Retail has some troubling storms brewing for the future.

It’s hard to say it could get much worse than the last couple of years, but it looks like the industry hasn’t hit rock-bottom quite yet.

And it might take rock-bottom for the industry to realize they need to take a serious look at their customer and understand that the old way of doing things simply doesn’t work anymore. There have been a lot of positive changes in Ecommerce and digital, but the store side hasn’t progressed in decades.

For far too long, retail’s C-suite has misread the signs and symptoms of a sluggish market. Economic factors are only a part of the problem, but the root is a shifting customer—and retail has failed to adapt and adjust to their customer’s wants and needs.

Bloated store footprints, bland store experiences, stripped-down product and far too much of it. Those are all issues that have plagued the store side.

While stores may not be able to save themselves, there is one area of marketing that can provide support until they can fundamentally change.

That area is customer marketing.

Let’s be clear on what we are considering customer marketing.

Email Marketing

Almost all of those strategic centers for marketing are widely considered ecommerce drivers. Yet the truth is they can drastically increase metrics for stores as well. Whether that’s traffic or any other core KPI such as AOV and return frequency. Those marketing tactics impact stores in a very similar way to their digital counterparts.

Many Ecommerce and digital professionals are probably like me and believe that email could most likely save the world. It’s by far the best driver of engagement and traffic—again that extends to stores.

But loyalty is where it gets interesting. Loyalty can save retail—it can provide a stable, consistent customer base in a time of turmoil and promotional extreme. Loyalty offers a scalpel instead of a sledgehammer—to actively work on targeting customers without having to give away margin.

That’s often the biggest misconception for loyalty with those not familiar with it. They often think of loyalty as simply giving away product, or being a margin loss overall.

There’s also massive amounts of customer data to harness—especially for stores. Triggers and levers can be specifically implemented to drive store traffic through loyalty programs with consistent success. Not to mention the potential of store beacons. Slowly some brands are starting to come around to the idea that digital components in stores can have great success.

The problem is that the biggest impediment to loyalty is usually stores. Integrating into POS can be a pain, beacons are expensive and obtrusive, training associates takes time and investment and store signs don’t have the flexibility to update for a “double points” on a moment’s notice.

Loyalty managers need to be their own champions—to educate their counterparts on the value of loyalty over the long-term.

Even so, stores teams need to embrace email, CRM and loyalty, their jobs will depend on those marketing areas in the future.

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