The consumer market continues to make drastic shifts in its shopping habits and retail expectations. With big hitters like Amazon and Walmart establishing the standards for organizations regardless of size, how does a company compete? As a retailer in the sports industry, many of our solutions apply to businesses outside of our vertical asking themselves the same question. Companies must leverage new technologies to ensure an enjoyable user experience, stress exceptional customer service, nurture brand loyalty, emphasize thought leadership within and outside the organization, and frequently analyze consumer behavior to differentiate your business from the conglomerate.
Leverage New Technology to Better Engage the Consumer
New technologies to listen, communicate, engage, and analyze consumer behavior and performances are rapidly emerging. Adopting technologies like visual marketing and referral platforms will increase the way a consumer discovers and engages with a brand. Millennials are the driving force in this changing landscape of mainstream media and the largest consumers of user-generated content (UGC).
Brand engagement increases by 28% when consumers are exposed to both professional content and UGC, supporting growing evidence that finds consumers who see UGC during their purchase journey have a 4.6 percent higher conversion rate according to visual commerce platform, Olaic. Referral platforms and third party reviews are proven methods to acquire a customer’s trust, resulting in increased conversions. Companies can utilize their CRM/ERP data to better segment customers in order to deliver relevant and timely communications. As technology advances and the better we are able to make actionable and meaningful connections from this data, the better a company will be able to create a more seamless and intuitive omni-channel customer experience; proactively meeting customer needs with increasingly more accurate product recommendations and content based on search, purchase, and preference history, to name a few.
Measuring Up Against Goliath
Evaluating the sports industry, or more specifically the triathlon industry, there are many obvious major hurdles. Some of these obstacles include greater competition in endurance events taking participants away from multisport (i.e. races like Ragnar, Spartan, etc.) and fewer local beginner-friendly races as more participants compete in less races over the year and opt for one costly event. Being a niche retailer in a shrinking sport and competing against colossal companies with vast resources, how does one compete at these great odds? Besides adopting new technology to optimize the consumer experience as previously discussed, the emphasis should focus on delivering exceptional customer service, constant education for customers and employees, and developing brand loyalty and partnerships. Customer service is the key to winning consumer loyalty. Technology will complement the customer service component, but it boils down to the amount of education and care delivered from your staff that will make the biggest impression. A well-trained staff may be your biggest asset as they offer conflict resolution, product education, and promote brand trust when interacting with clients.
Employing a loyalty program is another way to further enhance brand loyalty. With a loyalty program in place consumers are incentivized for repeat business. These programs are the simplest ways to gather customer data and insights into behavior. Businesses are able to connect across multi-channels and directly reward people for this behavior when using a loyalty program. When executed well, the program nurtures cross-channel engagement, actionable data, and the opportunity to connect with a more responsive audience, contributing to a better customer-centric operation.
Be a Thought Leader
Thought leadership has become a corporate buzzword these days, so pardon the lack of a better term, but the term has gained popularity for a reason. Essentially, a thought or knowledge leader is a trusted resource with in-depth knowledge and insight into the many areas of its industry. Chicago-based marketer Jean Van Rensselar explained, “In almost every industry, there is an unmet need for insightful information that customers and prospects can use now.” Positioning your company as a thought leader is cost-effective and as basic as providing valuable information that is relative to your consumer and others in your industry, without asking for anything in return. Develop insightful and educational content often and you’ll quickly reap the benefits as you become that trusted voice.
Meeting the Needs of Customers Today
Constant analysis of how consumers are interacting and engaging with your brand is a must in today’s fast-paced marketplace. Utilize the technology you already have in place to examine consumer data and trends to develop better engaging campaigns across the various platforms. Consumers today are less concerned about cyber security, and more concerned with a hyper-personalized experience. As customers access your brand on multiple platforms (mobile, tablet, desktop, social), it is imperative that the experience is seamless with consistent messaging and branding across every platform and channel of interaction. As a company competing in today’s highly segmented, yet broadly connected environment, one must be agile and quick to assess what is working and what is not. By leveraging emerging technologies, ensuring a customer-centric focus, creating valuable content as a knowledge leader, and frequent evaluation of consumers, a company can prevail when faced with colossal competition.
About the Author
Seton Claggett is the founder and CEO of TriSports.com, one of the world’s premier triathlon stores. He founded the company with his wife, Debbie, in 1999 while attending the University of Arizona where he earned a BS and MS in Hydrology as well as a degree in Entrepreneurship. Mr. Claggett has been active in the multisport and triathlon industry since 1987, racing in hundreds of races including the Ironman World Championships. Mr. Claggett earned a BS and MS in Hydrology as well as a degree in Entrepreneurship from the University of Arizona.