Omnichannel Retail Success Means Using Data Like an Omnichannel Marketer

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Take a deep breath. You’re currently in the eye of a “retail apocalypse” storm and possibly scrambling for a magic path out of the tumult. Exhale and focus on targeting and engaging with your high-impact audiences, those omnichannel shoppers who purchase across channels, from brick & mortar outlets to e-commerce sites.

This cohort comprises just 7% of all customers, yet is responsible for an estimated 27% of all retail sales. And the payoff for getting omnichannel customer engagement right is huge. Companies with effective omnichannel customer engagement strategies in place have been found to retain 89% of their customers on average, compared to 33% for companies with weaker omnichannel customer engagement.

As retailers realize omnichannel selling is crucial to thriving in a digital age, those customers have only become more important. How can you best engage them?

One key approach starts with the awareness that, to the omnichannel shopper, your “storefronts” — brick & mortar, digital, mobile app — are just a few of your many brand destinations. Along the path from one storefront to the next lies a whole host of other channels — such as your email blasts, catalog drops, digital advertising and call center, to name a few. Creating effective engagement across all those channels lies in an ongoing, seamless conversation from one channel to the next — in which your brand picks up and continues the conversation at every touch.

In other words, success with omnichannel customers requires retailers to think beyond the storefront alone — to go from omnichannel retailer to being a true omnichannel marketer.

Identity Goals, Omnichannel Marketing Challenges

Getting customer identity right takes a two-pronged approach to customer data. Brands need data that’s authoritative — connecting the disparate points of identity into a complete and accurate picture of customers and prospects. They also need data that’s near real-time, keeping up with customers as their identifiers change.

Practically speaking, the need for authoritative data also means data must be consolidated. To enable a single view across all offline and digital channels and touch points, brands need a centralized and persistent identifier to the household and the individual.

Finally, data must be actionable across all channels — through both the brand’s own solutions and platforms and through data and activation partners.

There are a number of reasons why brands can’t achieve these four objectives — a few of which I’ll describe below. Do you recognize your own brand in these examples?

The Customers You Can’t See

For many brands, millions of customers are hidden in plain sight. It’s not necessary to identify a customer by name or other direct identifiers to understand who you are interacting with at any point in time.

Another factor is poor data hygiene. For instance, many brands manage customer identity data through an in-house or ad hoc householding approach — often deciding who lives in a household based on data that hasn’t been refreshed in months or longer. Given that 60% of identity data is outdated within two years, it’s no surprise how much identity data is incorrect and how many brands end up sending messages to the wrong physical or digital address.

Siloed Data

For many brands, different channels operate as independent groups, led by disconnected teams that run on disconnected systems. As a result, marketing and analytics leaders often have real trouble tying the information together to understand how all the marketing channels work together.

If your brand faces these challenges, you’re not alone. A 2017 CMO Council study found that just “6 percent of marketers believe they are able to get a complete view of their customer from all available data sources” and “only 3 percent of marketers believe they are totally connected and aligned across all systems, with data, metrics and insights flowing seamlessly across all technology platforms.”

7 Steps to Omnichannel Marketing

There are practical steps your organization can take to get on the right path — including the seven steps below:

  1. Prioritize your objectives. You can’t do everything (at once). Determine the most critical and high impact steps you can take in the near term and then build a roadmap that is digestible for your organization.
  2. Build a business case. Aligning customer data can be a resource-heavy, significant task for the whole company. To convince your leadership of the importance and reasonableness of the endeavor, put your plan in terms your CFO will cherish.
  3. Identify your stakeholders.In the push to align customer data across the organization, it pays to clarify who plays what role and whose opinion matters. In fact, a recent Deloitte/Salesforce study finds that one hallmark of “elite performer” brands — where revenue has “increased more than 10 percent over the past fiscal year” — is “clearly defined roles and governance for managing consumer data and relations.”
  4. Identify your data gaps. Assess whether you have duplicate, stale or incomplete information and how significant those gaps are.
  5. Create a unified architecture.Bring together all customer identity information, together with sales and marketing activity, into a single dataset — breaking down existing organizational silos and democratizing who gets access to generate insights. Be sure this architecture is big enough to encompass partners, too — linking owned customer data with 2nd and 3rd party data to enhance your customer identities, while integrating with activation platforms that help you reach customers and prospects across all channels. When building this infrastructure, it’s critical to also incorporate privacy best practices. That’s true whether the data is personally identifiable or not. And given the potential for steep GDPR fines, losing public trust is but one of the high non-compliance stakes to consider.
  6. Align on measurement. Remember, all this effort isn’t helpful if you’re unable to quantify and optimize your customers’ purchase journey. Achieving that measurement takes coordination across teams about what to measure, and how.
  7. Re-think the org itself.To foster sustained omnichannel coordination, you’ll need to go beyond the data alone to create an organization that truly operates in sync. This includes asking hard questions about how your organization — and your marketing organization in particular — is structured.

Becoming a true omnichannel marketer is a brand journey that’s a marathon, not a sprint. If you can make the shift, you’ll be in a position to forge deeper relationships with some of the most valuable shoppers on any channel.

This post originally appeared here on May 29, 2018

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