Marcus Ruebsam, SVP, Global Head Strategy and Solution Management, SAP Hybris examines the importance of a single repository for data and insights to drive omnichannel engagement and success.
You’ve probably heard it said before that ‘data is the oil of the 21st century.’ We’re operating in a digital economy where data is more valuable than ever and, in today’s connected world, marketers are sitting on a data goldmine. The challenge is, how does one turn data into insight and action, and then use it to deliver an omnichannel experience and to return the customer to the heart of the business? The new digital economy dictates that old rules don’t apply and this is evident in the evolution of the customer profile. Customers aren’t necessarily buying a product, they’re buying an outcome.
There is an abundance of products in the world, but a finite number of customers. Establishing meaningful customer connections is a requirement to compete in an increasingly commoditised market, and businesses that fail to provide excellent customer service and experience across all touchpoints will fall into the commodity trap. The idea of “customer experience” transcends “good service.” It is based on the concept of a culture and the mind-set of a business, driven by a desire to provide holistic and authentic experiences to each customer and reaching the emotions of the customer at each touchpoint. An example of a company that has succeeded in providing a consistent customer experience across all channels is footwear and accessory brand ALDO . Its customers are the archetypal modern-day consumer – they shop across multiple devices and channels and expect the businesses they interact with to deliver rich, fast and effective omnichannel solutions. With more than 2,100 points of sale, the company operates under two signature brands, ALDO and Call It Spring, and one multi-brand retail concept, GLOBO. ALDO wanted to engage with its global audience both in-store and across digital channels, where its customers were browsing and shopping with increasing frequency.
Specifically, the company implemented a solution that works seamlessly across channels to help it expand into new regions. ALDO simplified back-end operations and offer increased visibility into the sales lifecycle – as a result, optimising customer experiences and laying the groundwork for further growth. Since the deployment, ALDO has attracted 4% more visitors to its website, 12% growth in conversions and 20% growth in year-over-year sales. Furthermore, in April, ALDO underwent a total site redesign, the first in ten years. As part of the redesign, it introduced unique ways to engage digital shoppers through new payment and shipping options. It continues to provide access to global inventory across all channels, including its mobile application, mobile points of sale and in-store kiosks.
THE DEVIL IS IN THE DATA
Customers are naturally drawn to brands that project authenticity, and the key to achieving this is data. By analysing data in real-time, a business can understand what the customer purchased as well as what they abandoned and, by using this in context, can then deliver a great omnichannel experience. Delivering connected experiences can transform the engagement businesses have with customers. It’s no longer good enough to simply pay lip service to customer centricity, marketers must take data and combine it with technology such as artificial intelligence and machine learning to truly put the customer at the centre of their business.
How does it work? Algorithms learn from existing data, bringing forth the most relevant data at the appropriate time. However, many organisations are being restricted by dealing with disparate data sources and data siloed across departments, which means that the insights derived are often not fully representative of the company’s transactions or most recent behaviours. Instead, they need to be able to aggregate data to deliver a live customer profile that constantly evolves to their needs – only then can they ensure the customer data they possess is updated in real-time and reflects evolving interests and preferences. Once customer data has been funnelled into a single repository, organisations can apply machine learning to discover what products a customer is engaging with, what they’re purchasing and what interactions they’ve had with the brand across multiple touchpoints – both physical and digital.
This provides better understanding of a customer’s wants and needs and helps businesses cater to those desires through predictive analytics. Machine learning can automatically segment customer profiles based on behavioural and customer journey patterns, to match the best product or service purchase to individual customers. Today’s infrastructure needs to be working in real-time with a live transactional system pulling insights so brands can rapidly react and adjust strategy accordingly.
CONNECTING THE DOTS
Marketers now have a common language across the C-Suite, and that is data. Connecting the dots across the various customer touchpoints is now a core skill, with the expectation for a seamless experience across channels driving the next revolution in business capabilities. However, this is putting increasing strain on businesses in their search for profitable omnichannel growth. Take for example the retail sector. According to our research with PwC, only 17% of retailers are confident that their omnichannel business model delivers a seamless and connected experience across channels and functions. These findings indicate a major opportunity.
Looking to the past, this same element played out in operational excellence for the physical store and now these lessons must be applied to the omnichannel world. While retailers are struggling to integrate existing channels, they also then miss out on the opportunities provided by new channels. Faced with this problem, retailers can either continue to expand piecemeal, adding further layers of operational and technological cost and complexity, or take a step back and address the need to adapt the whole operating model. This requires them to successfully integrate channels and operations by making use of the data they have on file to deliver a single view of the customer, identify purchase and consumption patterns and drive insights that can deliver a personalised and tailored customer journey based on the needs of individuals.
It’s only recently that consolidation of all data in a real-time, flexible manner has really come to the forefront in retail. The C-Suite is now more aware than ever before about technology, and the importance of data in driving an omnichannel experience and business outcomes. They’re realising the importance of having the right data and technology capability in helping the brand compete effectively in an omnichannel world. The data that customers generate in interactions with brands, regardless of what channel or device they use, is valuable in determining the next step to maximising customer engagement. The key to surviving and thriving in the digital age is improving customers’ lives and creating an authentic and seamless experience across all touchpoints. This is the age of the individual and those brands that can deliver authentic, omnichannel engagements, which return the customer to the heart of the business, will be the ones that prosper.