Advertising Week 2014

Retailers Should Put 'Connected Shoppers' at the Center of the Experience

Advertising Week: Give Consumers More Than Sales

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Michael Dill, managing partner at Match Marketing Group
Michael Dill, managing partner at Match Marketing Group
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Retailers are holding up millennials as the poster children for how consumers interact with brands in the digital world. But these days, nearly everyone is connected in some way. "We talk about them like they're this coveted albino spotted owl that's so elusive and so hard to find," said Michael Dill, managing partner at the shopper marketing agency Match Marketing Group. "There are many people using their mobile phones to shop, to share, to buy."

At Advertising Week, Mr. Dill profiled three types of "connected shoppers" -- home users, home users with some mobile experience, and those for whom the net is the norm. Here are four key takeaways for marketers seeking to understand their behaviors.

Put the shopper at the center of the experience

Learn what consumers want out of their shopping experience and cater it to their needs. Are they simply looking for sales? Or do they want a deeper connection that compliments what they get online? "The guys who are winning in conventional retail are the ones who are connecting the shopper with something richer," said Mr. Dill. He used Puma's mobile pop-up shop and Farmer's Fridge salad vending machine as examples of retailers who are employing creative techniques to reach consumers outside of the traditional store setting.

Understand how consumers connect

Shoppers are constantly connected to media devices, stores, experiences and one another. "The depth to which people connect" influences their path to purchase, said Mr. Dill. Retailers can use location services to build an experience that's unique to a particular demographic, like Walmart did with its express shops. They can also use media to engage people. Nordstrom places a Pinterest seal on its products to bring social to the physical store.

Shoppers see brands and retailers as providers

"A provider is not just a place to buy things. A provider is someone who gives me value, gives me engagement, gives me content," said Mr. Dill, who said consumers look to retailers as providers more often. They want to brands to entertain them, to show them what they can do with a product and who else is using it. "They're looking for a sensory experience," he said. In some cases, like in consumer-packaged goods, brands and retailers need to come together to create a unified approach.

Build an experience

"A brand experience is not a moment. It is a state of mind," said Mr. Dill. "It's something that's felt and emotional. It takes place over a long duration of time. And it takes place at every point where we touch the consumer with our brand." Panera has been successful, with higher price points than typical fast-food eateries, because it created a "civilized" eating experience for consumers in a fast-paced world.