Cannes Lions evidences omnichannel’s importance to marketing

First published by Retail Week 24 June, 2013 | By Simon Hathaway

It was a week of big parties, big celeb twitter chatter and some fantastic work showcasing how marketing communications is changing. And as The Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity drew to a close this weekend, the emerging theme was one which retail has already been familiarising itself with: omnichannel.

Just like retail – perhaps because of it – adland is transforming itself for an omni future.

Mobile devices have made everything instant; consequently, we are entering an era when our shopper is always-on. Traditional media models are no longer relevant as people increasingly expect to opt-in and move seamlessly between brand and retail experiences.

It’s this expectation that goes a long way towards explaining why Uniqlo has created a morning wake-up app. The clothing retailer’s desire to touch people lives in new ways has lead it to create a very sweet wake-up call that tells you the time – and the all-important weather information that will determine how you dress. Uniqlo says more than a million people in Japan are using the app, although unfortunately, it doesn’t reveal whether the app’s obvious success is driving increased footfall in store.

Nonetheless, it’s a clear indication that brands are beginning to understand, and activate, relevant and useful connections through various media and all different touch points.

At the other end of the scale, certainly when it comes to size of retail estate, is a group of fashion designers in Hong Kong. They compete with each other, but understand that the dominance of the big fashion brands and retailers is a shared challenge. So they’ve come together to cross-promote each other’s products across all of their stores, with a new platform called Shopelsewhere. Garments carry a simple tag, which reads ‘you may also like’ and a QR code enables the shopper find the product and where it is sold.

Another retailer to use mobile in the delivery of its message is French retail group Auchan. Challenged to deliver a truly sustainable report, but still only using existing channels of distribution, it created a simple solution: a till receipt. The Selfscan Sustainability Report delivered key headlines of the report that could be clearly communicated, and shoppers could easily access additional detail by scanning the bar codes on the receipt with their smartphones. It meant Auchan was able to deliver its sustainability message to 1.5 million more people than in previous years and save 99% of the paper. Deservedly, it won a Grand Prix in the Design Lions.

The snapshots above detail just three ways in how mobile is changing how we communicate and how we shop today; essentially, we are only a smartphone away from a place to buy.  That means our expectation of retail is that it will be everywhere, and instant.

The one constant in all this, the one thing that hasn’t changed, is human emotion. Our needs and wants remain pretty much the same.

So it is good to see UK retailer John Lewis add a Gold Lion for effectiveness to its trophy chest, to join its Brand of the Year awards from the UK’s Marketing Society in 2010 and 2011.The brilliance of its marketing is based on the simple insight of what touches us all and the success of its advertising is built on deep human truths to which we all relate. Simply put, it makes us cry, and then we buy.

All of the brands mentioned in this piece – from Uniqlo to John Lewis – share certain traits that were highlighted all the more by being alongside each other Cannes. All have acknowledged and are acting on the fact that today we expect retail to be everywhere, instant and personal. And this shift in the axis of power, from tell-and-sell to involve-and-engage is changing the way brands communicate with people forever.

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