Why fortune favours the brave marketer

Brand marketers will need to innovate through technology while embracing the climate of uncertainty to make the most of the new online retail landscape

The next 12 months represent the biggest, most exciting opportunity retailer marketers have ever had. This unprecedented window is an opportunity to innovate like never before.

According to futurist, Chris Riddell, 2021 is a time when consumers are more open than they've ever been to seeing what the power of technology can do after last year when technology kept the wheels of our lives turning.

His advice to marketers wanting to make the most of it? “Be brave. Technology was our saviour in COVID. It helped us work, it helped us connect with our families, it helped us play and helped us shop. We would have had a catastrophic meltdown without technology. Marketers should take this opportunity and innovate and be brave,” Riddell told CMO.

Riddell said marketers have got to accept working in a world where everything changes, sometimes on a daily basis. “We’ve always known the customer dictates a huge part of the direction that marketers go in, but now they have to be able to be much more adaptive than ever before,” he said.

Retail forces

Looking specifically as retail trends, it’s clear rapid ecommerce adoption created during Covid will remain. The last 12 months have seen the fastest and most significant transformation to shopping in a century. Much of what we are seeing today is the beginning of the next reinvention of retail, according to a new eBay report, Lockdown: One Year On, looking at what COVID-19 means for the future of online retail.

The report is based on eBay Australia sales data and commissioned third-party research. Lonergan Research surveyed 2131 Australians aged 18+ between 25 January and 1 February 2021. Data was weighted post-interview to latest population estimates sourced from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Across the board, the eBay report predicts online shopper engagement will stabilise and remain above the pre-pandemic level. In short, there’s no going back to pre-Covid and the new normal is about change and variability. It finds a retail reinvention is happening.

When it comes to macro trends, we know COVID has massively accelerated the adoption of online shopping,” eBay Australia acting head of marketing, Rebecca Newton, said. “EBay is now seeing 12 million unique monthly visitors coming to our site - that’s up from 11 million in 2020. As more people turn to online, consumer expectations are on the rise.  

“The lockdowns drove the fastest change in behaviour and we saw a number of retail trends emerge and then repeat in subsequent lockdowns. When the pandemic began, Aussies were quick to act.”  

In March alone, face mask sales were up more than 700,000 per cent and hand wash up 4000 per cent. As the first lockdown struck, preparing to work from home saw a spike in monitors, desks and headphones, while gyms closing saw gym equipment soar in popularity. Another trend identified by eBay is the sense of community that shone through, and a desire to shop local and support Aussie business. Searches for ‘Australian Made, for instance, were up 430 per cent in July 2020.  

All of this makes clear online shopping is a trend that’s here to stay. Newton said 83 per cent of shoppers had told the business they’ll keep shopping online as much as they do now, even after the vaccine is rolled out.

Experience lift

In response, Riddell said innovative retail brands will work hard to create a digital-first attitude with customer experiences, such as creating pre-shopping experiences online through an app or website. Many retailers will then use their physical stores as a ‘last mile’ point for curbside click and collect.

In the not-too-distant future, cashless payments and even an explosion of cryptocurrencies as a form of payment will come into play. Consumers can expect to see augmented reality (AR) technology fused with gaming platforms to create virtual stores which will use extraordinary amounts of data to create highly personalised experiences that are individual to each visitor.

And it won’t end there, according to Riddell. “We're going to see the big platforms like eBay become innovators and go hard on some extraordinary innovation with technology that once would have been considered quite bizarre," he continued.

For instance, deepfake technology will enable brands to reinvent how they use influencers using a technology called generative AI (artificial intelligence), to create hyper-personalisation at scale. Influencers will send brands samples of up to 30 minutes of pre-recorded video and audio, along with around 50 photos of themselves.

Using this generative AI technology, brands will then transform content into millions of hyper-targeted ads. "Imagine brands being able to choose not only the language but also the pose of the influencer delivering the message," Riddell commented.

“It will give marketers the ability to do direct targeting, messaging and advertising on a one-on-one basis from a particular influencer. This isn't far away technologies - we can do that right now. It’s how quickly we are comfortable as humans dealing with this type of change. That's the limiting factor."

While this sort of innovation might have been years away, the combined effect of  rapid and widespread uptake in online retailing, together with a growing appreciation for the benefits of technology, will move this kind of thing to reality much sooner. For marketers, it means being comfortable to innovate while embracing uncertainty.

“You've got to be you've got to be somebody who’s comfortable with volatility. There is no normal, there is no new normal, no going back to a normal, normal is not coming," Riddell said.

“Be comfortable in a world where there is high volatility and change. If you can marry those two things together - the innovation and the change - the next 12 months will be the best you've ever had in the history of your career."

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