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Marketing tech to retailers in 2023

Marketing to retailers in 2023

Retailers’ attention spans have always been short.  But in 2023, tech vendors will need to work even harder to get retailers’ attention.

There should be no doubts as to how important it is to continue to influence in your market, however your sales channel is performing. We can name dozens of companies that simply faded away because they did not work hard and continuously – or even at all – on relationships with retailers and brands, partners, the media, social media, analysts and influencers and trade event organisers.

The most successful tech brands in retail are those that understand that the old rules of marketing still apply.

We can split hairs over whether to call it lead generation or demand generation, but the fundamentals still apply – communicate compelling differentiators, demonstrate value, show that you understand what might come next and provide proof; and do this continuously and often to all your stakeholders.

Here is our advice for marketing tech to retailers in 2023.

Build relationships with external influencers

This is more important than ever because you are unlikely to have a direct line to retailers. Posting to LinkedIn does not make you an influencer, but it is one way to reach them.

Who are these influencers? They are your partners, your partners’ partners, the media, industry analysts and a growing cohort of hybrid influencers, who may be some or all of the above.

Stop thinking you can do this all online. You need to get out there and show up where influencers are. Yes. events are expensive but they are more important than ever. Run a stand. Sponsor a lunch. Get yourself and your clients on a panel. Relationships are being made right now at public events. If you in the office on Zoom, you may as well not have got up this morning.

What this gives you is the first thing sales and marketing created – word of mouth. Remember, conversion starts with a conversation.

In the age of digital, it is more important than ever and, in our experience, it is working better than ever.

And it doesn’t stop there, working with influencers can not only help vendors reach their target personas, but it can also help to build trust and authority, reach new prospects and open-up new markets or vertical segments.

Build relationships with internal influencers

This used to be called challenger marketing and is now the stuff of Account Based Marketing. What gets reinvented though basically stays the same, it’s just that the former was once the exclusive domain of the sales team; now it has moved to external agencies that offer ABM, on the assumption that it has all become too complicated for the marketing team to manage. No comment – we have seen it work effectively when managed either way, it depends more on the organisational set up and processes to manage ABM, rather than one route being better than the other.

Either way, in recognition of the fact that the decision making process within the retail business is getting longer, more complicated and involves more people, it makes sense to influence wide as well as deep.

This demands an investment in researching the various personas, understanding how each reads the tech market, what content they respond to and how they feedback. This should enable the creation of customer journey maps; emphasis on the word ‘journey’ because so many campaigns do a thing and then stop.

Breadth and depth in content will be important – market reports, infographics, videos, webinars, articles, blogs – as internal influencers access more and more channels, each with their own peculiar content needs and preferences around which channel they consumer content in.

And this content should also be more user generated. There has always been a dearth of case studies and testimonials in tech, and particularly in retail as the users continue to be reticent to letting their vendors reference them. But the effort pays off and it is remarkable how often a retailer will say ‘yes’ to publicity if they are asked again, having said ‘no’ at the start of a project. Time your ask to get the best chance of a positive outcome.

This rich content can then be used on all the usual places, but also on the newer channels such as TikTok. Why not? Internal influencers are human too, meaning they are also looking at YouTube and Instagram.

It is also reasonable to assume that these same people might want to interact with content that is otherwise static, in the mistaken belief that serious means boring.

Make it easier to get found

So much of what was free for so many years has disappeared behind a paywall, to the extent that some so-called research companies are earning money from someone else’s content simply by sticking a paywall on the front and then sharing the proceeds with the research owner. And the research owners are now much less generous in giving away free content.

However, this throws up an opportunity for vendors who can syndicate their own research, perhaps double validated by third party research, by creating their own content and promoting it.

This is not a new idea, but it is one that is not well done in retail tech. And many tech companies either have no search bar or a search function that turns out to do nothing. Given all the good work that the marketing team will no doubt have been doing on keywords, it makes sense to optimise content with better search capability, with the objective of the website becoming a credible source of market insight.

The next step, which is starting to emerge, is conversational marketing, whereby the vendor starts to engage with the site visitor using machine learning and chatbots to try and start a conversation. This demands much greater visual content that is easy to access and interact with.

This is part of the journey to personalisation. Retailers are doing it, why not you?

Demonstrate sustainability

Retailers are under enough pressure to demonstrate sustainable manufacturing, supply chain and waste processes, so why not software companies. While vendors who sell only bits and bytes cannot go as far as retailers, they can at last demonstrate good citizenship, as a way to make themselves more accessible.

This is also about diversity and women in tech, both of which are emerging as the everyday communications traffic of tech.

Too many vendors lack personality and their web sites can come across as legal documents formulated simply to comply with regulation. And while running a company as a cult of the individual (think Tesla), there is no reason not to start promoting individual senior people who are experts in particular areas.

Use social media more effectively

LinkedIn drives most people in tech crazy because they know they need to play but resent the fact that they don’t seem to get much back, and also that there is no decent alternative channel. However, there are now 4.62 billion people using social media worldwide and that increases by around 10% a year.

Millennials are setting more of the tone in marketing these days and they put much greater emphasis on LinkedIn, and it remains the only channel from which all things flow. Success though depends on taking a more active position on LinkedIn, using the channel to find contacts but then exploit them not simply by regular posting but by looking to get closer through events, webinars and awards.

And people who are active on LinkedIn gets leads, maybe not as many as they would like but there can be no excuse for not playing.

However, LinkedIn is not an advertising channel. I’ll say that again, LinkedIn is not an advertising channel. It’s where you say something in order to initiate a conversation. The problem is, many corporations have no personalities that they are prepared to push forward and who might actually have a point of view. Can you name any CEOs of any tech companies apart from the obvious ones? If corporations are run by people, then where are the people? Companies hide behind slogans and meaningless value statements thinking that this somehow gives their business personality.

In a safety-conscious world where everyone is too scared to express an opinion this may be all well and good but it does not work on social channels.

Good luck

We are bringing you this advice based on our own experience of 25 years in retail tech marketing, but also by speaking to both retailers, analysts and tech vendors. Click here to read our predictions as to where retailers will invest their tech dollars in 2023.


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