be relevant or be noise

October 13, 2011

Customer Tracking, Technology

Technology and the customer expectations are changing at a rapid pace, and for retailers to stay relevant to their customers they must be willing to embrace and adapt to this changing landscape, or be able to convince their consumers that the old ways are better.  The ability to adapt to this goal will be critical to their survival. Retailers must refocus from being product oriented to customer oriented; simple as it sounds, most retailers are willing to admit that they are consumed more by product than customer.

I have written previously on the importance of optimizing the customer experience, so that you provide the customer with a memorable experience; one that creates a positive brand identification for them and some methods to optimize that experience. Today I want to talk a little about what that means.

To create a positive experience, does not simply mean that you just have to be better than the retail competitor down the street or an online site on the web selling similar products, but that you have to recognize that your customer evaluates their experience with your brand in relationship to the totality of their experiences, be it at the Apple Store, Nordstrom or Urban Outfitters. Retailers must be cognizant of that and make sure that they apply technology in a forward thinking way to keep up with these new customer expectations.

This is a post on relevance – why all this talk about technology? Well, today’s consumers are integrated into technology like never before. They expect information to be targeted and tailored to their experiences and tendencies, they want to have access to the marketing piece or sales promotion in the media of their choice and in a means convenient to them. Gone are the days of stacks of coupons clipped from the newspaper. This has been replaced by marketing material and promotions accessible on a variety of mobile devices and specific to the recipient. Even the daily email deal is on the precipice of being overcome by the relevance tsunami.

The good news is that retailers have many of the tools necessary for achieving relevancy, regardless of the extent to which the tools are implemented. The customer data and records (anonymous or otherwise) are an obvious place to start, they are a tremendous asset and there is value even in partial information. Retailers should begin considering how they can improve their data collection, and start using that data to determine in what ways their customers interact with them.

Segmenting of customer data even in simple terms (demographic, geographic, channel usage, product classification of attribute tendencies) will go a long way in getting insight into your customer types, allowing retailers to focus market initiatives create specific strategies that can be understood by all associates. Just be cautious not to define the segments too narrowly.

Analyze the data to tailor marketing plans based on customer responsiveness to discounting, product mixes and product trends.  Once you begin to identify the culture of your customer segments, start focusing on building out your operation to enhance their experiences, create special events for high margin customers to show them that you value their business, design these events based on a multi dimensional view of how these customers interact with your store.  The experience you create for them need not be discount oriented. Simply put you have customers who care about experience; for them focus on an enhanced experience with plenty of buying opportunity; you may have another set of customers that are more price sensitive and for them the experience is defined by discounts. Utilize your resources wisely, do not t try to be all things to everyone at once; all you will end up doing is creating noise and spending a lot of resources to annoy your customers

Retailers should recognize that for the most part it is not what your expectations and experiences are, but what your customers expect from their interactions with you. Suffice to say most of them do not want you to clutter their interactions with your store with mass targeted random information, not when other interactions are targeted and relevant. You need to stay relevant to survive; you must stay relevant to survive

About Kevin

1001 opinions on how retailers leverage data to manage their inventory, employees, supply chain and optimize their customers' experiences. Have equally as many about red liquid in wine bottles, especially those from Napa Valley and the Santa Rita Hills.

View all posts by Kevin


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