First-ever Digital Marketing Research Behind the Fastest Growing Retailers


Welcome to my first research report surrounding the customer experience in retail environments.  Retail Touchpoints Exposed! is the 16th research report in ExactTarget’s SUBSCRIBERS, FANS, & FOLLOWERS research series. In the following pages, we share with you the findings of our in-depth study of the 100 fastest growing retail chains in the United States. Our objective is to document how and whether these retailers are seeking to build and engage proprietary consumer audiences in ongoing email, mobile, and social communications.

The Customer Experience. Mere invocation of the words makes seasoned retail marketers misty for the days when they controlled every aspect of the customer’s journey from parking lot to purchase. Today, however, the customer experience that retailers work so hard to create is under siege thanks to internet-enabled smartphones, barcode scanning apps, and comparison shopping tools. Indeed, the balance of informational power has shifted to consumers, and retailers are scrambling to fend off competition in every aisle of their own stores.

For those retailers hoping to avoid the fate of Borders, Circuit City, and Tower Records, all eyes are focused on optimization. Revenue optimization. Website optimization. Brand optimization. Product optimization. Loyalty optimization. Lost for many retailers in this pressure-packed environment is another form of optimization—audience optimization. Today’s retailers are no longer creatures of mass media alone. To thrive and survive, they must earn and own audiences across an amazing array of email, mobile and social channels. The retail brands that can best leverage their consumer touchpoints to build, nurture, and grow their audiences won’t just have direct lines of communications to potential customers, they’ll have a distinct competitive advantage over competitors who fail to build such audiences.

In Retail Touchpoints Exposed!, we tracked each retailer’s efforts at five specific retail consumer touchpoints:

  1. In-Store
  2. Website
  3. Email
  4. Social Networks
  5. Mobile Channels

While one might automatically assume that the “Hot 100 Retailers” are fully leveraging their touchpoints to maximize both the size and engagement of proprietary email, mobile, and social audiences, we found quite the opposite. Consider that of the Hot 100 Retailers with brick and mortar stores, only:

  • 2% used in-store signage to promote email or SMS (text message) engagement
  • 8% used in-store signage to promote their social communities on Facebook, Twitter, etc.
  • 44% sought email opt-in at point-of-purchase
  • 2% offered digital copies of receipts via email

Online, the story was equally striking. Among the Hot 100 Retailers with eCommerce websites, only:

  • 22% send cart abandonment emails
  • 21% personalized emails after online purchase
  • 51% saw fans answer customer questions on Facebook before the brand itself

If there is one lesson to be learned, it is that even the fastest growing retailers have room to improve their level of consumer engagement before, during, and after the initial sale. By exposing where retail touchpoints could be better leveraged to build engaged audiences, we hope to inspire marketers of all stripes—retail or otherwise—to embrace the full potential that email, mobile, and social channels hold for their organizations.

Over the next few weeks we will be breaking down each retail consumer touchpoint and detailing our experience within some of the hottest growing retailers in the nation.

If you would like to learn more about Retail Touchpoints Exposed - download the report here.

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