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Information versus Interaction – what smaller retailers need to know to succeed with their customers

Christian Baumann, Head of Value Added Services, SIX Payment Services

In today’s increasingly connected world, it is quite common for consumers to happily hand over their personal details when making a purchase. Sharing their email address or phone number to receive an electronic copy of a receipt; their home address for a hard copy of a new catalogue and even sharing information with friends– in order to earn loyalty points.

However, while this first stage of sharing details is relatively simple, what retailers choose to do with this information is what makes the difference between a flurry or ‘opt out’ responses, quick deletes and low open rates or an impressive uptake in sales. Crucially, retailers need to understand the difference between information and interaction.

Worryingly, the number of companies who see their data collection as an opportunity to send weekly or even daily messages to their clientele telling them, in essence, “We’re great!” has led to many retailers’ content being automatically directed to a junk folder or to high ‘opt out’ rates.

Spam is a killer for consumer trust. Simply put, customers aren’t interested in the generic information; it needs to be relevant to them as an individual. The customer needs to be able to relate to why they have received this form of communication, there needs to be a ‘call to action’ or something of special interest to them.

This is where smaller retailers are often missing out. Large merchants, by their very nature, are able to collect swathes of data from their client base about where they shop, what they buy and how often they purchase. They can then use this data to tailor messaging – offering discounts on certain garments which the customer has bought before or alerts when their favourite author publishes a new book, for example. However, for the local independent store, such data is not provided by their own systems. As soon as a customer leaves their store, or their website, they vanish.

It is here where payment processing provider partners can help. Thanks to location-based information, delivered by terminals, a provider can track a customer’s journey – which stores their visit in a certain area and at what time of the day and in what order – gathering information on the frequently visited stores and an individual’s particular spending habits. Armed with this information, smaller retailers can take advantage of location-based marketing. Messaging customers with special deals when they are in the vicinity, for example, or perhaps sending offers in conjunction with other retailers in the area.

In addition, payment terminals or ‘touch-points’ as we refer to them, can now show images and short videos. These can be used to deliver promotional material, which again, can be tailored to the individual customer using the data received from their card. To make the most of this, there is scope for retailers in certain areas to unite to share information about the customers in the vicinity and their shopping patterns.

While the larger retailers are able to monitor how a certain marketing campaign has succeeded in a specific category or region, smaller retailers do not always have access to this level of information. They can only measure the success of a campaign in their store, not on a wider scale. Again, through sharing data information, payment processers are able to provide deeper insight into how retailers perform alongside their peers – giving them an actual benchmark.

There is huge value to be found in marketing, but in order to make the most of this, smaller retailers need to combine and share data. This will lead to increased sales, improved customer loyalty and, perhaps more importantly for us all, bringing an end to the dreaded spam.