How to Bring Agility to Your Retail Customer Experience Strategy

 In Data-driven Marketing

A great retail customer experience strategy should be the same no matter what for any retail business: build customer retention and loyalty, boost sales and customer advocacy, and enhance customer lifetime value. How you deliver on the retail customer experience strategy, though, is another question— especially now.

The current economic uncertainty and healthcare guidelines ushered in by the outbreak of COVID-19 across the globe have transformed the retail industry in the span of a month. In the U.S., month-over-month retail dropped 8.7%, which is, like, historically not great. 

But opportunities remain: internet traffic is up 50%, Twitter usage is way up, and e-commerce sites that aren’t Amazon are seeing a boost thanks to the retail giant’s decision to focus on essential goods. Let’s talk about how to make the most of the situation we’re in.

Pivoting Your Retail Customer Experience Strategy Online

For retail businesses not deemed “essential,” they were suddenly turned overnight into online-only, direct-to-consumer model businesses. For some digitally native, disruptor brands, there’s no real pivot to make. But the majority of brands find themselves without one of their most important ways to create great customer experiences: in-store. 

Before, e-commerce retail sales accounted for just over 11% of the total retail sales, slowly increasing every quarter. As more people have been ordered to stay home, e-commerce sales have unsurprisingly spiked, increasing 25% in the U.S. in the month of March.

The transformation of retail is laying bare the successes— and shortcomings— of digital transformation. This is not a judgment, but a reality of the situation, and one which I am acutely aware of right now. 

In addition to being part of Team Teal, my family owns a retail business , and we are facing all of these same challenges around the customer experience at the moment.

The bulk of our business comes from in-store purchases and sales at large events like Comic-Con. Of course, those lines of business are closed now, and will be severely curtailed in the short term.

Our retail customer experience hinges upon the care and expertise of our in-store sellers— remembering the books our customers have read, suggesting stellar new reads, and delivering compelling author events. Through their hard work every day, they’ve built a loyal customer base.

Now, the face-to-face interactions have been replaced with a scattershot of online orders, emails, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter messages, comments on posts, and voicemails left at the store. 

What’s missing for us is a single-view-of-the-customer, a way to stitch together those disparate online touch-points into a unified understanding of our customers’ experiences. Providing a great customer experience based on the preferences and past interactions of the customer was the job of the booksellers who interfaced with the customer every day. Now, that interface is a half-dozen platforms that don’t talk to each other easily.

With a single-view-of-the-customer, we could segment and tailor our email database to deliver relevant upcoming recommendations instead of a mass email. We could target social and paid ads for our now-virtual events. It would help us deliver that in-person customer experience in our online-only reality. 

I imagine— no, I know— most retailers are feeling this way, on top of the stress of keeping employees safe and, well, employed. As we pull through this, creating that single-view-of-the-customer experience is going to be a top initiative for every retailer with the means— from SMBs to Enterprise—  because that’s the key to being agile as market trends change, technologies change, and the world changes.

[Webinar] From In-Person to Online: How a CDP Can Help Retailers in a Time of Change

Agility through a Single-View-of-the-Customer

The single-view-of-the-customer will enable agile retail customer experience strategies. But creating a single-view-of-the-customer requires the right customer data management technology and the right strategies. 

First, you need the ability to collect all of your data. You’re already collecting data in a lot of your customer-facing technologies and platforms: social media, e-commerce platforms, apps. But you need to bring it all together in one place. To do that and cover the entire customer experience, you need to be able to collect both server-side (APIs) and client-side (tags). 

With all of your data collected, you’ll need a well-defined data layer, or the behind-the-scenes structure that web sites and mobile apps tap into for timely and consistent visitor data. A well-constructed data layer can act as both a common dictionary for your supporting digital marketing applications and a unifying road map for how you want to communicate with your customers.

To take action on all of this data, you’ll need a technology that can correlate it to individual customers in order to create finely tuned audience segments. The best way to do this is with a Customer Data Platform like Tealium AudienceStream CDP, which automatically stitches profiles from different data sources together and re-builds them in real time to reflect a complete view of that customer’s brand engagement across devices.

Getting a single-view-of-the-customer won’t happen overnight. But working towards this should be a top priority moving forward for retailers.  The agility provided by a single-view-of-the-customer will help you grow your business by increasing conversions across your customer touch-points. It will help keep customers loyal since you can deliver relevant, personalized content and offers in real-time. It will reduce wasteful marketing spend by creating better audiences, cutting down on irrelevant ad campaigns.

The retail industry may be changing more rapidly than anyone could have thought possible, but investing in an agile retail customer experience strategy will help your company weather turbulent times.

Learn more about building a customer experience strategy bolstered by customer data management technology in our latest Newsletter, featuring a Gartner Analyst Note!

Learn how to align your Customer Data Management technology with your Customer Experience strategies!

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