By Craig Crawford
First Published by AATCC News
Since the launch of the iPhone in 2007, shopping has become a 24/7 experience. Digitally-savvy consumers research before purchase, and share their experiences—good or bad—socially. Consumers expect to shop frictionlessly anytime, anywhere, and on any device with free shipping, free returns, and receive assistance in real time online or on the phone. They also expect to order online and pick up in store.
As brands align behavior in the physical and digital spaces, it makes sense that they become “customer centric”—putting the customer at the center of everything they do to create the best customer experience.
“Most brands struggle today to deliver a positive experience from sale through service,” explains Billy Loizou, Chief Marketing Technologist at Digital Logic Marketing Solutions, an Australian-based digital marketing agency that specializes in online and offline campaigns for medium to large-sized companies. According to Loizou, “89% of customers are leaving brands due to a bad customer experience.”
“Organizations are no longer just focused on the ‘increase in ROI.’ They are now also conscious of two other metrics: ‘Customer Satisfaction’ and the ‘Willingness to Recommend.’ The close link between service and marketing is now apparent,” he explains.
Kester Dobson, Head of Technology for London based Harris + Hoole, a specialty coffee chain aiming to “Bring Better Coffee to the High Street,” agrees.
“Brick and mortar retailing and hospitality brands have historically been focused on sales/labor ratios, product margins, and operational efficiency,” Dobson says. “While many brands talk about customer-centric experiences, it’s only lip service until you accept that all this ‘customer experience stuff’ could have a detrimental impact on some of these finance KPIs. The brands that succeed here accept the long term benefit of investing in the customer as part of a relationship, not just a series of transactions.”
“It’s no surprise that companies who invest in a ‘customer-centric’ strategy are seeing amazing results in their overall business KPI’s,” Loizou says. “The best brands in the world provide their customers with a memorable experience. That experience creates an emotional connection which will stay with the customer for life.”
“The CEO of ao.com [London-based Appliances Online] spends two hours a day responding to customers, signing letters,” says Will Dymott, Head of Data and CRM at Practicology, a London-based consultancy focused on eCommerce and multi-channel retailing. “Their whole business was reinvented when they put their focus on the customer,” he explains. “Instead of figuring out the best offer, now they work on giving the best service. Case in point, the call center staff have the ability to send flowers without approval if an order is messed up.”
“On every project, we build out from the customer,” explains Jeremy Wilson, Practicology’s Chief Commercial Officer.
In 2011, Burberry was considered an early adopter of ‘click to chat’ (the ability to have real time chat messaging with a sales associate) and ‘click to call’ (the ability to schedule a call back from a sales associate when it is convenient for you) technologies. Today, brands that don’t offer these plug ins as well as ‘click and collect’ services are viewed as laggards. (‘Click and collect’ allows a customer to purchase online and pick up in-store instead of being charged for shipping).
“Click and Collect is a convenience our customers want,” explains Cathy McCabe, CIO Jaeger, a London-based fashion brand and retailer of menswear and womenswear. McCabe also looks after customer strategy for Jaeger, since technology touches every part of the brand vision.
“Buying online and trying on in-store gives the customer the confidence she needs when shopping for clothes online,” McCabe explains. “And it gives us the opportunity to learn more about our online customer in-store.”
Jaeger has recently launched an in store clienteling iPad app. Shortlisted this year for three Drapers Digital Awards and two Retail Week Customer Experience Awards, the app allows sales associates to see a customer’s purchase history and ecommerce wish list, make recommendations for purchase, and send personalized emails to customers.
“The real shift here is that brands now have the ability to create and maintain relationships with their customers through digital tools like clienteling,” says Steve Orell, Partner-Operations of New York-based Proximity Insight, creators of the clienteling app used by Jaeger.
Fifteen marketing industry insiders in the Direct Marketing News 2016 Marketing Outlook eBook (Part 1) cite personalization, customer insight, and technology as pivotal to successful customer relationship management.
“To remain competitive, brands must be proactive in their understanding of their customers and reach out to them in personal meaningful ways,” Orell says.
“Personalization can take so many forms—everything from a clustering algorithm picking the product it thinks you’ve missed in your shopping journey and sending you a pic, to a sales associate saying ‘Hey, it was great to see you last week, those new Valentino flats just arrived and look amazing—let me know if you want us to hold on to a pair for you!’” he explains.
“For the higher tiers of engaged customers, we’ve shown the second type of personalization is at least 20 times more effective than the first. The downside is that it utilizes more resources. There’s a lot of value to be captured for brands that get the math right and have a combined strategy. I think the most powerful examples of personalization will always be humanistic—but that doesn’t mean an unsystematic approach. Proximity Insight is making some pretty big bets based on that premise.”
Providing in-store sales teams and customer service representatives in call centers with “one single view of the customer” is well beyond the traditional boundaries of CRM databases and loyalty programs, Orell says.
In this years Drapers and RetailWeek Personalization Report, a survey of retail executives highlighting how retailers are embracing personalization to drive sales and loyalty, 37% said they still cannot synchronize the customer experience across channels and devices. Inflexible ecommerce platforms were the number one barrier to success (followed closely by budget and human resource to implement).
The Proximity Insight app leverages the salesforce.com CRM platform.
“Platforms as a service, software as a service, and apps that make use of APIs to surface data allow everyone in the brand to take action. These actionable insights allow for personalized communications,” Orell explains. “Dialogue is what relationships are built on.”