Retail Marketing

Embracing the age of agile retail marketing

December 2019 Written by Papirfly

Retail is an ever-changing environment, one where those who adapt and evolve with the times thrive while others fall by the wayside.

With 2,870 stores closed in the UK through the first half of 2019, one could make the argument that how retailers adapt is by taking the vast majority of their business online.

While trends certainly suggest that consumers are shopping online far more frequently, with Forrester predicting that a third of non-grocery retail sales will be made online by 2022, those who are truly succeeding in the retail sphere are those blurring the lines between their digital and in-store experiences.

This is easier said than done. But at the heart of this must be the adoption of a customer-centric approach.

Especially among Generation Z shoppers in today’s fast-paced, technology-driven world, there is an expectation that they will receive a more personalised, reactive and innovative shopping experience than what we would’ve expected even just a decade ago.

And that is the prelude to a new age of agile retail marketing, helping retailers worldwide move quickly, empower employees and gain a competitive edge in this rapid environment.

What is agile retail – and why does it matter?

The term ‘agile retail’ refers to a direct-to-consumer model of retailing. It is centred on recognising what customers are interested in based on multiple data sources, and immediately shifting approaches to effectively engage them.

Inspired by the principles of tech companies from the late 90s onwards who sought to introduce more flexible team structures and improve their responsiveness to change, the agile transformation in retail harnesses big data to predict trends and quickly turnaround products, campaigns and initiatives that meet their customers’ demands.

This is truly a customer-centric approach in every sense of the term. It is using insights amassed from your audience to directly influence what and how you market to them – in a highly competitive industry, this can be a big difference-maker.

When we refer to agile retail, don’t think of it as a tangible process, but more an approach. An ideology even. Because for a retailer to truly be agile, it requires a complete shift away from traditional retailer hierarchies to a more reactive, collaborative approach.

Because at the heart of agile retail’s success is handing the reins for certain areas of your organisation to team members and letting them run with it. Handing this kind of autonomy over can be an alarming proposition to those who are fully integrated into the traditional approaches to retail marketing.

However, it is essential to achieving true retail agility. If teams are left waiting for briefs, approvals and other longstanding internal functions, you lose the core aspect of being agile – speed to market. In the time it has taken for your new concept for an in-store experiential campaign to pass through all the hurdles, new data has come in that suggests a different approach would be more effective.

As you know all too well: retail is an ever-changing environment. Trends and customer expectations can shift day-by-day, hour-by-hour and minute-by-minute – staying on top of these developments and adapting accordingly are critical to gaining an advantage over your competitors.

In that regard, agile retail seeks to reconcile two seemingly opposing forces – a dynamic, proactive approach of marketing to customers, with a central, shared stability.

Adopting an agile methodology in retail will rapidly become the standard for success, in the same way that stores like H&M and Zara championed the ‘fast fashion’ revolution. More and more businesses are turning to agile approaches to enhance their ability to respond to consumer needs, and those unwilling to make the shift risk going the way of the dinosaurs.

To summarise, here are some of the core components of effective agile retail:

  • A customer-centric approach, with all decisions driven by data collected from customer trends and behaviours
  • Distinct teams/individuals in your organisation responsible for key aspects of your in-store and online retail experience
  • Autonomy among teams to quickly react to data findings and make relevant adjustments, all following a set of company-wide guidelines and parameters
  • A commitment to a test-and-learn methodology, with an organisational directive to adapt and trial ideas in search of the best results
  • Collaboration and partnerships across business and technology experts

Benefits of agile retail marketing

Personalised experiences

By placing a critical emphasis on the customer experience and listening intently to their needs and behaviours, agile retail helps respond to their demands and offer a more personal, engaging shopping experience. With 84% of shoppers interested in receiving personalised offers, agile retail solutions go a long way to encourage customer loyalty and repeat business by directly to responding to their interests.

Streamlined processes

It’s estimated that companies who find the right balance with agile retail can reduce costs 25% to 35%, improve quality 20%, and accelerate their delivery up to 200%. Overall, that accounts for a lot of money and time savings across the board. By reducing the reliance on coordinating and reviewing concepts before they’re implemented (while sticking to a central set of company guidelines), retailers can quickly adapt to customer desires and concerns without old-fashioned internal barriers.

Employee empowerment

Giving this autonomy and accountability to team members over key elements of your retail experience can be a hurdle for more traditionally-minded retailers to overcome. But, with the right expertise in place, the empowerment offered by agile retail can inspire and motivate your workforce to seek innovative, creative solutions in response to issues your customer data reveals. It encourages people to be doers and all-around contributors, with everyone unified over providing the best possible customer experience.

Retail format management

Most retailers rightly recognise the effort and investment behind retail store design is markedly high, and many typically only refresh this environment once every 3-5 years. With agile retail and team members dedicated to specific parts of your overall retail experience, both physical and digital, this helps you pinpoint particular areas that need refreshing based on customer demands and prioritise those over a complete overhaul every couple of years. Remember – those that stand still too long risk being left behind. 

How do you take the first steps to become an agile retailer?

As alluded to earlier in the article, committing to an agile transformation in retail goes beyond speeding up processes slightly – it requires a complete change in your company’s internal operations. It takes the right expertise, technology and environment to truly take shape, and moving towards this approach can be incredibly intimidating for current retailers, particularly those deeply ingrained in the traditional hierarchies.

In order to ease your transition into the new age of agile retail marketing, here are a few initial steps you can take to start seeing its advantages in action:

Start with a single category

In order to trial and understand the benefits offered by agile retail, test this methodology on a single aspect of your overall retail experience. It could be your checkout process or your in-store advertising – the choice is yours, as in theory agile retail should eventually be touching every element of your business moving forward.

Communicate commitment from the top

All business leaders in your organisation need to demonstrate and communicate their buy-in to this new way of working, and have a plan in place on how this will be approached. Passing this down across your workforce will ensure everyone has ownership of your commitment to retail agility.

Establish clear brand guidelines

As your team members will be expected to work autonomously on their dedicated areas of your retail business, you should spend time ensuring you have a defined set of brand guidelines and principles for them to follow, and that these are clearly communicated to your employees and are always in easy reach for a refresher.

Incorporate intelligent automation 

Access to intelligent software that can automatically track and report customer trends and behaviours is essential for agile retail to work. Investigate the available options out there that can support your ambitions and help you stay on the pulse of your audience at all times. Plus, software that can track activity based on time, weather and other factors will also help you better understand customer behaviour.

Use A/B testing principles

Before committing to overall agile retail methodology, introduce elements of rapid prototyping and A/B testing into other processes, such as your mobile experience or in-store displays. Employing these techniques will demonstrate their advantages and make them appear less foreign when you shift into a complete agile retail approach.

How Papirfly benefits your retail agility aspirations

We hope this insight into agile retail has helped you understand why it is the way forward for organisations looking to gain a competitive edge and thrive in a challenging industry. It will take great effort to overhaul existing processes that retailers have held static for decades, but for those that do, the rewards of a complete customer-centric approach can be substantial.

So how can Papirfly support your evolution into agile retail? By enabling your employees worldwide to take responsibility for your retail marketing processes.

Your teams are empowered to create content across all your channels through intelligent templates and company-set parameters, ensuring all work produced is always on-brand. This allows them to create collateral in response to customer trends, jumping on golden opportunities.

Plus, it provides a central space for your team members across the globe to educate themselves on your brand guidelines and principles, so they all recognise and understand your organisation’s values, style and identity.

If you’d like to learn more, discover our BAM solution today.

by Papirfly

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