Last week, thousands of the largest and most innovative retailers gathered in Boston for the annual eTail East Conference. Throughout the week there were a few key topics that stood out in the keynotes, tracks, exhibit halls. Two trends, in particular, seemed to be on the minds of all the speakers, attendees and exhibitors alike:
- What to do with all of the customer data we have access to
- How to create a seamless omnichannel experience for our customers
How can retailers best utilize their customer data?
One common thread that ran through the various discussions at eTail was the fact that, despite having access to more information about their customers than ever before, very few retailers truly feel that they are using this data correctly. For example, todays retailers and ecommerce executives have the capability (in theory) to understand exactly what their customers have purchased, browsed, what products they like, and even demographic information such as age, location, and other data points. If they could easily gather, unify, and truly master this data, they would have a real “360” view of the customer—the holy grail of today’s savvy marketer.
Why can’t they achieve this lofty goal? A few reasons stand out. First, the data often lives in silos so, for example, the website and click data is often in a completely different department than say the mobile or transactional data. Also, most companies seem to lack a role or team that will actually head up an initiative around unifying data and making it useful for the entire enterprise. This only exacerbates the silo problem, with the end result being that the data continues to be used for narrow purposes, and doesn’t give the complete view of the customer—a view necessary for truly personalized marketing.
The Omnichannel Challenge
Another widely discussed topic at eTail was the difficulty of understanding and responding to the omnichannel customer experience. Most retailers in 2017 profess to be aware of the fact that their customers need consistent interactions with their brand, whether they’re online, in-store, on mobile, or otherwise. The reality however, is that for most companies this is a far-off pipedream. They struggle to identify the fact that the customer who made an in-store purchase in February is the same customer purchasing online in July. Even with a loyalty program in place (which should in theory coordinate data from all channels), lack of a cohesive omnichannel strategy is seen as a glaring weakness.
The reasons for this are similar to the data problem. Despite best intentions, often data from different channels reside in their own silos. Many companies separate in-store data from online data, and both of those are separate from mobile data. So, even if these companies have a group of data scientists, it becomes a manual and time-consuming process to synchronize customer data from all channels. And even if this can be done successfully, by the time it’s complete the data may be stale and therefore useless to the marketer.
So how can today’s leading retailers overcome these roadblocks? First, a clear initiative from senior management must be in place, making customer centricity more than just a buzzword for PR and a true mantra of the company. Once this direction is clear, an AI tool will often help wrangle all the customer data together in one clear, singular, unified 360 view. This, along with predictive analytics across all channels, will allow for true 1:1 individualized marketing.
For more information on these challenges and how to solve them, please visit www.zylotech.com
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