In his latest book, Resurrecting Retail: The Future of Business in a Post-Pandemic World, retail futurist Doug Stephens talks about the success of Alibaba’s Tmall platforms, attributable in part “to its disregard for channels and its focus instead on seeing the consumer’s journey as a chain of moments across digital and physical formats.”1 These moments can be connected and interwoven, according to Christina Fontana, Head of Fashion and Luxury for Tmall Luxury Division in Europe and U.S.
Stitched together, these mixed-media moments become meaningful customer experiences that create lasting bonds between retail brands and the consumers who identify with them.
The customer journey is changing
The future of retail is in flux. Habits, preferences, routines and interactions all look different now. Where consumers once interacted with media on the commute to work, their home is now a media hub. Where they once demanded convenience, now they crave experiences.
Well-executed customer experience (CX) is increasingly what separates victory from obscurity. Retailers who rise to the opportunity create meaningful, engaging interactions that recognize the values shared between consumers and their chosen brands.
But how exactly do you differentiate yourself? How do you show up wherever and whenever your consumers decide to engage with you?
You don’t need to look far for the answers.
Home is a critical touchpoint in the customer journey
According to Accenture survey research, this is the decade of the home. 53 per cent of people who never worked from home previously now plan to do so more often and 56 per cent of consumers say they’re buying more locally sourced products.
Increasingly, retailers will need to meet consumers in their neighbourhood. Work-from-home culture has changed the way we connect with media and opened the door to doing things differently. The rise of new retail calls for new ways of engaging consumers. It’s more about connections than channels. What’s important now is that brands show up at every touchpoint, offering up the best media for the moment to create consistent, recognizable, tangible experiences that build greater brand allegiance.
How to engage consumers at home
Engaging people at home involves working all the channels. The so-called omnichannel customer experience involves integrated, seamless, connected experiences:
- Organized around the consumer
- Based on the customer journey
- Focused on consistent messages
- Designed to create brand value
Mine first-party customer data to create meaningful customer experiences
How can marketers reach and engage at-home consumers? The answer is hiding in plain sight. Canada’s online retailers are already sitting on data gold. With first-party customer data as their guide, marketers have direct access to the insights that will help them reach the right audiences with relevant, timely, personalized messaging to create memorable and engaging customer experiences.
Link your retail goals to customer expectations and media channels so that you can meet audiences at significant, defining touchpoints throughout their journeys. Marketers already have the data – it comes from online interactions with e-commerce websites and social media channels, for example. There are insights to be gained from in-store visits too, such as using postal code data to understand foot traffic and consumer behaviour.
Although you can’t control the customer journey, first-party customer data will help you predict it so you can meet your customers at each point along the way.
Add direct mail to amplify media performance
With all eyes on at-home audiences, marketers have been gifted the perfect opportunity to optimize the mix by using a proven media channel that is already well known for its connections with at-home consumers. Recent developments in technology make direct mail an even more flexible and responsive marketing tool – delivering brand experiences right into the hands of consumers in an environment where they’re at their most receptive.
Retailers that have delivered meaningful experiences
These three leading retailers have created meaningful brand experiences to reach consumers at home:
In March 2021, Disney promoted the latest Marvel Studios release of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier by sending Canadians a circular direct mail piece, which immediately stood out to Disney fans of all ages. This isn’t the first time that Disney used this physical medium creatively – in 2019 they also promoted Disney+ subscription with a special offer.
In October 2020, Walmart sent its 56-page holiday catalogue across Canada in the mail. Its Scan & Shop feature let customers access exclusive, kid-friendly toy content within the Walmart Wonder Lab, a virtual setting that let kids unbox, test and play with the holiday season’s hottest toys – without leaving home.
In 2019, Amazon sent direct mail to existing Amazon Prime members to connect with those who had not yet engaged with their video content to begin consuming it. A year prior, Amazon mailed a 70-page holiday toy catalogue to millions of customers – capitalizing on the collapse of Toys “R” Us in the United States. The catalogue incorporated sophisticated data targeting with QR codes to drive customers online.
Get inspired by businesses that have used direct mail to achieve their goals.See success stories
The most effective integrated media experiences
Research by Analytic Partners suggests that adding channels progressively increases the ROI of a campaign. Twenty-nine per cent of the 3,200 campaigns they analyzed used only one channel, while only eight per cent used five channels. As channels were added, ROI increased by 19 to 35 per cent.2
When you create campaigns that blend media, sequence communications and hit every touchpoint, you change the way you tell your stories, attract attention and extend your reach. Innovative technologies, novel data solutions and offline retargeting enable powerful new channel combinations.
For example, combining web, email and mobile with print can lead to a 45 per cent increase in response rates compared to a digital-only media mix. Eighty-six per cent of marketers also say that combining online channels with offline marketing as part of an integrated and synchronized campaign is critical to long-term success.
Consider these media combinations to offer richer and more engaging experiences that drive meaningful CX:
Direct mail and mobile
Geolocation data combined with geo-fencing can map the customer journey to increase response rates.
Direct mail and social media
Social data can help create personalized catalogues, while direct mail can lead to a shoppable social feed.
Direct mail and out of home (OOH)
You can target more precisely by connecting programmatic out of home and direct mail media. Geolocation data matches audiences on the move with OOH billboard locations to ensure companies are actually reaching the right audiences across all the right channels.
Direct mail and email
Research suggests integrated campaigns that include direct mail garner more consumer attention, emotional engagement and brand recall than single-media digital campaigns. Brand recall peaks when direct mail follows email, outperforming the average for other single and integrated media campaigns by 40 per cent.
Effective integrated marketing campaigns in action
The following Canadian retailers have optimized their media mix to create engaging customer experiences that amplify brand performance.
Golf Town drove online traffic in-store using an integrated approach to data. A triggered marketing campaign including programmatic mail resulted in more than three per cent conversion and $158,000 in sales.
Barbies integrated billboards, television and radio advertising with direct mail. They combined strong value offers with data-driven geo-targeting doubled redemption rates.
RBC and OVO
RBC partnered with lifestyle brand OVO to promote the OVO Summit. To increase relevance with younger Canadians, RBC and OVO used direct mail as an exclusive invitation that was amplified by recipients as a social badge.
Watch this customer journey in action to see how you can integrate media to create meaningful experiences, build connections and encourage conversions.
Give your customers something meaningful to enhance the customer experience
Customer experience design (CXD) requires brands to understand why, how and what people want. With so many choices, people will naturally filter out anything that doesn’t make meaningful connections or enhance their lives. An isolated combination of ads, optimization and e-commerce is no longer enough to grow retail brands. Unified brand experiences require marketing and CX to live side by side – shifting the focus toward enhanced customer experiences that are infused with meaning at every touchpoint along the customer journey.
1Doug Stephens, Resurrecting Retail The Future of Business in a Post-Pandemic World, 2021.
2Canada Post. Amping up the media mix, 14. November 2020.
We’re always here to help.
Let us show you how you can connect with your customers and deliver meaningful customer experiences. Talk to a Canada Post Smartmail MarketingTM expert.Contact an Expert