Retail’s unrelenting pressure on major players and business owners in the industry has grown exponentially in 2020.
The reasons for the increased pressure aren’t national secrets. They include the devastating fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, critical economic tensions involving the United States, the EU and China, turbulence in already battered global financial markets, and more.
We’d like to tell you that the worst is over – but we can’t. It’s been brutal: Yelp’s recent statistics show that of all business closures on its platform after March 1, 2020 (nearly 177,000), 41% have become permanent closures. Of those closures, retail businesses and restaurants were hardest hit.
There are still too many variables for any of us to say that markets will calm soon. It’s doubtful that international trade issues will magically and quickly resolve themselves, or that the global health crisis will finally run its course by the end of next month.
As a result, retail players should now be actively “thinking forward” to identify and adopt strategies that build resilience into their enterprises for 2020.
The Way Forward: Changes & Trends to Adopt in 2020
If you’ve been following the Purple Dot blog, you’ll already know about some of the areas we think you should consider to improve your retail effectiveness.
Brick-and-mortar retail is increasingly going hybrid to combine the best aspects of physical stores with the advantages of online markets. Simultaneously, the surge in online shopping continues, and it’s forcing change both technologically and in terms of marketing and branding strategies.
The retail world is changing dramatically. Given these factors, we can point to ten strategies you might consider adopting in 2020. Today’s post covers the first five, and we’ll deal with numbers 6 through 10 in our next post.
1. The Real Value of Content: Educate Your Customers
The new retail depends on creating a customer experience, and educating your customers has got to be a central component of the experiences you build. Retail marketing now offers unique opportunities to promote products and services by teaching customers about the benefits they provide in an immersive, personalized, almost holistic way.
This usually means creating long-form content for at least two reasons, whatever form that content takes.
First, it’s hard to explain or teach anything serious in a meaningful way if you limit yourself to your conclusions or general statements about an issue. Customer education involves the creation of comprehension, real understanding, and a willingness to act on that understanding by making purchase decisions.
Those are your goals and you’re no longer going to reach them by presenting form and function without some rationale customers can grasp. This is true regardless of the medium; however, it’s particularly important if you blog as part of your content strategy.
It’s what educating your customers involves.
Next, you’ll also find that if you get serious about educating your customers in this way, Google will reward you.
Simple: Google now loves long-form content, if it’s properly executed. Google’s latest algorithms reward you in site rankings. They reward long-form copy that uses strong semantic analysis, long-tail keywords, and natural, conversational language. They reward rich interactive content, video content, augmented reality, and the like – and all of these tactics serve the purpose of educating customers.
Be interesting. Be challenging. Be analytical and helpful. Use immersive experience to educate your customers as to the how and why of your products and services. Don’t be afraid of “going long.”
Your customers will love it, and so will Google.
2. Retail Warriors: The Importance of Content Strategy
Not all retailers understand what “content strategy” actually means, given what we see on far too many websites.
- It’s linked to your business plan, your retail segment, and your technology implementation plans.
- It reflects your clearly stated business mission and overall goals, and is primarily proactive rather than reactive.
- It sets time-sensitive goals, incorporates analyses of results on an ongoing basis, and constantly evolves to meet future content directions and new objectives.
- It embodies the principles by which you’ll define your brand, set standards for transparency and honesty in content creation, and seek to become a leader in your market.
- It identifies your customers and their needs relative to your offerings and your mission.
- It drives your content marketing and SEO, and is flexible enough to adapt and evolve.
- It enables coherent content planning and development over time – for example, over yearly content planning calendars.
- It takes into account any changes in technology that impact your segment or your online marketing approach and includes such matters as Google’s growing taste for rich, informative content.
The problem is not that developing a content strategy for your retail business is difficult. It’s that too many retailers simply don’t bother or assume that content strategy is limited to planning blog posts.
The truth: the more time you spend in developing a coherent content strategy for your retail website and your business as a whole, the greater the chance of success.
Best advice: become a retail warrior and invest in developing a clear, cohesive content strategy that will let your business evolve and succeed.
3. Recognize that Content Marketing and SEO Are Interdependent
There’s a complicated relationship between content marketing and SEO.
Yet, despite the underlying technical complexities, there is a core principle that’s still valid: your content marketing and your SEO’s effectiveness are interconnected and interdependent.
What’s more, you can use techniques and tactics to get the most out of each in an integrated way.
Think of it this way. Clever, planned, properly implemented content marketing lets you meet SEO criteria and provides the content SEO needs to help you reach your goals. It also supplies the semantic elements, like properly researched long-tail keywords, that SEO uses as part of the fuel it burns to optimize your rankings.
Your content marketing can also help you improve SEO through the technical site improvements you’ll be making in your efforts to improve customer experience.
In practical terms, this means that you can’t really improve either your SEO or your content marketing separately. You should be treating them as a “dynamic duo” that are always subject to technical and editorial improvement.
Neither ever lets you say, “Well, there you go – my work with SEO / content marketing is done.”
We're indeed half way through 2020, but it isn’t too late to improve in this area. If you want to strengthen your content marketing and SEO, think about adopting usable techniques to strengthen and enrich your content, improve social engagement, and promote your business with varied media.
4. Tell Me A Tale: Become a Social Media Storyteller
Everyone loves a great story, and that includes your current and future customers on social media.
Storytelling isn’t just a chance to talk about your offerings. In 2020, it’s your content marketing that addresses new retail’s emphasis on immersive customer experience.
It’s what you can do with all that wonderful, new interactive tech, including interactive video, augmented reality, and AI-assisted direct engagement with your customers.
But make no mistake.
This isn’t about you telling an engaging story into which you insert marketing materials or blatant advertising. To paraphrase Forbes’ Krystle Davis in her February 14, 2020 post on augmented reality in storytelling, real storytelling isn’t about interrupting your story with marketing. It’s about your business, your brand, or your mission principles, and your role as the customer’s friend and teacher. It’s about your business becoming the story itself.
Storytelling on social media lets you work with material from multiple sources, including narratives behind data-driven analyses, past customer experiences (like case studies on content-and-tech-enriched steroids), instructional goals based on strategic customer education planning, and more.
It’s also about using established themes that always work, expressed in new stories that reflect your brand and your goals. We’re talking about archetypal themes and tales in digital marketing, with characters and outcomes to which every member of your target audience can relate.
Social media storytelling is, at its simplest, the use of research-based narrative to educate, entertain, and persuade. It’s proving to be a highly effective strategy for digital marketers, and we see no evidence that it’s going away anytime soon.
So, based on your content strategy and the specifics of your content marketing plan, start building your stories as components of the new customer experiences you’re creating.
Then tell your tales regularly. We think you’ll find that they do more for customer engagement – and conversions – than you might have imagined possible.
5. Hire Some Muscle: Use Social Media Influencer Marketing
The world of social media can be difficult to navigate, if you’re a retailer trying to gain market share. It can also be expensive.
If you’re going to invest in your social media presence to grow your business, you should seriously consider using social media influencer marketing.
In case you’re unclear, this form of marketing involves a sort of marketing partnership between businesses and social media influencers to improve engagement and boost sales.
Social media influencer marketing isn’t new, and will shortly be an industry worth about $10 billion.
Recent statistics from Influencer Marketing Hub point to the growth of agencies focused on influencer marketing, significant increases in the use of micro-influencers, specific business budget allocations to influencer marketing, and a correlation between the success of influencer marketing and conversion rates.
Despite occasional negativity concerning it, influencer marketing is both accessible and affordable, even for relatively small businesses. Some potential users are put off by the term “influencer,” which is now slowly being replaced by “creator,” while others simply don’t see it as an effective channel in which they should invest.
That’s wrong, but we understand why some might not see it as effective. It sometimes fails as a strategy, but not because it’s uncertain or ill-advised. The failures usually flow from poorly conceived content that doesn’t speak consistently and accurately to branding and proper audience targeting.
One of the main advantages of using influencers is that the good ones can help you to create the sort of content they can then use effectively on your behalf. Their campaigns can be very successful when properly executed, as the influencer experience on Instagram would suggest.
You should seriously consider influencer marketing to build your brand because it offers the potential for serious ROI and a means of adding value to multiple areas of your business in 2020, and beyond.
Hold That Thought: More Pressure Relief Strategies to Come
Given what’s going on around us these days, we want to urge you to consider the strategies you’ll adopt this year (and in the future) to build resilience in your business.
We’ll see you next time with five more great strategies you can adopt to overcome whatever “retail roadblocks” confront you.
Reach out to Purple Dot
We like unique marketing solutions that enhance the customer’s experience while serving specific retail and marketing needs.
Purple Dot’s smart discounting solution does both. It extends greater control to your customers over their transactions, and that’s both a practical advantage and an excellent marketing tool. It also saves you, the retailer, from buying into the traditional “discount wars” that occur seasonally. It effectively insulates your business from potentially unrecoverable discount-related losses at critical market periods.