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How Traditional Retailers Use Digital Marketing To Stay Relevant

A woman walks down a shopping mall escalator, showcasing how traditional retailers strive to stay relevant with digital marketing.

When we think of brands in the ecommerce space, we can usually split them up into two categories: Baby Boomers and Millennials/Gen Z.

Much like Millennial and Gen Z consumers, brands that launched after the digital revolution truly “grew up” with ecommerce. Think of digitally native brands like Allbirds, Away, and Casper who established their online strategy before ever opening a storefront.

On the other hand, brands like Sephora, Nordstrom, and Target are the Baby Boomers of online ecommerce. They’ve dominated retail for much longer, back when we solely shopped brick-and-mortar.

But now that digital marketing and mobile shopping are more popular, these brands had to adapt or die. In order to survive the Retail Apocalypse, they needed to figure out web design, social media, and email marketing.

But these traditional retailers are nothing like your Aunt who can’t figure out how to turn off the flashlight on her new iPhone X. In fact, they’ve managed to thrive thanks to savvy digital marketing and data harvesting, which has made them not only relevant but hard to ignore.

Here’s how the best brands  manage to keep the attention of customers old and new, combining old-school brand power with modern marketing tactics.

Sephora’s Smart Replenishment Campaigns

In every conversation about traditional retail merging with tech, Sephora comes up immediately. Not only does Sephora carry over 300 brands adored by makeup pros and novices alike, the beauty retailer also has a knack for personalization that has created fiercely loyal fans.

We’re especially impressed by their replenishment campaigns, which are impeccably timed so that when you start running out of your favorite face mask, for example, Sephora is already one step ahead. A few days or weeks before your product is gone, Sephora pops into your inbox with a helpful email reminding you that it’s time to restock.

It’s likely that Sephora dug into their customer data to find the average time between repeat purchases of the same product, to get precise insights into the timing of the send.

Replenishment campaigns are a smart move for Sephora as many of their products are Consumer Packaged Goods (CPGs) and will be reordered when they run out. However, they also provide suggestions for other popular face masks in case you haven’t committed to the last one you bought and are interested in trying out other options.

By using dynamic content based off each individual customer’s purchase history, these emails make it undeniably simple for customers to replace their favorite face mask or try an alternative with a few clicks.

Nordstrom’s Affinity For Personalization and Curation

While Nordstrom has always been a popular department store for luxury goods, they’ve recently managed to stay fresh in the minds of consumers by offering service-led retail.

With so many brands for both mens’ and womens’ fashions, shoppers can quickly get lost in a sea of product pages. For example, searching for women’s sandals gives you over 6,000 results.

After identifying customers’ desire for more personalization in their shopping experiences, Nordstrom acquired Trunk Club, a service that matches you with a personal stylist to send a curated box of items to your doorstep.

When you first sign up for Trunk Club, you’re given a questionnaire that allows you to fill out preferences such as size, style, color, pattern, and budget. This allows stylists to keep a database for each account, so they can narrow their scope when looking through inventory and provide personalized recommendations in each box.

Not only does this allow Nordstrom to take advantage of the growing trend of service-based retail, the boxes are tailored to each individual’s needs and are intelligently curated based off the styles they enjoy — no two boxes are the same.

This creates a more convenient way of shopping for customers, fosters a personal relationship between the client and brand, and allows Nordstrom to make personalized suggestions based on noted preferences.

Target’s Data-Driven Decision Making

While Target already sells an array of health and beauty products from some of the most beloved brands, they realized the opportunity to leverage customer data to expand their skincare line according to the interests of their shoppers.

Target’s newest skincare line, Versed, offers 19 products from facial serums to eye creams all under $20. But this wasn’t a decision made at random.

Instead, Target gathered information from partner and influencer Who What Wear’s 16 million monthly users, as well as 8,000 other community members, to better understand the beauty market.

By gathering these insights, they learned women were looking for affordable, nontoxic skincare that targets issues including wrinkles, under-eye bags, and blemishes. And they were looking for products that didn’t just have nice packaging, but actually worked.

Target looked into the data they collected and the trends they noticed, using it to inform the products they developed for the skincare line, as well as how they were made, what ingredients were used, and even how everything is packaged.

Whereas drugstores tend to stay stagnant when it comes to product offerings, Target is actively evaluating the market to determine what should be created or added.Additionally, by collecting customer data, the retailer took the guesswork out of what people were looking for to offer skincare selections they knew their customers would love.

The Advantage of Baby Boomer Brands

It might seem at first that these “Baby Boomer retailers” face more obstacles in adapting to ecommerce since they’ve had to make significant adjustments to their marketing over the years, but they also have one distinct advantage — years and years of in-depth customer data.

The longer a company has been around, the more historical data they have on their customers, which in turn puts these traditional retailers in a prime position to use that data for in-depth personalization in their marketing.

When legacy retailers like Sephora, Target, and Nordstrom harness unique customer insights, their age doesn’t define them — their marketing does. As long as retailers continue to innovate in ecommerce and hone into the customer data they have available, they’ll be to compete against the young, hip, digitally native brands.

This article was originally published by our friends at Zaius.

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