"The future of retail is where you don’t have to leave your home to shop – voice commands and home assistants automate everything. You can even experience or try on items through virtual reality before buying. And once you buy, retailers deliver within hours." Samsung’s digital media manager, Marina Koletis.
Koletis was speaking at a roundtable debate for marketers on the future of commerce, hosted by Campaign in partnership with Publicis Media.
Campaign US editor Lindsay Stein chaired the session – over breakfast in New York City – and urged marketers to think about how commerce is changing in the mobile age as consumer habits become increasingly complex.
Consumers and brands are still not on the same page in 2018. There is a gap between consumer expectation and what brands are delivering, explained Richard Hartell, global practice lead of strategic studio at Publicis Media. He cited a study the agency carried out last year, which found that 87% of brands believed they were giving customers what they want… but under two-thirds of consumers agree.
The two roads less traveled
Hartell believes that there are two paths for brands to take that can overcome this challenge: technology and experience.
"On the one side, you will see more and more technology building capability around brands, so the product will keep getting better and more seamless. But the experience will become more and more important, especially as we see an explosion of direct to consumer brands. Brands need to combine these two to stand out."
Elyse Burack, director of integrated marketing and brand at Boxed.com, says combining technology and experience is exactly what her brand aims to do: "We are an e-commerce player, a brand of other brands, and we want to deliver something functional while being meaningful and emotional. Technology and experience are two important paths to get there."
But Sara Okin-Livengood, VP of product at Refinery29, believes convenience wins over everything: "Anything that will possibly save time will be the future of the consumer."
Stand out by standing for
Culture and purpose-led marketing is where Diageo’s future lies. Diageo’s brands are tapping into their role in culture, explained its director of technology and emerging platforms, Devin Nagy: "For a beverage alcohol brand we know where we fit and where we don’t and it’s really important for our brands, Smirnoff, Johnnie Walker, Guinness and so on – to know where they fit in, in the wider cultural landscape. A lot of what we’ve done over the last year has been purpose marketing."
Nagy described Johnnie Walker’s "Keep walking America" campaign as an example. The campaign taps into America’s appetite for progress in society and culture.
Burack explained that one way her brand tries to differentiate is through personalization: "We give customers discovery products and recommendations they couldn’t get anywhere else." She added that the best brands – whatever category they’re in – take inspiration from outside their sector; they don’t just track competitors.
Is the future Amazon’s?
Amazon understands its audience, better than a lot of brands according to Ali Nehme, global commerce practice lead at Publicis Media:
"Brands used to know their consumers inside out – but now Amazon knows them better. And people aren’t paying enough attention to what Amazon are doing. But I believe you will see much more innovation from brands moving into this space and giving a more personalised experience," he said.
Amazon and other digitally native brands are using data to power innovation said GSK’s Steve Kinsey: "They are looking at our consumer behavior to identify gaps. Amazon’s review section, for example, is the largest product focus group in the world.
Burack believes there are certain areas where Amazon or others will create white label brands but consumers may lose interest: "Will consumers swing back the other way – maybe they don’t want to buy everything on Amazon. There is a lack of emotion or connection there."
Don’t write off bricks and mortar
Brands need to create moments that are "instagrammable" said Marinn Jackson, head of premium sales at Oath: "You’ve got to create memorable events or experiences that will get people into the store."
Branded events are more important than ever for Diageo, explains Nagy: "We did a branded event in San Diego recently and we uncovered that many of our scotch consumers really like collectibles. So on the back of this and further research we have recently announced a partnership with Game of Thrones."
"Bricks and mortar will not die, bad bricks and mortar will die," added Kinsey, citing Walmart as an example of a traditional brand who is leading the way.
Three tech trends brands are buying
1. Voice and voice assistants is something Diageo is watching and experimenting with, explained Nagy: "Not everyone knows what a blended scotch is, and that it comes from very different parts of Scotland. Voice assistant technology allows us to tell very interesting stories which inspires consumers to buy products they may not have purchased before."
2. Shoppable video is very exciting, said Jackson, who recently launched the NowWith Network shoppable video platform on Yahoo Lifestyle: "You can watch really interesting content with celebs and influencers that you care about and then you can shop the products at the same time. For example, we are working with celebrity and influencer, Nicole Richie, on a series "Style NowWith," and viewers will be able to shop during the content."
3. Predictive technology is an area that Boxed.com is playing with explained Burack: "It predicts when customers might be running out of items so we can be one step ahead. And it’s actually more straightforward than you’d think – everyone thinks their habits are very personal to them but our research is showing a lot of similarities and trends. But we need to figure out what’s creepy and what’s not."