Retail is seeing some of the widest changes in commerce ever, and while some brands have been hit with severe declines in brick-and-mortar traffic, many retailers are hanging in there by reinventing their customer experience to leverage the best of in-store and online data.
Collecting data and identifying customers across today’s spectrum of channels is no small feat. The more complicated our world becomes, the more critical automation is for engaging customers across every channel they prefer and personalizing the way a brand speaks to the individual.
But let’s hear what the experts have to say.
Collect and Analyze Data to Fuel Automation
Cross-channel identification of customers is one of the most important capabilities a retailer can have right now. Not only does it help brands match up customer data to build a complete profile (for personalization), but customer identification also saves money lost on reacquiring the same customer over and over whether in-store or online.
Data and the Single Customer View
The first-party data you collect is your most valuable asset because of all the ways it allows you to know the individual shopper.
“Available data. You have seen nothing but the data that we ingest into our incredible system and all the stuff that we can do with it. I’m going to dumb it right down again. I’m going to talk about three types of data. I’m going to start from the bottom. I’m going to say purchase data is one of the things. Yeah. Obviously, if I spend well with you, then am I loyal or potentially I’m loyal? Yeah. But if it’s a transactional or a convenience purchase, is that loyal or not? I don’t know. Am I engaging? Well, that’s maybe more interesting from an emotional loyalty perspective. Am I opening content? Am I posting socially? Am I active? Do I dare display a level of love for your brand? For you all. For your outlets. And then finally, activity. This is something that we are speaking about more and more with some of our mobile-first customers, who perhaps have apps that try to drive activity. And so we are using the activity that is being tracked on the app as an indicator of someone’s level of loyalty within the program. So we’re pulling in all those sources of data.”
Feed Data into Your Growth Strategies
Once you plug your data into your strategies and tactics, you can then glean the insights you need to expand your database and target more customers across more channels.
“One of the biggest challenges that we had in our existing environment is that our channel data was in silos so we couldn’t deliver that coordinated communication or conversation with our customer. Now with Emarsys, we’ve been able to combine all of our data, so our sales data, the big one, both offline and online, loyalty profiles, product catalogs, web interactions, email engagement data all in one central location in the CDP. So we’ve really been able to connect the dots and also synchronize in near real time as well. And as a result of being able to stitch that data together, we’ve got a really nice, unified customer view which is really helping us to start to enable and unleash that 1:1 personalization.”
Now with data-rich automations that drive your strategies, you can use customer insights to optimize active customer growth based on past behavior and new trends emerging in real time.
“I think one of the key things that we now say when we’re talking about being the largest customer engagement company in the world is the amount of data that we’re helping people process. It’s every single day we’re running billions of calculations across nearly six billion consumer profiles. And what we’ve tried to do throughout this year and what we will continue to do is to not just use this data to drive value for our clients, but we use it to innovate our products. But we also use it to innovate the insights that you have into your own customers and your own business. And one of the things that we’ve tried to look at that’s led us to this event is just what’s going on around the world in terms of consumer behavior.”
AI-Driven Personalization Determines Next Best Action
Personalization is the keystone to today’s customer engagement, but not because brands think customers should want personalization.
“So personalization was measured even by Google in this study that they have done. And actually, they realized that 40% of consumers actually, as they received personalized communication, they reward the brands with more purchases and higher spend. Out of choice, whether consciously or subconsciously? It doesn’t matter, but 40% of people’s brains is wired a little bit differently, that they react to personalized messages. It’s not all people. It’s also not half of the people, but it’s 40%. Forty percent is a lot of people. And those are actually the recipients of our service and the value that we create.”
Retail is increasingly about engaging customers for a longer period of time than a holiday sale or a one-time purchase. Thanks to digital technology, brands have the ability to build and maintain a direct relationship with each customer through a variety of mediums, SMS, email, on-site, mobile apps and push messages, ads, and even direct mail.
“So as a result of really democratizing the data and breaking it down, we’ve been able to unlock value really quickly. As I mentioned before, trade tools are a needs-based product, and I think for many of us when we want a new tool, that search often begins online, so with the benefit of Web Extend and being able to track interactions with our website… you know if an identified customer logs in or searches for a particular product online, we can trigger communications to them immediately, not 24 hours later, or after systems synch, or even not at all, and across and in the channels that they actually want to engage with us in, whether that’s email or on the website or through Instagram, because we are actually transposing those insights across all their channels, which is really, really powerful.”
This is where machine learning can supercharge your personalization across channels. As we move into a cookie-less world, permission-based marketing is the only way retailers can continue to communicate with customers, and automation makes that level of personalization scalable.
“Ensuring that communications can be personalized at scale with AI across all channels consistently means you can create one-to-one relationships that drive loyalty, delivering the right message at the right time in the right channel, and delivering maximum value for your business through higher conversion rates. Let me bring this to life for you. In the Emarsys platform, you’ve set yourself a target of 10% growth in active customers, and you’re currently seeing 2.2% growth. You can see on the Strategic Dashboard that your second purchase rate is down 1.9% versus last year. You obviously want to improve this, so you click the Get Better Results with Tactics button. And you’re presented with the customer lifecycle cycle tactics, which can help you drive second-time purchases.”
Omnichannel automation allows brands to deliver a consistent experience to each customer, from initial product searches to ordering online and picking up in-store, so that you have the best chance of knowing what customers want, and can delight them across every touchpoint. That’s what leads to repeat customers and higher conversions.
“We need to make sure that we’re working with you guys to get feedback on how we can service insights from this data that help you make better decisions about how to communicate with your customers and a more personalized and more effective way that actually drives a better business outcome. Not personalization for personalization sake, but really making sure that we’re helping you deliver better and more predictable business outcomes.”
Benchmark and Optimize Your Automation
Just as crucial as acquiring good personalization data is a brand’s ability to improve strategic performance. That’s the only way you can know how all your channels and your campaigns are working together. By measuring your automations’ results against the best strategic KPIs, you can easily see what’s working and what needs tweaked.
“You don’t just need data about what’s going on with your own customers. You need to be able to benchmark yourself against other people. And what we have seen through our benchmarketing tool is: this year has been a record year in terms of new customer acquisition. But across our entire client base, the online spending of both pure online brands and multichannel brands has been driven by 43 percent of the purchases in any given month coming from new customers to the brand. That’s a fundamentally important stat. That stat… because it means acquisition is still all important to our businesses. What it also tells us is nigh on 57% of our revenue, or 56.1% if you really want to be specific, is coming from people who have already bought from a brand before. They could be first-time buyers making a repeat purchase. They could be these really loyal customers that are really keeping my engine going. They can be people who are only buying from you once a year. They could be people who haven’t bought from me in a time period, but I’ve managed to successfully reactivate. The world that we operate in is very, very complex.”
Reach Customers Through the Channels They Prefer
True 1:1 omnichannel engagement is impossible without automation. There is no human-driven way to keep up with all the triggers and trends necessary for personalization anywhere near real time. Automation lends itself really well to omnichannel engagement, because it can handle all the online and offline purchase data in a timely manner.
“And we really look to unpack omnichannel commerce and get away from a buzzword into some practical tips and steps of what you can take to really, really thrive in this environment. And for those of you who are unfortunate enough to listen to my ramblings on LinkedIn, omnichannel is something that we live in and breathe here at Emarsys, not because we want to, but because it’s the business that we’re in, and it’s also how your consumers now operate. And for you to be successful at omnichannel commerce, you really need to embrace personalization. The reason that people are adopting personalization is not because people don’t want to do it. Eighty percent of marketers fundamentally believe personalization is core to their business. But how you go about achieving personalization, at the moment, for a lot of people is very cumbersome and very complicated.”
Customers want that personalized experience, and it’s up to brands to provide it wherever customers show up.
“And so we’re able to look at current repeat customers to predict what our next first-time buyer is going to do. And so what we’re doing is then building out automations to where we can leverage this, and so it becomes not only a ‘here’s the item you bought,’ and we’re taking that recommended item outside of the brand. So it’s not just a Corelle to Corelle. It’s a Corelle then or Corelle to Pyrex, and then based off what they do in that email, we send them down different routes, and it’s a true personalized experience. We’re taking that experience of if you were in a retail store and you were talking to a salesperson, they would be able to have that conversation. They would be able to recommend these products, and we’re just doing this by what the customer is telling us by their actions, so it’s great. “
The end result is that brands leverage first-party data through AI-powered automations to meet consumers in any channel and provide that personalized shopping experience that will keep them coming back.
“We’re heavily reliant on targeting, and the best way to target is through our digital media. So we do a lot of social media. Probably a lot of our… not probably, but a huge amount of our dollars are spent through YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram. Those are the types of media that you can really target.”
Delivering that consistent customer experience is everything for retailers today, and brands ensure that consistency with data-driven insights applied to nimble automations in SMS, email, mobile, in-app, push notifications, CRM, Facebook ads, web experience, and in-store.
The only issue now is how fast online growth has driven retailers to meet today’s challenges.
“We saw in March a phenomenal rise in the sale of white goods. There were people buying washing machines and dishwashers. And as we hear from AO.com tomorrow, driving phenomenal online sales from categories that previously might have been in-store purchases. But as we look at June, it’s a very, very different landscape in that trend. There are peaks and troughs in every single product category. And when you see a sale of leisurewear and sportswear and loungewear, what we want to help understand is, is this a trend in your own business? Or is this a trend in your geography or your segment? Is this an opportunity that you can capitalize upon? And is the opportunity now waiting? If it takes you six weeks to buy and merchandise a product cycle, you might have missed that opportunity. What we’re looking to do with the consumer product trends is not just tell you what’s selling well right now, but what’s slowing down and what’s accelerating. Because we’ve seen unprecedented shifts in sell-through rates of products and categories that are changing week by week, not just month on month. This information is fundamentally important to how brands trade and communicate with their customers. But it’s not useful to us at Emarsys because we’re providing the service that enables you to effectively train and communicate with customers.”
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