By Tracey Matchett
According to the biggest names in the retail sector, data, analytics and technology are the keys to delivering the best customer experience.
Sometimes what happens in Vegas shouldn’t stay in Vegas. You can count the experiences from Shoptalk’s 3rd annual U.S. conference as one of those times. More than 7,500 delegates descended on Sin City this past March to catch some of the 300 speakers including Glossier, Boxed, Macy’s, Nordstrom, eBay, Nike and Sephora.
While the conversation touched on everything from e-commerce and big box stores to smaller retailers that are turning the sector on its head, almost every speaker stressed the importance of data, analytics and technology to their organization’s ability to deliver the best customer experience.
Here are our top four biggest takeaways from this year’s event:
- Data is the new fuel and analytics is the engine that will move you forward
Between the growing influence of Amazon, the emergence of small specialty stores and the growth of e-commerce players, retailers need to use every tool in their toolbox if they want to be successful. Specifically, retailers need to broaden the way they look at their customers and understanding how they interact with their competition.
Retailers need insights that will tell them who is at risk of switching to a competitor or where to find more customers who will be most receptive to their brand’s message. Only then can they put the right strategy in place. And the best way to answer those questions is by using data and analytics.
Lowe’s was one of several retailers to explain how it uses data to set its local trade area strategies, by identify growth opportunities and spot cannibalization along with other key challenges. All organizations have some data, but few possess the comprehensive details and analytical skills in-house to perform that high-level competitive analysis, but help is available to retailers of all sizes.
- Forensic mapping of the customer journey
Before brands can stand out and find the most effective ways to reach their customers, they need to develop a deeper understanding the customer journey. This was a common theme for several prominent Shoptalk speakers.
Take Sephora as an example. The French cosmetics chain is structured around the customer, keeping her front and center along her entire journey. To create this rich customer experience, Sephora provides its customers with tutorials and the opportunity to try-before-you-buy. Such initiatives not only create a better customer experience, they give the retailer multiple touchpoints with the customer, whether she is a new customer or a VIP.
As Macy’s CEO Jeff Gennette explains, consumers are in control. In order to cater to consumers, retailers must break down the customer journey in detail if they want to be able to understand what they love—and fix what they don’t—across their retail stores and digital channels.
Fortunately, retailers now have more tools available than ever before to track the customer journey and derive insights that will help reach and engage customers along the path. Mobile analytics, for example, is quickly emerging as a tool that will not only map the customer journey to a particular retailer, but one that will allow retailers to see which other stores those customers are visiting.
- Connect with consumers on a personal level
Personalization is another important theme that bubbled up in many of the keynote Shoptalk presentations. Leading brands are stepping up their loyalty programs, leveraging personalized data to deepen insights and build personas that can be used to segment customers and help them deliver relevant messages, offers and services.
For example, ULTA, a cosmetics and beauty brand recognized for its commitment to personalized service, is combining data from its loyalty program with privacy-compliant third-party data to gain deeper insights into their customers. Through this process, the retailer is able to create personas and then deliver relevant product recommendations, product introductions, samples and more.
Nike is another example. Through its Nike Plus Membership program, Nike is leveraging segmentation to create personas which are being used to target exclusive events and other VIP perks. The athletic wear company says its Nike Plus members spend four times more than regular guests.
- The customer expects a unified journey
Retailers need to recognize their sales opportunity isn’t limited to their website or storefront. As shoppers become more channel agnostic, Sephora is responding by taking channel out of the equation and structuring teams internally to address the need. Sephora is even making beauty high-tech. Its Virtual Artist mobile app allows customers to virtually apply makeup. The app does more than that. It keeps track of the products consumer are selecting so that they can easily find them in store and allows Sephora to personalize communications to each customer based on the products they like in the app.
Retailers don’t even have to wait for consumers to enter one of their stores before reaching out to them. Using geo-fencing, retailers can entice consumers off the sidewalk using targeted text message to their mobile phones. Roughly half of consumers receiving such messages usually end up in store.
Then there is Nordstrom, which is also removing any barriers between the digital and in-store experience. When customers like an image on Nordstrom’s Instagram page, the retailer instantly sends the customer a text message to connect her to a Nordstrom stylist who will help her personalize her look, reserve online and try on in store.
The message from Shoptalk’s keynotes is clear: in order to provide your customers with an extraordinary experience retailers need to embrace data and analytics in new, innovative ways. And as recent events with Facebook and Cambridge Analytica have highlighted, these same organizations need to collect, manage and apply the data in privacy-compliant, secure ways that make earning and protecting consumer trust a central part of the experience.
This is precisely the type of work we do here at Environics Analytics for hundreds of companies, including major retailers. Contact us to find out how we can help you create a richer customer experience.
Tracey Matchett is a Group Account Director at Environics Analytics, focused on U.S. retail and consumer packaged goods.