Sara Richter
Sara Richter 1 March 2021

unPredictions, Part 1: Retail Marketing Priorities for 2021

2020 has seen an unprecedented evolution for marketers, with five years of ecommerce growth occurring in less than twelve months. January is always oversaturated with prediction content, but this year it feels slightly redundant; the changes that we’d predict for the coming years have already happened. Covid has torn up the roadmap and blown once-established trends and hype curves to smithereens.

In this climate, the last thing marketers need is yet another hypothetical “predictions” piece for 2021. We don’t need unproven, future-gazing statements about a frankly uncertain industry, nor do we need a road map of trends that nobody can honestly predict.

What we do need, however, is structure and guidance on how to make our current marketing as effective for the current climate as possible.

Rather than predicting the future, this two-part article will lay out a series of ‘unPredictions’ for 2021, outlining the priorities and actions that marketers can deploy right now.

Rather than guessing what’s around the corner, unPredictions will help you to deliver the superior brand experiences that customers look for, and the improvements in growth and revenue that define your job as a marketer.

1. Customers Must be the Priority

With such a huge influx of new businesses entering the digital space, consumers are now shopping in more saturated markets than ever. This drastically reduces the tolerance that customers have for status quo experiences, providing them with greater choice and more opportunities to switch to another brand.

That means that personalising a single element in a one-size-fits-all customer engagement strategy isn’t enough any more. If you’re going to retain customers, you need to make them feel like they’ve chosen the one brand that truly understands them — providing them with the best possible experiences and the strongest reasons to stay loyal.

Marketers need to revise their technology ecosystem in a way that lets them achieve this, with unhindered access to systems and the ability to unlock every relevant data set. Without access to every data source, 1:1 personalisation will be impossible, and customers will begin to look elsewhere.

2. Consider the Changes to Customer Data, Policies and Privacy

Just as customers have high expectations of experience, they are also increasingly conscious of their privacy. Research from Data Privacy Manager has indicated that just 59% of brands believe that they meet GDPR requirements.

Without a cast-iron guarantee that data is accessible and usable, businesses don’t have the ability to personalise the experience of customers. The impending end of web-tracking cookies, the complexities of legal systems in different countries, and the siloing of data all exacerbate this issue.

Clarity and comprehension are invaluable here. To achieve this, marketers need to put in place a strategy to identify more customers and capture their consent, clearly define the value that the customer will receive in exchange and prioritise the work of the data protection team to ensure compliant use of that data.

3. Earn the Right to use Customer Data

Marketers who use customer data to inform their marketing outperform their peers by up to 85% in sales growth. At the same time, 75% of consumers say they prefer to buy from retailers that recognise them by name or can make recommendations based on historical purchases. The statistics are unarguable.

However, as customers are empowered to choose who they share their data with and to what extent, brands have to earn the right to benefit from it. It’s no longer a one-way deal — customers can revoke their permission whenever they choose.

Ensuring that customers continually choose to share their data with you ties in closely with unPrediction #2. The first- and zero-party data that your organisation accumulates is unique to you.

An emphasis on personalisation, clarity and value will allow you to earn the right to leverage customer data to differentiate yourself from competitors and identify similarly unique business opportunities.

4. Loyalty is More than Points and Prizes

With higher competition online, loyal customers who return to a brand again and again are essential. On average, such customers have a 306% higher lifetime value than the average consumer, with 80% of a company’s profits coming from only 20% of its most loyal customers.

In this climate, marketers need to stop viewing customer loyalty as a “nice-to-have” and instead see it as a crucial tool to maximise the effectiveness of a genuine personalised experience.

With that said, too many brands treat their loyalty programmes as nothing more than “bells and whistles”. From prioritised customer service to early product access, an effective loyalty programme must go beyond free gifts and discounts, delivering useful value-added experiences.

2021 is a prime opportunity to re-evaluate the use of indiscriminate discounting as the primary means of driving loyalty, instead prioritising experiences that make the individual feel valued and incorporated as part of the brand.

Stay tuned for part two, where we’ll explore the different ways in which you can reach your customer and how to extend their lifetime value.

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