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The Revival Of The High Street Through Data Collaboration

For many towns across the country, the high street is the commercial and social hub, where people come to shop, drink, eat and enjoy themselves. The announcement from Gap on its intention to close all 81 of its bricks-and-mortar stores is, however, just the latest of a long line of retailers who have decided to close the doors of their physical stores. This is in direct contrast to the e-commerce sector which has seen online retailers thrive and grow as a result of the pandemic. 

Thriving high streets are an integral part of the UK economy, but physical retail has had a tough 18 months, marred by repeated lockdowns, and rapidly expanding online competition. Brands recognize that in order to survive, they must evolve. 

As e-commerce continues to go from strength to strength, traditional retailers need to look to digital and data-driven strategies to reconnect with their customers and compete with the online giants. 

Data is the most important tool that marketers have. The ability to harness customer, shopper and transaction data to connect with customers, identify new ones, and measure the success of campaigns is absolutely crucial.

Ecommerce and online retailers are acutely aware of this and have built their entire advertising strategy around data. High street retailers have, so far, been behind the curve – but it is not too late to rectify this and create a digital transformation success story.  

Many retailers have the potential to develop an insightful and sophisticated data strategy with their first-party data – but without knowing how to use data effectively, it is redundant. That’s why retailers need secure, configurable, privacy-first, and neutral tools to extract customer intelligence from their data. Furthermore, enabling their suppliers to benefit from said data, without having to share or expose the underlying data, creates new opportunities for brands to funnel marketing budgets towards in-store sales. By bringing the personalization of digital to physical, high-street retail has the potential to meet – and even exceed – the experience of online. Such a strategy allows brands to deliver more impactful consumer experiences, irrespective of channel, and for retailers to deepen their relationship with, and increase the quality of the experience they offer to their shoppers. 

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Recent regulatory changes, as well as evolving restrictions from device manufacturers, have underscored the need to focus on first-party data. Although Google has now announced that the end of third-party cookies will come at the end of 2023, delayed from the original date of early 2022, businesses still need to act now to explore the best strategies to maintain a clear and consented view of their customer and ensure they are mitigating against risks in a moving regulatory landscape. 

It goes without saying that marketers have significantly benefited from third-party cookies – it transformed the digital advertising ecosystem. Delivering more personalized experiences for their customers and being able to effectively measure the performance of advertising campaigns is undoubtedly more efficient. 

Their removal will not spell the end of personalized marketing in retail – in fact, it opens the door to a more privacy-focused approach driven by first-party data. 

There are marketing strategies that will enable these brands to continue to compete with their e-commerce rivals, in the form of privacy-safe data collaborations, offering brands the ability to learn from their retailers (and vice versa) without either party having to move, share or expose valuable customer data.

Not only can the combining of data between a retailer’s online and in-store sales channels provide a more cohesive customer profile and therefore more targeted marketing output, but also the sharing of data insights between retailers can answer unsolved questions and fill in the blanks, improving business outcomes overall. 

Connecting sales data from both e-commerce and in-store purchases will be crucial to improving the customer experience. To provide something unique that cannot be rivaled by the e-commerce giants – advertisers must first understand who they are trying to reach. 

A company’s first-party data, when harnessed, has the potential to be priceless, but it brings limitations when used in isolation. Retailers must explore new avenues of data insights to find out what they don’t know about their customers and ensure resources are being optimized.

Data collaboration between retailers and the brands they house will tell a more holistic story about where your customers are in their buying journey and what they are looking for. For example, a beauty brand aiming to expand its customer base could collaborate with a large online beauty retailer and gather more insights into who is searching for the type of products they sell, and then use this to refine the timing and targeting of their strategy. All this can be done in a completely secure and privacy-driven way, without sharing any personal information. 

The British high-street will benefit immensely by embracing safe and proven strategies from digital that drive deeper customer insights and data to help brands engage with their consumers and drive more motivated buyers in-store. With digital transformation accelerating at pace, the growth of e-commerce and online sales channels does not need to be seen as a threat to the high street, but rather an opportunity that should be relished.

[To share your insights with us, please write to sghosh@martechseries.com]

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