Online Marketing: Pushing the Online Envelope
Sometimes, when challenging my clients to think innovatively, I pull out Scrabble and take out two powerful letters, the E and the R. I then ask brand leaders to brainstorm words using those two letters as prefixes and suffixes.
We make lists like these: REfresh, REinvent, REinvigorate, REpurpose, REmind, REmodel, REengergize and others such as strongER, easiER, quickER, slowER, kindER. Then we spend our time using those words as prompts and lenses to examine our existing marketing strategies and see how we can go one better: One better than where we are now, one better than the competitive offering, one better than our customer expects. It's our jumping off point for deeper strategic thinking, for pushing the envelope, for getting us out of our comfort zones.
It's apparent that a few "RE" concepts are top-of-mind for many marketers these days. Marketing tactics like retargeting and remarketing are being employed in order to get customers to rethink about the brands they once searched or bought from. These tactics, if used properly, can remind customers about a purchase (or abandoned purchase) and incentivize them to take action, or to take even more action.
Pushing Customer Needs
Companies like Pinkberry yogurt are using online tactics like email to boost their loyalty programs by driving downloads of mobile applications via email. Others, like King Arthur Flour, let customers who order online know just how many more products they can add to orders without increasing shipping charges. Both of these smart marketers put their customers' needs first and challenge themselves to make their brand experiences more helpful, useful and relevant to the niches they serve.
"Companies have to continually up their online game and stay one step ahead of their customers' needs. From retargeting email campaigns to reinvesting in lapsed customers, it's important to continuously interrogate the database to develop relevant (and profitable) marketing opportunities," shares Hemisphere Marketing President Gina Valentino about these types of practices.
Brene Brown, researcher and author of the book "Daring Greatly," writes, "maybe stories are just data with soul."
I believe brand leaders make excellent storytellers. How are you remixing your data to find soulful opportunities to reconnect with your customers?
Pushing the Screen
Other companies are pushing the online envelope by reinventing the screen! Women's clothing store Kate Spade Saturday has made window shopping in New York City happen immediately with four walk-up, shoppable, interactive-storefront online windows. What a fun, customer-centric element to add to the already well-crafted brand experience … and, what a "shareworthy" story Kate Spade Saturday has given its customers when they are offline!
Target and Bed Bath & Beyond are just two examples of brands that are resizing their offers into timely mini-experiences with pop-up stores aimed at aggressively targeting the back-to-school business—specifically, the college dorm business. Both retailers have coordinated a seamless shopping experience for time-pressed parents and students and have surrounded these customers with an "always-on" platform to meet their needs.
With online shopping helps like "Campus Checklists," "Dorm Room Decorating" and "Moving Solutions," Bed Bath & Beyond expands its brand positioning to be the go-to resource and one-stop shop for this lucrative market segment. Taking it a step further, the home goods retailer has curated an entire section called "College Insider" that is chock-full of relevant online content (from cooking at college to travel tips to financial and health advice).
Target has increased its back-to-college product selection and continues to expand its Bullseye University with a twist. Here's how they describe it:
Welcome to Bullseye University, a first of its kind interactive digital experience that gives Target's college guests the opportunity to see what it's really like to live in a Target-designed dorm and then style their own. From July 15 through 18, the "roommates," played by five popular YouTube personalities, will be living in custom-designed Target dorm rooms, their experiences streamed live 24-hours a day on BullseyeUniversity.com. Viewers will have the opportunity to go online and interact with the roommates, participate in daily interactive experiences, shop back-to-college products featured in the dorm rooms and win prizes (more than 400 prize packs will be given away!). The roommates—Chester See, Meekakitty (Tessa Violet), Magic of Rahat, Brooke "Dodger" Leigh and Clothes Encounters (Jenn Im)—will interact with viewers in their dorm as well as the Bullseye University student lounge, where additional activities such as workout classes, magic shows and concerts will take place.
Nordstrom has smartly leveraged the social joy that Pinterest brings its customers by referencing its "most-pinned" products with "P" tags in select test stores. In a WWD.com interview, Colin Johnson, Nordstrom spokesperson, spoke about the importance of capitalizing on geolocating inventory levels. "We have a completely integrated inventory platform between online and in the stores. This is another extension of how we can utilize that platform. On a store-by-store basis, we can figure out what product is most relevant for a store within the most pinned product."
I like to think of this as reexperiencing or repurposing a social benefit that their fashion savvy, trend-conscious customers might truly care about.
Quirky ice cream company, Ben & Jerry's, recently launched a "City Churned" multiplatform campaign to help crowdsource its next flavor profiles. Ben & Jerry's is encouraging brand fans to go online and make city-inspired ingredient decisions. Lots of playfulness and engagement opportunities are provided as you explore voting microsites and suggest names on Twitter. Perfectly on-brand and one better than traditional crowdsourcing techniques!
One better! How might these examples from across several industries inspire you to strengthen your online marketing efforts? Why not take a couple of hours and play with those two Scrabble tiles and see how you and your team might just REcommit yourselves to making your brand one better in all sorts of ways that truly matter to your customers!
Andrea Syverson is author of "ThinkAbout: 77 Creative Prompts for Innovators" and "BRANDABOUT: A Seriously Playful Approach for Passionate Brand-Builders and Merchants," and president of Black Forest, Co.-based strategic consulting company IER Partners. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.