Facebook’s decision to demonstrate its market power by shutting down every page on its network that shared news content sent shockwaves across multiple industries, and not just in this country. If you’re not already, you should be paying attention.
While most retail brands might have escaped the wrath of the social network this time, they may not be so lucky in the future.
Is Facebook – or Google, for that matter – about to kneecap Aussie retailers? With the ongoing dispute over the ACCC’s news media bargaining code and the advertising technology enquiry, one thing is for certain: the battle between the big tech players and the Australian government is far from over. At one point, there was the suggestion Google would pull search from the market, so it’s fair to say anything is on the table.
What we do know is this: no one government can control Silicon Valley so when push comes to shove, your brand could become an unwilling victim of the situation.
There’s never been a louder wakeup call for developing a solid first-party data strategy.
Think about it this way. Publishers – of all shapes and sizes – spent years and countless dollars building communities on Facebook only for them to be rendered impotent in an instant.
It raises the question that if you don’t own the platform where you’re engaging with your customers, are they really yours?
But it’s not just the platform big tech players like Facebook own. It’s also your customers’ data that sits within a walled garden. What that essentially means is that while you can do smart things like create look-alike audiences and push out ads to them on these platforms, at the end of the day, the platform gets to decide how you access the data behind those interactions.
So what should you do now?
Take heed from the media owner’s response. Within hours of news disappearing from Facebook, media organisations introduced calls to action on their sites as well as using above-the-line traditional media and other social channels that were still carrying their content. They made the call to cut out the middleman and come direct to the publishers by signing up for email newsletters. For publishers with content behind the paywall, existing email subscribers were bombarded with discount offers to ensure continued access to content.
It was a ‘building first-party data is paramount from now on’ mindset in the action and retail brands would do well to follow suit.
There are plenty of examples of retail brands that are already doing it. Coles and Woolies are perfect examples, with their regular specials emails including offers based on your previous spend patterns. The supermarket giants have continuously invested big in data to ensure they have a direct relationship with their customers from apps to emails and everything in between.
The other retail brand that is nailing this approach is Dan Murphy’s. Dan knows what you have purchased in the past, he knows you like a full-bodied shiraz and he knows what other customers like you like.
I know what you’re thinking. It’s alright for the Coles, Woolies and Dan Murphy’s of the world, but what about my business? Well, it’s never too late to start.
Figure out what data you are generating, what are you keeping, using and why. If you’re not collecting any data directly, that’s a great place to begin. Take a leaf from the publishers with a call-to-action on your website to sign up for special offers from your brand. If you have sales data, integrate that with your customer database so that you can make personalised recommendations.
Owning the relationship with your customers and the data that comes with it can unlock untold benefits, including personalisation of offers at scale via direct one-to-one communication, the holy grail for most retailers.
Once you have the above, you are not only in a good defensive position against the big bullies of the digital/data world, but also in a much better position to deliver on much more relevant customer experiences and product offers.