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GUEST COMMENT Customer experience should be at the heart of retailers’ communications

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It’s hard to imagine a more symbiotic relationship than a retailer and their customer, which is why it’s understandable that many retailers are putting major focus on customer experience (CX). The increasing number of touchpoints available to consumer means retailers need to be active across as many channels as possible, and provide a single consistent experience for customers no matter how they choose to communicate.

Quality CX is also being seen as a key differentiator, as indicated by recent research from Walker Info, which claimed that it will be more important than price or product by 2020. That means it’s time for retailers to ask themselves how they are going to put experience at the heart of their communications.

One of the key avenues to foster a superior CX is email. When it’s done well it can boost retailers’ prominence, relationship, and reputation with their customers. However, the inbox is a competitive environment – retailers need to fight for cut-through against the many other competing brands vying for the recipient’s attention.

The key to ensuring email stands out from the crowd is great content. That means every email needs to be personally engaging, and relevant to every single person who receives it. At the sort of scale most retailers operate at, that’s a tough proposition, which is where automation technologies come in.

By plugging automation technologies into intelligent ecommerce platforms like Magento, retailers can track customer behaviour to an extraordinarily sophisticated level. They can then segment audiences based on their behaviours and preferences, as well as more basic demographic and geographical information.

Tying all of these threads together, retailers can build an in-depth profile of their customers, and use that insight to develop ever more sophisticated segments. In turn, this ensures that every email sent provides consumers with something that’s of genuine value.

Another great way to ensure a superior CX is to use automated programs to respond to customer-initiated actions. For example, if a customer abandons their cart before making a purchase, an email should remind them that they haven’t checked out yet, and if that elicits no response it might make sense to send that customer a discount.

While automation may not sound like it goes hand in hand with personalisation, in fact its role is to increase the number of personally relevant emails customers receive, and to reassure them that the brand is looking after them. When done well it doesn’t even feel automated. Think about ordering something online; you receive an initial confirmation email that your order has been placed, followed by a text telling you what time it’ll be delivered, followed by a confirmation that the delivery has been made. All automatic, all personally relevant and all hallmarks of a good CX.

One company that has used automated communications to enhance the customer experience is UK anti-ageing skincare brand ELEMIS. The company uses its welcome email – the first touchpoint it has with new subscribers – to immediately remind them of the benefits of joining its online world. This is the first part of a multi-step welcome program, which also provides helpful articles – which double as data collection on interests for ELEMIS – and links to bestselling products, ranges and treatments to encourage the customer to make their first purchase.

However, it’s not as simple as employing automation technologies and calling it a day. People change, and retailers need to be ready to react to that and change with them. It can’t simply be left to one person, or even one division. The entire company needs to be on board. Providing consistently great CX requires retailers to continually reevaluate their relationship with their customers, and refine the way they speak to them. Doing so at scale can be a tough step to take for any retailer, but in a world where customers value their relationships with brands more than ever, it’s a crucial one to ensure future success.

Tink Taylor is founder and president of dotmailer

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