Retailers, are you prepared for the holiday season? Columnist Mike Sands notes that this year, customer identity will be critical for engaging holiday shoppers with easy, convenient and frictionless experiences.
For all the buzz about creating superior customer experiences, marketers still seem to be falling flat heading into the all-important holiday shopping season.
A recent study of global shoppers found that when it comes to brand experience indicators, retailers scored a meager 33 points out of 100, lacking in three key aspects of consumer engagement: in-store integration, mobile interactions and personalization. This certainly doesn’t bode well for an industry already plagued with record-setting bankruptcies and store closings. And with year-over-year growth expected to decline during holiday 2017, it appears retailers don’t have much to be merry about in the months ahead, either.
Retailers operate in a marketplace where a consumer’s last best experience with a brand sets the bar for the next. As they plan for what is traditionally their most profitable sales period, they need to walk in the shoes of their holiday shoppers. Doing so requires knowing fully who a customer is, remembering this information, continually adding to it and always being ready to act on it. In short, this means resolving customer identity. A tall order, for sure. But one that can — and must — be filled.
Customer identity solutions allow marketers to recognize individuals as they move among channels and platforms. Technologies that work with persistent identifiers can continually collect new data and update profiles, so marketers can craft personal, relevant and consistent brand interactions at significant moments throughout the customer relationship.
Customer identity will be critical for engaging this year’s frenzied holiday shoppers with easy, convenient and frictionless experiences online and off. Consider these reasons why.
1. The physical store is not obsolete — but its traditional role in the buyer journey is
Sure, stores are closing. Foot traffic is dwindling. And 77 percent of shoppers admit they avoid physical stores during the holidays. Yet in-store transactions still account for around 80 percent of global retail sales.
Retailers must rethink the role of the physical store and consider its value beyond just a place to buy goods. Digital customer interactions can inspire in-store experiences that are easy, helpful or simply entertaining.
Knowing how shoppers browse on a brand site or in-app, retailers can organize their physical spaces as showrooms, allowing shoppers to compare offerings and discover complementary products. Common chat-box queries can spur in-store buyer guides and FAQ sheets. And on-site tablets and kiosks can offer the convenience of ordering on the spot, capturing more data to add to customer profiles and opening up future upsell, cross-sell and promotional opportunities.
2. The increasing reliance on mobile means shoppers are always open for business
Over last year’s holiday season, sales across mobile devices grew 44 percent. This time around, purchases on smartphones are expected to pass $100 billion for the first time in history. Imagine what is at stake if a retailer is not able to identify and connect a customer’s mobile activity to the rest of his journey.
I’m talking about a lot more than just transactions. Think about how consumers use mobile devices. More than 70 percent have one or more retailer apps on their phones, and 74 percent access them at least once a week. Nearly 40 percent use a mobile digital assistant, such as Apple’s Siri, to build shopping lists and place orders. Almost three-quarters purchase products from a mobile device to pick up in store. And 35 percent use mobile pay options. These are all opportunities to enhance the relationship, drive loyalty and increase lifetime value by engaging customers with relevancy and immediacy.
3. Personalization means increased revenues
Recent research reveals that brands leveraging both their digital and offline data to personalize customer experiences are seeing revenue boosts of up to 10 percent. That’s two to three times faster than companies that aren’t yet doing so. And those that don’t catch up soon have much to lose: Over the next five years, the retail, health care and financial services sectors alone are predicted to see a revenue shift of around $800 billion toward just 15 percent of companies that get personalization right.
Keeping in mind the amount of personal information customers share with the retailers they do business with, brands must stop treating them like strangers. That means no more irrelevant introductions. No more ads for things they’ve already bought. And sometimes, no marketing interactions at all.
Each year, retailers bump up the start of the holiday season. (Let’s be honest, Black Friday is really more like the month of November.) But boosting seasonal start times, frequencies and longevity won’t do any good if customer experiences are nothing to celebrate. That’s why this holiday season, retailers should give themselves the gift of customer identity.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.