The Need for Speed
Retail today is evolving and becoming more dependent on technology to create consistent experiences for cross-channel consumers. One of the ways retailers and their technology providers are enabling a seamless and personalized Omni-Channel shopping experience is by collecting and analyzing data to better understand customer journeys, individual customer preferences, and weaknesses in the retail offering. Retailers now seek a more holistic approach to customer data, a strategy which looks beyond consumer behavior exhibited in a single event and assesses the customer across all activities and channels to create more accurate and complete individualized customer profiles. Such horizontal strategies enable retailers to create more accurate and complete individualized customer profiles.
It is becoming clear to retailers, however, that timing is one of the key factors impacting the consumer experience. It is not enough to incorporate data-driven strategies into one’s retail offering, customer needs and preferences must be met immediately if they are to positively impact customer loyalty.
For this reason, solutions incorporating dynamic decision making based on real-time information are becoming critical for engaging consumers. These technologies are empowering businesses, enabling them to deliver optimized experiences using data sets as varied as stock information, geolocation, weather reports, and even transactional data.
As retailers attempt to synchronize their cross-channel operations and business intelligence, having transparency about where consumers are buying; how they are paying; if and where they are making returns; and at what point in the conversion process they are abandoning their purchase, enables retailers to better respond to the various customer journeys, ultimately encouraging conversions and brand loyalty.
For example, understanding why a consumer is not converting on one channel, may enable the retailer to encourage the consumer to complete the purchase on another channel. Using real-time information technology, the retailer can identify not only the individual online customer but also know the items the consumer wanted to buy, and recognize the reason for the abandoned cart: the desired items were unavailable for online order. The next time the item becomes available online or when the consumer next comes to the brick and mortar store, the retailer can use geolocation data to initiate real-time decision making, including notifying the customer about product availability, offering a discount on the product, or recommending complementary products for purchase at a discounted price.
Other data sets, like tokenized credit card data, could similarly be used to streamline the checkout process on online and offline channels. Leveraging available data sets and customer recognition, retailers can avoid long queues in store by allowing customers to pay quickly over a mobile device with previously used and securely stored payment methods.
Another important consideration is that customers must approve retailers’ use of their information, but they are unlikely to do so if they mistrust the retailer’s motives in collecting the data or its ability to protect their sensitive information. Retailers can encourage data sharing by elucidating their purposes for collecting information, by incentivizing registering details with special offers, and by enabling the customer to dictate when submitted data can be used. When consumers feel in control of their information, they will feel more secure in allowing retailers to use that information.
It is important to note, however, that even for consumers who do not agree to divulge their personal information, certain data sets must be collected and stored to ensure a secure online payment process. E-commerce transactions require certain information to authenticate the consumer and rule out fraud before approving the transaction. Even these few captured elements can indirectly provide information retailers can use. For example, the retailer can draw conclusions based on the distribution of payment methods used, the location of the purchaser, or even fulfillment options requested. To date, companies have not bridged the gaps between their marketing and sales efforts and their fraud and risk management resources – a major missed opportunity.
Real-time decision making depends on synergy between retailers and their customers, but those are not the only parties impacting this data-driven technology. My next article will discuss the third party providers enabling this service, and how these vendors are further developing this technology moving forward into 2015.
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