The 2010s saw significant changes to the retail landscape; some were expected, but many shakeups were seemingly out of the blue. It’s hard to predict what the 2020s have in store for us, but one thing is certain about the new decade: it is sure to be rife with competition. Some brands will thrive, others will simply survive and some, unfortunately, will not be agile enough to keep up with the rapidly changing demands of consumers. Successful retailers know they must innovate and take full advantage of the latest technology in order to engage with customers in ways that were previously impossible. Those that thrive will not simply be following the latest trends, they will be at the forefront of the latest trends. 

Deloitte recently released their 2020 Retail Industry Outlook. In it, they lay out several key factors that every successful retailer needs to focus on in order to thrive in the new decade. They stress that a brand must “determine why they matter”. If a retailer does not know what niche they fill in the market, then why should customers make a special trip to their location as opposed to a competitor? In this era of heightened competition, customers have plenty of alternatives and will choose the brand that satisfies their needs and wants most completely. Brands must determine why they matter to the market and make sure consumers know that answer as well. Deloitte’s outlook also emphasizes the importance of embracing technology. Every competitive brand is utilizing the latest tech in their endeavor to create a loyal army of brand advocates and reign supreme in the world of experiential marketing. When used correctly, today’s technology can enable brands to achieve their greatest wish since the beginning of private enterprise: form personal connections as well as a direct line of communication with customers.  

Back in the days when cell phones weren’t all that smart and e-commerce was still a foreign concept to many, convenience was a luxury most could not afford. In these simpler times, customers were satisfied with basic point-based programs where they simply accumulated points for shopping at their local retailer. Times have changed, however, and the modern shopper is more savvy and exacting than ever before. If a brand does not meet their expectations of exceptional customer service and recognition in the form of personalized offers, they will move on to a brand that does. The ‘thrivers’ in this competitive landscape recognize this and offer sophisticated loyalty programs that engage their loyalty members across all touchpoints. They utilize geotargeting and, through push notifications, invite customers into their store when they’re nearby. They build meaningful relationships by offering personalized incentives and even provide a two-way channel of communication to improve customer experience and create a sense of community.   

Masters of experiential marketing know that today’s consumers are inundated with brand messaging and, in order to get through all the noise, they must go beyond traditional tactics to engage customers, communicate their brand message, and encourage shoppers to visit their locations. One of the forefronts of innovation in the world of experiential marketing is gamification. The gamification market is expected to reach $11.1 billion this year as it transforms the way consumers engage with favorite brands. The use of game mechanics and game thinking in the traditionally non-game context of retail shopping promotes friendly competition between loyalty members and encourages shoppers to attribute that particular brand with lighthearted fun. Successful gamification projects incorporate global leaderboards as well as local leaderboards among friends and includes social media integration to allow winners to do a little online bragging. There must also be an objective behind the game; players should be competing for some sort of reward which could be anything from discounted prices to simple virtual badges that players can flaunt. When used in conjunction with other aspects of experiential marketing, gamification can be an extremely effective tool, engaging players emotionally and motivating them to interact with the brand on a deeper level as well as giving the brand greater insight into customers, improving the quality of data.  

Although it may seem as though the entire retail landscape has been turned on its head, according to the US Census Bureau, nearly 90% of all retail sales in the third quarter of 2019 took place in a brick-and-mortar store. Shoppers have simply become savvier and retailers need to keep up. The future is one where digital and physical shopping lives in harmony and customer experience is paramount. Brands that stay on top of technological advancement, using it to improve customer experience and inspire a loyal customer base will thrive in the modern retail landscape. Those that wait to innovate will merely survive and those that fail to realize technology’s potential will not fare well in this new, hypercompetitive retail world.            

If you want your company to be leaders in experiential marketing, look no further than Comarch. According to Forrester Research, “Comarch delivers practical and cost-efficient loyalty management technology.” Come meet the team at ShopTalk 2020 and we’ll prove it!

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