Tips for 2020 vision on retail marketing

ISSUE 70 January 2020

The start of a new year typically has marketing pundits releasing a barrage of predictions on the key coming trends. However the year 2020 has special significance given the looming threat of recession. WFA provides a snapshot of key global marketing insights and commentary from local industry players.

Regardless of the softening economy, the wheels continue to turn in terms of what’s new in marketing; and according to much of the current commentary, one of the most exciting new ways of thinking about marketing over the coming year, particularly when it comes to digital marketing, is to keep a weather eye out for the rise of Martech (Marketing Technology).

According to Smart Insights: “Today, Marketing Technology (Martech for short) presents a bewildering choice of software services for businesses looking to improve their management of digital media, experiences and supporting data. If your business and your agencies adopt the right blend of Martech, it can help give you an edge against competitors, but if not, you may be missing out on the insights and automation processes they are using.”

Given the rise of technology and artificial intelligence, a key trend for 2020 is ‘Conversational Marketing’, one of the technologies forecast to hit the mainstream within the next two to five years. 

“Conversational marketing or conversation marketing is a feedback-oriented approach to marketing used by companies to drive engagement, develop customer loyalty, grow the customer base, and, ultimately, grow revenue.

“Conversational marketing is much more than live chat however – it entails a wide range of touch points including social. Conversational sales look set to play a key role in helping sales reps connect with prospects in a more granular, organic way.” It’s also a useful tool for customer success teams as a support tool. There are caveats however; conversational marketing that does use chatbots needs to ensure the consumer isn’t alienated by a clunky interface and needs to be monitored and managed accordingly. 

Smart Insights also hails the growing importance of “lifecycle marketing” over the coming year. Lifecycle marketing is defined as “Creating a managed communications or contact strategy to prioritise and integrate the full range of marketing communications channels and experiences to support prospects and customers on their path-to-purchase using techniques such as persuasive personalised messaging and re-targeting.”

Meanwhile content marketing, which has been around for some time, continues to maintain its power due to the benefits of brand exposure and backlinks. Forbes predicts content marketing will continue to evolve and grow into 2020 and beyond. 

“Writing interesting content and marketing it to influencers is a win-win. You are helping people with solution-oriented content, and the influencers help your exposure and outreach so it’s widely seen by the right audience and shared with their peers. 


First and foremost, experts and commentators urge businesses to resist the temptation to react impulsively to recessionary rumblings.

Harvard Business Review (HBR) comments:

“During recessions, it’s more important than ever to remember that loyal customers are the primary, enduring source of cash flow and organic growth. Marketing isn’t optional—it’s a ‘good cost’, essential to bringing in revenues from these key customers and others.”

It’s critical to have a full understanding of the profile of your target consumer, from those who “slam on the brakes” during a recession, to the comfortably well-off who are minimally affected by a recession. Regardless of which group consumers belong to, they prioritise consumption by sorting products and services into four categories:

  • Essentials are necessary for survival or perceived as central to well-being.
  • Treats are indulgences whose immediate purchase is considered justifiable.
  • Postponables are needed or desired items whose purchase can be reasonably put off.
  • Expendables are perceived as unnecessary or unjustifiable.

HBR encourages businesses to get clear on which category their customer falls into; and it warns that while marketers may be tempted to move down-market in a recession, the risk here is to alienate loyal customers. “Marketers that drift away from their established base may attract some new customers in the near term but find themselves in a weaker position when the recession ends. Their best course is to stabilise the brand.”

And it indicates that where opportunities are stable despite fears of recession, firms should push their advantage. In past downturns, consumer goods companies that were able to increase share of voice by maintaining or increasing their advertising spending captured market share from weaker rivals. 

The temptation to take a knee-jerk reaction and arbitrarily cut marketing budgets at the first signs of recession is one to be avoided, concurs marketing specialist Blue Corona.

“Cutting the budget for marketing during a recession is a gut reaction many inexperienced business owners (and even experienced ones as well) will make. If your competitors are cutting budgets, you’ll see an even greater long-term return on your marketing investments.”

Companies would also do well to do a “deep dive” of their target audience’s recession behaviour. Google 

Analytics and a call tracking program can help businesses identify the best-performing marketing strategies and ones that can be cut without seeing a dip in branding or sales.

“During a recession, knowing exactly what return each marketing investment is providing and why will be your key to not just survival, but growth. Digital marketing has long been accepted as the best low-cost, high-return marketing strategy, largely due to measurability and targeting capabilities.”

Blue Corona’s correspondent confirms that businesses should never lose focus on existing customers and work to increase conversion rates by testing, tweaking, and repeating.


Amelia Taylor, Head of Product and Marketing at Wynstan, echoes the sentiment that refining and deepening an understanding of the customer is more critical than ever during a softening economy. She offers three key tips to bear in mind during a more challenging economic climate.

Know your customer 

“Never forget that your customers are your number one priority,”says Taylor. “Assess the male to female split when it comes to the product. Who is the main decision maker when it comes to the purchase of the item? Understanding the answer to this is in terms of knowing how to target your ad.” 

“Secondly get the age demographic of your customers right. Make sure you’re addressing them on the appropriate platform for their generation so you’re not wasting time and dollars barking up the wrong tree.”

“Finally, do your due diligence when it comes to geographic mapping. Understand the suburbs, towns, cities and other areas where your product will have most appeal and maximise your efforts in these places.”

Drive intent to purchase 

“Many factors drive a customer’s drive to purchase a home related item. These include renovating, moving house and downsizing,” she says. “It’s therefore vital to make sure you know the top drivers for your audience, and think about how your advertising can reflect these motivators and where it will be viewed or heard to effectively reach audiences.”

Create content to prompt purchase

“It always helps if your brand is well known to make sure you are part of the customer’s consideration process. With so many competitors now in the market, you really need to ensure your content is inspiring, meeting customer needs and broadcasted across a mix of all mediums including traditional and digital advertising such as social media,” says Taylor. “If you don’t keep up with the times, you will simply be left behind in a fast-paced, time-poor market.”


Jim Terrell, General Manager Australasia Interiors and Homewares, comments that while digital literacy is vital in the current climate, maintaining “old school” relationships via on-the-ground sales teams also offers benefits, particularly in the tactile soft furnishings sector. 

“Despite a boom in the Australian property market over the last 10 years (both residential and commercial) there has been a big shift in the interiors and homewares sector. With the economy softening, our marketing strategy has had to evolve to remain relevant in the current landscape. Most brands have shifted their focus to better facilitate current trends, such as developing and evolving online virtual retail websites as opposed to traditional city based showrooms.”

Digital platforms and omni-channel marketing/advertising from print to blogs, or both, and upgrading automation/software tools have become standard operating procedure in the current market, says Ling. 

“Whilst providing a seamless online customer experience is paramount, it Is important to remember that homewares and soft furnishings require an aligned tactile approach also, an affirmation of the important legacy of Charles Parson & Co. Retail and customer relationships are still at the forefront, with a broad national sales team giving customers time/opportunity to touch and handle our products whilst also personalising support, nurturing and further developing relationships.”

“Charles Parsons & Co is launching a new, exciting digital platform in early 2020 which will value-add and provide another innovative and integrated way for customers to interact with the company to understand our extensive product base.”

Blank doormat before the door in the hall. Mat on ceramic floor, flowers and red shoes. Welcome home, product Mockup.

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