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5 things we learned at the Understanding The Relationship Of Online And Offline IMRG Data Breakfast

We held the inaugural IMRG Data Breakfast at The Delaunay in Aldwych on 24 October 2017. Delegates from Criteo and Conversant joined us and 20 retailers to discuss the challenges and opportunities that come with trying to understand the relationship between online and offline.

Here are five things we learned.

A single view of customer really is worth the effort

Single view of customer (SVC) is something that we’ve discussed at length. We’ve shared blog articles and videos on the topic, tackled the subject at our events, and even published a specific report on it.

In a basic sense, SVC refers to the ability of a retailer to attribute a single customer’s activity across different channels, media and devices. So that (in a perfect world) it would be clear that when the customer comes in store after having researched on tablet, the retailer knows that the customer is already a certain way though their path to purchase.

But SVC is admittedly one more initialism in an industry that (let’s be honest) has slightly too strong an attachment to jargon. You’d be forgiven for thinking that it’s yet another fad or buzzword. But it’s real and it matters.

One retailer guest explained how they can be frustrated by their lack of SVC: “Our web customer and in-store customer are broadly the same. The experience [in-store and online] should be uniform and smooth. But we have problems joining the experience up. We have a huge amount of footfall and don’t always have the chance to engage with the customer.”

In the words of our delegate from Conversant, “It’s the most valuable thing you can do. How can you speak to someone if you don’t know who you’re speaking to? You need to understand who people are, beyond segments.”

How technology and data can drive loyalty

Following on from the SVC theme, we discussed how the judicious use of technology and customer data can create a customer experience that drives loyalty.

When a retailer has gathered information on a customer, they have an opportunity to tailor their content, merchandising and service to that customer. That, as a concept, is nothing ground-breaking. But now, as more and more shoppers understand that retailers gather data on them, and grow accustomed to that fact, retailers can and must use that data in a way that impresses, or at least pleases.

The delegate from Criteo mentioned that, especially among younger people, a lot of shoppers don't mind if retailers have their information. They just want to get something out of it. They expect a value exchange. That might just be a personalised offer, but there's much more potential than that.

Conversant's delegate suggested that if a brand could reach all shoppers, they'd not talk about discounts, but about the brand – moving the focus away from simple price sensitivity. When you understand an individual better, it becomes possible to develop the relationship with them so that they come to value the brand and the products it supplies, securing buy-in to the brand and reducing the need to continually tempt them in with big offers and discounts. Information about a shopper allows a retailer to address them on a more meaningful level that will resonate more.

The care that's needed around data

Since data is the key to joining up the online and offline shopping experience, there are naturally going to be hurdles and pitfalls.

The obvious challenge is GDPR. Much is made of the upcoming regulation, and there's a certain anxiety surrounding it. We've mentioned else where that GDPR isn't all that scary, but it's still a major consideration.

A lot of what weighs heavily on retailers' minds is the question of consent. Soft and implied opt-ins to email communications are soon to be a thing of the past. But be careful – asking for clear consent may not be enough.

Say, for example, a shopper were buying an item in store, and gave the shop assistant their email address for an e-receipt. That explicit consent relates to receiving an email receipt, not marketing emails. If you want the latter, the shop assistant will have to be explicit about that with the customer.

Examples of data used to full potential

One delegate used the example of American Airlines to show how, at least conceptually, compelling service justifies the gathering and holding of data to join up the online and offline experience.

The American Airlines app uses beacons to track travellers' physical progress. They can see when a ticket-holder leaves home, and how quickly they're progressing to the airport. If they know that traveller is going to be late, they can move them to a new flight, get another passenger on that earlier flight, and prevent delays. There's scope to delight at least two people.

Of course, that offers absolutely no margin for error. Any mistake could have a disastrous effect on the experience of the customer and the standing of the brand. But circumspection aside, this illustrates the scope that data has to improve the experience of the customer.

On a less ambitious scale, one shoe retailer in August and September emailed parents who had bought school shoes for their children in store. The offer was an online adult shoes discount, with a message that the retailer understood that the customer had probably had enough of shoes shops for a while, so could use this discount to buy themselves a pair online. It's a small but thoughtful gesture that can endear someone to a brand.

How data cuts both ways

There's a lot of focus on how data can tell us about shoppers. But data also reveals information on retailers themselves.

Andrew McClelland, IMRG Head of Insight, told the story of one retailer whose sales of kettles were consistently very high. After some time, the retailer realised that sales were so high because the quality of the product was poor, the kettles kept breaking, but shoppers' brand loyalty was powerful enough to compel them to buy the same kettle from the same retailer.

That occurrence revealed the extent of that brand's power, and that, of course, there was a product fault that the manufacturer needed to fix.

Be aware that shopper behaviour can tell a retailer not just about their customers, but about themselves.

 

Find out more

For in-depth discussions of online retail data, as well as a good meal, join us at our next Data Breakfast events:

Christmas Trading Review – 23 January, London

We'll be revelaing the results of our daily Christmas benchmark, thinking about the trends we saw, and discussing what caused them.

Christmas Logistics Review – 25 January, London

Reviewing Black Friday and Christmas with logistics in mind. What happened, and how can we improve?

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