Seminar report: Looking to the future means returning to the past

Success in a multi-channel future will only come about by returning to old principles of the past. This was the main conclusion of a distinguished panel of speakers at the ‘marketing in a multi-channel world’ discussion in the Shopper Marketing Theatre at Retail Design Expo.

The panel, which included James Llewellyn, UK head of shopper, GfK; Daniela Bettosini, head on omnichannel shopper retail, Samsung, and Nick Bonney, former head of insight, Camelot, all agreed that in the rush to go multi-channel, the basics are sometimes ignored.

“People are consumers first, and then they’re shoppers,” said Bettosini. “The interaction shoppers must get needs to solve a particular issue or pain-point. But we’re forgetting how to ask what people’s needs might be when they're in a shop.”

According to Llewellyn, brands are “forgetting basic retail tradecraft” by letting salespeople “wade-in” with hard sales pitches when many customers might only be at the exploration stage. Bettosini added: “We need to encourage brands to return to much simpler basics. We need to select which products are even there based on the demographic of that area, before we even start to get the customer experience right.”

She said: “The experience of the product is key, but again we need to go to first principles. We need salespeople to explain how people’s lives can be improved with a product; in this sense it’s not actually about selling the product at all. It’s what it can do – which is a subtle difference.”

According to Nick Bonney, the channel mix is not so important to consumers as it sometimes feels for brands. “Consumers just want help at whatever their product journey is," he said. "They don't distinguish different channels. Brands can get obsessed with channel. Existing in a multi-channel world is really just about giving people what they want at a particular moment in time.”

For this reason, all the panellists were sceptical about innovations such as location-based marketing – including texts being sent to people promoting a product after they’ve visited a store haven't necessarily bought anything.

“Is it creepy or cool?,” asked Bonney. “Beacon technology might be all well and good, but consumers still need the ‘what’s in it for me?’ question to be answered… It’s not that this technology is a bad idea, but if consumers are only being offered the same on-the-spot discounts as anyone would get, they’re unlikely to think it’s worth them handing over their details for.”

James Llewellyn said: “There’s no doubt the shopper has more authority. As such, we all need to think more carefully about a customer’s path to purchase. Brands can no longer expect customers to come to them anymore.”