The Need for Data in Retail Marketing

Retail customers have high expectations of their interactions with brands. Incorporate historical customer data – as well as real-time data – with your cross-channel campaigns.

Every item on every sales floor and on every e-commerce website is for sale. Trying to manage it all and match it to customers passing by requires the skills of a carnival barker. “Good afternoon, madam, I have the perfect shoes to match your outfit. They are similar to the shoes you bought last week. If you buy them right now, you can get an extra 10% off. And you, sir, I see that your mobile phone case is scuffed. I have a genuine leather one that will let your friends know how sophisticated you are. You there, son, we have all the latest games for that new gaming system you just got for your birthday.”

No one person can manage this alone and keep all this information in their head. There are marketing tools for that, but they are not always connected. An email system might not connect to the in-store point of sale system. And the e-commerce site might not connect to either one of them. If you have mastered these connections in your retail environment, congratulations. But many retail marketers  are still looking for the solution.


Permission Granted

No matter what products you sell, your messaging will be improved with access to customer data. This is the first-party data that you have permission to use in your marketing. Even with the changing privacy laws around consumer data, customers who have opted in to your emails have agreed to your privacy policy. The more you know about your customers – including their preferences that they have shared with you and details from their in-store and online purchases – the more relevant messages you can send them.


Like Shoppers Shop Alike

Customers open emails that they relate to. It is nearly pointless to send an email about a product to customers who have never purchased products in that category. Customers expect brands to know them and send messages informed by their previous activities with the brand. When it doesn’t appear that this is the case, consumers may choose one of your competitors for their next purchase.

A message about a sale in the men’s department is unlikely to be opened by someone who has never purchased men’s clothing. You can send an email promoting women’s clothing to someone who has purchased them and include a small banner about the men’s sale to test interest, but otherwise, you should use the data available to you to build audience segments of customers who have purchased men’s clothing. Consider your major product categories as segments. You can also create segments around customers who only shop online. You can use this segment to test whether they will pick up products in store.


We Know Your Favorite Color

Raise the click-through performance of your emails by personalizing them with customer data. Using data that is more specific to their purchases demonstrates that you know what kinds of things they are interested in.

Customers are more likely to purchase something that is similar to what they purchased before.

This is obviously not always the case, especially with bigger purchases. Just because someone purchased a couch instead of a full living room suite, that doesn’t mean they have a love for couches. But it could mean that they are furnishing a house slowly, and on a budget. You could test to see if they are interested in anchor pieces for other rooms, like a dining room table and chairs. You could also include things  in colors and styles that are similar to their previous purchases. 


Keeping it Real with Real-Time Data

Not all marketing systems can deal with real-time data. Retailers looking to strengthen their relationship with their customers should consider how they could use it. Customers never follow pre-built journeys precisely, but what happens when the next message is set to go out and the customer has already made a purchase? If the e-commerce system doesn’t update the marketing system in real-time, then it looks like you don’t know that your customer just  made a purchase.

Or what if you have an email triggered to go out after a purchase, but this data comes across to the email system in a batch? This automated email is so delayed after the purchase that a customer might think that it represents fraudulent activity instead of something they themselves purchased online much earlier in the day.


Feels Like Time Travel

When retail marketers use data to communicate with their customers it can feel like traveling through time.

Building your campaigns with access to online and in-store purchases provides a glimpse into your customers’ past and what they were interested in. We’re not talking about all the way back to the days of big hair and shoulder pads, but the more recent past.

Connect your campaigns with real-time data and you understand what your customers are doing right now, in the present. What products draw their attention today? And finally, with available machine learning tools, you can use customer data to predict what they will purchase in the future. Aha, time travel.


What Does Retail Success Look Like?

If you are not currently using data in your emails, either for targeting and segmentation or for personalization, you should compare your results to benchmark numbers. While open rates range from 19 to 21 percent for retailers depending on the quarter, consider the all-important money side of things. According to the Cheetah Digital email benchmark report which looks at quarterly results across industries, the average revenue per email in the retail industry is eight cents in the most important holiday season of the fourth quarter. In other quarters, emails generate on average six to seven cents in revenue per email.

If your numbers do not hit these benchmarks, one of the first things to do is explore how the use of data can enhance your email campaigns to raise the level of revenue that is tied directly to cross-channel marketing.

Customers expect retailers to know what  they have purchased – through every channel – any time they communicate with them. Those messages need to come from a system that has access to all of that customer data. If you don’t have the ability to use that data the way you want to – and more importantly, the way customers have given you permission to use it – it is time to explore other marketing technology options.