How brand investment could boost retail sales

I bought a tie last week. Wore it during the week too. That may not seem a big thing to you, but from once owning upwards of 30 ties and wearing one every day, I now own two. High quality ones though. I tried them on with help from an assistant in store before I bought them. Old is new again.

Across the world, our comfort with curated data and delivered digital awareness has created personalised, welcomed high-frequency engagement. In my inbox and on the side bars and banners of social media, I am served up interesting things that I (mostly) want to read, see and engage with. This tailored content gets my attention and interest, the first half of the four steps of “Attention, Interest, Desire and Action” I learned as a young marketer.

Once you have my attention and my interest is piqued, the stronger emotion of desire kicks in and, hey presto, I want to take a physical action and buy something with my thumb on my phone. Unless a text beeps, my phone rings, the train stops at my stop, the dog barks or my partner asks me what we’re having for dinner, in which case I’m lost until next time.

The old school desire to move from a trusted digital relationship to a physical relationship is back in full swing. Across Asia, Europe and North America, the big venues are once again full of IT vendors physically meeting with customers that have been personally invited to hear, touch and talk about their technology to finalise deals.

In hotel conference rooms, financial service companies are physically meeting with customers too. Venues are getting harder to book, and physical event companies, specifically those that have a digital meeting capability, are growing again.

In retail, where margins and volumes have been eroded by purely online retailers, and investment has been directed at building or acquiring online marketing and retailing capability, it’s been difficult to sustain investment in engaging shoppers to walk into stores and then meeting and delighting those shoppers in the store.

The number of product demonstrations and brand ambassadors staffed at store events has fallen. Walking through stores it’s evident that in-store staff numbers are down, and product knowledge and sales training is low. More money is being spent on printing and changing paper price labels each day to try to keep up with online retailers dynamic pricing. But it’s turning, and it’s due to increased brand owner investment, not retailer investment.

Owners of yoghurt brands, specialist pet foods, home insurance and cruise companies are all investing more in malls, in-store demonstrations and dedicated brand ambassadors. They’re investing in physical events in retail stores, as they have built great digital relationships over the past decade but now want to physically meet shoppers in store.

They have the data to digitally invite specific consumers into a retail store near their home, workplace or holiday location to attend a tailored physical event. They can invite young mums to learn more about over-the-counter pharmaceutical products for their babies. Teen girls can learn about makeup and empty nester men can learn to play a new instrument. It’s the physical interaction, not the digital relationship, that is now the point of difference for brand owners.

Walking stores this year, expect to see more high quality, well run events for shoppers. More importantly, expect to be invited to events at stores near you, not just happen upon them by chance.

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