By Bruce Richards

The pressure is on for retail brands to connect with their customers in new ways. Shopper expectations are high. An overwhelming majority of consumers say they don’t just want, they expect personalized service, and they’re more likely to buy from a retailer that recognizes them by name and recommends options based on their past purchases.

In today’s always-on, always-cross-channel retail landscape, retailers need to harness the power of customer experience management (CXM) to drive shopper engagement — and conversions. CXM focuses on the end-to-end experiences for every customer across every channel.

In retail, CXM specifically involves tracking customer behaviour, organizing customer data, and using these insights to fuel and personalize the customer journey. This process enables brands to deliver highly targeted content that speaks to each shopper’s needs and priorities — think seamless in-store experiences based on past e-commerce patterns or “chatting” with a virtual associate, for a brick-and-mortar-style moment from your living room.

The most successful retailers must set themselves up to not only meet customer demands today, but to be agile enough to anticipate and meet tomorrow’s demands. These are the retailers nailing buy online/pick up in-store offerings now, while preparing for grab-and-go with smartphone checkouts. According to a survey, e-Commerce Consumers Survey 2018 (ECS 2018) by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), reported that reported that 51.2 percent of Malaysians were recorded using e-commerce platforms over the past year. [1]

They’re the stores staying on top of mobile shoppers comparing prices in-store, while testing AR in those same stores. With each in-store touch, they’re watching customers engage human sales associates while experimenting with voice for e-commerce customers. And they’re better understanding the fitting room experience while tapping into virtual try-on tools. As other new technology enters our view, they’ll be digging into those next big things, too. According to Microsoft and IDC, 218, organizations that adopted AI saw 16 percent and 19 percent improvements in business performance, including customer engagement, profit margins, and competitiveness, the study revealed. By 2021, retailers in this region expected AI to fuel a further 37 percent to 44 percent improvements across the business such as accelerated innovation, better customer engagement, and business intelligence.[2]

How to get your CXM house in order

Retailers that establish solid CXM are the brands that can and will create these types of epic experiences — experiences that not only drive customers to buy, but that drive them to come back and to bring a friend or two. These experiences mean understanding past purchases, knowing which channels customers prefer for browsing and researching versus actual purchasing, when they like to shop, what promotions they take advantage of, and more. Here’s how:

1. Make sense of your data

Meeting customers’ experience expectations starts with bringing data together across touchpoints, then using it to create the right level of personalization. Customer Data Platforms (CDPs) and Data Management Platforms (DMPs) both play a role in helping retailers gather and manage customer data.

It’s important to understand these options and determine which makes sense for your brand. It’s essential to assess your current martech stack plus where your data is coming from and what your CXM strategy is in the short- and long-term.

And let’s not forget about the importance of bringing together online and offline data. Both data sets can inform and give insight into each other. Especially in retail, the crossover between the online shopping and the in-store shopping experience is fluid.

2. Create consistent, cohesive content

With the explosion of channels and devices used by shoppers, creating, managing and delivering the right content is becoming more challenging. Retailers need a strong digital asset management (DAM) system — a single-source repository for all assets that go into creating dynamic experiences regardless of device. It’s also a big plus when this platform is integrated with your CMS to facilitate adapting assets and resources based on customer interactions and desired channels — mobile, desktop, and wearables, for example.

In our increasingly digital world, content can be a driving force that leads customers from contact to purchase. In fact, Google research shows that 55 percent of consumers use online videos for shopping research. Google suggests that video marketing is a good way to reach consumers.[3]

3. Make sure you’re delivering — on every platform and on your personalization promise

It’s essential to deliver on the core promise of personalization — to get the right message to the right customer at the right time on the right platform, all with speed and agility. e-Commerce giants deliver personalize experiences such as – At log in, each customer is being brought to a personalized homepage developed using data from past shopping habits, the customer’s wish list, and shopping cart. This personalization carries throughout the shopping process. As customers search for specific products, the website recognizes the search and suggests other products “Frequently Bought Together” for the user to browse.

Delivery spans a host of solutions, from programmatic media planning and buying, to automated targeting engines that use behavioural data and algorithmic models, to campaign management that gets the message into the customers’ hands. Deployment should feed back into the data side to provide even more information about how customers want to interact.

Overcoming retail roadblocks

Getting to this stage can be a challenge. Some retailers do a great job with personalization and content, but they’re not consistent across channels and devices. Others have a consistent look and feel across channels and devices, but they’re not using their data in the right way to get the messaging right.

It’s also essential to focus on data and privacy best practices — not only is customer trust essential to long-term loyalty, there are regulations in place to govern what information you can collect and how you can use it to target customers. Violate those and your customer journeys could be over before they even start.

Shifting to a CXM approach — and mindset

Though getting started, scaling, and overcoming these hurdles can be challenging, when the pieces come together, the business impact is undeniable.

In 2018, Forrester measured the business impact of investing in customer experience and found experience-driven retailers perform better across the board with higher revenue growth, higher customer satisfaction and higher employee satisfaction. In fact, they’re 1.6x more likely to see increased customer advocacy and 1.8x more likely to be leaders in brand equity metrics.[4]

That said, retailers will need to continue to evolve their CXM approach to stay ahead of the curve — and the competition. The most successful retailers are delivering seamless, frictionless, personalized, and highly relevant customer experiences at scale. They’re also laser focused on building long term relationships with customers through meaningful journeys.

Bruce Richards is Senior Industry Marketing Manager – Retail & Consumer Goods at Adobe.

[1] e-Commerce Consumers Survey 2018 (ECS 2018), Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), 3 June 2019

[2] Artificial Intelligence to nearly double the rate of innovation in Malaysia by 2021: Microsoft Study, Microsoft and IDC, 2 April 2019

[3] 3 unexpected ways shoppers turn to video in the store aisle, Think with Google, August 2019

[4] The Business Impact Of Investing In Experience, Forrester, June 2018

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