The Supply Side: Breaking through retail’s fourth wall, embracing personalization

by Kim Souza (ksouza@talkbusiness.net) 1 views 

Editor’s note: The Supply Side section of Talk Business & Politics focuses on the companies, organizations, issues and individuals engaged in providing products and services to retailers. The Supply Side is managed by Talk Business & Politics and sponsored by Propak Logistics.
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Consumers don’t go shopping anymore. They are always shopping, according to Bill Akins, senior vice president of business innovations at Rockfish.

He said such a reality has interesting applications for retailers and suppliers given that e-commerce sales are expected to triple in relation to brick and mortar sales by 2022. Not only will more sales be conducted digitally, up to 90% of all sales by 2022 will be influenced in some way by digital technology.

Akins, one of the speakers at the recent Northwest Arkansas Technology Summit in Rogers, shared insights on how retailers and suppliers must break through what he calls the fourth wall of retail – the barrier that allows them to connect personally with shoppers without being too invasive. An example of breaking through the fourth wall according to Akins was when Ferris Bueller broke character and spoke directly to the audience in the 1986 comedy film “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” It’s a common occurrence in film and television today but prior to 1986 it was rare.

Akins said retailers and suppliers that survive the digital revolution must break from tradition and find a way to personalize the shopping experience but not seem too creepy in the process. He said brick and mortar retailers have infrastructure that works off of analyzing pre-sales, sales and post sales data. But the reality of the consumer is more about their own in-house shopping experience as well as the in-store experience and all points in between, Akins said. It’s a concept he calls “moment marketing.”

He said there is now a zero moment of truth in marketing opportunity and that is at the point of inspiration and where suppliers and retailers need to get as it’s the so-called next Holy Grail.

“Think of it this way: I am a watching a Super Bowl game and I see a product that I want. I can add it to my list, put it in my virtual cart right then at that point of inspiration,” Akins said.

SupplysidelogoPropakWhile it’s possible with technology today, Akins said many retailers and manufacturers have a “channel-first mindset” focusing on physical stores enhanced by online offerings, but they have to move into a “customer-first mindset.” He said there are thousands of tools to facilitate this process but knowing where to jump in can be a daunting task. He said retailers and suppliers need to create experiences for consumers with the use of digital because many of the linear systems in place have been totally disrupted.

“It’s no longer just right price, right product, right time, but it’s also right device, which adds a fourth metric to business,” Akins said. “The amount of artificial intelligence available in retail is mind boggling today.”

Some of the areas where new technology is disrupting traditional retail capabilities include real-time product marketing, real-time pricing incentives, in-store visual monitoring, and predictive merchandising. He said personalizing the experience for the shopper is key, but it’s also about personalizing the shopping format options in the way Walmart has done with its online grocery pickup.

The Savings Catcher app is another way Walmart U.S. looked to personalize the shopping experience, adding incentives and shopping list building from the receipts uploaded by clients will be a major break through the fourth wall when Walmart turns on those functions.

For suppliers, Akins said there are several digital trends that can facilitate breaking the fourth wall. Learning how to connect the mobile to the shelf is key. With that he said brands continue to leverage tactics that reach shoppers at shelf and incentivize purchase via third party reward apps in which shoppers interact with texts.

The use of in-store digital is also increasing he said, as suppliers are finding ways to include it into larger shopper marketing programs. Akins said enlisting consumer reactions to products purchased and engaging in those discussions is another opportunity for suppliers.

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