Posted: Monday 15th August 2016 in Paid Media, Retail Strategy, Thought Leadership.

Putting the customer at the heart of your retail strategy is not a new idea. In 20th century retail, the likes of Mr Harry Selfridge took an active interest on the shop floor and advocated the slogan ‘the customer is always right’.

However, in my 12 years as an online marketer, applying such a consumer focused approach has always been challenging and can be considered fragmented at best. In fact, targeting the right buyer has been largely limited to email marketing and using consumer behaviour data to understand when best to advertise in order to deliver the best possible returns.

Targeting through paid media

Where are we heading in 21st century retail? Ensuring the customer is at the heart of the strategy is becoming more complex, with the purchase journey including multiple devices and in store visits prior to an offline or digital purchase. However, the world of paid media is moving away from the age of the keyword and into an audience evolution, where numerous targeting opportunities to link with a brand’s target prospects and existing buyer segmentation are now available.

All of the major media partners are making great strides in enabling the consumer to be targeted all the way through the customer journey. Google has been leading the way, with the launch of Remarketing List for Search Ads (RLSA), Customer Match and the recent beta release of Similar Customers. The message from Google is very clear; continuous alignment of their search and display propositions, which will make it more seamless to target the customer through the customer journey. Bing and Facebook are equally developing their own capabilities in customer targeting, providing more options outside of Google.

Although the above sound like tactical changes in the way that media partner products are working, this is opening up a different type of conversation with retailers in planning sessions. Should I continue to have a conversation with the customer post-purchase? When is it the best time to re-engage? How much value should I place on acquiring a new customer vs. retaining existing customers? How should I integrate my email and paid media strategy? How should I tailor my messaging across the customer journey?

Evolution or revolution?

Acting now will mean that you are able to evolve your current approach rather than be forced to revolutionise at a later date. It is estimated that media spend associated with audience data could be as high as 80% of total paid media spend by 2018. Failing to take advantage of such changes is simply not an option.

To get to grips with this audience evolution we recommend that retailers:

  1. Ensure you can provide accurate, first party data about your customer to your media planning and buying partners. Using any of these targeting options is built on precise and reliable data
  2. Challenge your partners, ensuring they are able to help answer the strategic questions outlined above and that they have a clear vision and plan about utilising your customer data and third party data that media partners have at their disposal
  3. Start to move away from channel silos which are typically present in marketing departments, facilitating collaborative working across internal teams, especially across search, display, social and email