What’s Next for Brick-and-Mortar Retailers

It’s been a rough couple of years for traditional retail. Companies like Amazon have upended the retail structure, and as consumers continue to turn to e-commerce, brick-and-mortar retailers must adapt to survive.

To do so, many companies are turning to hot-button tactics like virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), simple or even nonexistent payment tactics (hello ApplePay and Amazon Go), and more. However, these strategies are more aspirational than practical, as they require heavy infusions of capital, huge upgrades to existing infrastructure and widespread consumer adoption to be successful.

While retailers work to make these long-term dreams a reality, there are several trends brick-and-mortar retailers can pursue to stay relevant and competitive in the more immediate future:

1. A Focus on Stores as Showrooms

As the purchase process continues to migrate online, we’re seeing brick-and-mortar stores used as a way for consumers to feel and see products before they pull out their phones and make a purchase. This approach works best for categories like furniture, where people are traditionally hesitant to purchase without physically interacting with products.

Examples of this strategy include Apple stores, which focus more on showcasing products and what they can do, or Bonobos’ guideshops, which exist purely as a way for consumers to interact with the web retailers’ goods (you can’t even walk away with any merchandise, but you can order clothing).

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Chain Reaction: How Blockchain Is Infiltrating MarTech

Venture capital firms have invested more than $1.4 billion in blockchain since 2013, and more than 2,500 patents involving the technology have been filed in the same time frame. The implications for the financial world here are more obvious, but what does this trend mean for marketing? More than the average marketer may think, as it turns out.

Blockchain is the distributed ledger technology (DLT) behind bitcoin, the digital currency that’s used with encryption methods so that transactions are made without a middleman (banks). These days, businesses offering everyday consumer goods and services are increasingly accepting bitcoins. While Bitcoin was the first currency to be applied to this DLT strategy, it’s not the only currency that can be.

With Blockchain as the backbone of bitcoin, transactions are extremely fast and secure, all while being transparent. One shutterstock_548916601blockchain analyst has compared it to a Google Doc, with our mainstream system of transactions being a Microsoft Word document. The ledger is shared for all to see and updates automatically every ten minutes, all while being incorruptible.

Considering these strengths, it’s only a matter of time before blockchain technology changes the marketing landscape as we know it. Here are three realms that may see changes due to blockchain technology in the not-so-distant future.

Media buying

The idea of blockchain is already being applied to the world of ad buying, and isn’t so far away from being implemented on a larger scale. Nasdaq announced that in late 2017 it will launch an electronic marketplace using blockchain technology for the New York Interactive Ad Exchange.

The ledger will allow publishers, advertisers and media buyers to buy and sell ad space via an electronic marketplace. According to the NYIAE CEO Lou Severine, if this takes hold the way it’s intended, companies could implement the model across different forms of media including TV, radio and out-of-home markets.

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AI and Chatbots: How Marketers Can Keep Up

The marketing world is abuzz with AI chatter. While people love to talk up AI’s potential for automating marketing, the reality doesn’t yet live up to the hype. A study from Oxford University, Deloitte and the BBC revealed that the risk of associate-level marketers losing their jobs to automation is fairly low, at only 33 percent. At the same time, new AI marketing innovations and applications appear daily, and keeping up with this evolution is essential.

What’s a busy marketer to do? According to the Walker Sands State of Martech 2017 study, marketers are feeling the heat already. When asked about tech strategies in general (AI and beyond), almost three-quarters (72 percent) of marketers say the martech landscape is evolving at light speed or rapidly. Times may be hectic, but AI is a tactic deserving special attention. Let’s go beyond the buzz:

AI’s current role in marketing

It’s easy to get carried away in the science fiction-like element of AI. Many companies gaining attention are carrying out genuinely interesting tasks, but below the surface aren’t so advanced in terms of application of the technology.

For example, IBM Watson collaborated with Marchesa to create a “cognitive dress” worn by model Karolina Kurkova at the 2016 Met Gala. IBM Watson analyzed Marchesa’s social media sentiment and changed the dress to correspond to different emotions. The dress was gorgeous, but all-in-all, natural language processing (NLP) is a fairly straightforward technology.

The changes currently brought to martech are far less glamorous, but useful nonetheless. Open-ended technologies like IBM Watson and Salesforce Einstein allow for the development of new AI applications for marketing all the time. Here are a couple marketers have embraced so far.

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Walker Sands Earns Spot on Clutch’s List of Leading Chicago Full Service Digital Agencies

We are excited to announce that Clutch, a research firm that identifies leading software and professional services, has named Walker Sands Digital as one of Chicago’s leading full service digital agencies. Last year we were given the same recognition in both Chicago and San Francisco. Making the list a second time is a true testament to the clients we get to work with and the talent our teams contribute.

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To qualify for the list, Clutch judged Walker Sands on industry awards and recognition, portfolio items, services provided and key clients. A team of Clutch analysts then reached out to our clients to collect additional information to help qualify us as one of the top digital agencies in Chicago. The client feedback was more than we could have asked for.

One client remarked:

Walker Sands’ project management skills across the board for our services are really top-notch. They are really easy to work with and open about our results. They provide weekly reports for our PPC efforts, so it’s really easy to keep a really good pulse on how we’re performing overall. The same goes for their SEO work.

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Later adding:

As soon as we give them a project, they really stick to their deadlines well, and the end product is always really well done. They keep me to my deadlines too, which is always appreciated.

We’ve been so fortunate to work together to build websites for clients like CloudCraze and Surgical Directions among others as well as an interactive micro-site for a cause for CompTIA. It’s great to be recognized by Clutch, and we mean it when we say we can’t do it without our clients.

Take a look at our full company profile to hear more from our clients and get an in depth view at how we were evaluated.

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[VIDEO] Why Walker Sands Works

At Walker Sands we take a holistic approach when it comes to client services, taking care from the beginning to integrate the most viable channels to generate satisfactory results. We started off as a small group of people in 2001, and set our goals high to bring together advanced digital marketing and public relations.

Sixteen years later we’ve successfully infused digital marketing and content campaigns into creative public relations, resulting in an integrated triple threat marketing agency. And it works.

In this latest video from Walker Sands, Mike Santoro, president, and Ellen Hanson, COO, weigh in on how our unique services set us apart from other agencies. Mike explains how we integrate our two strong points, media relations and digital marketing, to effectively create powerful integrated campaigns to generate leads for our clients. In the video Ellen adds that it’s our curiosity for learning about the latest innovations in marketing technology that empowers our work.

From our humble beginnings, to the passion we instill into our work, this video gives a holistic depiction of how we work with our clients to provide the best digital marketing services possible.

Discover why Walker Sands works in the full video here.

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Visit the Walker Sands website. We specialize in PR and marketing services for technology solution providers and B2B companies. Walker Sands Digital offers a wide array of digital marketing solutions and helps firms to get the most from their online presence.
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