06 December 2017   

5 min read
Retail marketing keeps evolving and 2018 will be no different. Here are five big marketing trends the experts expect to see accelerating next year.
1. Data loves data

Developing a composite picture of your customer will become a reality in 2018 and more economical. And, there will be no excuse for not doing it, says Philip Otley, a partner at PwC Digital Services. He says retailers have been investing in data warehouses and trying to get single view of the customer. “The next step will be to get that data cross-hatched with other data, so retailers don’t just rely on what they know about their customers,” he says. “They will look to find out what other people know about their customers. This may involve working through the likes of Data Republic or other data sharing groups to find out what their customers are doing when they aren’t in their stores. “This will give them a better understanding of the customer so that they can work out what problems they need to solve for that customer. “That starts them on the path to much better personalisation, more relevant offers and improved timeliness. They begin building a view of the market, rather than just their customers, and of people who have never engaged with their brand before.”


2. AI blurs the boundaries

Otley expects a growing use of artificial intelligence (AI) in marketing in 2018. He notes that AI is already used for personalisation and to optimise offers. “But I think AI is going to be far more visible. People will be more willing to engage with chatbots. AI will be used to deliver consistency of services across channels and to avoid some of the foibles you have when dealing with people and organisations,” he explains. “I call that marketing because it’s delivering an experience. And you are already getting to the point where people are not really that able to differentiate whether they are talking to live person or a chatbot.” Otley says AI helps to blur the lines between online and instore. “We are starting to develop conversational commerce that doesn’t feel like someone is on a website. The tools are all out there for retailers to use.”


3. New realities

Otley says: “Virtual reality (VR) plays beautifully because it can be delivered instore and at home. You’ve seen all the early tests. You scan the IKEA catalogue and it comes alive, and with Dulux’s use of augmented reality (AR), you can paint a wall in your house on your mobile and see what it looks like. “Both AR and VR are exploding, particularly AR, which is so easy to do and so economical. VR is a little trickier, but its ability to genuinely create, show an endless selection of products and to explore things that make you feel like you’re in the store is interesting. “I think that retailers will dabble with VR largely to keep consumers in the retail experience. I also believe VR will be operated by those who push the boundaries to blur the physical and virtual. They have to keep giving people a reason to go into the store.”


4. Digital

Brian Walker, CEO and founder of the Retail Doctor Group, believes that in 2018, we will see a start towards serious digital store integration. He also believes digital marketing in a retail ecosystem will be a significant area of focus. “It will be all about how to value add to customer touchpoints: on social media, online, instore and to the customer experience instore,” Walker points out. “With Amazon coming, I think you will see much more focus on data, analytics, speed and fulfilment of product… Most retailers are looking at this.”


5. Interaction before transaction

In 2018, Walker also expects to see much more focus on the customer experience, value add and customer solutions. “Retailers are becoming solution focused,” he says, noting that many retailers are thinking about presale marketing and how consumers first get in touch with their brand through all touchpoints. “It’s about marketing as it touches on the instore transaction and experience, and then looking at how the offer will continue post-sale, and keeping in touch with social media, loyalty programs and other incentives.” But Walker cautions: “Amazon, Alibaba and other similar organisations coming into Australia will be very focused on price, range, convenience, data technology and getting into consumers’ homes. So Australian retailers need to dial that value add up and focus on the customers experience.”