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9 Must-Have Retail + Travel Solutions for Marketers: Where to Go From Here

Please note: Due to Forrester guidelines, only the SmarterHQ speaking portion of our “2020 Retail + Travel Predictions: Where to Go From Here” webinar was recorded for distribution. Watch the recording here.

Way before COVID-19, Forrester predicted that 2020 would be “yet another tumultuous year.” Though they couldn’t have possibly known just how true that statement would become, they were prepared for a new decade filled with great uncertainty, sweeping changes, and alternate ways in which brands would need to position themselves for long-term growth and profitability.

In a recent webinar, we had the opportunity to speak with Brendan Witcher, VP/Principal Analyst, Digital Business Strategy at Forrester, about these predictions further and just how much the consumer, Retail, and Travel & Hospitality landscape has shifted amidst a global health crisis.

Here’s a recap of what we discussed, along with the key strategies and solutions brands can leverage to adapt and drive growth moving forward:

COVID-19’s Impact on Consumer Behavior + Martech Priorities

As Brendan put it, 2020 truly is “the year of uncertainty.” For consumers, their concerns go beyond the pandemic, with many equally concerned with the financial crisis in play. They’re also anxious about being placed in situations where they can’t control the contact they have with others—whether that be at a restaurant, non-grocery shopping, domestic or international travel, socializing and leisure activities, or their own workplace. They’ve also embraced the move to online spending: 41% of consumers say they’re buying more online than they normally do.

Martech priorities have shifted in response, as many businesses are simply trying to stay afloat—they’re laser-focused on reopening strategies, doing what they can to maximize sales, and prepping for ongoing consumer hesitations to return to stores and travel. Brendan expects investments to also shift towards marketing and personalization tactics in order to offset challenges now and into the holiday season, with the top five tech investments of 2020 being:

  1. Advanced analytics/data analysis tools
  2. Omnichannel capabilities
  3. Personalization technologies
  4. AI/machine learning solutions
  5. Loyalty programs

Ultimately, brands should be hyperfocused on addressing and alleviating customer concerns and making them feel safe and excited to engage with your brand both in the short and long term.

9 Solutions + Strategies for Your Top Marketing Challenges

Marketers understand that identifying and understanding their customers’ behaviors across channels and personalizing to them in real time is more important than ever throughout COVID-19, the rest of 2020, and beyond. But this can be incredibly hard to execute effectively, especially with less budget and fewer team members.

Here’s how to tackle the top challenges you’re facing right now and in the months/year to come:

1. Challenge: Seeing little growth or progress toward priorities using existing tools.

    Solution: Customer Data Platform (CDP)

    • Advanced data and analytics, omnichannel capabilities, personalization, AI/machine learning, loyalty—many marketers look to their existing tech stack to solve problems/fulfill these priorities, yet find themselves years down the road with very little progress made.
    • There’s a reason for that: Today’s marketing clouds were not originally built with data comprehension in mind. They started as simple send engines, then adapted to become a more sophisticated batch-and-blast ESP. Marketing clouds now give access to more delivery channels—but to bring all customer interactions together, many rely on expensive consulting partners to stitch everything together. And once set up, it can be very costly to adjust or optimize anything.
    • Enter Customer Data Platforms (CDP). This is a category of new(er) technology that was originally built with customer data in mind. They are usually very adaptable to any marketing system you are currently using.
    • A CDP centralizes multichannel data and provides a single view of behaviors to accurately engage customers on an individual level throughout their journey. There are different types and uses depending on your specific business needs, so be sure to read this post for a quick breakdown of CDPs.

    A CDP like SmarterHQ can also help solve for the other eight challenges below...

    2. Challenge: Lost in-store or on-property sales and reopening communications.

    Solution: Offline Data + Campaigns

    • Re-engage previous in-store shoppers or frequent travelers with tailored content about store/property openings in their area, safety measures, and discounts to drive them back.
    • Identify which in-store shoppers have also bought online during the pandemic and tailor messages that keep them cross-channel.
    • Personalized post-purchase or post-stay campaigns are great for driving loyalty and engaging in-store and online purchasers.

    3. Challenge: Inventory management and real-time, automated updates.

      Solution: Product/Booking Alerts

      • Marry real-time product catalog changes and trigger back in stock alerts to those who viewed, carted, previously purchased.
      • Price drop and low inventory alerts drive urgency for the items, properties, services customers care about.
      • Replenishment reminders let them know when to refill or replace favorites.
      • Wishlist alerts let customers know when saved items are low/back in stock or on sale. These alerts are especially important to leverage closer to holidays, too.

      4. Challenge: Personalizing blast sends based on changing behavior.

        Solution: Personalization Modules

        • A quick way to make your blast sends highly relevant to individual customer activity without additional creative or production time.
        • Modules can show loyalty status info or exclusive offers giving an extra nudge.
        • Modules can highlight high-value inventory, top sellers by category, browsed items.
        • Also can showcase machine learning-driven product recommendations matched to an individual customer or product within these modules.

        5. Challenge: Identifying high-value customers/products + reactivation.

          Solution: Smarter Predictions

          • Smarter Predictions are SmarterHQ’s dynamic, self-tuning models that track historical, real-time, and cross-channel actions a customer is or isn’t taking to automate messages that anticipate their next move.
          • Identify and convert customers who are high value vs. low value spenders, likely to book or buy in the near future, highly engaged non-purchasers, and reactivate disengaging customers. See campaign details and creative examples.
          • Uncover which products or product combinations drive the most value in a given time period and push these in content.

          6. Challenge: Launching a seamless push notification experience.

            Solution: Personalized Mobile Push

            • This in-the-moment interaction is on the rise, and competition is high as more brands use this method to engage during COVID-19. But mobile is often siloed from other channels.
            • Be sure you can target product recs and promotions based on a customer’s app, web, post-purchase, and even in-store behavior.
            • Prioritize and coordinate push with other campaigns to combat over-messaging or annoying customers. Suppress and be careful who you send to—push is still considered “creepy” to some.

            7. Challenge: Accommodating rural tourism and staycations.

            Solution: Push Nearby Properties

            • With road trips on the rise this year, there may be an uptick and opportunity to promote nearby locations and hotel staycations.
            • Move away from mass sends. Leverage geo-targeting and personalized triggers with the vacation that best fits their current needs.
            • Push staycation-focused content catered to customers living in a city with nearby properties. Add tips for nearby activities, amenity perks, outdoor dining, room service.

            8. Challenge: Ongoing travel hesitations and restrictions.

              Solution: Shift Promos to 2021

              • Continue to educate and update customers on safety measures and precautions so they’ll feel safe with you once they’re ready to travel.
              • Shift targeted offers to 2021 and decrease 2020 promotions—prioritize current offers to those who have booked recently or are actively browsing 2020 dates.
              • Ease hesitation by making the bookings you do offer this year no risk with a full refund and clearly communicate your insurance policy.

              9. Challenge: No time, resources, flexibility to make sudden changes.

              Solution: Business Rule Optimizations

              • Evaluate your current set of business rules and customer journeys. Clients who have done this have seen big results just from optimizing current campaigns.
              • Reduce frequency capping and cross-campaign suppressions to stay top of mind.
              • Treat this period similar to your holiday or seasonal data and keep it separate.
              • Leverage YoY purchase data for segmentation and include product recs in ad-hoc sends and triggers.

              For creative examples and additional details about all of the above, watch the webinar recording. Due to Forrester guidelines, only the SmarterHQ speaking portion of this webinar was recorded for distribution.