Pick the right future

Aimia’s digital futures report offers four possible visions of the future that retailers are facing, and only one of them is positive. The dystopia envisioned makes for a worrying outlook if retailers don’t get a handle on how to use data.

Rosie

All the scenarios will be familiar to retail marketers and all could potentially materialise in the not too distant future but only one of the four versions of the future lead to long term profitability and positive relationships between brands and consumers, according to the report. The others lead to “customer rebellion” and inevitably a brand’s failure.

Aimia’s study puts the success in the future down to how well retailers and brands balance consumer control over personal information and the level of engagement. Martin Hayward, Aimia’s vice president of global digital strategy will present the report and offer advice to marketers at Marketing Week Live today (27 June).

Future one, ‘offer anarchy’ is a bleak vision where relationships are transaction driven and consumer behaviour is ruled by deal seeking. Data is loosely controlled, brands earn limited loyalty and consumers are frustrated and fatigued by too many communications from marketers. Sound familiar?

Future two, ‘pay to play’, is a little more optimistic. It sees a future where data is given more value and brands, in recognition of this will pay for access to customer information through offering increased rewards.

In Aimia’s future three, ‘the hunt for affinity’,  things are starting to look up. It recognises a realisation that there is more value in long term loyal relationships between consumers and brands built on relevance.

But it is future four that Aimia identified as the sweet spot for brands, where relationships become ‘real’ and both brands and customers benefit from a “virtuous partnership”.

It seems idealistic to put it like this and there are many complexities to deal with, but if marketers want to build these long-term profitable relationships with customers they must give consumers control over how and when their data is used.

Another stark warning I gleaned from the report is around the emergence of “always on” marketing, enabling progress in digital and mobile channels.

Stats such as: More than half (58 per cent) of UK consumers connect through three or more devices and that 72 per cent of people connect with brands through Facebook are tempered by others that show almost half (46 per cent) think they already receive to many marketing emails and only 12 per cent look forward to receiving them.

A third of marketing emails already get deleted before they are even opened, the report continued.

The temptation to do more digital marketing because there are more options available and more opportunities to reach customers at any time, day or night, is unlikely to breed the kind of loyalty brands are seeking. It is more likely to destroy it.

Likewise because brands now have access to more data and customer information than ever before, they must show restraint over how they use it or risk damaging rather than developing loyalty.

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