Retail executives talk about one-to-one marketing, including making the customer experience personalised by tracking behaviour across every activity online – via smartphones, on the bus, and everywhere else they might shop. With all the big data available on each consumer, it should be straightforward for retailers to provide their customers with compelling, relevant offers.
So why are consumers, including me, still getting offers that miss the mark? The messages retailers claim are “just for you” often don’t resonate, and irrelevant banner advertisements pop up on consumers’ phones only to block them from reading what they’re actually interested in. How does this occur, given the big data brilliance that’s applied to predict every aspect of our buying behaviour?
Perhaps retailers can learn from the “selfie” phenomenon, where consumers essentially generate their own public relations and brand awareness through all forms of social media, without help from the experts. Shoppers would feel better if they had more say in deflecting a shooting gallery of ads that claim to “target” them directly. This also offers the potential for consumers to be more loyal to their favourite stores if retailers gave them more say in their shopping journey.
Following Samsung’s record-breaking selfie from the Oscars on Twitter, and numerous other successful selfie campaigns, many retailers have adopted this into their own marketing strategies. Most notably, French Connection and Tommy Hilfiger, among others, have specifically designed and adapted their stores to help shoppers incorporate selfies as part of the retail experience.
These widespread social campaigns cater to the “selfie shopper” population who are more than happy to share their shopping experience online. Chinese consumers demonstrate much the same behaviour when it comes to posting about their online purchases, altogether fulfilling the ‘me’ generation of millennials’ desire for attention and approval.
Social media perfectly lends itself to online retailing in China. According to McKinsey, social media has the greatest influence on purchasing decisions of consumers in China compared to the rest of the world. Any successful online and mobile marketing for brands will need to design and implement social strategies that revolve around millennials, perhaps even with a tinge of the selfie element.
Marketing content and advertisements need to be fully integrated with China’s biggest social networking platforms, such as Weibo, WeChat and QQ, as some even go as far as to claim that social media usage is a key factor that drives millennials’ e-commerce trend in China. Additional accessories, phones and features have been created to support this trend, popular social apps, such as Line, have even included customisable ‘selfie stickers’ – mirroring the dominance that has resulted from this fortuitous phenomenon.
The era of small data (such as individual customers’ personal preferences and lists), as opposed to big data (everyone’s data), will arrive sooner rather than later in the midst of the ‘me’ generation. Using small data, companies can spend equal time listening to what customers want instead of simply predicting what customers want. This would eliminate the need for intrusive retail strategies, including the use of facial recognition and tracking technology that follows a customer’s path through the aisles, pushing out offers on products customers may not want.
There is plenty of small data available to gather from Chinese consumers who shop online, as many are inclined to ask others for advice and browse through product recommendations and reviews upon purchasing. Social media apps and platforms are set up to allow consumers to connect individually with brand pages and other marketing campaigns, and ultimately facilitates each customer in creating their own customised, interactive and engaging personal platform of online retail profiles.
To connect with the selfie generation and earn its respect and loyalty, marketers must work with their tech colleagues to enhance the customer experience and consider the following:
• Connect to a standard preference portal. If retailers can tell customers what they want, when they want it and how much it will cost, they will be more likely to convert sales.
• Let target audiences tell brands what ads don’t work and provide an “unlike” button.
• Serve up loyalty offers without sign-in. There are more than 2 million smartphone apps out there, but consumers only use a handful of them regularly.
• Tailor offers to purchases, not demographics. As the MIT saying goes, “You are what you buy, not who you are.”
• Match shopping lists and offers to an up-to-date planogram with on-hand inventory.
Small data is poised to be a win for retailers and customers alike in China. Customers will be more satisfied with a personalised shopping experience, which will lead to more sales and loyalty for retailers.
This selfie generation could easily be seen as a byproduct of social media omnipresence worldwide, or arguably, may just be an interactive effect between technology and the “me” generation of millennials. Regardless, when brands in China learn to harness the power of publicity through selfies on social media, this marketing tool could ultimately bring about huge leaps in public engagement, awareness, and brand building that every retailer is after.