These days the consumer experience is almost endless. It can kick off with an advert, carry on in-store, continue on the phone or online, bleed into social media and maybe even end with a forum discussion. If it ever ends at all, that is. We’re connected all the time and the customer often has all the product information at their fingertips well before the point of purchase.
The modern customer is a headstrong and powerful beast. We know our own minds better than ever before. We know what we want, when we want it (often 24 hours a day) and where we want it across our various channels.
How the cross channel challenge affects the customer experience
Most successful retailers have cottoned on to the idea that the connected customer experience needs to be multi-channel, that is, able to be carried out across all the available platforms. Some, however, have been a little slower to realise that to be truly successful, the process has to be fully connected.
In a multi-channel retail experience the customer profile needs to be easily accessible to all participants in the process to avoid snags that can undermine consumer confidence. And, depending on your point of view, the connected customer experience has killed the idea of traditional marketing stone dead because the always-on customer isn’t stopping at the traditional places and for the predictable breaks. They hop about between options, they hover, they compare, they save for later. How are we supposed to know when to take action? We don’t. Instead we follow them through their dynamic and continuous course and adapt with them.
The successful retailers have learned to be more reactive in their cross-channel marketing, such as creating virtual dressing rooms that can be stocked with the real items on arrival. They have also learned that instead of using the traditional marketing tactics, consumers respond well to and value loyalty initiatives, which in turn provide the retailers with crucial information about the buyer.
Recognising at the right time, and the right place
Of course this is all about the data and that’s where CMOs must step up. The best deal must be offered via the best channel at the optimum time and to do this the data needs to be razor sharp.
Marketing needs to be more customer-focused than ever before and this is where good connected data can be turned into actionable insight. Traditionally, marketing has looked at details such as age and geography to determine behaviour. CMOs are increasingly using Big Data to determine a consumer’s likely path, based on actual behaviour and preferences expressed. Organising people into interests and buying habits like this is an increasingly effective way of creating a more personalised real-time experience for the customer using triggers to respond to specific retail actions. This means delivering the right content at the right time in the right location by the right method.
How Amazon are enhancing the customer experience with connected data
Amazon.com is one retailer that has used customer data like this to remarkable effect, powering itself by its use of recommendations (“Like this? You might like this too.”).
All of this, of course, means viewing the customer as more of a partner in the process, marketing the journey across multiple channels based on the information they have given you and behaviour-based predictions.
The results: increased loyalty and an easier-to-predict customer. The beast, tamed,– perhaps? While Amazon deliver in terms of service you often hear things like “I bought a kids book for my niece and now I get recommendations for all kinds stuff for kids I don’t have”, or similar. You can’t really blame Amazon for trying, after all, you did buy a children’s book but the real you and your real needs are revealed from the bigger picture, a focus on you across all channels, screens and devices. If you recognise the customer and connect that data, you’ll outstrip Amazon’s often-admired approach.