Jessica Stephens, Chief Marketing Officer at SmartFocus , explains how brands, their customers and retailers benefit when brands sell direct
There’s never been a better time for brands to sell direct to their customers. The rise of mobile technology means they can now engage with their customers in new ways. More and more brands are looking to bridge the direct-to-consumer gap that had previously been catered for by partners. They want to turn anonymous buyers into trusted customers, therefore the connected mobile consumer presents an opportunity.
When brands learn about their customers, everyone benefits. The brand understands what service their customer wants, the customer sees service improve and third-party retailers benefit from an uplift in demand.
More brands are now asking us to help them develop an entire single customer view of who is buying what, where and when and how they can then market to those customers directly. Often these brands already have more sources of data than they realise. Indeed, many have an advantage when it comes to doing things smarter and quicker. By starting from scratch, they also have the great advantage that there is no spaghetti junction of existing legacy systems to unpick. Brands often have the advantage of customer awareness not only in the UK but across Europe, and across the world – and when they get it right, they can reach the connected customer in a way that perhaps retailers working with many brands and with stores to manage might not be able to.
Store and retail partners remain vital, nonetheless. We’ve been able to prove through data, including location-based proxies, that concessions often increase direct-to-consumer brand spend. Shoppers walk through a store, see a brand or a product, and then go online and search for it before buying direct from the brand itself. Concessions not only raise awareness: they provide an important distribution channel. Many shoppers prefer to visit a store. Despite the growth of online, 90% of sales still happen in a store and when customers need a product right now, that’s where just they’re going to buy. In the future, delivery times may improve still further, but click and collect can now be pretty much immediate. At Screwfix, for example, shoppers can take delivery within five minutes of an online order.
If brands can get to that level of service while managing their own direct-to-consumer business strategy, they’ll have hit gold. But that’s still some years away and until then, the combination of the two isn’t a compromise but a healthy business approach.
In the meantime, there are interesting strategies available to brands that use customer data very effectively. We can use predictive analytics, for example, to say that if a person owns this product there’s a 90% likelihood that in six months time they’ll be buying that product. Direct subscriptions are another way new brand-led models are now disrupting the market. Selling direct may not account for all of a brand’s business – and the likelihood is that right now it won’t – but these are incremental gains that boost brand sales, awareness and customer relationships. There’s a lot for brands to gain. Is this an opportunity you can afford to miss?
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SmartFocus is an innovator in messaging and communications, enabling the world’s largest brands – including House of Fraser, Levi’s and Waterstones – to understand and connect more closely with today’s consumers via web, mobile, email and social channels. Through The Message cloud solution, SmartFocus genuinely listens to and learns from customers using patented algorithms and unique location-based marketing tools. Using The Message cloud, SmartFocus customers have the rich data, intelligence and the tools for contextually unique engagements, through any digital channel.