Researching products and services is the second most popular online activity in the UK. Every time consumers access the web, search for a brand, or open an online retail store, is an opportunity for retailers and brands to engage with their consumers through digital channels, to deliver communication messages that engage, are impactful, useful, or interactive.
Outside of the home, consumers continue to engage with digital media via their mobile devices and tablets, via interactive POS, digital displays and billboards, bus shells and experiential activities. The current Elnett campaign is successfully merging press advertising with QR codes that link to a video of ‘Cheryl Cole having her hair done. This is interesting in itself, however it then further deep links to the Elnett website where customers also have the option to like, share and rate. Where readers may have once glanced at the ad in a magazine and then flicked the page over, now the adverts provide another dimension of interactivity and engagement which promises prizes as an incentive to view more.
Shoppers browse and purchase cross channel
Consumers want to browse for information and purchase in whichever way is most convenient to them, whatever that channel – whether online, in store, by catalogue, mobile, or call centre. Digital technology provides an opportunity to join up the dots across all the retail channels and to add a little bit more to the experience and the service. A retailer can use digital in store to integrate interactive POS, augmented reality, or mobile applications to literally bring a product range to life, aid purchasing decisions and close sales at POP. Digital can also be used to transform catalogue presentation or printed POS, using QR codes that launch associated information, a website, or rich media content.
Online retail is currently growing 6x faster than High Street sales, with total UK online sales reaching £58.8bn by the end of 2010 (an 18% increase on 2009). It is predicted that this total will reach £69bn by the end of 2011. The online channel via Mobile devices is also increasing rapidly, with Morgan Stanley predicting that by 2014, mobile browsing will overtake PC browsing. According to IMRG, retailers who embrace multiple channel retail are emerging as the clear winners online, because they are able to offer superior services that enable the purchasing journey to be fitted in with consumer’s lifestyles and purchasing decisions. John Lewis were one of the first retailers to offer click ‘n’ collect services that allow consumers to browse or shop online, check and reserve stock and then collect product in store.
Bubbling under the surface for a couple of years, Mobile is currently establishing itself as a significant marketing and commerce channel. 31% of the UK population now own Smartphones in the UK and 2 out of 3 Mums use their phones whilst out shopping to find deals, compare product or search for information and directions. Acceptance of mobile as a commerce channel has increased over the last year with 62% of Smartphone users stating that they have made a purchase on their handset within the last 6 months (Portaltech and eDigital Research, March 2011).
2010 was the year that many of the UK’s high street retailers launched a Mobile site or application, to mixed results. eBay report that more than 2000 cars are purchased weekly via their app and Marks & Spencers famously sold a £3.4k sofa though their mobile app. Other retailers who have launched an app in isolation, that was not integrated to a wider campaign strategy, have been less successful. This year is likely to be the year that retailers work out which UX works for them and their customers. Overall, most retailers report that sales via the Mobile channel currently account for between 2-12% of revenue and this is set to increase to £275m, by 2013.
However Mobiles are not solely a commerce channel, or indeed an incremental channel, but are most useful for providing convenient access to brands and retail stores around the clock. The channel allows a 2-way interaction between the consumers and brand/product/retailer, which can be used to inform, engage, serve and suggest. Mobile also enables convenient and instant social commerce, allowing customers to ‘like’, comment, or review products.
In store, Mobiles or tablets can be used as product catalogues; to aid purchasing decisions, provide additional product information, showcase rich media such as videos, engage consumers in competitions or games, or generate shopping lists.
Tesco Grocery have utilized barcode technology that enables consumers to scan barcodes and generate shopping lists. The Tesco wine app uses product recognition technology to scan a bottle of wine and suggest alternatives, or detailed product information. Interestingly, nearly 1 in 5 teens have used their phones to read a QR code (Dubit Research as cited by eMarketer, March 2011) and mobile barcode usage has increased by 1800% year on year (International Data Corporation (IDC) as cited by MobiAd News, March 2011)
And phones will play an important part in the transaction process by 2012/13, as NFC technology will be implemented in mobile devices tol allow consumers to pay for goods via their phones in seconds.
Another key benefit of mobiles is that they are always attached to a potential consumer.
You can create an experience like no other
1 in 3 consumers engage with 2 screens simultaneously (TV + mobile/PC) and so reaching your consumers, providing a memorable experience and creating an active response in a media rich world can be a challenge. Digital technologies can be used to enhance or support integrated campaigns to launch products and provide superior customer service in a way that simply could not be delivered by usual means.
Over Xmas 2010, Tissot used Augmented Reality to drive awareness to their watch category using an interactive display window on Oxford Street. Promotional girls attracted potential (male) customers, who were then given a watch ‘marker’. As customers held up the marker to the window’s ‘mirror’, they could then see how a Tissot watch might look on their wrist, using Augmented Reality. They could then scroll through a series of alternatives and virtually ‘ try on’ watches. The promotion was extremely successful in driving customer from the street in store to Tissot’s department in the Watch department and drove sales up massively.
Out in stores, Puma have installed a prowling puma cat hologram who appears to walk back and forth along the top of the fixtures. This stands out as an example of technology used in a highly creative and engaging manner to draw attention to a complex product category in a striking way that is memorable. Their competitors Adidas, are using Intel’s latest technology to create an Interactive touch screen display wall that engages, advises and communicate in a fun way with customers.
C&A have also used a life-size holographic image of a virtual woman modeling new lingerie to attract and engage consumers. She appeared at night, after stores had closed and walked around the stores in a tantalizing way, posing in her underwear. Passers by could interact with her via their mobile browsers and vote from a list of 30 options on what the model should do next. The website periodically aggregated the votes and the model would then act accordingly.
Your brand or store can be accessed 24/7
Thanks to the mobile and web channels, Consumers can now access your brand or store 24/7 – wherever they are, whatever the time, or whatever they are ‘supposed to be doing’. 4pm Wednesday ‘is peak-time for workplace shopping’, when sales increase by 75% (according to Digital Strategy Consulting, September 2010). 78% of potential car buyers say they will use their mobile device for both searching and purchasing their car and it is likely that this activity will be conducted when at work, in a lunch hour, or in travel time.
Retailers and brands can now leverage this effect to ensure that their customers can always access their products, via mobile sites and online, reminding them of this fact via newsletters, display ads, twitter campaigns, SMS notifications or Facebook updates. ASOS, the pure play fashion retailer, have been particularly successful in attracting attention to their site during lunch hours. Recognising that most of their customers spend their lunch hours scanning Facebook updates, the company exploits this behaviour by running a series of ‘get if before it goes’ offers, that run only in lunch hours between 12 and 2pm.
Digital is instant & re-active
The very nature of digital, means that you can send media, stream, deliver, upload, download, sms, and deploy media in a more flexible and reactive manner than any other media. So should you want customers to react to a TV ad, you can use a QR code, or web link. 72% of under 25s comment on programmes via social networks as they watch them and 52% of Internet users search for a brand on a search engine in response to seeing a TV ad. The ability to respond and react allows brands or retailers to deliver appropriately timed messages that are highly targeted to your audience.
Barcodes, QR codes and mobiles can be used in store to generate an active response to a message. Customers could scan a barcode in Homebase and be sent a mobile pop up ad, a voucher, or even a video that can build brand values or prompt a sale at PoP.
Geo location helps to refine this by general location (you are in a Homebase/shopping centre/area) in response to a ‘check in’ (Four Square/Facebook/retailer’s app) or can be linked to aisles in store using NFC. 17% of Smartphone users have made a purchase in response to a location-based advertisement.
Lego are using a combination of barcode technology and Augmented Reality technology to showcase how an assembled Lego product looks.
“So did we make any money from this activity?” Cries the marketing Director / MD/you Boss.
One of the most useful elements of digital is that you can build in analytics, tags and KPIs to measure the success of your campaigns, website and communication against a criteria of measurement that you define as ‘measurements for success’. Analytics can help you work out what worked or didn’t work and analyse why, so future campaigns can be refined and improved.
Director of Digital