As restrictions lift, can retailers out-play their rivals?

ebayCovid restrictions might be being scrapped this week, but most businesses still face months of uncertainty, none more so than the retail sector which, over the past two years, has been forced into one of the biggest operational shake-ups in a generation.

Retailers that want to stay ahead of the game will need to be prepared to pivot at short notice and adapt their business strategies to keep up with unpredictable industry shifts and changing shopper needs.

But what trends should retail marketers focus their attention on?

First-party data becomes first choice
We’ve known for a while now that the death of the cookie is coming. With only one year to go, this isn’t the time for retailers to kick back. Instead, they need to use the extra time on their hands to ensure they’re prepared for when the cookie crumbles – a day that will irrevocably change the face of digital marketing.

The key here will be finding innovative ways of leveraging first-party customer data to create a more enticing and intuitive shopping experience at scale. But remember: With all this power comes responsibility. Retailers must become more open and transparent with their customers about how they’re using their data to improve the online customer experience. Not only will this build trust, it will also lead to improved customer retention.

The ecommerce experience transcends the transaction
To say that ecommerce has grown over the past couple of years would be putting it mildly. The shift to digital – which was spurred on by the pandemic – means that even now physical shops are open, more shoppers (than pre-pandemic) are heading online to buy everything from a new pair of sunglasses ahead of their latest holiday, to the perfect sofa for their new home.

In today’s hyper-connected and fast-paced world of ecommerce, the shopping journey needs to move past the purely transactional. Shoppers demand a relevant and engaging experience at every touchpoint, regardless of the channel they’re using to shop. If they don’t get this, they’ll simply turn elsewhere. And, with the sheer number of competitors vying for their attention, you can be sure they’ll find somewhere else to spend their hard-earned money in a heartbeat.

The lesson? Retailers can’t be complacent.

In the months ahead, they’ll need to take a granular look at their omnichannel strategies and consider “what do shoppers really want”, if they want to stay ahead of the curve. Ultimately, success lies in finding innovative ways to bring the benefits of in-store shopping to online customers, that will add real value to their customers’ shopping experience. This could involve creating personalised experiences that are engaging and encompass a human connection and community feel.

Authenticity and brand values become critical
The values-driven consumers of today demand more from the brands that they buy from. True, they want great products at the right price, but they also increasingly care about what brands actually stand for and whether this mirrors their own beliefs.

This is an area that cannot be ignored. In 2022, brands will need to establish their own authenticity and place it at the core of their organisation. From environmental pledges and improving corporate diversity to funding and investment for charities, there must be a marked effort to make the world a better place.

2022 is shaping up to be another exciting but unpredictable year in retail marketing. Over the coming months, brands will have to think on their feet and continue to be nimble in their approach. Only by doing this will they be able to out-play the competition and remain relevant in our constantly evolving world.

Harmony Murphy is GM Advertising UK at eBay

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