IN RETAIL MARKETING, THERE’S NO SUBSTITUTE FOR SUBSTANCE

Retail Marketing|Thought Leadership|Trends|

In an industry used to disruption, retailers strive for a deeper connection with their audience. 

A meme states that “marketing is like asking someone to go on a date while branding is what gives them a reason to say yes.” Increasingly, retailers must go farther and deeper to not only attract, but also demonstrate their worth. Beyond products and services, strong awareness and values translate to branding bona fides leading to credibility and acceptance in the eyes of consumers in a hyper-informed world.

Ross Kimbarovsky writes in Chain Store Age that the global pandemic has pushed smart brands to evolve in their communication, with “purpose-driven marketing” being a key way to connect with an audience that, more and more, looks for retailer alignment on social issues. By connecting through a common cause they both believe in, whether human rights, race, environmental awareness, poverty, gender inequalities or other issues, brands show they care past the solely commercial causes and communities. The CSA article cites a recent study by the Zeno Group that found consumers are 4.5 times more likely to recommend a brand and four times more likely to do business with it when a brand follows and articulates a strong purpose.

At infinitee, we believe purpose-driven marketing shouldn’t just be a pandemic response. According to Deloitte Consulting LLP’s Global Human Capital Trends Survey, CEOs pointed to societal impact as the top success factor for annual performance for the first time ever. That was in 2019. Millennials, now the biggest generation in America, came of age during the Great Recession. Their resulting financial struggles led to if not healthy cynicism, at least a strong ability to detect empty promises and those brands lacking substance. As Kimbarovsky advises, it’s always a good idea to reassess your brand messaging and ensure that your marketing strategies are innovative, creative, highly engaging, and high impact — as well as purpose-driven.

When Winston Churchill said ‘never waste a good crisis,’ we’re pretty sure he was speaking about something other than retail marketing strategy. However, brands that don’t view the post-pandemic landscape as a critical opportunity to reconnect with customers and prospects will definitely fall behind. That’s how tumultuous 2020 was. A sea change like that requires brands to see the change, so they can then act. (Hey, at least we didn’t trot out the trite ‘n-w n-rmal’!) 

Market research should be a regular habit, infinitee believes, but especially after a once-in-a century upheaval like COVID-19. One-on-one feedback, surveys and questionnaires yield unique insights to help brands understand impacted customers and how their needs and attitudes have changed. From that, retailers can overhaul or modify their brand positioning, image and communication… or even identity.

And there are even more benefits to brands having their fingers on the pulse of customer wants and ideals. Come for their feedback, insights and direction and stay for the user-generated content (UGC). A retailer can’t have too many unpaid brand ambassadors or influencers, after all.   

Kimbarovsky writes that UGC has been “growing exponentially” for the past five years, “largely due to influencer marketing.” He cites studies that show that people are 28% more likely to engage with UGC — including the honest reviews, real emotions and natural reactions of real people — than traditional company-based posts. It only makes sense in a consumer age where people are highly informed and motivated by strong values such as commitment to social causes. Authenticity matters and UGC, with all of its powerful viral potential, reflects relatability and trustworthiness, which builds the brand that grows the retail business.

To thine own self be true, another Englishman wrote, a few centuries before Churchill. The new truth in retail marketing, whether in a crisis or not, focuses both inward and outward. Connecting beyond the commercial with consumers calls for marketing that is purpose-driven, well-researched and user-based.

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