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GUEST COMMENT How an identity-driven and agile experience can help to boost customer loyalty

Customers are loyal to brands that enable a frictionless digital experience across all touchpoints

Digital Retail Loyalty Facts:

• By 2020, £43bn of UK ecommerce purchases – around two-thirds of the total – will be made on a smartphone

• Some 78% of shoppers use the internet ‘on the go,’ with 98% of those aged 16 to 24 in comparison to 39%, aged 65 and older
• Omnichannel shopping experience underpins loyalty, and it is more prevalent than ever
• A good quality mobile app or mobile web experience will cause four in 10 consumers to purchase from a retailer
• The synergy between bricks and mortar with online is drastically prehistoric and must change if retailers want to remain relevant across all channels

Online shopping is growing, and retailers have to address all ages to make the experience fluid and personal. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) reports 77% of people are buying goods or services online in the last 12 months, and closures from House of Fraser to Poundworld as well as slumping profits across most retailers such as Marks & Spencer means that the synergy between online and bricks and mortar is still not there.

However, retailers like Debenhams and Dixons Carphone are addressing the online and mobile marketplace and re-investing in those areas to help boost profits, increase sales which they know will gain and retain the trust and loyalty from consumers who need to feel the retailer understands their needs.

The digital native is no longer just ’GenXers’ or Millenials. Older people are increasingly shopping online with the ONS stating that 75% of adults aged between 55 and 64 do so – an increase from 30% since 2008. Those aged between 25 and 34 showed marginal increases with 89% – a 17% rise since 2008.

Customers are loyal to brands that enable a frictionless digital experience across multiple channels – in-store and online. With the arrival of some of the busiest shopping periods of the year and, on average, many retailers taking in 10% of all shopping trade on Black Friday alone, the urgency for retailers to review all digital interfaces, applications and platforms is vital if it is to generate long-term loyalty that is underpinned by identity.

It is just not enough to scale up a monolithic IT platform to cope with peaks as some services – like sign-in – need more scaling up than others. Typically, when one thing fails on this platform, everything does.

Retailers need technology platforms that are agile, where individual services can be scaled up independently. Many retailers are merely failing with the strategy to manage these spikes in, for instance, sign-in or new customer registration, basket abandonment and online customer services because of outdated technology infrastructure.

If retailers want to maintain loyalty, increase sales and build customer identities, like ASOS, then it needs to review its technology immediately and stop creating data silos. Retailers must become GDPR compliant but also combine data channels to enable a single customer view. It is also not enough to merely send general marketing or ads to customers offering similar products based on individual data sets, such as previous purchase history.

In fact, it is detrimental to send repeated emails generated from a one-off purchase driven by a generic ad a customer once saw on social media.

In the case of ASOS, it identified improvements that needed to be made in its checkout process, improvements that would encourage long-term engagement with the brand. ASOS was able to leverage its existing technology by adding a cloud identity solution that reduced friction and increased conversions during the checkout process. The inclusion of social sign-on delivered instant insight into newly acquired customers and further allowed for richer information to be gathered around customer registration, an up to date view of each returning customer and a single representation of any customer – no matter how they sign in to ASOS – creating a frictionless digital experience.

Enabling a joined-up identity strategy improves customer experience by reducing spam. Personalisation excellence only comes once retailers combine a CRM system with insight gained from multiple data sources (social profiles, email marketing, order or browsing history, customer services, transactional history, cookies, online journey etc.) to offer up products and services that customers want, when they want them and in the right channel. Retailers can then apply machine learning to predict future behaviour and pre-empt what customers want before they know they want it. However, one technology product cannot do all this – it needs a combination to build the identity that will underpin personalisation, customer retention and loyalty.

All about mobile

While the primary focus for the trading peaks will be on digital storefronts (including mobile), other channels like social media and brick-and-mortar will also play a critical role in driving sales. In 2017, UK and US shoppers on Black Friday became more omnichannel, with 36% (US) and 31% (UK) consumers planning to conduct their Black Friday shopping activities both in-store and online. That’s a big jump from 2016 when just 18% and 11%, respectively said they would divide shopping activities between digital and physical channels.

By 2020, some £43bn of UK ecommerce purchases – around two-thirds of the total – will be made on a smartphone, as the value of mobile transactions trebles from £13.5bn in just four years.

According to Astound Commerce’s ’competing for customers during the holidays and beyond’ – which surveyed 2000 customers from the US and Europe to unveil holiday shopping habits this season – a good quality mobile app or mobile web experience will cause four in 10 consumers to make a purchase from a retailer, showing how mobile is becoming an ever-more vital part of the retail process.

Social media will be a leading traffic driver for ecommerce sites, and 66% of consumers will still go to physical stores to touch and feel products before purchasing. Some 59% of millennials have already purchased as a result of social engagement in the past, compared to only 50% of total consumers surveyed. More than half of millennials (55%) will be prompted to visit a website as a result of social media, compared to 45% of the total respondents.

There is so much research stipulating that shoppers will increasingly use technology in store: through touchscreens or kiosks in store for product finders, ordering or delivery, and will use mobile virtual reality (VR) to assist in product selection, such as beauty simulation, room planning and more. Some 63% of shoppers will also make purchases from Amazon marketplace.

However, Amazon’s customer identity solution is not where they excel – its purchase recommendation is basic as information on the customers is based on what they previously bought and did not take into account anything else about that individual.

Retailers need to adjust and work with skilled technology companies who understand the business needs as well as the commercial success that is driven by customer behaviour.

Customers require speed and easy access to platforms regardless of the channel used, coupled with tailored discounts and offers.

Retailers have to know customers beyond purchase histories – but, also how they interact with everything. Personalisation is underpinned by identity and to do that well; retailers need a technology infrastructure that is agile enough to handle changing customer expectations.

Author: Alan Walsh, chief executive officer at Amido

Image credit: Fotolia

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