Make Christmas merry by improving data use

Richard Lees, chairman of dbg, explores the online shopping experience and how brands can work harder to use data to improve it.

Christmas shopping. Those words are being used again and a chill goes down my spine. Like a typical male I embrace the beauty of internet shopping at this hideous time and try my best to avoid the high street. I salute brands that provide me with this option and thank them from saving me from more grey hairs!

Ocado is an example of shopping bliss for me – and for my wife – which translates into a peaceful household. Our everyday shopping has been revolutionised by Instant Shop, which uses previous transactions and purchase data to predict what we need and when.

When it was launched some people claimed it was big brother, but I just think they are using data about me to improve the customer experience. To make my Christmas shopping easier they notify me when slots can be booked for Christmas delivery and even compile useful lists of the “Christmas essentials” so I barely have to think.
Ah, the wonder of online retail.

Last month Gap, H & M and Zara launched ecommerce sites, and with IMRG predicting this market will grow by 110% in the next decade it is expected many more will follow. So there is going to more choice for those who prefer to do their shopping online.

But this also presents an opportunity for retailers to reach wide audiences and the ability to track customer behaviour. The digital arena offers a wealth of data and intelligence for marketers to use to make the most of this data, which, retailers should combine with data from other channels.

French Connection recently announced its grand plans in this area, aiming to “allow customers to begin shopping on one device and finish on another” and launching a ’click to buy’ channel on YouTube and mobile applications. Their attitude puts the customer at the centre and data intelligence powers their program.

Other retailers are simply ignoring this and moving online without much strategy in mind. The major problem is joining up the data from different channels – essentially the old classic ’know your customer’. A colleague recently signed up to Banana Republic’s emails in store with the promise of a discount voucher. When in-store she filled in her preferences as Womenswear and Accessories. She went online, ordered some items (womenswear). Then she received an email about Menswear!

Customers find it frustrating when they provide data so they can receive more targeted communications, butthe brand doesn’t use it. A general rule of thumb is that consumers are open to data being used to improve customer service, especially if they have a long standing relationship with you.

If customers have a loyalty card then they are easy to track across your channels, but other tactics such as unique code vouchers can provide insight into customer behaviour which can then inform your marketing and improve your targeting.

Using your database to understand behavioural and transactional characteristics across all channels can maximise customer understanding, engagement and profitability. For example, who opens emails but buys in store? Who doesn’t open emails but buys online? Who buys using both channels but spends more online? Who starts online but then looks at your store locator page and ultimately goes in store? If you understand these groups you can adjust your marketing messages to improve the customer experience.

The multichannel world is upon us and consumer expectations are high. Brands need to get joined up and use data to make it quick and easy for customers to buy – especially in the run-up to Christmas, when lists are long but time is short.

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