From a customer engagement perspective, the ubiquitous nature of mobile devices presents retailers and brands with immense opportunities. But companies face challenges in implementing marketing strategies that satisfy their sales and conversion goals.

To succeed today, companies need to shift their thinking, Jason Grunberg, our Vice President of Marketing, said during a Q+A with WWD. He also discussed how mobile devices are redefining the scope of retail and fashion apparel marketing and how companies can better navigate the current environment.

WWD: How are mobile devices transforming fashion apparel, beauty and luxury retailing?

Jason Grunberg: Mobile is not just about “mobile” — it’s about e-mail, web, apps, social and in-store. Mobile has the power to connect all of those channels, and it’s this concept that is having the most transformative impact on fashion apparel, beauty and luxury retailing. Brands in these spaces — and in many others — are still structured to operate in a channel and campaign-centric world, but they are having to rethink organizational design, data management, campaign management and many other facets of the customer experience simply because consumers do not think about which channel or campaign they respond to, they just engage as it fits their needs in the moment.

These changes on the inside of an organization can unlock incredible opportunity for driving value for consumers. Think about how Sephora uses their loyalty program to link all channels and is able to offer recommendations on-site or in-store based on AR technologies in the mobile app; how Nordstrom is now acquiring tech companies like MessageYes for mobile ecommerce; how organizations like the TechStyle Fashion Group are building significant parts of their tech stack and partnering with organizations like Sailthru for cross-channel campaign management. All of these moves are founded in thinking that is customer first, which means it’s also thinking mobile-first.

mobile first

WWD: What do brands and retailers need to consider in a “mobile first, consumer-centric” market?

JG: Retailers have to consider the complete customer experience when they are considering mobile. Brands need to not only understand their buyers, but must also develop a plan for execution based on where their customers will see most benefit in terms of experience and efficiency so that the brand can, in turn, keep them loyal and continue to increase revenue.

With mobile being far more than just a channel — it being a nexus for the customer experience – what is daunting for most brands is the accelerated timeline for innovation that mobile is forcing across email, web, mobile messaging, mobile apps, social, and in-store in terms of connectivity across these channels, rather than simply in these channels. Brands and retailers need to shift to focus on the dynamic nature of experience in order to increase lifetime customer value and other critical metrics, rather than having their e-mail team focus on how amazing that e-mail campaign going out next week looks.

WWD: What technologies and strategies are needed from a customer engagement perspective? And how can companies anticipate further changes? How do you get ahead of the curve?

JG: At Marigold Engage by Sailthru, we believe that brands never engage the same consumer twice. Individuals are always evolving; think about how your day today was different than yesterday in terms of what you did, what food you craved, what clothes you browsed online, what impulse needs you had to fulfill.

With this in mind, the only way to truly get ahead of the curve is to get ahead of your customers. This takes the coordination of campaign management, automation, personalization and predictive analytics across key channels so that you’re predicting what actions an individual will take, such as whether or not they will purchase in the next 24 hours, and then personalizing your engagement based on where they are most likely to engage and what content is most likely to drive conversion.

conversion rate

Doing this at scale across a total customer base seems daunting, and it would be if a brand were looking to achieve this by cobbling together multiple technologies. There are real-time solutions for this in the marketplace that many digital-first retailers are leveraging. It’s now up to the old guard to start operating in this manner. Many of these retailers view this as risky, but I’d argue that there’s more risk in not innovating in terms of tech.

This Q+A was originally published in WWD.