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Top 5 retail marketing trends

By Sarah Tierney, Digital Storyteller, Microsoft UK on 31/05/2018

Filed under Retail & Consumer Goods

Two people in fabric shop

You’ve made it. The top of Everest, finally! As you reach for your phone to get that all-important selfie (did you even do it if you didn’t post about it?). Your phone pings. You have an email telling you that you’re low on pet food, so more has already been shipped to you. Another email tells you of a flashsale from your favourite brand. Of course, you deserve a congratulatory new pair of boots! You click, and the link automatically adds your size to your cart. You ask the chatbot if you can pick it up instore when you get back to Kathmandu. When you go pick it up, the staff have your purchase history on hand to ensure you have everything you need before you leave.

While this seems outlandish it’s entirely possible – Mt Everest has 4G for all your mobile browsing needs, and retailers are now using big data, AI, and new technology to stay ahead of the pack.

Find out below how companies are using some of the top marketing trends to innovate and stay competitive.

Personalising the customer experience

There is more choice than ever before. Customers now have the power to go where the search button takes them. In a world where retailers are struggling to stay open on the high-street, some companies are surprisingly expanding their services from online-only to both e-commerce and brick and mortar stores.

By harnessing data from both online and in-store, you can learn more about your customer’s choices and personalise their experience while ensuring you preserve your brand.

This is what The Fragrance Shop has done to develop a stronger understanding of its customers and provide a wonderful experience for all. By using Microsoft Azure and partner OmniCX, they are harnessing cloud technology to innovate their sales techniques in-store.

Watch Watch

“Customer centricity is a massive part of our business, so the technology we invest in is all about collecting the right data. Joining this all together means creating a seamless experience and a connected customer,” says Sanjay Vadera, CEO at The Fragrance Shop.

All stores collect live data including visits and conversions transforming the information staff have access to and the way the business functions. For example, sales staff instore can immediately input customer feedback into the system, meaning The Fragrance Shop now responds quickly and proactively to constantly improve the customer experience.

“We gather information in stores, online, and through customer service, which all feeds into Microsoft Azure. With the right computing power, we can now get the results that we want in the timescales we need,” says Julian Holt, Chief Technical Officer.

High quality service across all channels

As customers are adjusting their shopping habits to include instore, web, and mobile purchases, retailers must effectively support the customer journey through all these platforms, moving seamlessly from one channel to another.

To create an omnichannel experience you need technology that can access data from multiple systems and present it in a comprehensive, user-friendly way.

House of Fraser uses Microsoft Azure to enrich the customer experience across all channels while helping bring data all together in a single platform and enable its employees to have a complete view of the business to facilitate a stellar customer experience.

“For 169 years House of Fraser stood as a premium, fashion centric, department store but we found that our customers were changing how they shop and the market was evolving. We needed to do something different. So we devised a bold and creative strategy to bolster our established brand with data driven, multi-channel retail, supported by Azure cloud technology,” says Paul Mason, Director of Architecture and Assurance.

By having a single platform, they ensure they have quality and consistency across all channels, seamless integration and scalability on demand. With one of the largest implementations of its kind on Azure in Europe, House of Fraser is now highly data-driven, improving performance metrics and reducing loading time online.

“The greatest test of the platform’s performance came on Black Friday 2017, which turned out to be the biggest Black Friday event in our history. We had 1.7 million visitors and 10 million page views – something our previous platform would not have coped with. Our team turned up for work, braced for a highly charged day, then we watched in awe as the new platform absorbed the unyielding traffic, providing capacity on demand from the cloud and performing capably for both our customers and for our in-house team without a glitch. For me, sailing through that Black Friday with flying colours was a career defining moment,” Mason says.

The assistants of the future

Creating a smooth and easy experience online or instore is key to customer retention. In brick-and-mortar companies this is the task of sales assistants, however traditionally this is done via an FAQ or Knowledge Centre link on the webpage. With the advent of AI and machine learning, you can leverage these tools to create better, smoother experiences, like what

We’re trying to give our customers a consistent, world-class experience across all the channels they use to interact with us,” says Antonia Colin-Jones, Strategic Partnership Program Manager for Dixons Carphone. “To do that, we need to understand what the future of retail looks like and how technology can help us provide a better experience.”

They enlisted the help of Microsoft Services who used the Microsoft Bot Framework and Microsoft Cognitive Services to create Cami, their geeky and confident online bot.

“Through the research, we determined that artificial intelligence could be the key to offering our customers the differentiated, personalised service and cohesive customer journey we are aiming for,” says Colin-Jones.

Cami can answer text-based questions through chat, and even analyses pictures of in-store shelf labels to check stock. She’s so good at her job that staff even use her for quick stock checks as well. Cami will also remember customer’s wishlists and searches, so when they go instore for help, staff can view this and direct them to that product or suggest another.

“The biggest thing Cami will do is to help strengthen our relationship with customers,” says Colin-Jones. “We’ll also improve our in-store operations by supporting our store colleagues to do their jobs more efficiently.”

Responsive and flexible campaigns

One of Ukraine’s top retail destinations They wanted to ensure their marketing campaigns and business decisions matched the fast-moving environment of today’s digital world.

“We had very inflexible and simplistic applications that were not meeting our business requirements. A particular problem for us at MOYO was that we found it too hard to mount timely outreach campaigns, and we were too often setting price points too much at variance with our competitors,” says Head of PMO, Dmitrij Samarskij.

By working with Microsoft partner E-consulting to build a new CRM platform on Microsoft Dynamics 365 and Azure, they were able to improve customer loyalty and brand appeal via highly-targeted and relevant marketing campaigns.

“Our market activity has become much more effective, as we can create programs quickly that we know will be of interest to our customers,” he says. “We also like the way that we can identify and sell to very specific demographics now, which our older systems simply never let us do.” MOYO estimates they’re enrolling more than double the number of new customers daily and have had a 30% increase in online transactions.

Mobile shopping whenever, wherever

Now armed with the power of mobile browsing, customers are purchasing wherever they are, whenever they want. 70 percent of website traffic for comes from mobile devices, so their mobile-first strategy was central in transforming their business with Azure.

“We needed a platform that would be flexible so that we could try new things in the presentation layer, in the way that consumers interact with us,” says Bob Strudwick, Chief Technology Officer at ASOS. “Currently, that means a mobile-first strategy, and in the future, it will mean conversational commerce and augmented reality. It will mean integration with social platforms.”

ASOS is now easily able to personalise its front-end services without modifying the back-end infrastructure, allowing greater flexibility and personalisation. Moving to the cloud also meant that ASOS would no longer be at risk of a single point of failure, protected by Azure’s automated resiliency.

By switching to this strategy, they more than doubled the volume of Black Friday orders from the previous year as well as accelerated the development of innovative features to target new markets and stay at the top of trends.

Find out more

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Find out how you can improve customer experience with AI

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Top Retail Plans infographic

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