In a multi-channel world where things are changing so quickly – particularly for retailers – customer journeys are dynamic and not linear, requiring constant evolution. Thinking there’s a starting and end point is no longer valid. Rather than taking the one size fits all approach, marketers must start with the customer first.
But marketing departments want to stay fast and nimble, which is especially important when the customer journey becomes complex. The key is to prioritize things that have a high impact on the customer journey. Digital is evolving fast and the line between online and offline no longer exists. This means customers today expect consistent and connected experiences. And marketers need to find solutions and partners that can link journeys and behaviors together to satisfy them.
The right technology at the right time
It’s important to not get carried away with things and consider whether new ideas can ever scale. Don’t get lost in gamification and other shiny tech just because they are possible – you need to understand what customers want. For example, supermarkets in the UK and Europe are experimenting with customers not even touching a register or interacting with a staff member, but simply using an app integrated into a payment system. However, customers will need to get used to leaving a store without the traditional sense of paying. Logistical and legal restrictions around selling alcohol must be taken into consideration, so facial recognition could be used for approval.
And let’s not forget privacy, which is an issue with any consumer data collection of this type. Will consumers also opt-in to receiving messages based on their purchases?
There are lots of different tech solutions and suppliers that can be applied to cross-channel marketing. Often a lot of tech is pushed at a problem, but it should be last thing you think of. Identify the problem first, the opportunity, and then use the technology to solve it. The right tech is great to help in-store staff, as well personalize experiences for customers, as long as it addresses real issues.
It’s about engaging customers at the right touch points in the lifecycle, and using the right channels.
Another consideration is timing. When to use tech and when not? When is the right time to drive customers into a store? For example, when using tech in the beauty sector, smells, touch, and feel are hard to replicate online. For example, a new fragrance launch is much easier to encourage in-store rather than online. It’s about engaging customers at the right touch points in the lifecycle, and using the right channels.
The benefit of loyalty programs
With loyalty programs, retailers are looking to replicate their in-store engagement – also known as good old-fashioned customer service – online. The cornerstone of such programs is data. Marketers are becoming obsessed with data, but the ones actually getting close to the data and using it to their fullest advantage are few and far between.
Over time, consumer habits and loyalty are changing. For example, people now shop in supermarkets more often, with smaller basket totals. So marketers need to find different ways to incentivize them and make it worthwhile for valued customers.
These questions are not new and the debate on the need for a loyalty program rages on. However, there are things you can still do without having a formal program. For example, use data to identify people buying 3 or 4 times a month – and then send an email providing added benefit on their next purchase. Free delivery, a discount, or a gift are all examples of a possible benefit. This is the start of identifying loyalty-based behaviors, rewarding them with the goal of driving more brand engagement. As the program grows and you begin collecting more data, it may mean that the need for a loyalty program becomes more apparent.
Marketers need to think about the customers first when considering technology for cross-channel marketing and how it serves their business outcomes. It is too easy to pursue the shiny objects for the wrong reasons.
Ben Christensen is a Senior Digital Consultant at Cheetah Digital.