The digital marketing transition has accelerated over the past two years, and in many ways, the customer experience has improved tremendously as a result. Scheduling appointments online, making touchless purchases in stores, getting real-time online delivery updates — even tasks like getting tires changed are all easier for many people now because of the ways retailers have adapted to new needs and consumer preferences.
Now, it’s time for retailers to look at where they are and decide how they can optimize all those changes, so they’re in the best possible position to retain customers and be ready to pivot for whatever changes come up next. Most of the trends we’re looking at this year apply to D2C and B2C as well as B2B. As was true before March 2020, B2B digital marketing lags B2C and D2C in terms of customer experience optimization, but it’s spent the last 20 months pivoting to more digital and customer-friendly experiences.
Now, consolidating gains can help B2B and other retailers to focus on the customer experience to improve loyalty and potentially capture new markets.
Take a Fresh Look at Your Marketing Technology Stack
Many retailers have adopted new technology since the start of the pandemic to help communicate with customers in new channels, and to offer new delivery and pickup options. Now, it’s time to look at whether all your marketing technology is feeding customer data seamlessly into a stable repository like a customer data platform, so you can use it to accurately personalize the omnichannel customer experience.
Put Personalization Goals Front and Center
As consumers spend 2022 strengthening their loyalty to two or three retailers, personalization will remain critical. Understanding your brand’s digital maturity can show you where the brand can (and should) be in terms of personalization now. Whether your technology and data management can support segmented personalization or provide more targeted personalization throughout the customer journey, the most important thing is to avoid the kind of blanket messaging that causes customers to turn away.
Embrace SMS Marketing
SMS marketing strategy hasn’t been discussed much in recent years, but it's critical now. In fact, mobile commerce is set to grow 68% this year. Brands can capitalize on this with SMS marketing and messaging if they’re getting customers’ permission to do so. SMS messages from businesses have a higher open rate than marketing emails — 81% of U.S. consumers have opened business SMS messages, and 43% have initiated SMS conversations with a business.
Like all digital marketing, SMS marketing works best if it’s personalized and delivered at a cadence that doesn’t make the messaging feel like spam. And like email, SMS marketing messages should be easy to opt out of, both for compliance and for customer experience.
Make the Most of Marketplaces
Building a marketplace channel can help retailers reach more customers, because 57% of U.S. B2C e-commerce sales flow through marketplaces. Brands that establish a presence on other marketplaces can expand their product selection to mitigate supply chain challenges and merchandising investments and offer customers a more one-stop seamless experience. At the same time, retailers can build their own marketplace SEO program based on search algorithms that shoppers use to find the brand’s products. That data can be used to fine-tune and personalize digital messaging to marketplace customers.
Embrace Alternative Payments
Alternative payment methods like mobile wallets are becoming the norm, especially among smaller retailers, while many larger retailers are lagging. When a customer who’s in the habit of tapping their phone to pay in-store with their mobile wallet tries to check out at a big-box chain, they may not have that option, which breaks the customer experience. This is the year that retailers need to align their point-of-sale (POS) terminals with the rest of their digital technology stack, to enable touchless and mobile payments that customers expect and that many smaller competitors already offer.
A Look Ahead at the Metaverse
A note about the hot topic of the metaverse, which includes virtual and hybrid physical-digital worlds that people can access even through connected devices that don’t support VR or AR, like smartphones, game consoles, and computers. The metaverse also promises to break platform boundaries, so people can take their metaversal goods and services to any platform they visit, just as a customer who buys a pair of jeans can wear them wherever they go.
For D2C marketers, the metaverse will be a place where users can create, buy and sell goods, and it offers potential marketing plays for product placement, search, social selling, and more.
Assess Your Digital Marketing Agility and Flexibility
As retailers take a moment to review the changes they’ve implemented since March 2020, it’s also a good time to take a close look at how adaptable your marketing strategies are and find ways to become more open to change. For small retailers, this agility is necessary to lure customers away from legacy retailers and larger competitors that haven’t pivoted toward new technology like touchless POS and SMS marketing.
These retailers typically find it easier to implement new digital marketing strategies because there are fewer layers of decision making in their organizations and they have less — or nothing — invested in legacy technologies and related strategies.
For larger retailers, agility is critical to keep adapting to new customer behaviors, and to deliver a digital customer experience on par with smaller, more nimble competitors. That’s clearly true now, after more than 20 months of constant and rapid change, but it will always be true to some extent because customer behavior and expectations are always evolving. The most successful retailers will be those that keep up with the changes and adopt the right marketing technologies and strategies to meet customer expectations.
Danielle Savin is senior director of digital marketing at Capgemini Americas. Savin has over 20 years of experience in e-commerce, direct marketing, and traditional and brand marketing. She combines experience and vision to assess business needs, develop strategy, and implement and monitor deployment.