Navigating the consumer power shift in the retail world

LiveRamp managing director, Asia Pacific emerging markets Dean Capobianco
By LiveRamp managing director, Asia Pacific emerging markets Dean Capobianco | 13 June 2019

In today’s digital age, retail marketers are expected to be highly driven by data. From audience targeting to segmentation, consumer engagement to customer acquisition, information plays an incredibly critical role across the entire marketing lifecycle and has a significant impact on the bottom-line.

The ability to effectively harness data is made all the more vital with consumers having more power than ever. With the proliferation of the internet, consumers today have greater access to information and a wider choice of goods and services. Where the high-street retailers once drove buying trends, consumers now have gained control to dictate the market.

As a result, brands have to do lot more to keep their target audience engaged – or risk losing them.

However, it appears retailers are struggling to keep up. In a global survey by Acquia, nearly half of Australian consumers say brands aren’t meeting their expectations when it comes to customer experience. Moreover, even fewer remember the last time a brand exceeded expectations.

The marketer-consumer power shift 

The reason? The rise of the new millennial generation.

Millennials are the largest living generation, and they are hugely shaping how retailers interact with consumers. In fact, Australian millennials will soon be the biggest potential target audience for marketers, accounting for approximately 54 per cent of the nation’s population by 2030.

They have been the most analysed and scrutinised cohort of all time for good reason – they aren’t anything like their predecessors.

Millennials do not respond to marketing messages and traditional advertising tactics in the same way. Their shopping habits are vastly different to the generations before; only 7 per cent identify themselves as brand loyalists, while 75 per cent are influenced to shop during a retail sale or promotion.

This has inadvertently led to a shift in the balance of power between consumers and retailers, which has in turn disrupted the traditional path to purchase. According to Deloitte, when considering a purchase these days, consumers prefer to ‘pull’ information rather than have brands ‘push’ it to them. For example, they now actively look for inspiration by exploring other consumers’ social media profiles, as opposed to waiting for retailers to inspire their purchases through traditional advertising.

Unless retailers find away to adapt to this new power shift, they will suffer and risk being left in the internet’s shadow.

Customer-centricity is key

With the rise of new technologies, more disruptions to the traditional path to purchase are expected.

It is very easy in this instance to assume that technology is a silver bullet solution to surviving and thriving in the face of these changes, but a business model must be strong before it can be digitised. As such, it is imperative that the customer journey is mapped right from the onset.

Once retailers have a truly customer-centric approach, they can then look to harness new technologies wisely to enhance their business and consumer engagement model.

Traversing an array of consumer ‘islands’

The main challenge for retailers lies in successfully negotiating an increasingly complex online world.

Every single touchpoint retailers go through to reach their audiences is its own little island. Each of these islands, or channels – whether mobile, social, banner ads, native advertising or email – has dozens of third-party partners who can help them reach various consumers. And all of them have their own ways of identifying people and devices, and engaging them, as well as their own language.

Today’s marketing ecosystem is an exploded universe of channels, partners, platforms, data sources, APIs and integrations. Due to this complexity, retailers are limited by how much they can impact the customer experience: they can’t simply take what they know about their customers and prospects and apply it everywhere they see fit, as they run the risk of diluting their message, or disengaging their target audience through generic or irrelevant content.

In order for retailers to step out of the internet’s shadow, they must ensure that each interaction is tailored and targeted to specific audience groups – or miss the opportunity to make a sale altogether. More importantly, they must be able to effectively resolve identities back to real people across the marketing ecosystem.

This ability to resolve identities should be a priority investment in every retailers’ marketing technology stack. And it just might be the only barrier standing between retail marketers and their full potential.

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