Retail: Adding value not noise

We recently launched The Most Connected Brands Index to help businesses and brands understand how they are connecting with consumers and provide them with ways to improve. Les Wilcock, Managing Director of Outpost, helped contribute to the report:

Competing for the customer’s attention.

Keeping them coming back for more.

Building a relationship.

Achieving a sale.

All of these things are key to any successful business, but given the amount of noise in the marketplace, you have to give the customer something more, something of value, something they are actually interested in.

It’s good to remember that where we are today is actually no different than where we were 30 years ago. Sure, we have the internet and social media and there’s a lot more communication trying to get the customer’s attention, but the same marketing principles still apply: raise awareness, create interest, call people to action and sell at a profit.

To achieve this, you have to add value in the customer’s mind regarding the offer. Understanding this value and translating it into words and imagery that ‘connects’ with the consumer is the challenge for everyone involved in marketing. It’s all too easy in retail to fall into the trap of product promotion after product promotion, expending more and more effort for diminishing returns.

To understand what to say to customers, you need to understand what makes them tick. Forget the customer’s aspirations and motivations at your peril, and always have the target market’s needs in mind. This will help develop your brand’s prominence, distinctiveness, popularity and buzz.

To connect, to have emotional affinity with our customers, to make sure we are always front of mind: we need to offer value and keep at it.

So, who does this well?

Nike are always adapting to the changing market, not only from a content viewpoint but a full consumer experience. And Mr Porter is another example of providing value added content to its consumers.

But it’s not just mid-and premium-end brands that are succeeding. Primark has recently left rival New Look announcing store closures thanks to the former’s broad offering of affordable fast fashion and a savvy social media strategy. It’s important to remember they don’t have an ecommerce website either. They boast 5.3 million Instagram followers and focus on connecting the public with the latest trends in-store through fresh, eye-catching imagery to create conversations.

The retail sector is going through a period of turmoil, with well-known retail names wrestling with margin erosion and, in a number of cases, being unsure as to what their vision or strategic intent is or how to compete.

The marketing communications industry has to respond. It’s our job not just to bring ideas to the fore, but to constructively challenge the core proposition and the chosen strategy. ‘More of the same’ just won’t cut it, nor will churning out offer after offer. If you want to stand out and have longevity then it’s on you to add value by helping our clients along their own path.

The checklist:

  • Creating brand advocacy and a customer following requires an integrated approach to marketing. Consider all channels to reach the customer, not just the current trends or ‘fads’.
  • Creating affinity and distinctiveness takes time, it doesn’t happen overnight. You need to be consistent and disciplined, ensuring what you are saying is what interests the customer, not what you think they want to hear.
  • Use professional advice and support for creating engaging content to avoid falling into the product promotion trap. Be brave, not bland.
  • Ensure you understand what motivates your target market. Never assume.
  • Finally, consider the customer journey. Understand where obstacles can get in the way of the customer doing business with you and remove them. Ultimately, you should always make sure the journey is a delight for the customer.

Les Wilcock, Managing Director of Outpost