Traditionally, trade marketing has been treated as a stepchild in the marketing discipline, just as an extension of commercial functions. Ironically, most organizations end up indulging in trade marketing without even realizing it. However, with the increasing power of trade customers; the dominance of digital tools and the proliferation of brands, which makes the competition harder, companies are becoming more and more aware of the importance of trade marketing and the strong role it plays in the UAE and Middle Eastern markets.
Terms like, “personalized”, “customized”, “tailor-made solutions” are, nowadays, part of any brand dictionary. Reaching directly to potential customers in an innovative way is crucial, and that is when trade marketing becomes key as a means of connecting with shoppers and making brands stand out from their competitors. In fact, trade marketing is becoming an innovation platform to enrich shopper experiences and technology is having a big impact. Based on my experience, enhanced trade marketing strategies result on an average annual business increase of 10 percent to 20 percent in B2B segments, and 20 percent to 35 percent in B2C.
There is a growing trend in Europe, starting also in the Middle East, to use apps that can be downloaded on smart phones or tablets. The interior design application RAK SmartDesign, launched when I was part of the RAK Ceramics team, and is a good example of how digital technology helps to increase traffic and sales revenue. This app is available on the iOS App Store and works through touch screen devices across RAK Ceramics’ retail outlets providing a customized and unique experience to the customer. It includes an Instant Tiling Visualizer for tiling projects in bathrooms, kitchens, exteriors and living rooms; a Tiling Area Calculator; a user-friendly Auto Mode for walk-in customers to check out ready-made themes; an Advance Tiling Mode for architects and contractors to customize tiling themes and patterns and access the Decor tool for random decorations. With such a tool, the need for interior design services was not required and allowed customers to save costs ranging from 20,000AED to 2,00,000 AED. Implementing this app attracted a lot of new customer and shoppers to all outlets.
Location-based technology is also a new trend that consumers are embracing around the world and that marketers should observe. Apps like RetailMeNot, MobSav, and mobiQpons track the user’s location via GPS and deliver deals in the immediate area directly to their device. Nowadays, it is also possible for retailers to place small sensors around their stores that track and communicate with shoppers’ mobile devices. This allows them to optimize everything, from product pricing to floor layout based on customer behavior. Brands can also benefit from multi-sensory technology. It has been proven that stimulating sight, sound, smell, touch and taste in customers can also maximize profits.
Triple E formula
In recent times, social media connectivity and networking has emerged as the most dominant game changer, providing a platform for brands to connect with their B2B and B2C clients. Today, every experience is immediately reflected on social media, which has made it efficient for anyone to evaluate the best customer experience in any of the retail or trade outlet.
I would say that, the real mantra in social media is the Triple E formula: Educate, Engage and Entertain consumers. Platforms such as, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin, WhatsApp or Foursquare are part of daily marketing practices and synchronize all marketing efforts. Providing customers with an extraordinary experience on the selling point will trigger immediate positive feedback on social media. Keeping shoppers aware and engaged with the brand and its products is half way to conquer their loyalty and to get third party endorsement. Word of mouth is still one of the most powerful tools to succeed in business and social media amplifies its impact.
Although digital is crucial in trade marketing, if a new product is being launched, the consumer needs to be given a look and feel of it. That is why the traditional trade events and promotions must not be forgotten. However, exhibiting your product/service through a stall at an exhibition is not enough. Today you need to entice the customer. How? Enhance the consumer experience using promotions. The success rate of hosting a B2B event or participating in a trade fair increases by 25 percent if the marketing campaign also includes value-added services such as, freebies, discount vouchers, transport arrangements for the guests, subsidized accommodations at nearby hotel. Again, educate, engage and entertain.
All these elements need, of course, to be integrated together to bring an incremental value to the business. To succeed, it is also essential to build a 360-degree marketing strategy aligning the efforts above and below the line, ensuring that every stakeholder in the business model will be grinning wide with its role in increasing sales revenues.