Retail Marketing

A cautionary retail marketing tale…from Phil Owers, CEO

September 2021 6 min read Written by Phil Owers

What you will learn...

  • Why outdated mindsets are hindering retail
  • Tangible ways to inspire change

“_________ is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results...”

How would you fill in the blank? Einstein said madness. For the sake of this article, I would choose ‘Failing your brand’. When we don’t embrace change on any scale, and stay stuck in our rigid ways, we won’t move forward in the way that we need to in order to grow. 

Many retailers have undertaken a strategic restructuring through the pandemic. Some in the form of closing physical stores, others have acquired competitor brands and most have taken drastic steps to improve the overall customer experience – both in-store and online. These moves were not only smart, they were also vital for the climate retailers were facing at the time. 

But as light begins to shine at the end of the pandemic tunnel, the journey to true marketing transformation is a long one, and it’s one that starts with a complete change in mindset.

Retail is at a fundamental crossroad in which the virtual marketplace is transforming the global landscape. The pandemic has driven consumer needs for instant gratification further than ever before. It’s reshaped attitudes towards how information is consumed and purchases are made. Brick-and-mortar stores are clawing their way back with a vengeance as brands work harder to bring online and physical store experiences together. 

Now is not only the time to shed outdated attitudes towards technology in your team, it’s also the time to stop putting off big changes because of the effort that’s required. Big changes are already happening, and if this new way of thinking isn’t reflected in your marketing, your brand could fall behind...

Here I share 3 ways retail marketers and brands can reach success by embracing a new mindset. 

#1 Attitudes towards operations 

This is probably the most daunting point to consider. If you’re from a marketing department, you may have faced resistance when trying to implement anything that affects anyone other than yourself. 

This is why embracing change must come with universal buy-in. If things aren’t working the way they should be, or your team is burnt out, something needs to change. We need to approach these things with the mindset of ‘if you don’t do it now, you probably never will’. It’s that simple.

What isn’t so simple is convincing those higher up that this change is worth investing the time, effort or potentially budget in. You may want to introduce new software, processes or new people into the mix, but perhaps you’re not sure how to go about it, or if it’s the right time.

The truth is, there will never be a right time as long as the company is busy. That’s why you need to take most of the legwork away from key decision-makers and outline what needs to happen in black and white. 

Here’s how to approach changing attitudes towards operations…

✅ Assess the issues and bottlenecks that are frequently occurring
✅ Put together an impact report of how this is affecting productivity and the bottom-line
✅ Create scenario-based outcomes of what might happen if things don’t improve
✅ Research solutions and process ideas, and narrow down your choices
✅ Explain the direct benefit of each solution and process 
✅ Assign tangible value to each solution and process and the positive way it would impact the brand and company
✅ Outline key steps for implementing the solution or process and who would need initial involvement
✅ Once you’re happy you have all of the above, book in a meeting with key stakeholders to present your findings. Give them a succinct presentation that captures the key points of interest to them and produce a leave-behind for them to take away

It’s a time-consuming investment and you’ll need to make sure you’re prepared to see it through. But if you want to make real change, you’ll need to be the pioneer at these initial stages. 

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#2 Attitudes towards people

We know that the way consumers are interacting with brands has changed. That the way they make purchase decisions shifts all the time. But what’s being done to provide a consistent customer experience throughout all this turbulence? 

From the way your products are presented online and in-store, to your loyalty schemes and ongoing brand communications, there are so many areas of consumer interaction that have changed. 

Most brands have embraced the omnichannel route for some time now, with some focus and budget disparate between them. The pandemic has seen the prominence of each channel become more refined, and it’s important that marketing and communications collateral follows suit. 

These channels starting to have equal weighting means that demand for content is higher than ever before. Consumers need fresh, engaging, informative messaging hitting them at the right times, through whichever digital or physical channel they interact through. Retail marketers have a huge role in helping set up the brand creation infrastructure that allows for the seamless shift between journeys that could be seen by a customer at any time. If processes are inefficient, it’s impossible to provide a seamless experience for customers or employees. 

It’s also incredibly unrealistic to expect teams to work around-the-clock to meet difficult deadlines. 

Here’s how to approach changing attitudes towards people…

✅ Understand the scope of content production
Identify skill sets and where gaps are affecting quality and output
✅ Create an internal user group that can shed light on these issues
✅ Involve wider departments if the issue is bigger than marketing alone
✅ Look at how teams can become more efficient in content production (such as with a tool like BAM by Papirfly™)
✅ Create a business case for implementing new ways of working
✅ As positive changes are implemented, continue with consumer user groups to assess effectiveness

Ultimately, consumers and their buying habits are what can make or break your brand and sales. Ensuring your omni-channel setup is effectively populated, refined and refreshed is paramount to keeping up with changes in behaviour. Likewise, if your team is struggling to fill content demand, they will become stressed and the quality will start to fall. A people-first approach – to consumers and employees – should be at the top of every retail brand’s mind. 

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#3 Attitudes towards technology

With new ways of working popping up across the world, many teams have embraced a more relaxed approach to delivery. In the world of retail, this can’t always be the case. With budgets being squeezed, time to market needing to be quicker and an endless stream of requests, taking a more laid-back approach doesn’t seem viable for many marketing teams.

As the saying goes: “Don’t work harder, work smarter”...

Retail relies heavily on technology, from vehicle tracking on delivery trucks, through to PIM and ERP software to manage product and business data. Yet when it comes to marketing, there seems to be a reluctance to automate any part of the process with technology.

Design, creativity and strategy will always have a huge role to play when it comes to brand campaigns and content production. Nobody is suggesting otherwise. But what technology can do is relieve some of the burden placed on teams, free up budget and allow more time for those important strategic, creative and design tasks. 

Ensuring teams are happy and productive is one driving force for this, but for retail, the need to be agile and flexible is imperative. Whether you want to introduce content production technology or campaign planning tools, there are a number of key considerations before going full steam ahead. It’s important to remember that adopting any technology can be a long process. Obtaining budget, getting approval, implementation, training, etc. 

It’s a long-term commitment that will bring both short and long-term benefits. 

Here’s how to approach changing attitudes towards technology…

✅ Assess what tasks and roles rely on human judgement or creativity
✅ Make a list of tasks that are time-consuming/menial for your teams
✅ Explore software that promises to take care of these tasks (be that Monday.com for project planning, WorkflowMax for timesheet management or BAM by Papirfly™ for all-in-one Brand Activation Management)
✅ Weigh up the cost vs. commercial ROI (in terms of financial savings and productivity gains)
✅ Put together a business case and present it to the board
✅ If approved, outline steps for onboarding, implementation and training  

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Operations, people and technology can be the biggest help or hindrance to a retail marketing team. 

You could be looking at the best process, team or software in the world, but if mindsets continue to be regressive, cracks will start to show. Ensuring you get buy-in on an idea at every stage is crucial if you’re serious about transforming the way your retail marketing team works. 

It’s one of the reasons I co-founded Papirfly – I wanted to make life better for retail marketers and teams across the world. You can read more about my ‘Freedom to fly’ ethos here

by Phil Owers
CEO
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