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GUEST COMMENT Data-driven personalisation: retail communications in the 2020s

Image: Shutterstock

Image: Shutterstock

The use of data and sophisticated marketing technologies has helped leading brands like eBay and Amazon to reshape the retail landscape. With it, they have been able to deploy highly effective, customer-centric, multi-channel communication strategies where marketing messages are not only relevant and engaging but sent at the most opportune time and via the individual customer’s preferred communication channel. What makes these personalised strategies so precisely targeted and powerful is that, at their foundation, lies in-depth intelligence gleaned through data insights.

By taking advantage of developments in marketing technologies, artificial intelligence (AI) and behavioural models and using these to leverage data from all available sources, companies can substantially improve the performance of their marketing strategies. Furthermore, such data-driven intelligence ensures any decisions a company makes are informed, for example, AI can be used to predict where to take appropriate risks in order to capitalise on potential income and growth opportunities.

The ultra-competitive nature of retailing, however, means companies within the sector have to act swiftly to take advantage of existing data if they wish to improve performance. Delays can be costly, not only with regard to lost income but in other critical areas, like customer experience. To maximise opportunities and to ensure they remain competitive, businesses need to exploit the data-driven insights at the optimal time. 

A communications obstacle course

While data-rich communications strategies bring many benefits, putting them in place is not without its obstacles. As a highly regulated sector, the large volumes of personal customer data that organisations now collect and process means there is an increasing burden to ensure compliance with stringent directives like GDPR.  

Another significant hurdle is how to remove departmental silos which hamper the collation of the vast array of datasets needed to map the customer journey and deliver personalised communication campaigns. This is compounded when data is stored not only in different places but in different formats. Additionally, businesses can also struggle to navigate the growing number of communication channels through which customers would like to send and receive messages. Facing such complexities and with a lack of in-house analytical expertise to manipulate data, many retailers fail to realise the true value of all the data at their disposal.

Retailers that seek to implement multi-channel communication strategies often opt for a multi-vendor solution, using different suppliers to deliver the various services they require, for example, procuring one company to handle print management and another for digital communications. This, however, generates a further set of complications. 

The more suppliers in the mix, the more complex the purchasing environment becomes. This makes sourcing, tendering, evaluating and managing vendors far more challenging and reduces productivity due to the arduous and lengthy ordering processes it creates. Indeed, a multi-vendor approach increases the risk of siloed divisions, making it more difficult to unify data, manage supply issues and, ultimately, deploy coherent communication strategies. 

Realising the true potential of data

A more consolidated approach and one from which retailers are finding increased value is through working with a single communications partner. Such a partner not only offers the capability to deliver omnichannel communications but also provides the necessary expertise and the innovative ideas one would expect from prominent communications strategists. Moreover, they will have the latest technologies available to analyse customer data and deliver the end-to-end solutions companies require.   

Such partnerships enable retailers to realise the true value and potential of their assets. By bringing together data with technologies such as AI, companies are able to profile customers, map customer journeys, improve targeting, choose the most effective communication channels and make cost-efficiencies. With these critical insights, retailers are able to devise communication strategies that better engage customers and prospects and which deliver results. Indeed, by unlocking their data’s value, retailers can expect to increase profits by as much as 25%. 

When it comes to customer experience, the consumer of the 2020s has high expectations of today’s retailers. By collaborating with a dedicated partner, companies are better able to meet those evolving expectations, making the most effective use of data and advanced technologies to implement efficient and cohesive omnichannel communications strategies. Through doing so, not only can they put the needs of the customer at the centre of their campaigns, they can increase revenue, reduce procurement costs and lower marketing expenses – potentially growing their bottom line by a quarter. 

Nick Barbeary is client development director at Paragon Customer Communications

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