Class may be in session, but that doesn’t mean back to school shopping is over. According to an August survey from the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics, as students prepared to head back to school, only 17% of school shoppers and 15% of college shoppers were completely done, while 21% and 23%, respectively, hadn’t even started yet.
This delay in shopping means there are still ways to reach consumers, especially as retail brands are continuing to look for ways to remain competitive. In this unpredictable market it’s important that brands rethink how they communicate with consumers online, captivate them, and understand how their purchase decisions evolve over time. This will ultimately help retail businesses personalize and tailor the user experience and allow them to continue to thrive in this challenging environment.
Given this complexity, a retail marketer needs to be able to map the consumer journey in order to achieve a holistic, cross-device view. In order to do this and connect with audiences at the pivotal, decision-making moment, marketers need to have an understanding of a consumer’s digital identity, which means looking at a consumer’s individual interests, intent, and conversion behavior across the multiple devices they have access to.
This creates an accurate behavioral model, resulting in targeting scalability, increased marketing efficiency and the ability to pinpoint prospects across networked devices. It’s easy to overlook key elements that can help toward identifying activity across different devices, but by considering the broader landscape, retail marketers are able to get a better understanding of the consumer.
With this in mind, here are three ways retailers can continue to reach consumers in this extended back-to-school season and remain competitive with a cross-device, identity-driven and digital strategy.
1. Leverage Attribution Technology
Consumers are exposed to about 1.5 hours of advertising per day, and this doesn’t even take into account the additional marketing messages via search, email, mobile and social media. Breaking through and making an impact is challenging, so it’s important retailers understand how to stand out and reach their potential consumers on the right channel when it matters.
In the past, the ‘last click’ has been the piece of data retailers cling to, believing that this would give them insight into the behavior of consumers pre-purchase. But as consumers have evolved — now using multiple devices before making a purchase — retailers have become aware of more sophisticated multi-channel attribution models that are able to map the complexities of the consumer journey.
Unifying a person’s digital life across these devices, creating a holistic understanding of interests, behaviors, ad exposure and actions can be a challenge, but it’s a necessary part of attribution. First-touch, last-touch, position-based, linear, time-decay — there are plenty of models out there, but choosing standard analytics and other attribution models could fall short of providing an organization with the data that’s necessary to make informed marketing decisions, and ultimately improve ROI.
Cross-device, on the other hand, can give the best portrayal of how a user interacts with brands, whichever browser or device they are on. By using this data, brands are able to use consumer pathing reports to understand the exact path a consumer took to conversion, attributing credit to all devices and browsers in that journey, rather than just the last click.
2. Connect Online To Offline With Privacy-Conscious Beacons
As a consumer, there’s nothing more frustrating than repeatedly being served an ad for something you’ve either already researched, bought, or decided not to buy, and with online retailers being the most popular shopping destination for back-to-college shoppers, a digital-heavy strategy is key. Being able to link up location data and online data creates a better picture of the consumer and the journey they take to purchase.
Beacons, for example, offer a unique solution to the online versus offline disconnect. Using wireless technology, beacons can pinpoint the location of a customer in-store and serve tailored and appropriate marketing messages through their mobile devices.
As mobile technology continues to evolve, it has also become consumers’ go-to place for researching and buying products, with more than half of page view traffic during the 2017 back-to-school shopping season coming from mobile. By beaming information to people passing by or in-store, beacons open new opportunities to target consumers with advertisements and promotions that are contextually relevant. They also are unique in their in-store ability to build loyalty and trust in consumers by helping to build an accurate consumer profile, giving an indication of an individual’s shopping behavior, how many times they visit a store and where they spend the most time.
The value of privacy-conscious beacon technology can go even further when paired with a cross-device strategy. By connecting browser activity to in-store data, and then using this information alongside cross-device data, retail brand marketers can group consumers and tailor their experience accordingly by providing a genuinely relevant and context-driven experience for consumers. Furthermore, they can then make the match between web site traffic visits on mobile, desktop and tablet to in-store visits. This then allows marketers to place consumers into categories and, in turn, use marketing budgets efficiently to push consumers who have not visited a store further down the funnel.
3. Prioritize Personalization
Consumers have endless decisions to make. When shopping online consumers are inundated with lazy ad targeting for products that are only loosely related to what they are looking for, or products that they may have viewed in the past. Marketers now have to ensure that personalization is obvious but not intrusive. Additionally, it should not disrupt the consumer experience, allowing content to stand out in a way that builds relationships with consumers.
This is especially vital given that personalized experiences influence nearly 60% of a consumer’s purchase behaviors. However, without an identity partner, personalization is limited. This is why new technology is being developed to leverage a brand’s first-party data. For example, using a customer data platform (CDP) alongside a cross-device provider will allow retail brand marketers to store their first and second-party data and combine this with third-party data to personalize the customer experience across every device. As always, putting privacy front and center should continue to be a priority, and marketers have the responsibility to choose an appropriate solution or partner to assist with personalization.
It’s imperative that today’s retail marketer understands the person behind the data and not take any interactions for granted. The back to school season continues to present brands with unique opportunities to reach consumers. Although the consumer journey can be complex at times in retail, those that put in the legwork to understand their consumer’s behavior across screens will ultimately reap the biggest benefits. Through data-driven digital strategies, retailers can create a seamless path to purchase for consumers. Those that do this well will not only see significant ROI, but will also be able to rise above the competition and will linger a little longer in the minds and baskets of the highly coveted consumer.
Tapad CEO Sigvart Voss Eriksen has nearly 20 years’ experience in digital advertising, including more than 10 years of senior leadership roles within our parent company, Telenor Group. Eriksen joined Telenor Group’s Mobile International in 2001 and worked his way up through the company’s operating divisions, obtaining executive roles such as chief marketing officer (CMO) of Telenor Pakistan, Telenor Hungary, and Telenor Thailand. He also spent a year as a sergeant in the Norwegian Military while studying Russian language and history at the University of Oslo. He went on to complete his studies at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in 2001 with a graduate degree in business administration.