If there’s one word that seems to represent the 2015 holiday shopping season, it’s “mobile.” With reports of record-breaking digital purchases, and media headlines about mobile’s growing influence on holiday shopping, it appears that the “year of mobile” is truly here. For many retailers, this begs the question: because the mobile door is open, is the brick-and-mortar door closing?
Foot traffic in stores on Black Friday 2015 was lighter than previous years, as mobile web, mobile apps, and desktop web were the leading channels where consumers shopped on a day that’s traditionally an in-store shopping event. And while it’s true that the ability to buy at the touch of a button places less urgency on visiting stores on Black Friday, 102 million people still said they shopped at brick-and-mortar locations over the holiday weekend. Holiday gift buyers remain eager to experience the seasonal cheer and festive decorations of the mall and Main Street – and make purchases along the way.
The lesson that retailers can learn from 2015 holiday shopping activity is this: consumers aren’t migrating away from stores, but are browsing and buying across all channels. Shoppers are interacting with – and purchasing on – every conceivable touchpoint during their journey. While this is good news for retailers, there’s also a flip-side to consider. These same consumers are also looking for tailored experiences that allow them to seamlessly traverse the offline and digital worlds, while giving them the best of both.
To meet the expectations of cross-channel customers, retailers must pursue a people-based marketing strategy that will help them reach shoppers in the right place, at the right time, with the right message. This, of course, is no small task. Customer recognition and real-time engagement across channels are major challenges facing retailers today. So where does a retailer begin?
The first steps in a people-based marketing strategy are to harness first-party data across all channels and devices that are relevant to your customers, and then stitch that data together to create holistic customer profiles. Identity is critical for successful one-to-one marketing because it is the engine for delivering a consistent customer experience where, when, and how the consumer wants it.
When collected together, all of a retailer’s customer profiles form an identity (ID) graph. The value of a vibrant, constantly-updating, ever-smarter ID graph is enormous because it:
- Powers relevant, personalized experiences. Always-on consumers demand right-now relevance, so retailers need to recognize customers immediately, wherever they are, and then act on that insight in real time. Retailers that collect first-party data and build unified profiles that represent a 360-degree view of each consumer are best able to meet these demands, leading to strengthened relationships and increased consumer loyalty.
- Can enhance marketing efforts during the holiday season and well after. Perhaps the biggest gift retailers receive during the holiday season is heightened customer traffic as consumers shop not only for loved ones, but also for themselves. But if retailers aren’t capturing this rich data at every touchpoint, they’re losing opportunities to deepen their understanding of customers and build lasting loyalty. With an identity graph that is always on in the cloud, customer data can be constantly collected and matched to inform marketing strategies in the short- and long-term.
- Can be combined with live intent data to send the right message at the right time. The ability to capture real-time intent data at every step of the customer journey allows retailers to consistently surprise and delight. This is how retailers can respond to customers’ wants and needs when they’re in market for goods and services. When this in-the-moment data is combined with customer profiles that hold information about past behaviors, retailers have the keys to the kingdom of providing the most relevant experiences possible.
Both mobile and brick-and-mortar remain huge opportunities for retailers to engage with customers and motivate purchases. But to take full advantage of this opportunity, retailers must leverage fresh, accurate first-party data across channels to create identities that power real-time, people-based marketing. Starting with solving cross-channel identity is crucial. It’s what allows retailers to deliver content and messaging that is timely, relevant, and personalized—creating loyal shoppers that will return for many holidays to come.
Mike Sands is CEO of cross-channel technology firm Signal.