Nigel Ashton - MSFT
Posted on 11/10/13

This weekend saw the peak retail period really get underway with the launch of a number of big UK Christmas TV campaigns.  The most high profile campaign was undoubtedly the John Lewis 2 minute 'film' during the X-Factor ad break.  This year's theme of the Hare and the Bear is aimed at creating an emotional bond between the retailer and the consumer.

There’s definitely more to the story. The art of great storytelling in fact comes down to simple biology. By creating stories and narratives that stimulate the different parts of the brain, brands (like John Lewis) give themselves a unique opportunity to make a real, lasting connection with target audience. The average consumer buys with their heart and justifies their purchase with their head, thus campaigns that stimulate both the left (emotional) and the right (rational) side have greatest potential to succeed, “a fully rational human being is emotional”. 

An ultimately every great story is one that we can easily connect with, entering our minds naturally because we live them, understand them, tell them, listen to them and repeat them every day. Many retailers are increasingly leaning towards emotional marketing to connect with the consumer through their left brain and engage on a whole new level.

Though marketers are also being respectful of the multiple screens consumers are now using.  Recent launches by Nokia, Apple and Tesco announcing new mini sized tablets or phablets remind us of the increasing need to meet the demand of consumers to be 'always on'.  In a recent report by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) consumers the number of searches on tablet devices in the three months to the end of September increased by 100%.   Total online retail searches were up also by 12% for the same period.

This year's theme of the Microsoft Retail Day early last month was the connected consumer.  Richard Lim, Head of Information at the BRC, opened the day with a State of the Nation address.  Richard introduced a very honest picture of today's high street and what the future holds for retailers in the digital age.  He reported how online sales accounted for £29 billion in 2012 and there were an estimated 287,100 retail outlets operating during that year.  However, there has been a structural shift on the high street with the expansion of online retailing, non-food in particular, putting pressure on the volume and role of physical stores.  One consequence of this is how retailers now require much less store space than 10 years ago and how retailing has evolved from the traditional big box style into multi-channel.

Faye Weeks, Head of Insight at Microsoft Advertising, revealed some key findings from Microsoft's new study into Retail and the Consumer Journey. The research identified two particular shopping decision journeys - the Habitual and the Considered - and the ways technology is having a discernible impact on how we shop.  Brands need to ensure they are invited into the shopping conversation, they are mindful of how to close the gap between the digital and in-store, they embrace show-rooming and they ensure consumers receive a more personalised service throughout the shopping experience.

Bridging the gap between online and in-store presents both a challenge and an opportunity for retailers. Consumers are saying they want to be inspired as well as informed.  Mike Lynskey, Microsoft Retail Specialist, and Stephen Eyre, Managing Director of consultancy InFusion, shared examples of how they are seeing today's retailers enter tomorrow's world using natural user interfaces to interact with their customers.  Retailers are now starting to explore how to take consumers from mass to personal merchandising, from the store's channels to the customer's channels and create engagement that goes from the standard to the standout.

This marrying of technology and consumer experiences was brought even further to life by Olivier Van Duuren, Senior Director Global Solutions Sales Strategy, and Warren Dias, Senior Solutions Specialist, both from Microsoft  In his presentation 'The Future is Here' Olivier took us on a journey  through how the consumers relationship with technology has matured over time. We heard about eight different trends that have influenced our expectations, desires, behaviours and attitudes towards devices and services.  One of these trends is how the social dynamics of the Living Room have evolved, driven by the explosion of connected devices and increasing consumption of content on demand.  As consumers we are now able search, surf and shop from the comfort of our sofas and Warren painted a fascinating picture of how Microsoft's Xbox platform is leading the revolution in the connected TV space.

The relationship between technology and retail has advanced considerably in the last 12 months and will the curve is likely to be very steep moving forward.  Consumers are showing how they want the shopping experience to be seamless and personal.  Online or in-store - it's just shopping right.  Retailers are having to play catch up fast in this fast growing connected world.


Nigel Ashton, Head of Retail, Microsoft Advertising UK

Tags: campaigns, Christmas, connected devices, digital, marketing, Retail, uk
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