3 New & Noteworthy Retail Marketing Strategies from 2014

Lead­ing retail brands use tech­nol­o­gy, influ­encers to enhance the con­sumer shop­ping expe­ri­ence.

Danny Goodwin By Danny Goodwin from Momentology. Join the discussion » 0 comments

Retail mar­ket­ing strate­gies have been evolv­ing in the direc­tion of omni-chan­nel mar­ket­ing over the last few years, as seam­less brand reach and inter­ac­tion across TV, cat­a­log, Inter­net (mobile and desk­top) and brick-and-mor­tar stores is the Mec­ca top brands are striv­ing for.

In 2014, ecom­merce and in-store retail came togeth­er in inno­v­a­tive ways. Tech­nol­o­gy enhanced in-store shop­ping expe­ri­ences with aug­ment­ed real­i­ty. Real-life cus­tomers were embraced as brands’ hot new mod­els. And brands hand­ed over con­trol, trust­ing influ­encers to present prod­ucts in fresh and cre­ative new ways.

Here’s a look back at the retail mar­ket­ing strate­gies big brands adopt­ed in 2014 to enhance the shop­ping expe­ri­ence, seam­less­ly tran­si­tion­ing online and offline.

1. IKEA Catalog Virtually Beams Furniture Into Consumers Homes

Sure, that ottoman looks great in the per­fect­ly staged pages of a cat­a­log, but how would it look in your liv­ing room? IKEA’s aug­ment­ed real­i­ty cat­a­log answered that ques­tion, with an app that could beam the likes of the fur­ni­ture com­pa­ny’s prod­ucts into an image of a con­sumer’s own space.

When IKEA’s 2014 fur­ni­ture and home goods cat­a­log was paired with a down­load­able mobile app, view­ers got a real­is­tic visu­al­iza­tion of how those prod­ucts could fit into their actu­al life. Because the app got 8.5 mil­lion down­loads fol­low­ing its Decem­ber 2013 launch, IKEA prod­ucts are now a tap away from pur­chase in the pock­ets of mil­lions more con­sumers.

Bryan Eisen­berg, author and founder of Ide­alSpot, says there’s so many things that were done well in the IKEA cam­paign. “IKEA has bril­liant­ly exe­cut­ed this omni-chan­nel cam­paign,” he said.

While allow­ing con­sumers to visu­al­ize the prod­ucts in their home is good, Eisen­berg says what makes the cam­paign excel­lent is “how great of a job they do at mak­ing cus­tomers antic­i­pate the arrival of the phys­i­cal IKEA cat­a­log.”

Go ahead and think back to the last time you were antic­i­pat­ing pro­mo­tion­al mail,” Eisen­berg said. “IKEA is let­ting cus­tomers know about all the fun you can have with the cat­a­log, even if you don’t go to the store. The cher­ry on top of this deli­cious­ly exe­cut­ed ad is the mes­sage that the cat­a­log, just like going to an IKEA store, isn’t just about pick­ing up prod­ucts, it is all part of the fun, inter­ac­tive brand expe­ri­ence IKEA has cre­at­ed.”

Chris Bog­gs, founder of WebTrafficAdvisors.com, says the IKEA cam­paign was among his favorites from this list, and that “its use­ful­ness and appeal is obvi­ous,” say­ing that “this type of app also acts in a broad­er capac­i­ty to help mar­ket­ing as a whole evolve to pro­vid­ing bet­ter and bet­ter vir­tu­al tech­nol­o­gy for con­sumers to use dur­ing prod­uct con­sid­er­a­tion.”

Ana­lyz­ing the cam­paign from a con­sumer per­spec­tive, Bog­gs said that if he were in the mar­ket for new fur­ni­ture, “I would def­i­nite­ly con­sid­er this app for use with my iPad. Per­son­al­ly, the larg­er the screen, the bet­ter for me, although the images I hope could be trans­ferred from a small­er hand­held device to a larg­er one, or for me to view on a lap­top, or to share with oth­ers via text or email. My like­ly pref­er­ence would be to use Chrome­cast or Apple TV to be able to wire­less­ly view on a large screen.”

And as a con­sumer, Bog­gs said the “fam­i­ly imagery in the pro­mo­tion­al video res­onat­ed with me, as I could see my kids and I act­ing in the sil­ly man­ner por­trayed. How­ev­er, I felt a few more ‘real’ images of how this app would ren­der the pro­posed fur­ni­ture piece into a more crowd­ed (real­is­tic) room with­out all the jump­ing around would have been use­ful. In a mar­ket­ing sense, I guess this was effec­tive, as it left me want­i­ng a lit­tle more.”

What might Bog­gs have done dif­fer­ent­ly with the cam­paign, giv­en the chance?

The whole app theme and sub­ject should be cov­ered by IKEA with SEO and PPC. A search for ‘ikea aug­ment­ed real­i­ty’ results in a fail­ing grade from my per­spec­tive for IKEA, because their own domain isn’t rep­re­sent­ed until the fourth organ­ic result.”

There is also no paid list­ing sup­port­ing the app,” he added. “Grant­ed, the iTunes and Google Play links direct­ly to the app are promi­nent, but the two media sites cur­rent­ly rank­ing prove that most of the down­loads came from buzz. IKEA could do some rel­a­tive­ly sim­ple SEO to get their page to No. 1, and the iTunes and Google Play down­loads above the media as well.”

Retail mar­ket­ing strat­e­gy take­aways:

  • IKEA is using cut­ting edge tech­nol­o­gy to help shop­pers pic­ture what their life would be like with their prod­ucts. How can you remove the unknown, and help cus­tomers see exact­ly how much bet­ter things could be with your prod­ucts?
  • What retail­er does­n’t want their prod­ucts in their cus­tomers’ pock­ets? Mak­ing an online brand pres­ence mobile friend­ly was a hot top­ic of mar­ket­ing in 2014. Whether it’s a mobile app, a mobile site, or a mobile-respon­sive design, retail­ers must take care to ensure their cus­tomers have opti­mal inter­ac­tions on their phone.

2. Target Turns To Top Vine Users to Showcase Products

Tra­di­tion­al adver­tis­ing was all about con­trol­ling the mes­sage; new media mar­ket­ing rewards brands that give up con­trol and let cus­tomers and fans car­ry the mes­sage. With the help of social video col­lec­tive Unpop­u­lar Now, big box retail­er Tar­get trust­ed that its prod­ucts would shine in inno­v­a­tive short-form video pro­duced by invit­ed Vine users.

In April, Tar­get sent 10 Vine artists a mys­tery box of props and asked them to film and post to Vine one video of them open­ing the box and a sec­ond video of them using the items inside the box. Videos and the cam­paign were hash­tagged #unPOPthe­box.

While Tar­get start­ed the cam­paign with 10 care­ful­ly select­ed Vine users, the brand was flex­i­ble and open to let­ting it evolve. Social media gave the cam­paign a life of its own, with increased reach as a result. #unPOPthe­box was the 2014 Mashies award win­ner for Best Use of Vine.

Vine artist yellde­sign cre­at­ed this Vine from his Tar­get gift box:

Retail mar­ket­ing strat­e­gy take­aways:

  • Step one in this cam­paign was Tar­get tap­ping into online influ­encers in return for free prod­ucts; the Tar­get brand was shared with influ­encers’ net­works. If there’s an influ­encer that match­es your cus­tomer per­sona, could your great cus­tomer ser­vice get back to their net­works?
  • While Tar­get gave its prod­ucts away, the brand was paid back with free user-gen­er­at­ed con­tent. User-gen­er­at­ed con­tent can be a gold­en asset online, pro­vid­ing social proof that a brand can’t man­u­fac­ture for itself.
  • By focus­ing on the emerg­ing social net­work Vine, Tar­get could stand out in one of the less-sat­u­rat­ed social spaces. New social plat­forms and com­mu­ni­ties just begin­ning to gain trac­tion could be oppor­tu­ni­ties for ear­ly adopter brands.

3. Brands Vote: America’s Next Top Model Is You

Retail mar­ket­ing trend alert: more and more brands are using social media to promi­nent­ly fea­ture their own cus­tomers wear­ing and using their prod­ucts. Brands have long brought atten­tion to celebri­ties don­ning their goods. But with social media, every con­sumer is an oppor­tu­ni­ty for prod­uct place­ment.

Peo­ple trust com­plete strangers more than they trust brands,” accord­ing to Jose de Cabo, co-founder of Olapic, a soft­ware appli­ca­tions that helps retail­ers search social media for pho­tos and post them on web­sites. “Peo­ple who click on real-peo­ple pho­tos are two times more like­ly to con­vert to a sale.”

In April, Marc Jacobs brought the cus­tomers-as-mod­els trend to the next lev­el with an open cast­ing call for the next face of the brand. All that peo­ple had to do was post a pic­ture of them­selves on Insta­gram or Twit­ter with the hash­tag #Cast­MeMark to enter.

Retail mar­ket­ing strat­e­gy take­aways:

  • When user con­tent is re-shared by major brands, it encour­ages more con­tent and par­tic­i­pa­tion. The brand gets more con­tent and ever-broad­er expo­sure.
  • By repost­ing user-gen­er­at­ed con­tent on a brand site and pho­to gal­leries, the orig­i­nal posters feel a con­nec­tion with the brand, help­ing to build loy­al­ty. Cam­paigns like 2013’s #Coach­FromAbove cap­i­tal­ize on every­one’s desire for 15 min­utes of fame. That brand has gained that cus­tomer’s loy­al­ty and a life-long pos­i­tive asso­ci­a­tion.

What oth­er new or note­wor­thy retail mar­ket­ing strate­gies did you notice in 2014?

Danny Goodwin

Written by Danny Goodwin

Managing Editor, Momentology

Danny Goodwin is the former Managing Editor of Momentology. Previously, he was the editor of Search Engine Watch, where he was in charge of editing, content strategy, and writing about search industry news.

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