As retail and e-commerce clients are a vital part of Merkle client partnerships, a few of the Merkle members spent the day at FUTR: a summit focused on fresh thinking and progressive change in the future of retail, marketing and commerce. Scarlett Fielding, George Crosby, Melanie Meikle and Charlie Lee have distilled into a few key takeaways below.

Everything everywhere, all at once

Over Covid, a lot of D2C stores saw significant growth, with up to 50 years of growth in 5 months for some brands. While there has been a slight dip post-covid, online shopping has still 2x increased vs pre-covid. Amongst this, competitive sets are much larger than before, due to the pandemic driving commerce online. So, it's no secret that the demand for online shopping is there. Brands need to ensure that they are available when the customer wants them to capitalise on this demand.

There's a point around availability here - something brands need to balance. For example: KFC driving traffic to download their app and purchase direct, vs generating sales from aggregators such as Uber Eats. There must be an incentive for a customer to shop direct vs via another route. For example, should brands offer a discount, customisable options, or free delivery to sweeten the deal for the customer?


Customer Connection

We also know that customers expect much more of brands than ever before, coined by dentsu as the customer expectation gap. People want a faster, more convenient service than ever before, with the likes of next day and even same day delivery increasing.

So, brands need to connect with users when online to drive growth and repeat sales. One-way conversations are not effective.

However, what's the best way to ask for feedback? A lot of research done by companies sources feedback from customers who are already engaged with the brand in some way, such as people who have already made a purchase and are therefore on their way to being brand advocate, resulting in a skewed view of people's real-world perception of the brand.

This is where social listening can be useful to understand what consumers are really saying. Brands can activate their community by engaging with comments and building the relationship through social platforms.

We cannot forget that a lot of customers don't want to share their data. This, combined with the depreciation of 3rd party cookies is going to make target audiences harder to reach than ever before. However, often customers will hand over more data if it’s relevant and specific to their need at that time. By asking how they want to marketed to, brands can build trust and understand what communities their customer is interested in.

Make Loyalty Sticky

A word of warning given: if leaders start believing their customers are loyal, they stop impressing them.

Taxi and Uber is an example of this. Pre-Uber, travelers were happy to use this service. However as soon as Uber arrived on the scene with a more convenient and inexpensive service, loyalty was nowhere to be seen as everyone switched.

Brands can combat this by bringing out the human story in their content. Make it relatable with a face in comms and focus on channels that allow room for story-telling. People want simple, fast, and convenient interactions, to be treated as real humans and not numbers or tickets. By enabling that human customer experience, brands can aim to retain current customers and drive new acquisition.