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Retail Customer Experience: Six Innovative Data Strategies to Boost Real-Time Relevance

Article by on February 15, 2013 No Comments

Before marketers kick off any strategic data-related customer experience initiative, they first need to address the fundamental question of how they collect data.

Start by answering these questions about the current data strategy in place:

  • Does it leverage web site and app interactions in real-time to personalize complementary product recommendations and marketing campaigns?
  • Does it ensure a uniform and personalized brand experience for each customer across all the company’s touch points?
  • How carefully does the company monitor customer journeys through the funnel and optimize content, promotions and recommendations accordingly?
  • Do the benefits that come with personalized content and increased engagement cause problems like page latency or otherwise impair the customer experience?

The promise of customer experience programs

Answering these basic questions can offer retailers a quick assessment of the effectiveness of their current customer experience programs, but studying other innovative approaches can bring the potential of customer experience programs into greater focus.

I increasingly see innovative top retailers testing customer experience programs that leverage more flexible data strategies. They pick and choose from a wide range of sophisticated technologies responsible for driving engagement, including solutions to manage advertising campaigns, product reviews and recommendations, or customer support.

These technologies process a retailer’s data to customize the experience it delivers to customers, but some do it much better than others. When executed and integrated well, each customer has an end-to-end personalized experience that begins with the targeted ads they see and continues through the look-and-feel of the shopping experience across any channel or device. When executed poorly, these programs can make customer communications feel slow and out-of-place and cause customers to abandon, and I’ve seen them doing more harm than good.

Retailers commonly fumble one of the keys to executing customer experience programs well: controlling the quality and granularity of data that supplies critical information to these technologies. Actively managing data as part of a customer experience strategy can enable these technologies to accomplish amazing things. A support representative can know a customer’s preferences, likes and dislikes at the moment of inquiry, for example, instead of taking that customer through a cold, disengaging series of qualifying questions.

Consider these six examples of retailers boosting relevance by leveraging a flexible data strategy.

  1. On-site advertising with co-op partners
    A large appliance and electronics eCommerce retailer wanted to open positions on its site for ads to enable cross-promotional campaigns with co-op partners. The retailer leveraged contextual and user-centric data to deliver the right ad to the right audience. Now, for example, when the browser history for a customer looking at an appliance indicates that customer had previously searched for electronics, the retailer can serve that customer an ad from an electronics co-op partner.

  2. Creating an in-store experience for online customers
    A high-end apparel retailer selling online and in its own stores sought to increase conversions and reduce return rates for online purchases by replicating what customers enjoy most about shopping in-store. Surveys found customers liked the “feel and touch” experience of seeking out their sizes and visualizing how prospective purchases would complement their wardrobes. Then, the marketer developed and launched a specialty widget to recreate this emotive experience on its web site by collecting customer feedback in real-time and instantly presenting the shopper with visual displays of right-sized clothing that also match their unique style preferences.

  3. Resolving Customer Complaints
    A marketer of furniture and mattresses wanted to understand the revenue impact of customers abandoning their shopping carts because of usability issues. Customers could have abandoned because the retailer prompted them to re-login, they misunderstood the information requested during checkout, or their shopping carts emptied after they left the site. The retailer implemented a real-time tracking system to detect, flag and replay problematic customer sessions. By changing its data distribution infrastructure, the retailer now monitors all user-interaction events and addresses problems in real time.

  4. Chatting up customer support
    A broadline retailer that operates a large marketplace utilized a live chat service for customer support. Since real-time discounts meant that item pricing was dynamic and personalized to the individual shopper, the live chat service didn’t always have the most accurate prices. That problem disappeared when the company implemented a new data integration platform that transfers the real-time pricing information directly to the chat service.

  5. Surveys and Feedback
    A shoe retailer wanted a single point of integration for disparate partners that solicited customer feedback via surveys. By implementing a comprehensive data distribution infrastructure, the company centralized the survey decision making process to ensure disparate surveys would not spawn on the web site simultaneously to disrupt customers’ experiences.

  6. Testing site effectiveness and usability
    To make smarter decisions when testing and measuring new designs against abandonment rate and other key performance indicators, an online jewelry marketer launched a data-driven site optimization tool that enables the company to visualize heat maps, measure how customers interact with each part of the site, and understand how types of customers behave differently. A flexible data strategy enabled this tool to seamlessly integrate with existing analytics packages without the support of an IT team.

Flexible data strategies set the stage for creative solutions that address real business problems, and top retailers increasingly turn to new, more flexible data integration and distribution platforms to further their digital marketing goals. By investing in a flexible data strategy, innovative retailers set the stage to revolutionize their customer experience programs and engage with customers and prospects with greater relevance and effectiveness.

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