In this extract from our latest digital supplement taking on the Single Customer View, we address the challenges of tying the online-offline customer experience. 

The average consumer is blissfully oblivious to digital marketing terminology. Labels like ‘multi-channel’ and ‘customer relationship management’ have no bearing on their everyday retail experience.

Consumers instead live by the code of convenience where complexity means a lost sale. The distinctions between e-commerce and in-store may be blurring for marketers in the pursuit of a single customer view, but they are becoming irrelevant for the consumer.

In the era of omni-channel, heightened expectations adopted by consumers have never been more evident. As the trend of showrooming appears to be dwindling, a 2014 report by Forrester found that 71% of consumers expect to be able to view high-street stock online, and half expect functionality to buy products online and pick up in-store.

The same report found that only a third of ‘clicks-and-bricks’ have the basics in place, including store pick-up, cross-channel inventory visibility, and store-based fulfillment. In fact, one in every two shoppers are reluctant to drop into a physical outlet if they can’t research stock information online beforehand.

These statistics may put a lump in the throat of some retailers, or even a shrug of indifference from others in a false state of comfort. But the innovators among them are acting upon the cue to continue bridging this online-offline divide, as both a driver of sales and a key brand differentiator.

Where to start?

As head of affiliates at MediaCom, Nicola White recommends her retail clients have appropriate software positioned in-store that is linked to their customer relationship management (CRM) programs, complementing a regime of deep data analysis and more traditional market research methods.

“Econometrics modelling allows MediaCom as an agency to evaluate the impact of individual campaigns, as well as a multitude of research and survey-based tools that we have to gauge and measure consumer opinion.

“Customer loyalty and store cards are a great way to link personal data with product history information to start to build a summary of a consumer’s purchase behaviour.”

While loyalty cards have long been the go-to for providing a single data stream between online and in-store purchases, marketers are having to get more inventive in their approach to gaining in-store customer insights, according to Gill Makepeace, advertiser and network manager at loyalty program specialists Incentive Networks.

“I think linking up in-store and online is ultimately one of the most difficult pieces [of the process].

“I believe a lot of the ways of identifying the customer in store is linked to a payment or loyalty card. This isn’t completely robust as customers can have multiple payment cards and they will also expire and get new ones.”

Point of sale

Capturing a customer’s email address at the till is another potential way to tie customer information together, says Makepeace, so long as the staff are trained on its importance.

“Additionally, publishers that have in-store vouchers and cashback enabled can also help to tie varied customer data together. It is all about how the retailer captures and manages the data.”

Fashion retailer Accessorize demonstrated this approach over Christmas last year, emailing customer receipts from its in-store purchases, which account for around 90% of day-to-day sales. These include targeted recommendations based on individual sale history and online shopping baskets, distributed with the aim of boosting its e-commerce proposition.

As straightforward as it appears, campaign success relies less on implementation, according to Rakuten Attribution commercial director Lewis Lenssen, and more in thorough planning of targets throughout the initial stages.

“In our experience, retailers that enter into these projects with very general objectives have often struggled.

“One of the techniques for avoiding this is to have very precise short-term goals, such as determining the value of display advertising, for example, and we often start our relationship with businesses by delivering the answers to these specific questions in a set period of time.

This doesn’t mean that all the value is short term, argues Lenssen, but it provides a focus for the project and ensures that businesses have a straightforward mechanism to assess the value of their investment.

“In general we’re seeing that the people investing in this are getting a fast return, therefore should be investing more and faster. However, the judgement of the value and how much you should invest are specific to individual business, the channels they use and their priorities.”

Increasingly, retailers need to use their data to provide customers with bespoke communications. They also need to know what products they might be interested in and when they are most likely to buy, as well as backing this tailored experience with personalised customer service.

Before marketers can make strides towards catering for this panoramic view of their customers, they are faced with the prospect of garnering the necessary insight on their customers’ in-store behaviour, which unlike the reams available on your online users, poses a far greater challenge.

What this all means, inevitably, is that there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Each retailer must forensically analyse the merits and return of addressing the disconnect between their online and offline presence before initiating a campaign, but the hard work will pay off.

For further insight into marketer’s ‘Holy Grail’, download the complimentary Single Customer View Digital Supplement, available here.

Find out more about contributing to any of our upcoming roundtables here to have your say in our next digital supplement.