From Airbnb to Google and Alibaba, digital platforms have radically changed the retail landscape. I see first-hand the impact of this change every day, as we help clients come to terms with new consumer behaviours and disruptive competitors.
The solution? For marketers, it means transforming their approaches to fundamentals such as the four Ps of marketing – price, promotion, place and product.
In fact, these changes are so far-reaching that I now consider platforms as the fifth P of marketing.
But there is an upside – platforms offer huge growth opportunities. The likes of Amazon and Facebook allow businesses to expand their reach, open up new markets, access rich new sources of customer data and target consumers more effectively.
I find the biggest challenge for many marketers is coming to grips with how digital platforms have democratised markets and turned retail on its head – so that consumers, not brands, are now in control.
But by putting platforms at the centre of your marketing strategies, you’ll be able to address these challenges while taking advantage of the opportunities.
Here’s how taking a platform-focused approach to the four Ps can deliver growth.
Working with platforms and data can also help you improve your products, services and value proposition in powerful ways. For example, Unilever uses data from Alibaba’s Tmall to provide custom products for the Chinese market, such as its Purifi skin cleanser.
In fact, an increasing number of traditional companies outside the technology sector are creating their own digital platforms. L’Oréal, for example, has an advanced digital ecosystem that taps into multiple platforms in China. In one partnership with Alibaba to drive its men’s products, the company used big data to capture and segment potential customers, and personalise marketing with targeted free trials.
A common example of retail’s democratisation is how disruptive companies to use techniques such as price scraping and dynamic pricing. At the same time, consumers can now easily compare prices across digital platforms.
The result: downward pressure on pricing and even price wars.
It’s therefore crucial that you regain control of pricing – and you can achieve this through clear governance guidelines. Make sure your staff, distributors and partners understand and adhere to those guidelines. And while it’s crucial to forge partnerships with the key digital platforms in your target markets, it’s just as important that those partnerships allow you to stay in control of your pricing.
However, consumers also want and expect great shopping and brand experiences. So it’s vital that you provide this and consider other ways to make your value proposition less reliant on price.
However, as consumers spend increasing amounts of time on different platforms, it can be a big challenge to spread and optimise your marketing spend across all of them.
Data is again the key to getting this balance right. For example, if your company has own data lakes and analytics systems, you can aggregate and compare real-time figures from different platforms, channels and campaigns. This will help you quickly identify market trends and optimise your marketing spend across those platforms.
Leveraging data from platforms will also help you identify hotspots and other demand fluctuations. It can form a vital part of a supply chain synchronization strategy to optimise distribution and effectively manage your sales force.
Platforms also give small companies the ability to be just as effective at reaching customers as big-name brands. Consumers are constantly bombarded with promotions via social media, websites, email and other channels. As a result, finding the best ways to reach consumers can be challenging for marketers.
In addition, the rise of social commerce and consumer-to-consumer digital platforms adds further complexity when trying to reach customers.
The solution is to tap into the enormous amount of data that digital platforms offer. With this data you can gain the insights needed to target and re-target customers more effectively.
This data is also crucial for implementing the personalisation that customers now expect.
And the next step? Artificial intelligence for even more advanced customisation. AI will ensure you reach the right consumers with the right promotions in the right channels at the right times.
Reshaping marketing strategies to leverage platforms isn’t easy. It requires a trusted partner with deep expertise in retail, e-commerce, digital platforms, and the technologies and processes driving those platforms.
Accenture’s Singapore-based Consumer Insights and Growth Practice has that expertise. We provide an end-to-end service, from identifying digital requirements and defining marketing strategies to establishing partnerships with platforms and implementing technologies.
Throughout the process, we focus on three key areas, including:
For more details, check out Accenture’s Consumer Insights and Growth unit.