Why is Marketing Integration So Difficult for Retailers?


Looking back through all the blogs  that we at Flock have written and all the videos on our channel, I was really interested to see that of all the examples of fantastic integrated marketing we have featured, there have been very few case studies that have mentioned a retailer.

So, why is it so hard for retailers to produce breath taking integrated marketing campaigns and what are the factors that affect their ability to deliver integration more than other categories? After some consideration, here is a few of the things that complicate the marketing integration task.

1. An increasingly complex channel mix
For most marketers, true marketing integration aligns the messaging, the tone, the look and feel and the idea behind the campaign. The TV advertising and the press should work hand in hand, the social channels should start and conduct conversations that amplify the campaign message, that entertain and are a true reflection of what the brand believes in. Ultimately every touch point should deliver a consistent message and leave consumers with a clear understanding of the proposition and campaign.

For all marketers, whatever industry, this is not straight forward, but for retailers there is an additional set of increasingly complex channels that make the task even more challenging.

Alongside the traditional media channels, digital channels and social channels retailers also have to manage both the on and offline shopping experiences. For today’s consumers these are expected to be aligned and interchangeable allowing them to seamlessly move between the two worlds. Ensuring that campaign and brand messaging across your commerce channels is uniform (and does not compromise sales) is harder than it may appear.

And, if any of these multiple touchpoints vary, are out of sync or feel disconnected, the campaign is diluted and will fail to operate as effectively as it could.

2. Communicating with a small army of people
This is another critical element that needs to be included into the mix that can make or break the success of your marketing. For a retailer, their most potent brand expression, the most meaningful interaction, the face of the brand, is its people. The store colleagues/partners/staff,  really are your front line.

Without effective internal communication, all the hard work that goes into integrating the campaign across the marketing board is wasted. If your people get it wrong, do not know about the latest deal or seem more interested in which pub they are going to after work, than giving the consumer the information they need, then no matter how integrated your brand and marketing activity is you have failed at the final hurdle.

3. The focus on short term sales

In a number of the retail organisations that I have worked for and with, the Monday morning trading meeting could make or break a marketers week. The need to chase short term sales by changing marketing plans, adapting or altering advertising and throwing money in to support a campaign to bolster share and sales deflects all attention from long term planning and often means that this is abandoned or half heartedly delivered in the rush to impact on tomorrow’s performance.

Neglecting long term plans can only result in less well thought through, less cohesive and less integrated activity.

4. Departmental silos / wars

Ok – it is not quite war but everywhere I have worked there has been issues with Commercial/Buying vs Marketing. One buys the product and so knows it inside out, the other represents the consumer who will ultimately buy it – but who knows best? With a constant internal battle for ‘all things advertising’ and the need to placate suppliers that are funding your marketing activity the marketing departments ability to deliver integrated, effective campaigns is severely hampered. I think that this is particularly exacerbated in retailers where they do not manufacture their stock but buy it in from suppliers. The Commercial/buying team is often tasked with generating marketing funding and will usually have strong opinions (along with the supplier) on where this is to be spent. In these instances it is easy to lose sight of driving integration and optimising your marketing activity.

So 4 big challenges, but they are not insurmountable. You just need to look at the most talked about Christmas 2013 campaigns in the UK. A good chunk of these are from retailers – John Lewis, Sainsbury’s, Aldi etc and their success has been widely documented. Each campaign would have been rigorously planned, developed business wide, with every consumer touch point mapped, short term concerns would not be able to side track this activity and the role out and internal communication of these would have been managed meticulously.

So, if you have started thinking about future activity and want a fully integrated and optimised campaign let us know, we would be happy to help and now is a good time to start working on it. Contact us here.

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