With the booming popularity of IoT devices like smartwatches, beacons, connected cars, activity monitors and more, marketers might feel overwhelmed when it comes to tapping into the potential of all that data. In a world in which the volume of data from digital and physical sources is growing exponentially, how can retail marketers understand which sources to collect and leverage, and which to ignore?
It starts by worrying less about the source of the data and focusing on what consumers really care about: experience. It’s no secret that customer experience is now the biggest differentiator for consumers when it comes to choosing between retailers. Take Amazon Prime, for example. Amazon doesn’t always have the lowest prices, and they certainly don’t spend the most on advertising, but they win and retain customers because of a reliable and personalized experience that makes many consumers turn to them as a first option for almost any purchase.
As firms start to care more about customer experience, how do they start managing and measuring it in a way that helps them improve? The sudden rise in popularity of customer journeys is linked to this – the customer journey is the way businesses can now manage customer experience. What follows is how to build a strong customer experience by using data to inform your customer journey. This process will yield the data sources that really matter when it comes to staying competitive.
Identify Your Advantages
What makes your customer experience unique? What makes it stand out from your competitors? It’s important to start this process by understanding where you should be focusing your energy. If your loyalty program is particularly robust, or you offer fast and affordable shipping, you need to play up those strengths.
Further, identify the key channels for your business. Are most of your sales online or offline? Does social media drive a lot of traffic to your site? This touch point data is critical to start gathering at the beginning. The end result of this step should be an overview of the key channels and drivers that make consumers come to you, rather than your competitors.
Map the Customer Journey
Next, map out the possible routes that customers could take to make a purchase from your business. These are otherwise known as customer journeys. If you’re an online retailer, do customer’s frequently find you via search? Do they make a purchase on the first visit, or do many of your sales come from retargeting? What are the biggest referral sources? Map these out in a basic format and keep them handy for reference.
The goal here is to understand the most common ways that consumers interact with your business in order to improve customer experience. Mapping the journeys on a theoretical level gives you a baseline point of reference to measure against and thus improve.
Now it’s time to compare the journeys you’ve mapped out against reality. This is also where the data collection really begins. Are you overwhelmed by a wide variety of data streams? Start with customer touchpoints – POS systems, websites, stores, banner ads. Any point in which a customer comes in contact with your business and leaves behind data is what we’re most interested in here, starting with the most common channels.
Once you’ve taken a look at how consumers are actually moving through your various channels, map that against the customer journeys you drew up. How do they compare? The original journeys, plus the interaction data you’ve analyzed, should yield a realistic view of what your customer journeys look like.
Data is absolutely invaluable to this step, and keeping the focus on interactions and touchpoints should strip out unnecessary/extraneous information. There’s also upfront labor in the form of not only selecting the data that’s most relevant, but in linking customer identities across channels and deriving key behaviors from streams of unstructured data.
At this point, we’ve identified and analyzed key channels, and understand with a high degree of certainty how most customers find, interact with and buy from your business. Ideally, this process has also helped to streamline data collection and analysis – focusing on interactions and stripping out less important data.
One issue, though, is that your customer journey likely consists of some disparate channels. It’s one thing to understand that a common customer journey is made up of a physical store visit, email interactions and an online purchase, but it’s entirely another to connect those channels to ensure a consistent and personalized experience throughout the journey.
The final, critical step in improving customer experience is to move beyond analysis and measurement and towards actual orchestration, which is critical to success. Not only that, but you should think about nudging consumers in the direction they want to go through consistent reminders and personalized messages. Be ready for your customers with the right content and offer when they arrive at one of your channels. The purpose here is to align your messages and offers with needs you’ve identified, rather than pushing consumers where they don’t want to go. This requires connecting data from touchpoints across marketing, customer service and other digital and physical assets.
While this process can be advanced, it’s not hard to start taking steps towards a more integrated customer experience by focusing on the data that matters. At the end of the day, there are more data sources than ever at your disposal for analysis and utilization. That doesn’t mean that there’s more valuable data, however.
Don’t let exotic data distract you – stay focused on what really matters and how you can improve the customer experience by collecting, analyzing and leveraging interaction data on the channels your customers rely on. Adopting this mindset will pay immediate dividends for your marketing and overall customer satisfaction.
Mark Smith is President of Kitewheel