I recently came home from a busy day at work, ready to start the dinner and bedtime routine, to find a catalogue from a well-known department store sat on my doorstep. It was beautifully crafted and dozens of pages long.
It went straight in the bin.
I tried to flick through the densely-populated pages to find something to pique my interest, but between the doona covers, irons, menswear and Christmas gift ideas it was hard to navigate. I quickly became impatient and felt like I was wasting my time.
It’s the same feeling I get when I see those print ads with a dozen random products supermarkets love to run, or the TV ads for big box retailers with eight different product promotions.
Ask almost anyone how they are and the response will likely be ‘busy’. It’s a well documented phenomenon that people feel they are busier than ever before. Whether they are or not is a different matter, but the mere feeling of being busy changes behaviour and makes them less cooperative.
If I look at my own shopping behaviour it’s changed markedly over the last decade. I used to love going in-store to browse for an outfit for an event – now I look at the prospect with dread. I don’t feel I have time for it. Neither do I have the mental availability to go trawling any more for products I might want to buy.
All of this means retailers need to change the way they get their products in front of potential customers. Customers don’t care enough to come and find your products, you need to take the goods to them.
It made me stop and think: what inspired me to make my last discretionary purchase, something I didn’t need? It was a pair of earrings, which I discovered on Instagram. It’s this curated discovery which is driving more people today in how they make their discretionary purchases. Those moments of inspiration are the drivers of desire.
Research conducted by Deloitte earlier this year found that more than 70% of apparel consumers said they find at least one form of personalisation valuable enough to increase their likelihood of purchase. Customers appreciate relevance and convenience more than ever. That can be targeted ads and promotions, as well as in-store recognition.
That personalisation is the opposite of the spray and pray methods still adopted by many.
There are many more efficient ways to target people today. Companies like Facebook and Google have worked hard to build and evolve machine learning technology that allows us to find audiences most marketers didn’t realise existed.
There are also an increasing numbers of shoppable ad units which make it incredibly easy for those target audiences to become your customers.
Amazon is one of the most influential forces in western retail today – both in terms of talkability and with a 48% market share of US online retail according to the latest eMarketer figures.
That rise to become a $800 billion enterprise hasn’t been fueled by sending out indiscriminate promotions to large audiences they hope will find the product relevant. Instead they have large target audiences and use emerging technologies to show the right product to the right person at the right time.
Key to the smart adoption of digital placement is that it drives a higher margin for discretionary spend products as it gets them in front of the right consumers who are willing to pay a higher price for that product. Notably, the new market entrants have not been tied to legacy press and catalogue structures. They don’t buy media to be seen by their internal stakeholders or suppliers. They buy media to be seen by their customers.
So why are so many Aussie retailers struggling to adapt as the battle for winning discretionary spend heats up?
In part I think it is seen as the domain of the online retailers. It’s not, it is the domain of successful retailers, who realise customers crave convenience and relevance, and realise people are now always shopping. They have a device in their pocket which allows them to discover or buy almost anything with just the tap of their thumb, from their sofa, on the bus or even in another store.
So why are we still cutting down trees to blast out hopeful messages?
Facebook head of retail Kate Box