These are unprecedented times for all U.S. businesses and especially difficult for our partners in the retail sector as the COVID-19 pandemic forces the economy to pause. Today, retailers are dealing with mandated shutdowns while lawmakers urge consumers not to congregate in brick-and-mortar locations and adhere to safety precautions to contain the spread of this fast-moving virus.
Needless to say, the supply chain has been considerably interrupted with repercussions not yet played out as we head towards the summer and then deal with this virus again next fall and winter. As a result, the upcoming holidays and observances will no doubt be impacted and that takes planning today as there’s more than can be done to serve shoppers.
Brands must localize operations and move inventory held at stores no longer able to serve shoppers to the best of their capabilities.
Here’s a snapshot of many of the holidays and observances ahead, which have a direct correlation to sales, whether that is dining, shopping/gifting, or travel, amongst other industry verticals affected.
By no means is this representative of all holidays and observances that positively affect businesses we help serve. If anything, however, it shows how tied our daily lives are to events that allow us to congregate with friends and family and also support our local communities. Without a doubt, the supply chain will continue to be very disrupted over customer and employee safety concerns for months to come. This new reality is unlike any other challenge retailers have faced in a very long time, even in comparison to the recession of 2008.
What can be done to plan ahead and continue to be of service to the communities we collectively serve?
The Opportunity Cost of Stored Inventory
This new market reality is especially difficult on brands that rely on multi-location retail partners to sell inventory they’re holding. In the U.S. alone this represents billions of dollars of merchandise sitting in stores that are not operating under normal hours, restricting access, experiencing a slow-down of shoppers or simply closed. So, while consumers buy non-perishable food items, toilet paper, disinfectants and paper towels in bulk – many products and services are moving much slower or not at all.
This is particularly true for high-value goods that require greater discovery before more expensive purchase decisions are made. As such, this now requires being more cognizant of buyer needs across the entirety of the customer journey from browsing-to-buying regardless of channel.
Brands need partners with transactional capabilities that enable a seamless cross-channel interaction in that moment of consideration.
Otherwise, a brand has lost a potential sale and the opportunity to better serve “high-intent” shoppers who have a need to buy now. Today, more than ever before, a brand must own its local path to purchase and work with the right partners to move stored inventory into consumers’ homes as we all embrace e-commerce while sheltering in place.
5 Strategies for Brands to Employ Today
#1 Take advantage of seasonality and holidays across the calendar
The above list shows almost 30 upcoming opportunities to best relay your brand message to potential shoppers who enjoy those holidays and observances across the entire country. Expanding your holiday focus and appealing to a wider audience, using geo-demographic considerations, will help you create long-lasting connections with your base and attract new prospects.
# 2 Leverage channel-agnostic and next-gen technology
Partners, like Lastmile, that are focused on bridging divides, between 1) brands and retailers, 2) shopper browsing and buying and 3) online-to-offline (O2O) will allow you to focus on your end customers regardless of channel consideration.
Your technology today should be allowing your brand to take full advantage of the entire sales and marketing funnel and that means holistically focusing on the shopper experience. With our next-gen technology, you can integrate directly with your retail partners. Lastmile pulls stock status from your API and integrates with existing e-commerce capabilities for a branded experience you control.
#3 Align offers to local audiences and measure effectively
Your business is actually local so move from a “spray and pray” approach to targeted marketing that focuses on local audiences around each location you aim to serve. Lastmile provides a holistic approach to true local marketing from how we manage listings and reviews to local transactional microsites for each location in your footprint.
Once your operation is geared towards the right audiences you can then leverage our robust local analytics capabilities to integrate all your local touchpoints and measure actions and ROI consistently across channels. Only then will you be able to map engagement down to the franchise, store and product levels.
#4 Employ hyperlocal marketing and advertising
Are you connecting local stores and inventory to all the channels where your customers spend time? Lastmile enables you to deliver hyper-targeted local marketing campaigns that narrow on specific towns / cities to find “high-intent” shoppers. In other words, customers that are ready to buy now. This means a two-prong approach: delivering in-demand products and services today while building long-term programs that require the right “always-on” marketing tactics and that means localization.
#5 Test more aggressively!
In today’s unsettled market, conventional methods need to become trendy again as brands fight through market noise to be heard in a field with a shrinking physical footprint. This is especially true as online-focused consumers demand a more integrated shopping experience while wanting to support their local businesses, many of whom are in trouble.
More than ever, a test-and-learn approach is needed to find the best tactics that align to your business goals, whether they’re base or acquisition-marketing focused. Along with this structure, it’s important to integrate your marketing data into a common framework across all your local touch-points online into a standard model for measuring the impact of local digital interactions. Lastmile provides just that.
Now it’s even more important to meet consumer demands head-on with what consumers want, not what we think. Now is the time for us to attach less importance to aesthetics, storytelling, gimmicks and feel good campaigns and for hard-hitting direct-to-consumer (DTC) marketing to be at its very best. Now is the time for marketing to be localized so we can be of service and shoppers can take action.
Just telling consumers where your stores are located, giving contact information and sharing high-level product categories or services offered online will not drive the best qualified customers your way and close the sale. In short, consumers want to know exactly what’s available for purchase now for all of the locations that carry your products. That necessitates providing up-to-date, localized inventory at the store level. Shoppers also want the latest promotions and engagement options that fit their buying needs. Only then will they make a purchase and embrace your brand during any economic climate.
The Lastmile is sales. Learn more and join us today!