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GUEST COMMENT Technology: threat or opportunity?

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According to Gartner, there will be a whopping 30 billion web-connected devices globally by 2020!

It’s these web-connected devices that have led 66% of us to shop around extensively to get the best deals. A further 60% of us often wait to see if the price drops over time before making their purchase and scarily for retailers, almost a third (30%) of 16-24 year olds use their mobile phone in-store to compare prices there and then before making a purchase [1].

Mega online retailers like Amazon, eBay or Gumtree are set up to offer quality goods at hugely discounted prices, but how can other brands possibly compete? The simple answer: use technology to create loyal customers who are so impressed with their experience that they come back time and time again.

I’m not saying this is going to be easy, but here’s ten ways brands can make the most of technology to keep their customers loyal:

Be personal… on every channel

With so much choice on offer, if you’re not offering a personalised, relevant and streamlined experience across all channels, chances are you won’t keep your customers for long. Consider how new technologies will affect your specific customer groups, and anticipate their needs. Ensure that you are targeting the right people, with the right message, at the right time.

Be consistent. Everywhere

Responsive websites and communication channels that are integrated with your other systems and processes are a must-have. To give a basic example, if you’re Sainsbury’s and you offer double Nectar points in store if you buy two tins of chopped tomatoes, that offer should also be available to online shoppers. And going back to personalisation, a good brand would know that their customer usually buys chopped tomatoes and therefore would offer an incentive to continue doing so with them.

Don’t talk BBQs when it’s 5 degrees outside

Location–based notifications can add value when they’re timely and contextual! You are not going to impress your 79-year-old customer if you advise them to come in store to try your innovative new ice-cream flavour in the depths of winter, or in the summer for that matter. It demonstrates a lack of thought and takes us back to personalisation again – a lack of personalisation that is. Consider time, location, demographics and individual needs when planning your messaging.

In-store tech can enhance customer experience

Kiosks and interactive tablets provide an additional touch-point in the customer journey and can be used to collect data and trigger engagement – think personalised offers, self-service ordering, or membership and loyalty sign-ups. If you’re a home retailer, in-store tablets could showcase product demonstrations or interior design ideas and advice.

Get real with real-time participation

Drive your customers to participate in real time. Consider topical and timely tweets, targeted digital, gamification and interactive TV ads. For example, in the US Gilette ran a TV ad featuring the musician Andre 3000, where viewers were able to access further bonus content via a tap of the Shazam app.

Tune in to your customers’ wants and needs

The Internet of Things is a massive opportunity! But always think about how what you’re doing benefits your customer. What could a connected toaster or fridge do to make your customers’ lives easier? Make sure you are 100% tuned in to how your customers expect to interact with you and what they want and need – listen and iterate rather than impose and close the door.

Build communities of like-minded individuals

Where possible, segment your customers according to their interests as well as their preferences or demographic profile. The better you understand people as individuals, the more likely they are to be loyal. They key is making sure your customer knows that what they are getting from you is personal, about them (not you), relevant and consistent. Not doing this on just one occasion could cancel out any previous exceptional service you have provided and could very well turn your customer off.

Don’t drown in data

Many brands try to capture every single drop of information they can about their customers because they don’t want to miss a trick. I compare this to the Rime of the Ancient Mariner – ‘Water, water everywhere, and not a drop to drink’. My meaning? Yes there is a lot of data out there, but only a small portion of it will be useful and relevant to your business.

You need to be smart and realistic about the data you collect, where you store it (you still have the fear of ‘missing something’ don’t you!) and most importantly how you intend to use it.

Technology is nothing without the human touch

Remember the last time you used that self service checkout and it wouldn’t let you put that bottle of wine in your bag until the assistant had been over and pressed a button? What would you have done without the assistant? Put the wine back? Stolen the wine? Real people make processes and transactions simpler, easier and more user-friendly, and are vital to maintaining happy customers. Technology can’t replace that… yet.

Match the technology to your customers

Personalised offers aren’t new! I’ve touched on this throughout this piece but whichever technologies you choose to invest in, ensure you create a seamless customer experience from start to finish to keep your customers coming back. ‘One size doesn’t fit all’ has never been a more important mantra.

For more information on these topics check out Ikano Insight’s Technology White Paper here.

Barry Smith is senior consultant at Ikano Insight

[1] Statistics used in this article are from Future Foundation.

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