One of our clients told me about a fairly remarkable omnichannel retail experience a couple of weeks ago that demonstrated a key insight.

He and his wife had been in a London chain restaurant, waiting for someone to come and take their order.  When their waiting time had become unacceptable, his wife tweeted the chain to complain that their experience was leaving them somewhat underwhelmed.  Within a minute, an apology came back, wanting to know which restaurant they were in.  Less than two minutes later, their table was then approached by a member of staff who again apologised for keeping them waiting, and would they now like to place an order?  The staff had identified my client’s wife from her Twitter profile picture, on their tablet.

Whilst this is clearly a great use of technology to improve a somewhat floundering customer experience, this does throw up two questions:

  1. Are we now so focussed on our newly-utilised online communication channels that our face-to-face, human-to-human joined up communications are of a lesser priority?
  1. Is it really easier and quicker to communicate via a smartphone or tablet, than it is to communicate with people in a room?

Retail has always been a personal experience, with retailers striving to gain ever-better knowledge of their customers. But today, with the increasing selection of channels through which we communicate, retailers are finding it hard to maintain a single view point of the customer and a cohesive omnichannel retail experience. This is causing true customer intimacy to evaporate.

The paradox is ironic. Today’s technology generates more precious customer information and tools that can create deep visibility into individual, real-time behaviour – customer influences, preferences and spend patterns. Yet, it proves an expensive, confusing and time-consuming process to maximise this technological opportunity to improve and upgrade existing traditional customer communications.  Notice I say “improve”.  Not replace.

Within the omnichannel retail experience jigsaw puzzle that is today’s shopper journey, a customer may see your ad on television or in the press, discuss it on a social media channel, visit an outlet to see and touch the product personally, compare prices online and ultimately order it from an online buying service at discounted price, or do it the old-fashioned way and go back into store armed with information.

How do you create a plan – and infrastructure – that tracks the customer’s actions across channels and brings it together to create a single view of the customer, then follow this up by personalising emails and product recommendations, and finally, tag along so that you are present when the customer is making shopping decisions, regardless of the channel or sector?

The answer: capture all possible browsing, social, location and buying data relating to shopper behaviour, analyse it in real-time, and let it inform your marketing strategies.  This is, of course, far easier said than done, and requires a retailer to be adept at omnichannel data surfing, connecting the dots, mapping customer to product offering and availability, and skilfully aiming for the customer’s heart and wallet whilst predicting their next move. Data without analysis is just a bunch of numbers.

With the right real-time analytics and technology utilised, retailers are able to create a central view of a customer across a number of channels allowing them to predict what the customer will do next or might need immediately, at a highly granular level.  Analytics isn’t new to retailers – as far back as 2011, a US study showed that investments in analytics had been steadily rising for 60% of the retail industry globally between 2008 and 2011. Today, investments in analytics at the base of an omnichannel retail experience strategy have become mandatory to survival.

Customers are expecting more, and they are willing to give more for it. Retailers must make sense of their own omnichannel retail-to-customer relationship, without losing sight of the whole channel mix – traditional and new. Those who can do this and personalise their offerings will create an instant competitive advantage.

We can help you get a better understanding of your customer and improve your omnichannel retail experience; talk to us today.

Caroline Finch-Denham

Account Director