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The three C's of appropriate marketing - Retail agility

Published: Monday, 24 November 2014 10:47 by Katharine Hulls, VP Marketing
Digital Intelligence

Our Appropriate Marketing blog series has looked at the differences between various sectors, assessing different approaches to digital marketing agility to enhance customer engagement and how the three Cs – Customers, Complexity and Culture – are affecting the routes taken by the different industries and organizations.

With retail being often the most progressive and evolved area for a digital environment, this installment will look at where this sector is leading the pack and where it could benefit from a revised approach.

Touch point complexity
The way each customer chooses to interact with their preferred retailers varies dramatically. From the multiple channels – including stores, websites, mobile apps, catalogs and call centers – to the highly individual ways customers undertake the actual purchase process: all lead to a highly complex customer journey for retailers to understand with a plethora of touchpoints potentially involved. Add in the multiple devices now on offer to support the digital customer interaction and the customer engagement picture is clearly complex. Yet retailers must be able to untangle this for each customer in order to deliver appropriate and personalized communications that don’t conflict with those sent via other channels.  

Retailers also often have a wide-ranging and complex product suite which can provide benefits in terms of expanding up-selling and cross-selling opportunity, however with considerations such as inventory control and pricing to handle as well it can make the life of retail marketers multifaceted as well as fast-moving.  

Increasingly demanding customers
Retailers need to take serious steps to understand the changing nature of customer behavior if they are to create a compelling engagement message and model. How can a retailer optimize the customer experience online, for example, without understanding the device being used or a customer’s preference for researching online and buying in store?

With more and more customers adopting multi-channel behavior, including showrooming and more recently reverse showrooming, there is a critical need for retailers to have a full view of that end to end journey if they are to engage, not disengage, customers with the right online content and offer.

The good news for omnichannel retailers is the availability of a wealth of in depth customer data. Retailers have the ability to determine how individual customers interact and on which devices. To be able to do this accurately however, the retailer needs all of the data stored in one place – including web data, mobile data and social data as well as transaction and loyalty data – to really build a complete picture of the customer. Only then can they execute true data-driven marketing.

Culture of fast and fragmented
Driven by the need to react quickly to today’s fickle consumers, many retailers are investing in point solutions, such as standalone website personalization tools, rather than take a longer-term platform-based approach.  This is also partly driven by the retailer culture of agility: keeping up with trends is inherent to the retail psyche.

While providing a great customer experience is important, many retailers are in fact concentrating so much on that experience and engaging with new channels such as social media, that they are neglecting to collect and analyze their customer data. Whilst their agile approach does enable them to stay apace of their competitors and satisfy immediate customer demands, it does not give them the complete solution required to achieve the much needed Single Customer View (SCV), let alone develop deep customer understanding and drive true omnichannel marketing.  To take the longer-term view, however, will require an investment of time as well as the bringing together of cross-functional teams from Marketing, analytics and IT – all of which is hard to do in a fast-paced environment.  

In addition to the pressure to move quickly, many retailers, except those with a catalog background, lack the marketing analytics skills needed to transform that data into deep customer understanding both at the aggregated and individual level.   Armed with this in depth, omnichannel insight however, retailers can exploit customer understanding to create an agile and personalized approach that will enable them to interact with the customer at the right point in this sometimes complex journey with the right deal and the right message.

Agility is key to retail success and has many benefits in meeting rapidly evolving consumer demands.  However it can also drive retailers to take a short-term approach which impacts their ability to create a fantastic customer experience and utilize in depth understanding of the customer journey to improve engagement, drive efficiencies and drive real customer loyalty.

 

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