Adaptive Marketing in Retail: Time to Change the Channel

For decades, retail marketers have been forced to take a channel-centric approach to communicate with their customers. Why? Due to the proliferation of channels, devices, and the disconnected tools that were built to take advantage of each unique benefit that every channel and device offered. This was the norm and effective when the number of channels was limited.  But the rules have changed whether we like it or not — and it’s time for retail marketers to adapt.

Tools, Channels and Problems

List-based email, Web analytics, mobile applications, and cross-channel campaign management tools are great examples of tools that were built separate of each other containing their own individual decision engines. While adding more channels provided more convenience for customers, it also created the perfect storm for marketers.

More channels naturally forced retailers to develop marketing strategies that were optimized on a channel-by-channel basis, producing multiple different, and often competing customer experiences. Additionally, more channels empowered customers to interact wherever and whenever they wanted, making it nearly impossible for marketers to keep up. Finally, customers started noticing this effect and increasingly wanted one seamless and personalized customer experience across channels.

As a result, retailers end up with siloed channel-centric technology systems containing decision layers and databases that don’t talk to each other. This makes it impossible to always stay one step ahead of customers with the right message.

The current linear channel-centric approaches that used to successfully control and predict customer behavior aren’t working anymore within a dynamic and empowered consumer world. By design, they fail to adapt to their customers’ unpredictable behavior fast enough to maintain a seamless experience for customers, and maximize revenue for the business.

Channels Are Irrelevant

It’s time to adapt. Whether it’s adapting externally to customers’ unpredictable behavior or internally within a brand’s organization, the time has come for traditional retail marketers to become Adaptive Marketers. Adaptive Marketers are agile customer experience enthusiasts who take a customer centric approach to marketing instead of a channel-centric approach. The focus is on optimizing the context, speed and state of each customer relationship instead of each channel. They can simultaneously achieve a business objective while creating the best brand experience possible, regardless of the channel.

Adaptive Customer Experience

The key here is that we need to review how our systems make decisions, and centralize that offer decision to a single engine. In that way, retailers can manage a consistent and coordinated customer experience across all channels. They can also prioritize based on the customer state, eliminating difficult decisions about conflicting programs and campaigns. This move does not require a wholesale change of existing systems. The email engine can still send the email, mobile can still send the push message and your CMS can still personalize the web experience. You need only to combine your decisions into a single engine.

Opportunities lie at the intersection of what we know about a customer and the behavior they are exhibiting in our eco-system. By moving to a centralized decisioning platform, retail marketers can start to identify and optimize these opportunities across their systems. The goal? To create a highly adaptive customer experience that consistently delivers an extraordinary experience for the customer. This is the new paradigm for campaign management this decade; soon, customers won’t settle for less than the experience it can provide.

Jeff Hassemer is chief strategy officer at Alterian

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