conversions go up dramatically.
Need proof? Then pay attention to Hootsuite’s 2020 Instagram statistics. There are a billion Instagram users a month, and that half that number interact with stories on the platform daily. Three-quarters of American business will have an Instagram presence this year.
If you’re clever and have already decided to use influencer marketing, you’ll figure out how to combine your influencer marketing plans with shoppable posts to increase sales and get the biggest bang for your marketing bucks.
Shoppable posts offer you a great opportunity to tie your brand and your products to an evolving platform with engaged users. It’s a platform that isn’t going away anytime soon, and we think you ought to develop your brand on Instagram.
10. The Numbers Don’t Lie: Improve (and USE) Your Analytics
There are many people, including an alarming number of online retailers, who are terrified of working with analytics.
Data is scary. Statistics are scary.
Figuring out what to do with the information analytics provides is even scarier.
You’re a retailer, and even if the numbers and the data don’t intimidate you, the odds are good that you can do more with retail analytics than you’ve been doing to improve your effectiveness and adapt your retail strategies.
Working properly with retail analytics offers key advantages that include improving operational efficiency and customer experience, and developing better marketing strategies. You’ll cut fat from your marketing budget and reduce any waste that’s found its way into your operations.
In addition, sound analytics is likely to change the way you, as a retailer, will connect with your customers as the new retail continues to evolve. Your analytics aren’t just going to reflect data-based strengths and weaknesses any longer.
Instead, they’re going to help you understand your customers in ways that will let you continuously improve the all-important customer experience that’s emerging as the cornerstone of new retail.
To get what you need from your analytics, you need to know where your business currently stands in terms of the information you’re now gathering, its currency and accuracy, the extent to which it helps you with tech integrations, and more.
You may find yourself in possession of data you’ve been misusing, or not using at all. You may see other areas for which more data would be helpful. Such areas could include segmentation data and marketing mix information or immediate supply-chain data – all areas that directly impact your ability to use analytics predictively.
And make no mistake: predictive analytics that work consistently for your business are exactly what you need. There’s no shortage of tools to help you with analytics, and there’s also plenty of advice available to help you make the best selection for your needs.
You already have the raw data. It’s time to start using it more effectively and predictively.
You may have noticed a recurring theme in our posts.
It’s that the world of retail, both online and brick-and-mortar, is changing rapidly and often unpredictably.
If we’re harping on the fact that you’ve got to become proactive in reconsidering every aspect of your business in the new retail, we’re sorry – but not too sorry. We believe that every business owner owes it to the enterprise and its clients to adapt, to build resilience, and to change business and content strategies based on new tactics and goals.
We’ll stay with you, and we’ll do our best to keep you informed.
Reach out to Purple Dot
As we’re sure you’ve guessed, we also see Purple Dot’s smart discounting solution as a valuable strategy for proactive online retailers in 2020.
We urge you to check it out. If you like what you see, contact us and we’ll help. At a time when consumers are more price-conscious than ever and are looking for better experiences, more participation, and greater control in their online transactions, Purple Dot is a unique solution.