“Technology is the campfire where we gather to tell our stories.”

This was Dave Black’s take on the role of mobile technologies and social media in retail customer engagement.

Dave, Business Development Manager for interactive experience specialists Blippar, spoke to us on our Talking Point at the Mobile Retail Summit in London. We were there to get the latest views from our fellow retailers on the role of technology in keeping customers engaged.

“It’s a human thing – we’ve been telling each other stories for years and years,” he said. “It goes back to the cavemen round the fire.”

And the technological campfire – whose branches include Facebook, YouTube and Twitter – has plenty of room for brands to join in with the conversations their customers are having. Or even start them.

But, as Dave told us, blaring out brand messages indiscriminately is not the way to approach the gathering. Retailers should meet people on their own territory, participating in the conversations, and spinning yarns that draw in their customers. And that territory is mobile.

“People do most of their browsing for shopping on mobile devices,” he said. “They won’t necessarily buy, but that’s where the engagement is.”

It’s a paradox: we’ve used space-age technology to build the world’s biggest ever campfire, but still all we want to do is spin yarns to each other.

You can see it happening. The boom in digital marketing has led to the rise of so-called ‘content marketing’. Content is really just another term for the stories Dave Black is talking about.

So although we have lots of new ways to connect with customers, the basics of effective marketing still apply when it comes to persuading them to engage and buy.

We’ve always needed to tell great stories, from the classic Renault ‘Nicole? Papa?’ TV advertisements, to the John Lewis ‘Snowman’ spots that entertained us this Christmas. We just have to make sure they’re still relevant and engaging in the digital world.

We’ll be publishing more of our findings from the Mobile Retail Summit soon. And if you’d like to join in the conversation, just enter a comment below, or visit www.o2.co.uk/retail  

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