The payoff of Social, Local and Mobile (SoLoMo) is persuading retailers to rethink their strategies for winning and maintaining customer loyalty. As consumers become more hyper-connected and informed via social and mobile behaviors, merchants increasingly are tapping localized and personalized marketing tactics to create more pertinent marketing messages, offers and merchandising.
Consumers’ push for personally relevant retail communications is growing more powerful, further elevating the importance of “Local” in a SoLoMo strategy. Localization not only allows brands to leverage the unique wants and needs of consumers, but also allows them to identify those needs across very specific geographic areas.
In fact, of the more than 5,000 smartphone and tablet users recently polled by Keynote Competitive Research, 88% sought out local information on their devices. More consumers also are location-tagging their posts on social networking sites, according to research from JiWire, a location-based mobile advertising company.
These findings underscore the growing opportunities for retailers to connect with shoppers on a more local, direct and intimate level. Results from the JiWire Mobile Audience Insights Report showed that 60% of Facebook users between the ages of 25 and 54 location-tag their posts and photos on the site. Similar tagging behaviors were noted on Instagram (64%) and Twitter (66%).
However, while industry research spotlights the impact of localization in making brands more approachable and relatable, this piece of the SoLoMo puzzle is the most difficult to solve, according to Nikki Baird, Managing Partner of Retail Systems Research (RSR).
“Localization is important, but only if retailers can put a genuine, legitimate face on their local efforts,” Baird told Retail TouchPoints. “Retailers can create real engagement, instead of just an offer in exchange for a transaction, if they can recognize their best shoppers. Then, merchants can potentially award these shoppers with an exclusive online chat with their favorite designers, for example, or free samples of new products from their favorite brands, then execute those rewards on a local level, giving consumers ample opportunity to share their experience in social channels.”
Personal Relevance Delivered Across Channels
As shoppers continue to demand more relevant products and offers, localization and personalization is becoming even more paramount for effective cross-channel marketing. Best-in-class retailers already are penetrating the digital world by integrating localized and personalized features into their e-Commerce sites and social networking strategies.
“No retailer wants to be left behind, so there is increasing interest in how to leverage localization and personalization effectively and bring these strategies to scale across channels,” said Jonathan Marek, SVP of Applied Predictive Technologies. “Over the coming years, we are going to see many more B2C companies leveraging technology to create these personalized brand experiences.”
Overall, 22.1% of merchants interviewed in September 2012 utilize location-based targeting in their marketing mix, according to recent research from Retail TouchPoints. An additional 12.8% of merchants plan to pursue this strategy before March 2013, while 18.8% plan to do so by September 2013.
Retailers also are utilizing personalization as an integral part of the online browsing and buying experience, the Retail TouchPoints study revealed. Personalized strategies most utilized by retailers on e-Commerce sites include:
Product recommendations (54.4%);
Alerts (34.2%); and
“Customers increasingly are sharing details about their preferences, reactions and intentions via social-mobile engagement, giving retailers plenty of opportunities to personalize messages, offers and other parts of the brand experience,” said Robert Reed, CEO of MomentFeed, a SoLoMo integration platform provider. “With the help of ubiquitous social networks and soon-to-be ubiquitous smartphones, localization now works at scale, giving retailers the tools to be more relatable and relevant through their posts, Tweets, updates, offers, specials and more.”
As smartphone and tablet adoption continues to increase, mobile also will become a key player in enabling localized and personalized retail experiences, Reed added. “In the mobile paradigm, we expect to see more retailers leverage social networks down to the local level,” he said. “The key is to break down silos within these different networks and approach sites such as Facebook, foursquare, Twitter and Instagram as an ecosystem.”
Barney’s Beanery Drives Loyalty With Social Contests
Like their larger counterparts, small- and medium-sized merchants face the daunting task of obtaining and retaining a loyal customer base, but more often are able to connect with consumers on a one-to-one basis. By harnessing the power of social media, these retailers can maximize word-of-mouth and increase awareness of specific locations.
Barney’s Beanery increased local dialogue among customers and built buzz among social graphs with the MomentFeed social marketing, monitoring, measurement and location-based campaign platform. The small, five-store restaurant chain rolled out a social media contest which encouraged visitors to take photos of their local Barney’s Beanery locations then tag and share them via Instagram and foursquare. The contest generated a 66% total boost in the number of photos being featured in social media check-ins.
Overall, the initiative “made engagement data far more tangible, allowing us to see how beneficial social programs can be to our local customers and brand fans,” A.J. Sacher, Regional Manager for Barney’s Beanery, told Retail TouchPoints. “As a restaurant, social media typically is far down the list of our daily tasks,” he explained. “Though previously we’ve participated in social media to generate local buzz, it was difficult to determine the most effective tactics and to quantify the overall success of using specific sites.”
Barney’s Beanery also tapped the MomentFeed platform to monitor the photos being shared across Instagram and foursquare. It then offered rewards by publishing the photos most representative of the brand to location Facebook pages.
Throughout the two-week contest period, approximately 17 photos were posted daily on Instagram and 141check-ins were completed daily on foursquare. Overall, 12.1% of all photos taken for the contest were included in check-ins.
“While the contest itself provided validation and rewards for social activities,” Sacher explained, “the ultimate value of this effort was the ability to quantify our localization tactics as well as discover that customers are very interested in and excited about using Instagram and foursquare in a restaurant environment.”
Bluefly Incents Consumers With Relevant Offers, Free Giveaways
To thrive in the competitive luxury marketplace, Bluefly, a discount retailer for designer men’s and women’s apparel, handbags jewelry and shoes, promotes relevant items via email, based on its shoppers’ browsing and buying histories.
While customized email marketing helps increase click-throughs and purchases on the Bluefly e-Commerce site, the eTailer also utilizes personalization during the delivery experience to deepen its customer loyalty efforts. With support from International Direct Response (IDR), a direct marketing agency, Bluefly provides shoppers with an extra incentive to return to the web site: a free product sample, tailored by customer location, is included with each package.
Free samples based on locality are a significant and personalized value-add for consumers, Carly Dahlen, Email Marketing Associate for Bluefly.com, told Retail TouchPoints.
“The anticipation of another specialized sample gives shoppers an extra incentive to make additional purchases,” Dahlen said. “The more relevant these product are, the more likely one-time customers will become repeat buyers. There is great value for all parties in providing customers with demographic-based free samples from these brands.”
Revolve Clothing Boosts Conversions Six-Fold With Personalized Boutiques
More merchants, such as Revolve Clothing, a luxury eTailer featuring more than 500 brands and designers, are utilizing highly-interactive marketing tactics to address personalization. The eTailer creates a compelling e-Commerce experience by allowing shoppers to build their own digital boutiques, which they curate with assortments of their favorite products and designers on the Revolve Clothing site.
The do-it-yourself format of the online boutiques has been successful: Shoppers using the interactive feature are six times more likely to convert than consumers that browse on the standard e-Commerce site, Kobie Fuller, CMO of Revolve Clothing, told Retail TouchPoints.
Shoppers can tailor and build their boutiques with specific items and designers that they covet. Each time boutique owners visit the Revolve Clothing web site, they can click around their own personalized boutiques, or other shoppers’, to search for new and existing inventory, solely based on collections of personalized tastes, Fuller explained. “The MyRevolve boutique is a more streamlined experience,” he said, “providing shoppers with the designers and inventory based off of shoppers’ unique preferences.”
Also as part of the Revolve Clothing personalization strategy, a customized email marketing program has doubled overall. Shoppers who opt in can receive more in-depth information about products in their personalized boutiques, including dynamic content on new arrivals and must-have items from their favorite designers.
While the online boutique and email initiative help increase conversion rates, “we want to extend customization and personalization on the e-Commerce site with tactics that don’t always require shopper approval,” Fuller said. To tackle this goal head-on, Revolve Clothing currently is working on multiple initiatives with Monetate, a provider of testing and personalization solutions.
One strategy involves a campaign tailored to international shoppers. Revolve Clothing effectively increased purchases among international shoppers by rolling out a series of above-the-fold banner offers based on specific geographic locations.
“These forms of location-specific campaigns make the overall site experience more engaging for consumers,” Fuller said. “The banners helped international shoppers recognize immediately that we do ship to their location, giving them a greater incentive to purchase.”
The banners touted the message: “Free international shipping for all orders over $100,” and included the flag of that shopper’s country.
The customized banners improved conversion rates in the following locations:
Revolve Clothing plans to improve personalization further on its e-Commerce site by tapping into more in-depth data based on visitors’ browsing and buying patterns. As a result, the retailer will leverage more effective marketing content and offers based on specific audiences.
“Location-specific campaigns make our overall site experience more engaging for the many different types of buyer personas that come to our site,” Fuller said. “Whether that shopper is bohemian, urban or more traditional, we know for certain that personalization increases conversions. That’s why we will continue to tailor home page images, merchandise and other areas based on specific preferences and buying patterns.”
Finding The Best Solutions For Personalized Retail Experiences
As retailers continue to refine strategies for even more personalized brand experiences, they must stay focused on two specific aspects of the retail technology they intend to leverage: user independence and tool flexibility, stated Marifran Manzo-Ritchie, Director of Product Marketing for Monetate.
Answering the following questions, said Manzo-Ritchie, will help retailers determine if the technology is right for their organizations:
Will the ongoing application require a significant time and budget commitment from IT, or can marketers complete tasks independently?
· Is the solution agile enough for marketers to easily test different offers and messages as the application progresses?
Armed with the right technology for harnessing the power of localization to better connect with today’s hyper-connected customers, best-in-class retailers are boosting conversions and increasing average order value. Moreover, with these stronger and streamlined elements of SoLoMo, they are achieving the ultimate goal: winning and maintaining customer loyalty.