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Industry News 4 Technologies To Take Your Retail Marketing Efforts Off The Beaten Path

By Tina Mulqueen

Faced with rapidly shifting consumer expectations, Home Depot recently announced a $1.2 billion initiative to modernize its supply chain. Part of an $11 billion plan to “re-engineer” the company, according to EVP of Supply Chain and Product Development Mark Holifield, the move will allow Home Depot to better compete with Amazon by offering timely and inexpensive shipping options with the ability to deliver to most of the U.S. within a day.

Since convenience factors like shipping are weighing heavily in consumer purchasing decisions, bold investments in what’s known as digital transformation are becoming commonplace in retail where remaining stagnant amidst disruption is almost certainly fatal.

Referring to revamping traditional strategies and marketing practices through the adoption of digital technologies, IDC expects a 43 percent increase on technology spending for digital transformation by next year, with enterprises spending in excess of $1.7 trillion in 2019.

And while 87 percent of digital transformation decision-makers are preparing for the impact of “technically innovative competitors,” according to Alfresco’s recent report, “Digital Disruption: Disrupt or Be Disrupted,” half feel like their own companies are unprepared. If you don’t want to be on the wrong side of digital disruption, here are some new technologies to explore:

Live Streaming Marketplaces

We’ve seen live streaming emerge as a video marketing trend in the past few years, thanks to platforms like Facebook Live, Instagram Live and Periscope. According to Facebook, users on the platform spend three times longer watching live videos than those no longer in real-time, so it makes sense that half of marketers plan to invest in live video this year.

Adding to the evolution of video are live streaming marketplaces operated by sellers. The first to my knowledge is TalkShop.Live, founded by former CBS social media producer Bryan Moore, and his sister, Tina Moore. Driven by user-generated content (UGC), TalkShop.Live allows any seller to go live at any time - a differentiator from platforms like QVC and HSN.

“TalkShop.Live provides an opportunity for anyone to create their own home shopping show and build that type of demand around their product,” says talk show host and early supporter Ricki Lake.

Marrying digital marketing with QVC-style video channels, the platform launched just three months ago and is seeing early success with both Etsy-type artisan retailers and influencers hawking their wares.

With an opportunity to live stream particular products, chat with prospective consumers in real-time, and a built-in “buy” button when shared on social media, the platform should be particularly interesting to brands hoping to quantify influencer marketing efforts. By engaging a social media influencer as a spokesperson on the platform, brands will better understand which influencers are moving their audiences through the purchase path.

Of course, quality and strategy matter. According to Moore, the sellers that are successful on the platform tend to promote their shows, in advance; offer purchase incentives; and consistently engage on social media, both on and off the platform. And it’s worth noting that video and audio quality both impact purchase decisions.

Shoppable Video

According to IAB, two-thirds of advertisers are shifting their television budgets to digital video, and 90 percent believe that direct-to-consumer videos provide more fruitful data from which to gauge campaign success. Brands are looking for stand-out video options to make a splash in the increasingly crowded space, while keeping a pulse on ROI.

Cinematique presents an interesting solution. The company makes high quality videos shoppable, such as Westworld’s season 2 Comic-Con trailer.

“We believe there is a future where all video should have this type of functionality,” says founder of Cinematique, Kyle Heller. “If you can achieve more ROI from video while maintaining the integrity of the content, there is no reason not to.”

While not the first to dabble in shoppable video (YouTube, Google and Delivery Agent have made efforts in this arena, among others), according to Heller, Cinematique is the only platform that provides self-service tools, so that anyone can apply the technology to their videos, with capabilities across any video player or device.

Viewers can click on objects within the video to queue them for later viewing and purchase without interrupting the play, and the videos can be shared across social while retaining full functionality.

The platform touts a 20 percent average click through rate and increased engagement in comparison to traditional direct-to-consumer videos. Says Heller, “for every minute of video watched, we see an average of three minutes spent on the video. This is because viewers spend time exploring the additional information and shoppable items that interest them.”

Augmented Reality

The BBC expects Augmented Reality (AR) to become a £122 billion industry within the next 6 years. As the line between digital and physical blurs, we’re seeing AR reshape the home buying experience and enrich physical shopping. Target, for example, recently introduced an augmented reality cosmetic experience, wherein shoppers can virtually “try on” different products both online and in some brick-and-mortar locations.

For retailers searching for AR solutions to enhance their physical space, Spacee is worth looking into. Using only projected light, the company creates an interactive “mixed space” of digital content and physical objects, turning any brick-and-mortar surface into a touchscreen. The result is a seamless augmented experience that doesn’t require the use of a mobile device or unwieldy accessories like glasses or helmets. “Spacee delivers a kiosk without the kiosk,” says the company’s CEO, Skip Howard. “We want to leverage the built environment to deliver a unique interactive experience.”

A customer could, for example, touch a vase on your shelf to learn about the craftswoman who sculpted it in Nicaragua, or pull up a menu on the wall to find out which of your products are organic and cruelty free.

Retail Technology Networks

One of the obstacles in competing with e-commerce behemoths like Amazon and Alibaba is that individual retailers simply don’t have access to the same amount or quality of data - not even close. But if retailers collaborate, sharing technology and information as well as sales thrust, they all stand to gain.

OneMarket aims to bring retailers together for this purpose. The digital network will “provide retailers and mall owners the opportunity to leverage a holistic set of data on each individual customer that not one company has possessed until now, including customers' interests, what categories they shop, where they dine, how much they spend and how often," according to Taubman Centers, Inc. Chief Operating Officer William S. Taubman. "Ultimately, it will enable us to customize each shopping experience and make it more efficient."

In addition to facilitating data sharing, the network is also focused on co-marketing and a cooperative investment in technology. It has already signed on retailers like Guess?,Inc., Express, and Nordstrom, to name a few.

While OneMarket appears to be focused on larger retail brands, technology networks like these can help retailers of all sizes. The key is to partner with like-minded retailers of similar size that share your target demographic.

For all of the retailers navigating digital transformation, know that you’re not alone. Sharing information and resources, investing mindfully in technologies to modernize current marketing practices, and enriching customer experiences through new platforms and applications will help you stay competitive. Embracing new technologies could mean the difference between falling victim to the disruption wave or riding its momentum.

Source: Forbes, June 13, 2018 (https://www.forbes.com/sites/tinamulqueen/2018/06/13/4-technologies-to-take-your-retail-marketing-efforts-off-the-beaten-path/)