Brands vs retailers – a battle that has rumbled on throughout the ages. They’ve competed for our attention, money and loyalty from the High Street boom of the 1860s through to the golden age of the 1960s. The contest is even more magnified now in the digital age with the internet playing host to online discount retailers as consumers look for the cheapest bargains, fuelled by the rise of price comparison sites.
Retailers embrace shopping change
It would appear that retailers are leading the way when it comes to winning custom. When once upon a time, consumers would buy into a brand’s message, style and values, the tables have now well and truly turned. Millennials have embraced a DIY approach to shopping, with a wealth of choice and information at their fingertips, especially peer reviews which are increasingly powerful drivers of purchase decisions. Recent research has shown that only seven per cent of millennials identify themselves as brand loyalists, while 75 per cent are influenced to shop during a retail sale or promotion. It could be argued that brand loyalty is dying a slow death as it heads towards the canvas.
So, what can be done from a brand perspective to ensure they can remain relevant in today’s volatile climate? After all, it can be argued that retailers need brands to survive – because without them, they won’t have products to promote and sell.
Data is king
One big topic that harmonises the two is data. We already know the power it can give both brands and retailers – insights on customer behaviour, purchasing patterns and where and when they like to shop. The rise of online shopping combined with the social media boom has opened up a host of new channels and platforms for brands and retailers to promote their message, which in return, leaves them with a mountain of actionable customer data.
Making sense of this data and acting upon it has proved a blessing and curse for marketers. Done right, it can help retain new customers, target and convert new ones, and ultimately boost sales. Done wrong, customers will turn their back on you, spread the word among their peers, and head off to a leading competitor. Worse still, if data is not handled correctly you can now be landed with a huge fine following the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) earlier this year. There is a greater responsibility for how data is used, and this has a bearing on people-based marketing. Data partners will need to know where the data is coming from and how it was consented.
A second-party strategy
So if retailers and brands have the same end goal – winning and retaining custom – why can’t they work things out and operate together to help achieve this? Surely the combination of two sets of data on a single customer is better than one? But how do brands and retailers set about doing this? The answer lies in what is known as second-party data.
Second-party data is essentially data that customers aren’t giving you directly, but that you’re obtaining via a relationship with another entity. Take any supermarket and Coca-Cola for example. The brand (Coca-Cola) is responsible for developing the product but arguably knows little about the end-user given the majority of sales come through the retailer (the supermarket). It is therefore within the interests of the brand to work with the retailer to obtain customer data that enables them to tailor their product marketing for current audiences. For example, targeting paid media to lapsed buyers and measuring the in-store sales impact of that paid media. In addition to a potential new revenue stream, the benefit for the retailer is a more engaged brand that invests more in paid media and brand-funded promotions.
In addition to brand-retailer second-party use cases, brands can also explore brand-retailer-brand opportunities. Imagine a world were brands can instantly understand how users buying their products in a given retailer are transacting with other brands in the same retailer. This opens up the opportunity for non-competitive brands to identify partners to drive co-marketing opportunities without costly market research. For example a soft drink brand may identify which alcoholic beverage brand they can approach to develop a coupon discount partnership. Brands working together in this way could even create combined audiences for paid media targeting and measurement.
A long-lasting relationship
As shopping patterns and behaviours continue to evolve, the future will always remain somewhat uncertain for both brands and retailers. The next big phenomenon is always just around the corner and ready to shake up the industry once again. With this in mind, instead of competing against each other, like they have historically, brands and retailers need to recognise that they can actually overcome many hurdles in the change in landscape, if they forget their differences and work together.
Second-party data is a powerful tool if handled and actioned correctly. It’s how brands and retailers can work in harmony to build relationships with their customers and ultimately remain relevant and profitable.
Written by Steve Martin, Managing Director, Data, International at LiveRamp.