By Ben Rund, Senior Director Product Marketing PIM & Procurement, Informatica.
Customers are buying products from retailers in a multitude of ways including in store, online, mobile sites and via apps. This is creating a large amount of data that retailers must use if they want to create a more personalised shopping experience for the modern day consumer.
Providing consistent product information across in-store and online environments is an essential step in the evolution of retail and ensuring customer engagement with the retail experience. This is a large ask considering the abundance of products that retailers offer. Add to this information that customers also request such as product information, images and videos, expiration/use-by dates, and this can prove to be a mammoth task.
Retailing started with one channel, the physical shop, and this extended to the call centre and catalogue shopping. Then came ecommerce, however, this was often implemented as a separate strategy and not integrated with the physical shop. Now retailers are building other channels such as apps and mobile sites.
Shopping across different channels is now dubbed the omni-channel experience. Virtually everyone is a cross-channel shopper: 95 per cent of consumers frequently or at least occasionally shop a retailer's website and store, according to the "Omni-Channel Insights" study by CFI Group. In the report, "The Omnichannel Opportunity: Unlocking the Power of the Connected Customer," Deloitte predicts more than 50 percent of in-store purchases will be influenced digitally by the end of 2014.
With several channels to choose from and easy ways to compare prices, retailers are recognising the necessity of differentiating themselves and creating a unique customer experience.
Many supermarkets have loyalty programs which they use to offer customers additional services such as insurance policies and banking. However this strategy hasn't led to increased loyalty in many cases.
An alternative approach is to combine product and customer data to give customers a personalised shopping experience and retailers a single, 360-degree view of the customer. Retailers can then send product recommendations and special offers directly to the customer's preferred device, with all the information to hand. Such personalised experiences will differentiate retailers and help increase customer loyalty.
When Tesco first introduced its loyalty card, it effectively brought all its customer data in to one place. Now, with the fragmentation of data across social media, mobile sites and apps, companies need to rethink how data from different sources can enable effective interactions with their customer base.
Here, understanding an individual's network rather than just simply their own transactions will uncover trends and potential new opportunities not otherwise identified. This can largely be achieved through the integration of social media data.
Addressing the challenge
Combine this with an awareness of customers' mobile activity, and retailers can create personalised offers with tailored benefits in real time. These will drive revenue and create loyalty at the same time.
The challenge for retailers is to manage the increasing amount of data effectively across different platforms. A company that supports the use and analysis of real time data can create a personalised customer experience which is unique, fosters loyalty and most importantly, delivers value.
Technologies can simplify the task of managing and analysing the deluge of customer data to ensure that the required information is available and consistent across both physical and digital platforms. When done well it will help provide a competitive advantage and an engaged customer that is truly at the heart of the company.
I will finish off with three customer purchasing trends for 2015 that retailers need to be aware of:
- Mobile conversions are still lower than desktop purchasing (Source Internet Retailer 2015 Mobile 500) – This could be because customers are visiting the website on their smartphone and then completing the transaction on a desktop or tablet.
- Final point of conversion – Customers are engaging with a brand through many different media channels over several days before they make the final decision.
- Store fulfilment – Retailers will look to omni-channel solutions that can provide transparency about what is in stock to help manage customer expectations.