By Jason Skelton, Head of EU Partnership – Acxiom
In the wake of Covid-19, as businesses worldwide had to step up their digital capabilities, the retail and ecommerce industries were among the frontrunners to undergo rapid digital transformation to keep up with the shift to online.
According to the European ecommerce report 2021, ecommerce saw 10% growth in sales during 2020 alone and it is set to grow another 28% in 2021, further cementing that the shift to online continues at pace.
But while the retail experience may have changed radically, customer needs are fundamentally the same. People still value a good deal, relevance in interactions, and personalisation at the right moments – and the challenge for retailers now is to get this mix right across physical and digital realms.
To win digital savvy customers and keep the loyalty of returning customers, brands will have to make their mark by creating consistent customer experiences at each step along the buying cycle. And the secret to making that a reality? Customer data.
Harnessing data to create better personalisation
According to a study by McKinsey, 100% of the top-quartile of retailers cited omnichannel personalisation as a top five priority, but only 15% of retailers have fully implemented it across all channels.
In a world of disruption, data differentiates. By employing the right data intelligence tools, marketers can identify, understand and engage customers to deliver better customer experiences. Designing an omnichannel approach is imperative but so is the need to drive customer data towards personalisation.
However, as customers are increasingly realising the value of their data, they are well positioned to choose brands that use it responsibly, and with relevance. With this in mind, brands can consider these three factors when building their omnichannel data infrastructure.
- Customer Identification
Firstly, brands need to recognise the customer to be personally relevant. Identifying who the customer is has become challenging with customer data spread across different touchpoints and stages of the buyer journey. Data held disparately across silos needs to be assimilated into information that enables brands to take partial data and turn it into a fully recognised individual customer view. This customer view can then be used by brands to inform customer engagements such as in analytics, segmentation, targeting and customer service. Accurate Identity resolution is beneficial in numerous ways, and is a key enabler to improving long-term customer retention and maximising return on marketing spend. As third-party cookies deprecate, trusted relationships between brands and people and therefore 1st party data becomes even more important than it was before. This means that identity resolution and management will continue to grow in importance to maintain an evolving view of customers across all touchpoints. Managing first party data effectively is an opportunity to know and understand customers better. A private Identity graph is the spine and key building block to achieve personalisation which must harness information such as interactions, purchases, preferences and vitally important consent. And with this in mind, to build the most accurate customer view, data governance, data hygiene and a well maintained Identity Graph to give your organisation strong reference data is pivotal to success.
Once customers are identified, knowing the right things about them is equally important. Brands have never had such an enormous amount of customer data assets available as they do today, and brands are able to combine first party data from customer interactions on websites and mobile applications to add extra depth and insight. But there are rules. Data needs to follow the four C’s: correct, current, complete, and ethically collected. Data needs to be correct, which means there needs to be an on-going programme of maintenance allowing your customers to continually keep their data updated. Preference centres and ‘update my profile’ are key to maintaining accurate data and of course building trust with your customers by checking in with them through their lifecycle.. The increasing regulatory environment in the UK and overseas, means that ethical data collection is imperative to building and maintaining trust. Customers value brands who know who they are, but crucially in a way that’s responsible. While brands need to offer value, content and relevant information throughout, customers should always feel they are in control and are making informed decisions. What’s more, deploying customer data correctly is a key way to establish trust and create a winning customer experience (give customers what they want and they’ll keep coming back, and will progressively tell you more about what they want from you).. Investing in the right technology to enable this is key to success. If brands do not invest in the technology to create those safe spaces for customers to share and then allow brands to personalise user experiences early on, it will be too late to break walls that competitors will build around these customers later.
- Contextual Engagement
Meaningful and contextually relevant engagement means uniform, consistent communications across web experience, apps, customer service centre and even the loyalty program benefits’ structure. This could be referred to as ‘show me and know me. Know me in a way that benefits me significantly.’
Customer experience interventions can be tailored to meet individual needs and to make customers feel that their experience is the brand’s priority. The customer experience, as previously mentioned, isn’t merely encapsulated in just one touchpoint but across all touchpoints and personalising the experience demonstrates to customers that they are valued. In summary, trust, 1st party data, identity resolution and management are the foundation to create personalised experiences and build customer loyalty.
Brands today are faced with a new customer experience conundrum when it comes to delivering an experience that is both contextually and personally relevant. Brands need to consider their current technology ecosystems, their goals, objectives, and identify gaps and create a plan to fill those gaps with the right capabilities to enable the best customer experience. Especially, as third-party cookies deprecate, brands face a new challenge when it comes to personalising customer experiences. Building trust, the right data collection strategy, integrated with the correct technology and creating the customer experiences that customers want, marketers can stay ahead of competition.