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By Kevin Nathanson

Sponsorships and partnerships are evolving to inspire brand loyalty and advocacy.

In 2003, said, “People will forget the things you do, and people will forget the things you say. But people will never forget how you made them feel.” It has been almost two decades, but it seems that sponsorships and partnerships have started to listen to Maya Angelou. The nature of sponsorships has evolved.

Sponsorships bring brand awareness

At the origin, we have sponsorships, such as when pay a large fee to have the naming rights to a given property. Think of MetLife Stadium. There is not much brand alignment if you think about it. What does MetLife have to do with professional ? Not much. But the naming right provides the brand, in this case MetLife, an immense amount of brand awareness. Yet awareness is all the brand gets. So, when looking at the brand funnel — which begins with awareness, and goes to consideration, purchase intention, , and ends with brand advocacy — only getting awareness isn’t ideal.

Partnerships build a deeper connection

Then, we began to see a transition toward traditional partnerships. This is when the marketing world started to heed Maya Angelou’s advice. Like sponsorships, there is typically a large fee involved. With partnerships, however, the occurs more deeply, allowing the brand to receive both awareness and consideration from their partnership. Think of and the . Microsoft paid a large fee to be associated with the NFL and is seen by millions of viewers on the side-lines being used by professional coaches and athletes to improve the game of football. Consumers see the brand, and if they believe the brand improves the game they are likely to consider it. This goes a step beyond a normal sponsorship. Microsoft, in tandem with their partnership, launches campaigns to deepen their connection with the consumer. If you haven’t seen Microsoft’s Create Change campaign, you should. It details how Microsoft is used to help young children transition out of the hospital to at-home living, while still getting the attention and care they need. The campaign focuses on NFL player Greg Olsen and his child, and how Microsoft’s technology impacted their lives. This deeper emotional connection, in tandem with the partnership, leaves an impact on consumers.

The future of partnerships: experiential marketing and beyond

Going even further, we are starting to see the emergence of non-traditional partnerships. Unlike their predecessors, non-traditional partnerships have brand alignment and often have no fee involved — or at least the fee is not the focal point of the deal. At their core, there is a value exchange where each brand leverages the other’s IP to raise both of their brands’ value. A unique aspect of non-traditional partnerships is that their cultural relevance unlocks brand loyalty and advocacy. Think of Microsoft and . More specifically, Microsoft and Stranger Things season three. Stranger Things celebrates unlikely heroes who have the power to change the world but just don’t know it yet. Microsoft’s brand purpose is to help people unlock their potential. The brand alignment is there. Microsoft launched “Camp Nowhere” at all of its stores, offering STEM workshops for children using Microsoft’s technology. If you don’t know “Camp Nowhere,” it was made famous in Stranger Things. This partnership campaign utilized multiple touchpoints, storytelling, and a brand-new event. It elevated both brands’ images and helped kids everywhere feel seen. Consumers wanted to go to Camp Nowhere, watch Stranger Things, and use Microsoft products. It provided Microsoft and Netflix not only with brand awareness and consideration but also with purchase intention, brand loyalty, and brand advocacy.

If more brands want to take their target market through the entire marketing funnel, they should listen to Maya Angelou and look for non-traditional partnerships to leave a mark on consumers’ minds, hearts, and wallets.

Feature Image Credit: PeopleImages | Getty Images 

By Kevin Nathanson

MS Sports Management

Sourced from Entrepreneur Europe

By Haseeb Tariq

Think back to the last live concert or sporting event you attended. What made it so magical? Why was it so different from watching the event on TV?

There’s something about being surrounded by hundreds of other screaming fans who love the same thing you do. You can’t help but get caught up in the moment. There’s an energy that comes from being around people who love and support a sports team or musician that you can’t replicate.

The way I see it, brands that have a loyal following online encourage the same type of fandom as major sports teams and musicians. Instead of filling stadiums, they’re filling their social media feeds with news and excitement about the brand and helping to move prospective customers through the marketing funnel.

Why Every Brand Needs Fans

If you can turn customers into fans, you may quickly find that you can increase your revenue without increasing your marketing budget. Fans will do a lot of marketing for you through word-of-mouth campaigns on their own social media platforms. When people genuinely love a brand, they’re often happy to tell everyone they know about it.

Another reason you need fans is that they will continue to return to you again and again. Finding a brand that delivers precisely what you need can be challenging. When a customer finds that magic relationship with a brand that seems to just “get” them, they are more likely to become loyal for the long term.

Finally, it’s easier to sell new products to fans who are already familiar and comfortable doing business with you. Giving your fans exclusive access to new products and product launch events can make them even more likely to want to buy your new products and encourage their friends to do the same thing.

Three Ways To Turn Customers Into Fans And Advocates

So, now comes the hard part: How can you capture your customers’ attention and turn them into fans who will actively advocate for your brand?

It starts by engaging with customers. You’ll need to develop a strategy that actively connects with customers and reaches them on an emotional level. Here are a few ideas to try.

1. Make customers feel appreciated.

Every customer should feel like a VIP when they do business with you. This starts by delivering exceptional service at every single opportunity, from optimizing your website for search engines to having helpful support available via chat or phone when they run into an issue.

You can also make customers feel appreciated by giving them perks and extras. Many companies have loyalty programs that are free and that deliver value to customers regularly. By appreciating your customers through rewards, discounts, promotions and special events, you demonstrate that your relationship is more than just transactional.

2. Give them something to talk about.

Share exciting news, exclusive sneak-peeks and one-time-only discounts with your fans first. Hold special “fans only” shopping events that give them unique access to products. Then, encourage them to spread the word to their networks so their friends can get in on the fun.

Another way to get fans excited is to offer a referral reward for fans who successfully encourage someone from their network to buy your product or service. The reward can be a free product, a discount or cash to use toward their next purchase.

3. Be active on multiple channels.

The more active you are on social media, the more likely you are to reach your fans. You don’t need to be on every channel, but you should be on more than one. Do some testing to figure out where your fans are, and focus your efforts on those channels.

Get creative on each channel by encouraging fans to contribute their own content. For example, ask fans to submit videos of them using your product to your YouTube channel, or to share an image of them using your product in real life in an Instagram story. Immersing your fans in your content makes them an active part of your brand instead of just an observer.

Bottom Line

Getting customers through the marketing funnel is a big undertaking. Don’t make the mistake of thinking your job is done once a customer has successfully transacted. Keeping customers engaged and happy will transform them into fans and brand advocates who will do a lot of marketing work for you by sharing your brand with all their friends. These loyal customers will be essential as your business grows and evolves, so make sure they are a top priority in your marketing strategy.

Feature Image Credit: getty

By Haseeb Tariq

Marketing @ Universal Music Group | Disney | Fox TV | Guess – I help fix large revenue retention & growth issues – haseebtariq.com. Read Haseeb Tariq’s full executive profile here.

Sourced from Forbes

By Paul Talbot

When customers are taken for granted, they have a knack for vanishing. So it seems strange that as we move into an era of vanishing, or at best, shrinking marketing budgets, attention paid to existing customers appears to be eroding.

I recently asked Lana Busignani, EVP of U.S. Analytics at Nielsen, to shed light on recent research which reflects the waning importance of marketing built to keep current customers active and engaged.

Paul Talbot: Survey respondents indicated, by a fairly wide margin, that acquiring new customers was more important than retaining existing customers. Do you have a sense as to why?

Lana Busignani: One potential explanation is the distortion of attention and energy to mastering the capabilities being enabled by the digital, addressable world. The growth and sophistication of the digital advertising ecosystem has enabled marketers to target audiences and buyers more precisely with the objective of converting interested/engaged buyers within the category to their brands.

Talbot: Little interest was expressed in reducing churn. The report states, ‘This lack of focus on churn is a missed opportunity for marketers.’ Can we quantify the size of this opportunity, and why doesn’t the tactic of reducing churn generate the focus you believe it should?

Busignani: Perhaps some may be chalked up to how marketers define churn, whether they are concerned with it or not. Is it a completely lost buyer, a lost trip to a competitive brand, or a reduction in brand loyalty? Any lost sale should be considered churn and for consumer brands could drive a 10-20% reduction in sales among current buyers which would need to be offset by new client acquisition or switchers from competitive brands.

Marketers should balance client acquisition with activities that remind buyers about their brand and keep their brand top of mind for when consumers are making buying decisions.

One potential explanation as to why reducing churn is rated lower among marketers, is that some marketers have adopted philosophies which prioritize penetration and brand popularity over activities designed to drive brand loyalty or customer retention. The philosophy accepts consumer switching and lack of loyalty as a dynamic prevalent in the marketplace and so these marketers focus their activities on driving new buyers and penetration among consumers.

Talbot: Do we have any historic context for these viewpoints? Do we know if customer retention and reducing churn was any more or less important to marketers ten or twenty years ago?

Busignani: While we don’t have historical figures to cite as our CMO survey is only a few years old, there is evidence to support that customer retention was an important priority for marketers in the form of loyalty programs which proliferated during that time frame.

Markets were also less fragmented at the time, with fewer competitors and consumer choice so perhaps retention, or protecting established share of wallet was more achievable for marketers or was considered a more worthwhile investment than it is today. We do see great examples of modern loyalty programs designed to drive customer retention with the proliferation of apps designed to offer convenience and rewards to consumers such as Starbucks and Target’s shopper app.

Talbot: The classic marketing rule of thumb that suggests an investment in creating a new customer is greater than an investment in keeping an existing customer. Has this been relegated to the quaint thinking of a bygone era?  What do the media investment numbers actually reveal?

Busignani: Marketers are under increased scrutiny to prove the value of marketing investments in driving growth for brands to justify marketing spending.

Given the amount of wasted marketing dollars, reaching wrong audiences with irrelevant messages, products and offers, we do see marketers increasing investments in new digital ad vehicles which offer the promise of growth and the ability to reach consumers with relevant, personalized offers.

Traditional vehicles like television, which reach broader audiences, are more difficult to tie to sales outcomes today. However, as television becomes more addressable, it will enable marketers to more directly prove the value of their marketing investments in driving consumer action and purchasing.

By Paul Talbot

Minus strategy marketing staggers. I am a somewhat reformed ex-media business executive, with tours of duty at AOL, CBS Radio, and Nationwide Communications. I’m a fan of F. Scott Fitzgerald, the Boston Red Sox, the Principality of Liechtenstein, fried clams, fog, and prices that end in the number 7.

Sourced from Forbes

By Jay Woodruff

Advice from three masters of social listening

Three masters of social listening offer advice on how to glean insights from key constituents.

1. Be Agile

Behavioral data doesn’t inspire people. Dig into the why behind the numbers using an agile research approach. Survey responses and real customer stories restore a necessary human element to your quantitative data. —Christine Rimer, senior vice president, SurveyMonkey

2. Embrace the Negative

There are thousands of things you could do to improve customer experience. Negative feedback helps you prioritize the major pain points on that list. It’s critical to pay attention to the people you’re not delighting. —CR

3. Enlist Your Customers

Involve your customers in the development of your product. Ask them specific questions about all facets of the design—you will get amazingly detailed and helpful ideas. Then celebrate your customers’ input when the product comes out! Everyone wins. —Amanda Hesser, cofounder and CEO, Food52

4. Get Real

As research has evolved over the years, our consumers have more ways to share and connect than ever. Most brands can head to their Instagram pages or retail sites and get real-time, candid feedback. —Leslie Miller, director of marketing, ice cream North America, Unilever

5. Do Your Research

We wanted to understand from vegans and vegetarians how they snack, and they told us they ate a lot of healthy things. When we actually went to their homes, in addition to healthy food, we found indulgences like chips and ice cream. —LM

Feature Image Credit: artishokcs/iStock; MaksimYremenko/iStock

By Jay Woodruff

Noted expert on nicotine gum chewing and Hawkeye wrestling fan, Jay Woodruff is a contributing editor at Fast Company. After helping launch the quarterly DoubleTake, he joined Esquire and later held senior editorial positions at Entertainment Weekly and oversaw digital at Maxim, Blender and Stuff More

Sourced from Fast Company

By Brian Carroll

How can marketers better connect with people we hope will become our customers?

Over the few years, I’ve been researching why there’s such a disconnect between marketing and customers so I can understand how to bridge that gap.

Why? Because right now, the trust gap between marketers and customers has never been more significant.

For example, this recent Gallup Poll showed that public confidence in the honesty and ethics of marketers and sellers is at the bottom of the list.

And this survey by Hubspot showed that only 3 percent of people surveyed consider marketers and salespeople trustworthy. I’ve asked myself: how can things get better?

Quick Takeaways:

  • Focus constantly on improving the customer experience.
  • Make your communication people-centered, not product-centered.
  • Do not objectify people when following your standard sales or marketing processes.

Don’t Forget the Customer Experience

This is a problem we face in marketing. And as you’ll see much of problem is self-inflicted.

Here’s what I mean:

I think we marketers can be cynical and even snarky at times. We know good marketing. And we have well-tuned B.S. meters. We’re customers who know a great experience too.

For example, I talked with a VP of Marketing yesterday about these ideas, and he shared a recent negative marketing experience he had as a customer.

He said, “It sucks, but here’s the thing: I’m guilty of doing the same thing too.”

I asked him why marketers struggle with connecting with customers, and he replied:

I think it’s easier for us in marketing to talk about what we’re comfortable with which is the product/service we sell. And we LOVE to talk them. But what I’m not very good at is understanding what motivates our customer and how to best talk to them.

Listen to Your Own Words

The significant part of the problem is the words and jargon we choose in marketing and sales to describe what we do and the people we’re doing it for. Namely, customers and potential customers.

Why? Because our words affect how we think.

It’s something linguists call the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis which suggests that the words and the language we choose influences our thinking. I understood this intuitively, but I don’t know that I’ve helped much.

A decade ago, I wrote the book Lead Generation for the Complex Sale, and it succeeded beyond my hopes. Back then, I wrote that marketing and sales come down to one thing: starting and growing relationships. And I still believe that’s true.

To help, I’ve written about things like

Be human. Use empathy. Remember leads are people.

But I realize that didn’t articulate the problem which is the words we use in the sales and marketing are object-centered, not people-centered.

Let me explain.

Understand How Jargon Influences Thinking and Perception

In my experience, our words express more than our thoughts and feelings. They reflect our motivations and values. And our customers feel them. This is why customer empathy is essential.

But more than that, our words influence brain function, i.e., how we think.

Case in point, Andrew Newberg, M.D., and Mark Robert Waldman the authors of Words Can Change Your Brain confirm this through their extensive research. In sum, their research shows that our words actually change brain function and we are astonishingly unskilled when it comes to our understanding and communicating with others.

According to Newberg and Waldman, “We communicate in so many different ways and in so many situations, but if we don’t bring self-reflective consciousness into the equation by reflecting on what we say before we say it, we’ll fail to reach the depths of intimacy and cooperation that we are capable of.”

For example, the minute I call someone a “lead” or “prospect,” I turn them into an object in my mind. And when I see someone as an object, I treat my marketing as something I DO to people rather than something I do FOR them.

We objectify people when we use jargon like leads, prospects, suspects, conversions, opportunities, pipeline, MQLs, SQLs and more.  We also use phrases like, “crush your quota,” “lead magnets, “wins,” ”closes,” “deals,” and more.

When we put ourselves in our customers’ shoes and use empathy, we can begin to see how we unwittingly talk in a way that dehumanizes people and treats them as objects.

Nobody wants to be treated as an object to convert. Instead, we need to address others as thinking and feeling people with individual needs.  So how can we identify with others and connect on a human level?

Close the Trust Gap

It’s no wonder the perception of marketers and sellers is negative, and we have a trust gap. And we’re due for a change.

It starts with the words we use which ultimately affects how we think and act towards others. We need to think about how we can connect more humanly and engagingly.

We have this incredible capacity to influence people positively or negatively.

That’s why we need to find congruency in the words we use and the ultimate purpose of marketing which is to help start and grow customer relationships.

To do this, immerse yourself in your customer’s world and think from their experience. Begin by looking at what you see and hear. And then consider the words you use from your client’s perspective. This will help inspire new language.

Also, the use of words that people-centered. For example, instead of leads, you can talk about change makers, potential customers, future customers, future advocates instead. See what I mean?

Next Steps

  1. How will you change the words that you use to describe customers and future customers?  
  2. How might you change the way you talk about what you do inside (an outside) your companies to treat people like humans rather than objects to convert?  

Based on the words and jargon we use, it’s no wonder the perception of marketers and sellers is negative, and we have a trust gap. It’s time for a change.

The post How to get your marketing unstuck and connect with customers appeared first on B2BLeadBlog.com.

By Brian Carroll

Brian Carroll knows what drives B2B buyers. As the founder of the B2B Lead Blog, a researcher and lecturer on marketing best practices, and leader in empathy marketing, he’s at the epicenter of the shifting B2B marketing landscape. Brian is the author of the bestseller, Lead Generation for the Complex Sale (McGraw-Hill). He is also the founder of the B2B Lead Roundtable LinkedIn Group with 19,533+ members. Brian recently finished a stint as Chief Evangelist at MECLABS (parent company of MarketingSherpa) and is now back to helping B2B understand and execute modern lead generation and empathetic marketing with his speakingconsulting, and training workshops.   www.b2bleadblog.com @brianjcarroll

Sourced from Marketing Insider Group

By Yoav Vilner

Customers liked to be heard, that’s no secret. Here’s how to actively engage with your customers and keep them coming back.

You wouldn’t be friends with someone that never returned any of your phone calls, right? Or what about standing and talking to a mime that doesn’t respond to any of your questions? Boring! If you wouldn’t stand for this in your personal relationships, it’s no wonder consumers are beginning to lose interest in traditional outbound marketing techniques.

With the influx of demand generation and inbound marketing, you especially have to be at the top of your interactive game if you want your audience to engage with you. Out are the ways of one-way communication and largely blasted, non-unique campaigns. In is the more personalized marketing where you can truly have a conversation with your user.

 

Here are 4 interactive ways to make your business more engaging, and if done properly, your audience is sure not to ignore your metaphorical phone call.

1. Create a Dialogue

A dialogue is a 2-way exchange of information. A great opportunity for you to not only get out there and interact with your audience, but also to sit back and listen to what your customers have to say. Of course it’s great to have Twitter followers, and Facebook fans talking about your brand on social media, but these social ‘mentions’ don’t always equal more visits to your website.

In addition to your other social marketing engagement tactics, try out Spot.IM and turn your site into its own social network. This way, all of the dialogue between community members and your brand take place on your website, giving you more control of the flow, and increasing the time spent on your page.

 

2. Make your content speak to your audience (literally)

First impressions are everything when it comes to your brand’s reputation. Within the first 30 seconds of meeting someone we’ve already made up our mind on whether we like or trust them. The same goes for the content on your site, except in the case of your brand’s website you probably have around 5-8 seconds for your customers to make up their minds about you.

Although your site may be a machine and your users are interacting with your brand through the barrier of a physical device, the people behind all of this content are human. In order to remove this latency and humanize your brand, add video content.

Video content doesn’t have to require tons of labor and production teams, etc. Tools like Wideo allow anyone to customize professional looking video messages. This is the quickest and most efficient way to make a great first impression for your audience and get them connected and engaged on your site.

 

3. Let your audience have a say

If I’ve learned anything about the new age of modern marketing, it’s that our audience wants to have a voice too. With the rise of user generated content and social media, it’s easier than ever for them to voice their opinion.

One thing I always make sure of is that my audience has options. Now that everything is on demand, your users want to have the ability to choose how they wish to interact with your brand and feel as if they’re making an impact on the brands they love. This is why campaigns like the ‘Meet me at Starbucks’ are so successful, allowing people to tell their own personal stories and choose which ones they wish to watch.

This technique isn’t just reserved for the mega brands like Starbucks. Any small business can create an Interlude, an interactive ‘choose your own adventure’ video. Instead of your audience sitting passively to experience your video content, they’re engaged by choosing which way the story should go and ultimately putting the user in control of the content they’re viewing.

 

4. Give your content a makeover

With all of the innovative technologies and software solutions out there, it’s about time you start taking advantage of them. Innovators are constantly coming out with new ways to keep your audience engaged and excited about your brand.

After a while, I begin noticing my marketing techniques, and features on our website becoming redundant. So I set myself a reminder to review with the team every couple weeks, to see what new platforms we should be utilizing. I’ve noticed that users love interacting with new features and widgets, and that makes them all the more engaged.

I like to experiment with different tools and see which ones drive the greatest results. Vizrt software, for example is a management tool and a 3D animation graphic publisher used by many of the world’s leading broadcasters like CNN, Fox and BBC are utilizing this platform to engage their audiences in the most interactive way possible. They provide touch screen interactions; 3D maps, and integrates all social media channels to make the content highly shareable.

And with that I’d like to leave you with a quote that sums up the future of engagement and interactive marketing from Kevin Cain, the director of content strategy at OpenView. “We live in an age where we are all being bombarded with more content than we can possibly consume. As a result, if you want your content to stand out and have an impact, you have got to find ways to make it as engaging and interactive as possible. Content that you simply read is forgotten or, worse, completely overlooked.”

By Yoav Vilner

Yoav Vilner is a tech blogger at Forbes, Entrepreneur, Inc, TheNextWeb, VentureBeat and more. He’s also CEO at Ranky, a creative growth team for worldwide startups.

Sourced from business.com

Whether your customer decides to call it quits overtly, or silently goes away, this study will tell you what to do to stop others ditching you in the same way.

By MediaStreet Staff Writers

Companies invest billions each year in expensive customer service programs, sales forces, and sophisticated discounting programs such as Groupon. This is all to lure and retain customers, but they are shocked to realise that “churn” remains one of their biggest and most expensive challenges. (Your churn rate is how many people are leaving you over a specific period.)

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According to a new study, customers have a tendency to send clear signals before they “break up” with a company. But to catch it before it happens, you have to know what to be monitoring, and the key to any relationship remains effective communication.

The study was co-authored by Eva Ascarza and Oded Netzer of Columbia Business School, and Bruce G.S. Hardie of London Business School. It is unique in that it is one of the first to analyse “hybrid” settings, where customer could leave the service either by cancelling their account/unsubscribing or by stopping to interact with the service. As a result, firms operating in these settings, face two different types of churners: “overt churners,” who inform the firm about their disengagement with a company; and “silent churners” who tend to fade away more quietly simply by not making repeat purchases.

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The authors analysed customer behaviour in two different (hybrid) contexts: a daily deal website and a performing arts organisation. They separated overt churners from silent churners to understand and predict both types of churn and then explore possible levers to better manage the customer base.

“We have consistently found that overt churners tend to interact more, rather than less with a firm prior to disengaging with that firm,” said the authors. “This means that they will open emails they receive and read communications from a company, but it can be a mistake to assume that simply because a customer is engaged, he or she is satisfied and will not leave.” In turn, the research found that while overt churners may engage with the firm by opening emails and reading them, they rarely click on links in the emails, which suggests that the content is not perceived as valuable to them.

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“We have found that once a customer transitions into the “silently gone” state, the firm is highly unlikely to reengage the customer using previously used communication methods,” said the authors. “However, a more proactive and customised communication reduces the possibility that certain customers will leave silently”.

So there you have it. The trick is to intervene before they leave you to nurse your broken heart.

 

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Customers want to use VR to design rooms, customise products and shop with friends from across the world. Retailers – get ready for v-commerce, because others are already offering it.

By MediaStreet Staff Writers

Virtual reality shopping is on the way — and now new data shows how consumers want to use it.

Early tech adopter consumers are eager to use virtual reality technology to:

-Design rooms by visualising furniture and accessories assembled together in virtual “rooms”

-“Trying on” and customising products like jeans and eyeglass frames

-Taking virtual shopping “trips” with friends from across the country or around the world.

Many people said that they would like to use virtual rooms to see how items purchased online would look in their own rooms.

Those are among the key findings of a survey of 1,000 early-adopter consumers by global management consulting firm L.E.K. Consulting. The results show that “v-commerce” – a blend of e-commerce and brick-and-mortar shopping – is nearly here.

Savvy retailers will respond by investing in virtual reality technologies and starting to plan v-commerce strategies. Some, like Alibaba, The Gap, and Sephora have already started down this route.

“V-commerce brings the potential for entirely new shopping experiences and new kinds of added value,” says Dan McKone, Managing Director at L.E.K. “But there are risks for retailers – the initial investment is significant, and there are high costs for getting it wrong. Retailers need to do what they’ve always done – look to their consumers to point the way.”

Retailers are ramping up investment in two kinds of v-commerce technology. Firstly, there is “virtual reality” (VR), where consumers use headsets to enter a completely digital world. Secondly, there is the more-accessible “augmented reality” (AR), where the customer uses their camera-equipped smartphones to get information (such as prices and colour selections) overlaid on a picture of the physical showroom or shopping space.

“For retailers, the appeal is obvious,” says L.E.K. Managing Director Rob Haslehurst. “These technologies are a new way for retailers to do what customers want them to – create compelling shopping experiences and have rich communications with them.”

The L.E.K. survey of 1,000 consumers who had already experienced VR and AR technology was conducted in in the spring of 2017. Among the findings that help point the way for retailers:

  • Eighty percent want to use AR or VR to design a room or physical space by browsing virtual or physical showrooms, getting information about furniture and décor, and “seeing” what it looks like. Retailer Wayfair uses VR showrooms where customers can see a room come together as they fill their basket with products. Lowe’s Holoroom lets customers design a virtual room and then tour the space. Alibaba’s “Buy+” VR app allows consumers to browse and buy from the aisles of a virtual store, no matter where they are in physical space.
  • Seventy percent want to use v-commerce to try on clothes and accessories and to customise them. Consumers can start with an image of themselves on their smartphones, then search for the perfect shade of makeup or an eyeglass frame that perfectly suits them. The Gap and Sephora are already offering these AR applications.
  • Seventy percent are strongly interested in virtual shopping, where consumers use VR headsets to shop in a virtual store with a friend who isn’t physically present, or with an AI “virtual shopper” similar to Alexa or Siri.

V-commerce offers retailers considerable benefits. L.E.K. Managing Director Maria Steingoltz says “It can create new, special experiences that would otherwise not be possible, and that leads to greater consumer engagement. It enables retailers to unify physical and digital channels – brick-and-mortar retailers can bring digital capabilities into the store experience, and online-only retailers can create virtual ‘stores.’ And the rich experience can generate more sales — a customer can ‘see’ a sofa in his or her own living room, and then be shown the cushions, lamps and side tables that go with it.”

Retailers that want to take advantage of the v-commerce opportunity should:

  • Act immediately to make AR and VR a part of their digital strategy. “They’re not far out on the horizon – the time to think about them is now,” says Haslehurst.
  • Establish a compelling value proposition and define the business model. “Make sure customers understand from the first encounter how the technology solves their pain,” says Steingoltz. “And make sure to define the resources, concrete goals, and metrics for the project.”
  • Consider making alliances with technology leaders. “Retailers don’t need to be technology experts,” says Haslehurst. “Look for alliances that provide access to world-class technology and give technology makers a good story to tell.

“The future of v-commerce is still developing — but it’s time for retailers to start investing in it and creating consumer experiences that fill baskets and the revenue pipeline,” Steingoltz says.