Retail Success - Today & Tomorrow

Every business is becoming increasingly digital - not just in terms of ones and zeros, but a ‘digital business’ in terms of customer satisfaction; employee engagement; supply chain efficiency; and, profitability. Consequently, we have titles that are reflective of this and becoming far more prevalent, such as Chief Customer Experience Officer (CCEO) or Chief Digital Office (CDO).

Companies need to understand the changing consumer and the behavioural change that brings. Because people are digitised; their surroundings are digitised; and we can always reach them (via mobiles) – there’s never a moment that it’s not possible to interact with them. The key is knowing:

  • which message will resonate with that individual;
  • on the right device (or platform); when they are in that key moment of receptivity;
  • and which channel (display, OOH, etc.) is the best way to deliver our message.

And all companies, not just retailers, need to identify the personas (or tribes) that interact with their brand, in order to identify the appropriate time, channel, message, and device to execute upon.

However the retailers segment their audience will vary, but there will be commonalities which they are identified by each persona. The illustration below, represents the personas, which might also help inform the segments the retailer creates within her or his marketing technologies (e.g. DMP, CRM, etc.) to deliver their message.

To populate these segments you need to attain a unique cross device ID, or rather, a Single View of Customer.

Below, you can see what top marketers saw as their most exciting opportunity in 2015 (in green), versus 5 year’s time (in grey). The reason marketers are so important is because the CMOs and Head of Digital, are the people who will ultimately be holding the keys to actionable Single Customer View. Not the Master Data Management systems, that sit within IT – it technologies which have API connections into other platforms which extend into the 3rd party universe.

I’ve circled those 5 disciplines with the greatest longevity. What do all of these things have in common? They require a SCV.

And why is this so important?

The benefits are tangible, as are the perils if you ignore them…

We could go through dozens of examples produced by dozens of publications, which support this, but some noteworthy ones are:

  • Almost 9 in 10 companies will compete on the basis of customer experience;
  • Poor customer service accounts for roughly $41 billion in losses each year in the US alone;
  • 65% have left a brand entirely over a bad customer experience

 And not only that, but those advanced in the area of audience segmentation and analytics, have identified that a handful of customers deliver the lion’s share of revenue.

I was an Adobe Innovation session a couple of months ago where a keynote from a large American retailer was talking about the fact that by analysing their data sets they saw that 80% of their revenue was coming from the top 5% of their customers.

If you know who your valuable customers are, you can nurture them and the advertising and marketing technology at our disposal today, enables us to target similar audiences who have yet to engage with the brand.

So how do we approach a Single Customer View?

There are a number of ways. At Oakton, we believe that we have a unique a compelling well to do so. We have the capability & experience, between our Oakton Digital & Analytics and Information Services (AIS) teams to unify a Single View of Customer (through a number of projects); and action that Single Customer View. Below, is an illustration of what this 360 data marketing map looks like.

We first need to audit and match the data – ‘Unification’. To do this, we need to have our data architects with 20 years+ IT system experience, within the AIS domain, analyse the data attributes available. Equally, the Digital team look at the marketing technologies on the other side of the business, with much newer technologies, such as DMPs. This team also has a view of the 2nd and 3rd party and builds use cases and customer journeys which help in defining the best external data sets which might be exchanged or bought to enrich your own 1st party (i.e. known customer) data.

 We then house and action the data – ‘Action’. On the IT side, this might be an MDM, whereas it’s a CRM or DMP on the Marketing side. These are actually complimentary services. Regardless of the type of DMP you are using, it helps to have a unified ID that can be ingested into the DMP, as we know that match rates can be a factor of difficulty when trying to execute a SCV strategy between technologies that don’t form part of a single (homogeneous) stack. From there, we can develop further strategies for auctioning the data.

Finally, we deliver insights and analytics from the data being actioned - ‘Insights’. We can start with Attribution; overlaid by Data Visualisation; and have Data Scientists interpret this data; then progressive to quasi-Predictive analytics, and so on. The ‘Insights’ and ‘Action’ projects feed one another’s efficiency.

So how do we connect with them?

Unlike the days of yesteryear, of just TV, radio, and an entirely ‘push’ message environment; there is a proliferation of devices and channels that consumers are exposed to.

This means that there is added noise in market, meaning there needs to be greater cut-through with messages, in those key micro-moments where consumers are most receptivity.

It’s certainly daunting for retailers but it’s a massively exciting time as the opportunity to connect is greater than ever.

The world is highly connected these days – especially Australia. Ninety-one per cent of Australians use a mobile device, on average 5 devices. Australia is the second most connected country in the world – only second to the US. Meaning that we’re always online. And we’re delivering content in formats and context to suit these devices.

Mobile is central to reaching consumers. Below, is a tried and trusted graphic from Econsultancy, on the left. However, if I try to imagine how this looks today, it might look something like this image to the right of it. We must now consider IoT, Wearables, Machine Learning, Marketing Automation, and all the disciplines that they bring. But it’s worth noting that Mobile is still the common denominator amongst all of it. What is also worth noting is that Call Centres remain pivotal and this is an area where Dimension Data (Oakton’s parent company) & Oakton distinguish itself, with the unique call centre capabilities possessed.

And Mobile is particularly important to the customer experience, as highlighted by the stats below:

And in a recent Google study, they addressed the things that retailers need to do in order to reach consumers in those micro-moments at key moments of receptivity. Best highlighted by the (truncated) best practice guide, below.

And mobile is a key component that needs to be thought of in the broader context of the Shopper Experience Lifecycle.

Winning the hearts and minds of shoppers can’t be accomplished with one-off tactics, marketing campaigns, or points-based rewards. Instead, brands and retailers must develop a broader process that considers the core needs of shoppers, delivering utility, value and meaningful interactions at every point along their journey.

The illustration below visualises four key stages in the shopper experience lifecycle, showing how these 10 pillars inform and build off one another to create a comprehensive strategy for driving increased engagement, repeat sales, word of mouth and lifetime loyalty.

Luxury retailers, like RL and Burberry have: strong brands (and therefore strong advocates); high ticket value items; budget for technology; and, the types of customers that are highly tech savvy. To depict an example of who is servicing the customer journey well today, it’s really worth clicking through to the recent Ralph Laruen demo, below. We’re seeing many Retailers open up their own Innovation Labs, and in this case Ralph Lauren partnered with Oak Lab to bring the best of online thinking into the physical world, through an interactive fitting room.

The way it works is…

  1. She walks into a fitting room,
  2. The lighting comes up and it shows you all the items she brought in using RFID
  3. From there, she can change the lighting & mood to see what it looks like in different settings
  4. Selects the language that is most commonly spoken
  5. She chooses the sizes, cuts and colours that she wants to see
  6. She hits a request for them, which goes to a sales associate on the floor, via an app
  7. and he let her know that he’s coming.
  8. He brings her not only what she asked for, but they have total insight into everything else in the fitting room. So they can bring you that jacket you asked for, and they can also know that maybe you’re going for a summer look, so they can bring you shoes that would look great
  9. She can save those details for later, which get sent to her via text.
  10. And she then goes on to enter her details an checking out from the fitting room. So, from there, you have that entire store and that associate at your fingertips, without having to leave.

 As the Oak Labs representative said, following this video, it’s about translating that ease and convenience of the online environment to the practicality and tangibility of the physical world. Now Ralph Lauren know “here’s a jacket that goes in – everyone purchases. Here’s a jacket that goes in – and it has a little less conversion than the other jacket”. This tells the buying team or merchant team to look at this, because maybe the fit isn’t quite on point, but the aesthetic is.

We also know things like the amount of time someone spends in the fitting room on average.

The rolling recommendation engine is also impressive, as it’s based on what people are actually bringing into fitting rooms, on geo. And this technology is something that customers engage with, as roughly 9 out of 10 customers used the mirror.

The idea is always to create a seamless and effortless experience for the consumer. However, as marketers and technologists, we know that there’s some furious paddling happening under that calm surface to make for that great consumer experience. For this particular video, we’ve broken down the components of the systems for what we’re seeing behind the glass to give some sense of the complexity.

We have also broken this down into a timeframe for production delivery, with roles & responsibilities, etc.

So what’s in store for the future of Retail?

Over the next several years, some very big forces will hit the retail industry. From new payment types to variable store footprints, they’ll change how and where goods are stored and sold. Data analytics tools like predictive modelling, and ‘always on’ digital technology will make it possible for consumers to interact with retailers in new ways, as we’ve mentioned.

But how marketers adapt to these new forces now will affect customer perceptions of their brands for years to come. PWC did a great job of breaking those forecasted trends out into 12 areas. There are many more, as this area evolves at an incredible rate, but these are certainly worth noting. I’ve condensed an entire booklet into one image, below:

There are 12 principal trends identified: 

  • Loyalty Programmes – we’ll deliver offers that resonate with the shopper, exactly when she wants it, and engage with her through non-purchase interaction, like gamification.
  • Clienteling – Like we saw in the video, we want to arm sales associates with information - things like customer purchase histories – to help enable better shopper interactions.  
  • Space Planning – Today’s planograms are based on assumptions of customer navigation through a store. But we now have tracker technology to know a lot more about where they are going and what they’re interacting with.
  • Pricing Models – Retailers will be able to target discounts and incentives to specific customers locally. This will create opportunities to generate more foot traffic, deepen customer engagement and manage inventory more effectively.
  • Added-value Services – Omni-channel retailers can define the unique shopping experience of the future. Some retailers will use sophisticated algorithms to bolster online tools that allow a seamless transition from in-store research to purchase and fulfilment.
  • Omni-channel integration – there’s already a customer expectation that one device should be talking to another. Retailers are under greater pressure to deliver products anywhere, at any time. To do this, they will expand their use of store inventory to fulfil online order, move toward same day delivery from local stores, and so on.
  • Inventory Management – the lines between stores and warehouses will continue to blur, as they better manage inventory. Through dynamic displays, retailers will be able to target promotions to products that are immediately available - to shoppers who value immediate availability.
  • Social Marketing – Many brands are leading, facilitating and participating in online discussions. But brands need to shape customers’ decisions and tastes. Using social listening tools we can engage a lot more. Retailers will try to enable purchases with “one click” transactions to convert browsers to shoppers, straight from social platforms. And Social listening tools can make more accurate demand forecasts and analytical insight about market segmentation.
  • Product Mix – Physical retailers will try a variety of approaches as they go head to head with online sellers. Some will focus on offering more interactive shopping experiences. Others will focus on rapid fulfilment or seek to gain loyalty with inspiring displays, rather than maintaining racks of the same shirt in multiple colours and sizes.
  • Staff Utilisation – just having product knowledge isn’t good enough anymore. By arming sales people with more info on customer interests and sales histories the can have a better selling approach. They need to be researchers and diplomats.
  • Checkout lanes – For some retailers, checkout lanes could actually disappear. Mobile technology will enable any store associate to take payment to complete a sale, and it may expand the use of self-checkout tools. This will allow associates to engage in higher-value, consultative activities, rather than waiting to process a shopper at the end of their visit.
  • Loss, prevention, and cybersecurity – By creating ever larger and richer data stores of information about customer interests and behaviours, and providing real-time access to store staff, retailers are also exposed to new security risks and privacy concerns. Self-checkout models challenge existing loss-prevention schemes, too. Retailers need to anticipate vulnerability across multiple channels.

 It’s worth pointing out that the technology is here, however, it’s application is not yet fully adopted and sometimes doesn’t meet expectation, as highlighted by the latest Gartner Emerging Technology Hype Cycle, below.

The benefits of some of these things will be important regardless of sector (like Machine Learning). However, other will be more vertical, and sometimes company-specific, like Enterprise 3D Printing.

And what we know is that the likes of Google and Facebook are being very aggressive in the innovative hardware space, and fully intend to make things like VR (with Oculus Rift) something that gets adopted, on a large scale, perhaps a little bit more quickly than Gartner anticipates. So we must be wary to the technologies that act as enablers.

But our first job should be to help retailers figure out how to execute upon their customer journeys, in the context of their customers/audience and technologies that they possess.

There are few, if any, sectors that are more dynamic, fast-paced, and evolving than Retail. That’s what makes it so exciting and enthralling through be working at the cutting edge of technology and CX. As long as we focus on our customer’s wants, needs, and behaviours, we will be able to meet and surpass their rising expectation, with the abundance of innovative technologies emerging at equally break-neck speeds.