Opinion: Be everywhere your customers are: 3 keys to retail

In this very different time, retailers are trying to do whatever they can to survive as more shoppers move to the online world to purchase products and services. While having an online channel is necessary for today’s retailers, many transactions still happen in their physical stores. Hence, retailers must leverage their data collected from both the online and offline worlds. The retailers that successfully do so will stay relevant in this era, as they can seamlessly provide an omnichannel retail experience to their customers.

Let us take a step back to examine what omnichannel retail means to retailers. There are many definitions on the Internet if you google it. Still, my favourite one is from Shopify: “Omnichannel retail doesn’t require you to be everywhere, just everywhere your customers are. This distinction is what separates top-performing enterprises from the rest.”

Yes, “being everywhere your customers are” is the core of omnichannel retail. This statement means that, as a business, you need to put your customers at the centre of everything - start with customers and end with customers. It also means that - start with offline and end with online, or vice versa, and create an infinite loop of engagements with your customers.

How can retailers achieve so? There are three keys for retailers to provide an omnichannel retail experience to their customers. The retailers need to do the following:

1. Create a 360-degree customer view

This can be done by leveraging the offline data generated via the transactional activities that happen at physical stores and the online data available via their digital presence. Traditionally, retailers collect many data points in the offline world, be it from transactions at the point of sale (POS), card-based memberships, feedback forms, and forms collected in offline events, among others.

Meanwhile, retailers with a digital presence such as an electronic storefront would have access to all their customers’ digital footprints in their online stores. It is crucial to unify offline data with online data to create a 360-degree customer view. Having a 360-degree customer view opens up many new opportunities as retailers can finally learn and understand their customers by unifying online and offline data. The more you know about your customers, the better you can serve them.

2. Make customer data platform the core of their business

How can retailers create a 360-degree customer view? Some cloud-based POS systems allow retailers to sync up the transactional data, with membership data, to the centralised system such as a customer data platform (CDP) to map the offline data with online data and then unify the data. While brands want to look into customer lifetime value now, they are urged to use a CDP to unify online and offline data, provide data analytics, run ad campaigns, and execute message delivery.

According to the Customer Data Platform Institute, a US-based vendor-neutral organisation dedicated to helping marketers manage customer data, a CDP is “packaged software that creates a persistent, unified customer database that is accessible to other systems.” In essence, a CDP is an essential component to unify offline and online data to create the infinity loop of marketing activities illustrated in the diagram mentioned above.

3. Use martech such as marketing automation tools to do precision marketing

Once brands put a customer-centric approach in place, they need to start using marketing automation tools for customer acquisition, conversion, and retention. With CDP as the centre of the operation, brands would activate their first-party data with precision marketing efforts. Brands can target their customers via email, SMS, messaging, app push, or any other channels they preferred to receive the relevant messages and offers based on the customer segments to which they belong. Such efforts involve:

(i) Acquiring new customers by leveraging on a more precise lookalike audience enriched by the single customer view;

(ii) Increasing retention rates; and

(iii) Building loyalty among existing customers with more personalized offers and promotions pushed to them via relevant channels.

From customer acquisition to loyalty-building among customers, retailers can finally provide an omnichannel retail experience to their customers by creating a 360-degree customer view, making CDP the core of their operation, and using marketing automation tools to deliver personalised and relevant messages. Ultimately, retailers will drive customer lifetime value and sustainable growth for their businesses while providing a better customer experience to the new and existing customers.

The writer is Serm Teck Choon, co-founder and CEO of Antsomi.

Photo courtesy: 123RF