Today’s shopper is 100% connected digitally, 100% of the time. The proliferation of mobile devices means that customers can browse and buy whenever and wherever. With technology now being inseparable from everything consumers do and attention spans diminishing, this presents a new battleground for brands where they are being constantly challenged to innovate, cut through the clutter and keep up with this rapidly changing evolution.
It is the age of the customer. By adding value to every single customer interaction, at every touch point, today’s retailer cannot only make one-to-one customer engagement and capture loyalty but also operate more efficiently, gain market share and drive profitable growth and brand engagement. However, there are several challenges that brand marketers need to meet before they provide the ultimate digital experience.
According to Ascend2’s “Marketing Technology Trends Survey” (Jan 2017), inadequate technology integration is a significant barrier to marketing technology success for nearly half of B2C marketing influencers.
Half of the companies indicate that technology integration is a significant barrier to success, where only 37% have extensively integrated their marketing systems and 4% have not integrated their marketing technologies at all. So, it’s understandable that deploying the ultimate digital experience could seem complex.
However, it has to be neither complicated nor expensive. Companies do not need an army of digital experts – either in-house or from an agency – to see results. With the easy-to-integrate and open digital marketing platforms available today, the complexities of integrating new technology with legacy or in-house built systems and applications are greatly simplified, if not by the in-house IT team then by the digital marketing partner or agency.
In this new digital age, technology, along with data, analytics and design, underpins and shapes the entire customer experience. Information technology is not only pervasive; it is fast becoming a primary driver of market differentiation, business growth and profitability.
As consumers head full speed into the world where brand and technological experiences are indistinguishable, revamped marketing and IT teams need to be jointly responsible for owning the design of the customer experience.
A recent report by Accenture highlights: “The beliefs of CMOs and CIOs often diverge radically. A large majority of CIOs (61%) feel their companies are prepared for the digital future. CMOs are more hesitant, with just under a majority (49%) feeling their companies are prepared to leverage digital channels. The CMO–CIO disconnect.”
As a result, CMOs and CIOs must work more closely together than ever before. Also, many retailers still operate and manage transactions and inventory across siloed technology stacks – so an item purchased online cannot be returned for a refund in store, leading to poor customer experience.
New data management platforms are now available that can bring together disintegrated and siloed data to provide a 360-degree view of customers across multiple channels and systems.
Lacking the right ecosystem
One all too common barrier to providing the ultimate customer journey is not having the right team in place internally, or not working in partnership with the right technology partners who can help deliver this service.
Marketers should initially evaluate their existing technology partners to identify any unexplored capabilities. By creating an ecosystem of success, bringing all your technology providers together, you could uncover some valuable capabilities to enable the next generation of retail experience using the toolkit already in place.
Can’t identify customers
Customer identification across platforms is a major challenge, so while it’s absolutely necessary for a successfully connected customer path, it can be hard to achieve. Often the information collected in customer databases is ‘dirty,’ with multiple profiles for each customer and lots of missing or incorrect information.
When customers buy something online, they give away a lot of personal data both actively (via payment forms) and passively (via cookies), which allows companies to identify them quickly. But in brick-and-mortar retail, often the only data collected is an anonymous, encrypted credit card number — not nearly enough information to build an accurate customer profile.
Some brands have access to data but do not wish to risk upsetting their customers. This will become even more prominent with the new data protection regulations coming into play.
A successful customer identification programme requires that data integration takes place in an organised and systematic fashion and in order to build a holistic view of the customer, retailers need to find a way of connecting online and offline data, using data management platforms or similar technologies.
It’s all about engagement, offline and online. Evidently, the need for cut through is vital. Retailers must find new ways to understand, engage and provide value with every single customer engagement to remain top of mind, retain market share and ultimately meet revenue targets in this noisy, tech-addicted world.