2020 transformed consumer behaviour like never before. Faced with national lockdowns and no longer able to rely on bricks and mortar shops, millions turned to online shopping - and retailers across every sector were forced to adapt.
With the average consumer now using over 10 online devices to interact and shop with favourite brands - from the mobile app to the smart speaker - customers now expect a seamless, personalised experience across a plethora of channels.
In fact, according to recent research, 44% of UK consumers say they’re now less likely to make a purchase if they have had an impersonal experience with the brand in question. Consumers want to see the same, tailored ads on their tablet and their PC, and they want emails and push notifications to bear in mind who they are and what they like.
To deliver high quality customer experiences and cutting edge marketing, retailers need a holistic view of their customers’ journeys. They need an omnichannel approach, bringing together different teams and tools to provide a seamless customer experience across every channel.
The key to unlocking an omnichannel approach? It’s in the data.
The power of customer data
Despite the increasing demand from customers, retailers are failing to deliver consistent, personalised experiences across all channels. In fact, less than 1 in 5 UK businesses believe they are successfully investing in omnichannel.
Their biggest barrier? Accessing the data they need to understand and adapt the customer journey.
Data is the backbone of marketing and customer experiences - providing retailers with valuable insight into what products their audiences view, or how often they click an ad, for example. Yet thanks to departmental data siloing, legacy infrastructure and poorly integrated martech stacks, many retailers are failing to capture a complete view of their customer. And without that, truly effective omnichannel campaigns can never be more than a pipe dream.
Let’s say a customer sees an ad for a coat from a fashion retailer on Facebook. They then click on the ad and make a purchase. But then, when they’re on Instagram or browsing through Google, they continue to receive ads for the same product. This is the sign of a multichannel, but not omnichannel, customer experience - something all too common for many online retailers with unoptimised data flows.
Here are three tips on how retailers can get their data in order, enabling them to meaningfully engage with customers across every touchpoint:
First and foremost, omnichannel customer engagement needs the right infrastructure. It’s not enough just to have the data floating around somewhere: it needs to be readily accessible and, crucially, reliable.
Teams across the business should have access to a central source of data that offers a 360-degree view of your customers’ behaviour, across every digital channel - from your social media channels to your mobile app.
Increasingly, customer data platforms (CDPs) are being seen by marketers as the solution to this. CDPs centralise, clean and consolidate data in real time, storing it in one place that can be accessed by any team - preventing data siloing. In turn, this equips you with the insight needed to provide a truly seamless customer experience, as it ensures that the customer profile informing personalised ads, emails and product recommendations is consistent across channels.
Inevitably, retail brands will tap into more digital channels in the future. CDPs are future-proofed for this, as they are designed to easily integrate with any martech or customer engagement tool in your stack, as well as any future channels.
Building a tech stack that gets the most out of your data is just as important as having a reliable data foundation in place.
A company designing an omnichannel strategy will use a combination of best-in-class tools, each powered by customer data, to ensure that customers see consistent promos and updates across touchpoints. The market is rich in independent tools that can be combined to create the perfect stack for your business. This is often preferable to buying into one vendor’s product suite, as it gives you the flexibility to switch tools in and out as your channels and strategy evolve.
When piecing together your martech arsenal, think long term. As your brand’s business priorities shift, you will likely expand to new channels. Adopt versatile tools that will be able to activate data from these channels as your marketing strategy matures.
Once data is shared across digital touchpoints and you have a strong set of tools in place to activate it, it’s time to turn insights into action.
You can start by targeting hyper-specific audience segments, kept up to date in real-time by your CDP. For example, you could plan a campaign for customers who open your emails and click on your Facebook Ads, but don’t use your app.
Or, if you wanted to get really granular, you could plan it for customers that bought coats from you every winter since 2019, and who usually start browsing for a new one around this time.
To help with this, deploy an analytics tool to create a live tracker for different data points across channels, and use it to respond to changes in customer behaviour quickly and effectively.
Know your customer, everywhere
In the last year, we’ve seen seismic changes in online retail.
‘Multichannel’ marketing - where the customer experience is neither seamless nor hyper-personalised - is giving way to the omnichannel approach, essential for brands who want to compete in the new digital age.
But for omnichannel to succeed, brands need a complete view of their customer - across the myriad of channels consumers now use. When it comes to data, it’s do or die.
Katrina Wong, VP of Product Marketing and Demand Generation, Twilio Segment