9 ways the retail relationship is changing

17 July 2015
New opportunities abound for retail marketing as technology helps glean greater data collection and insight.

Engaging with the customer has evolved over time. Here are nine key areas that will make all the difference to enhancing the customer relationship of the future. 

1. Omni everything 

Omni-channel was the buzzword last year and it is not going away. It will eventually become the new normal for retail – where customers interact across a number of touch points as they conduct deeper research and collaborate on purchase decisions multi-screening and multi-tasking their way thru the purchase process. 

The challenge here is for retailers to move from the present's somewhat disconnected multi-channel (that sometimes masquerades as omni-channel) to joining the dots for a more seamless experience. 

2. Register your customers 

Tracking people via cookies, a device ID or your store manager’s notebook only gets you so far. It’s a start, but it is not a relationship. 

Loyalty programs were once the default for customer tracking, but they are not always the right tool as customers increasingly demand to be treated as an individuals. Customers need to be encouraged, but never forced, to register with the brand and commit to some sort of relationship. 

A relationship by its nature needs to be reciprocal. The customer gives a little and the brand gives a little, thus it grows and we prove to the customer that registration is a good thing. 

3. Brand devotion driving customer devotion 

Companies invest billions to build their brands. A subtle shift is that brands are moving from logos, glossy advertising and ethos books to doing more meaningful things for each and every customer. 

Ultimately connecting with each customer in a very personal way. Personalized messaging and content serving, customized experiences, listening and learning and seamlessness from one interaction to the next; for retailers these are not just vague aspirations, these are fast becoming a tangible experience that articulate a brand and that customers remember and share. 

4. Marketing clouds – both big and small 

The enabler of this personal brand relationship is the marketing cloud. It is the next generation of campaign management software that optimizes all aspects of marketing interaction with an individual customer, often in real time. 

Right message, right time and right channel. 

The sheer scale and industrialization here can be intimidating. And let’s be honest, there are still a lot of brands out there that don’t know how to use these machines. 

But this type of marketing automation is getting smaller, cheaper and easier to manage and this is unlocking CRM capabilities for smaller retailers. 

5. Cleared for take off

More templated and ‘out of the box’ marketing services allow retailers to fight back against the big players who had the investment dollars and the economies of scale to run loyalty and CRM programs in the past. 

Empowered now, with the same tools as the big boys, the smaller retailer has an advantage. Personal touches that delighting customers comes naturally to them, something that big global retailers often struggle with. 

6. Moments of delight 

Beacons, real time and location-based marketing has role to play for sure, but it runs the risk of being intrusive and pretty annoying. 

Devoted brands need to rise above this to show their real time love and show that they care. 

These are moments of delight; pre-determined, targeted interactions, gifts, recognition and strokes to the ego that make people feel special and recognized. 

To the customer that free coffee upgrade, the complimentary skin consultation or the store manager’s personal gift (information all gleaned from the marketing cloud) is a wonderful surprise. 

7. Mobile shopping assistant 

A branded assistant app doesn’t just do practical things like push target offers, manage payments and clip coupons. In an apparel store, it can visualize a dress for you, it can check for stock and help you seek a friend’s opinion or matching shoes. 

In the supermarket, it will suggest recipes for the product you are holding in your hand and remind you what else you might need. 

Out of the store the app tracks your reward points, promotes offers, collates shopping lists, allows you to share and collaborate, becoming the gateway for your whole relationship. 

8. Not just about points 

Some consumers are more motivated by instant gratification, such as targeted discounts and gifts with purchase, for others, recognition and special service is the driver. 

Better data allows us to understand and cater to these segments with stronger propositions. 

What is common is that incentives need to get people back into the store, in a virtuous cycle where they earn and burn and earn and burn. 

New platforms cater to this sort of rule and data-based complexity, the challenge is to ensure that the business and CRM skills are in place to define and exploit it. 

9. Three sixty degree data 

Finally, it all comes down to data. We all know the value of profile and sales data. But just when you thought you had it covered, the game moves on. 

Now we need a 360 degree view of the customer. Not just the sales, but also interaction across web, mobile, social, store and points of service. 

This greater understanding drives the ability to anticipate not just new sales, but all the good stuff we have outlined here. 

Someone else has worked out the value of that data, your customers. 

They will increasingly dictate the terms by which you can access, store and use their (not your) data and even impose costs or conditions of access. 

A challenge for some, but possibly a good thing for those brands that set out to really build that one-to-one relationship and demonstrate to their customer that said data was really going to be used to drive their devotion to customers.