Why retailers need to get personal with conversational commerce | Retail StrategyRetail Customer Experience


An omnichannel marketing strategy is key to a marketing campaign’s success. Here are a few tips retailers can leverage when laying out their strategies.

The back-to-school season seemed to come early this year, leaving many parents scrambling to find all the items on their students’ supply lists. Rising inflation rates also added to the stress — the average US household was expected to spend $864.35 on back-to-school shopping. That’s just less than 2% more than last year but a whopping 24% higher than pre-pandemic prices. Both of these factors have prompted some families to make incremental purchases over time or to delay big-ticket items such as a new computer.

Retailers with inventory on their hands after a major buying event such as back to school or the winter holidays can attract these buyers through personalized, omnichannel marketing campaigns. Reaching consumers where and when they need a product — in the manner in which they prefer to engage with a brand — can be key to ensuring that retailers not only minimize overstock but also communicate to their audiences with timely offers.

An omnichannel marketing strategy is key to a marketing campaign’s success. Here are a few tips retailers can leverage when laying out their strategies — whether it be for last-minute back-to-school shopping or planning for the winter holiday buying season.

Reach them on the go

A text message, also known as SMS, is the best channel to get your message across to a consumer, with a whopping 98% open rate. There is no other channel that practically guarantees your buyer will at least see the offer, if not act upon it. Email, by comparison, has a paltry open rate of less than 25%.

Text messages also have the advantage of round-the-clock availability. These days, a person walking around without a smartphone is a rare find. Reaching a consumer on SMS while they are on the go, possibly while actively shopping for an item you could provide, is the ultimate “meet them in the moment” marketing activity.

Using SMS to reach buyers has a direct impact on the bottom line. According to a recent survey, 77% of marketers with a text-message strategy for sending offers or promotions reported revenue growth, surpassing the 23% of marketers that reported increased revenue, despite not using text messaging to reach consumers.

A two-way conversation

Retailers know that consumers who opt-in to receive SMS messages from a brand are among their most loyal customers. For these consumers, a one-way broadcast from a brand keeps them apprised of the latest products, services and promotions. More valuable to both the brand and the consumer, however, is a bidirectional, two-way exchange in which the brand can use information from its profile of the customer based on his or her previous activity with information gleaned through a conversation over texts or another preferred channel like WhatsApp.

Even though driven by technology, this “conversational marketing” imparts a personal touch to a digital exchange or transaction. According to a survey conducted for Salesforce, nearly three-quarters (71%) of consumers said they expected brands to engage them in real-time.

For example, Sally is a regular shopper at Take a Hike, the regional outdoors equipment retailer. For the past 10 years, she has bought her partner her a new pair of hiking boots as a holiday gift. Take a Hike knows this about Sally from her customer profile and sends her a text message in mid-November that new models have just arrived, offering Sally a promotion of an early Black Friday discount if she reserves a pair before Thanksgiving. The offer is accompanied by a link to a website for preferred customers only.

This type of exchange has become table stakes for retailers. Our own survey found that 78% of consumers said their expectations of brands and how they communicated rose during the COVID-19 lockdowns. Other research bears this out as well, finding that 90% of consumers expect “immediate responses” when they contact customer support. Two-way conversational marketing is required to meet the expectations of today’s customers.

never too early

As retailers prepare for the winter holiday sales cycle, they should plan to leverage SMS and other channels for their conversational marketing campaigns. And, given the factors that impacted back-to-school sales, it’s not too early to begin those plans. In fact, the fifth (20%) of adults are starting to think about their holiday budgets and making purchases.

Remaining top-of-mind with these consumers will be paramount for retailers looking to maximize revenue during this make-or-break season. Think about how to provide consumers with the information they want — and the deals they might need — in a timely, respectful way.

Laura Apel leads Mitto’s global Marketing operations. With a background in journalism and over 6 years within the CPaaS industry, her focus is on increasing visibility of Mitto’s industry expertise and differentiated technology through strategic brand messaging and communications.

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