Five ways retailers can blend cross-channel customer data to better serve shoppers

April 15, 2015 02:45 PM

An estimated 52% of all in-store purchases originated from online activity in 2014–whether through product research, targeted advertising or social influence—according to Forrester Research.  That’s a significant percentage, and it underscores why retailers must create seamless customer experiences between physical and digital interactions with their brands.

The technology that once interfered with in-store foot traffic now enhances it by creating a blended customer experience using a combination of tools and techniques. Smart marketers have learned how to use various channels to drive consistency in marketing and brand messaging.

Below are some ways to create these blended experiences.

1.      Be an OPEN brand. Tory Burch is one example of an OPEN (on-demand, personal, engaged and networked) brand. Its digital Client Book keeps track of customer birthdays and anniversaries, for which store associates send hand-written notes to customers’ homes. The book also tracks customer sizing, purchase history and preferred purchase channel, among other data points. Blending these online and offline channels makes the in-store experience more personalized and service oriented.

Clothing retailer Mitchells brought personal service to a new level with M World, a platform enabling customers to see their own bespoke virtual closets and communicate with style advisors online about new arrivals, wardrobe recommendations, last-minute “fashion emergencies” and to make consultation appointments.

2.      Practice Clienteling. “Clienteling” is a variation on the OPEN brand experience. Using customerdata, Wi-Fi-enabled store environments and smart devices, brands can analyze cross-channel browsing and purchase history combined with loyalty-cardstatus to add recommendations, real-time inventory look up and ordering. Clienteling has achieved buzzword status recently, but its use extends beyond high-end retailers and, thanks to technology, is accessible to any brand looking to create a customer-centric experience. Mobile point-of-sale tools provide real-time data on shoppers to sales people who can activate to create a customized experience.

3.      Become a Destination. Stores can create memorable experiences such as having live entertainment and serving drinks that make customers want to come back because the shopping experience is special and enjoyable.

This type of marketing was inspired by the first Fashion’s Night Out event in 2009. Stores in select global cities stayed open late into the night and served food and drinks while shoppers shopped in a festive, unhurried atmosphere. Even non-clothing retailers got into the spirit. Pottery Barn Kids created a special in-store experience for children. While parents shopped, kids attended hands-on workshops learning about color, patterns and textiles inspired by Pottery Barn Kids designs. Completing all three workshops earned them junior designer badges.

4.      Bring Digital into the Physical. Millennials choose brands and make purchase decision merchandise via social sourcing. Brands can use the showroom, both physical and virtual, to accommodate Millennial customers in the way they prefer to shop and engage with brands and conduct in-store research on potential purchases without having to pull out their mobile devices.

For example, UGG Australia partnered with Decker Brands to open an omnichannel experience

store, giving shoppers access to the nearly 230 items on display and to other UGG products not available in store. This pilot store is also incorporating radio-frequency identification technology (RFID). When a shopper tries on merchandise, it triggers content on four large touch screens in the store.

The screens display product info, styling tips, video and complementary product suggestions—delivering an engaging experience while enabling the brand to upsell the purchase.

5.      Blend the Connections. In 20 years, consumers will make purchases in ways not yet conceived. The attraction of physical stores is that they provide tactile experiences that, as yet, are unavailable in a digital channel. Creating a personalized experience for each and every customer while growing your brand footprint can be quite a challenge, therefore, knowing how to blend the omnichannel customer experience is essential to CRM.  

More than half of consumers who own a smartphone said in a recent survey that they would share their locations to receive relevant advertising. According to a JiWiresurvey,57% of consumers are more likely to engage with location-based advertising, and 63% said coupons are the most valuable form of mobile marketing while 62% share local deals with friends.

Macy’s has used iBeacon technology to notify in-store shoppers about deals and specific products for which they have shown past interest. Other retailers use Swirl, an app to reach consumers who come within 300 feet of their store locations and entice them with discounts.

With increased smartphone penetration, many brands use location-based marketing especially to reach loyalty-program customers. Coupons and push notifications to mobile phones are the most widely used tactics for location-based marketing.  Apple, Coca-Cola and P&G are just some of the blue-chip brands that use it to close the gap between the customer and the register.

Retailers must continually evolve their strategies and use data-driven insights to create the plan that fits their growth goals. But if they overstretch their capabilities, they’ll stunt growth. It can be a fine line—one that requires careful planning and investment to build for the future of the retail landscape.

Epsilon is a marketing agency whose clients include Walgreens, Staples, Dell and American Express. The company provides CRM technology to two retailers in the Internet Retailer Top 500, Coach and The Container Store.





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