Retail reality 

Customer loyalty through omnichannel thinking

How can the retailer actively keep involving today’s erratic and elusive consumer with the brand or store? Part of the answer lies in making clever use of the increasing number of technological tools, gadgets and possibilities. But what it’s really about is insight: actually understanding when and how the consumer uses your products, why and where that consumer buys, and in what order. It helps the retailer in estimating when a consumer is receptive to receiving a message, a stimulus to buy.

Retailers are often sitting right on top of a wealth of data. This data is an ideal starting point. Making the data available in a single view of customer ensures it becomes tangible and usable, and that it can become part of the overall strategy. That is the key to success.

And of course there is the art of applying the right content at the right moment. Retailers who have this way of working rooted in their system have a definite competitive edge.

How can a retailer grab that competitive edge?

We do know, for example, that customers who buy from a retailer through more than one channel are considerably more loyal and spend more money, up to 2 to 3 times as much. This is a great opportunity for many retailers and a great starting point. How many customers use just one channel to buy? And how can the retailer encourage these customers to make use of more channels?

By sending targeted and personalised special offers to specific target groups, the retailer can introduce customers to alternative channels. If he succeeds in doing that, he’s creating a more loyal and complete customer.

It’s also important to start communicating with customers and learning from them. Which customers, for instance, haven’t bought online yet? With every e-mail newsletter you send to these customers, add an extra block informing them of the benefits of online shopping. It goes without saying that this block should preferably also include a special offer that matches the offline shopping behaviour of the customer.

The Pottery Barn promotes its physical stores as an additional sales point in all its online communication. Even when the shopping cart is empty, customers are actively encouraged to visit the closest store (based on their location at that time) so they can view the product in real life. This way The Pottery Barn is able to turn its online customers into multichannel customers.

Spurring the customer into action means: communicating the right message at the right time, in a way that has an effect on the customer. Personalised content plays the lead role in achieving this. Knowing whom you’re speaking to and being able to imagine yourself as that person.

Which customers acts upon this? And which ones don’t? Every customer has a personal motivation for buying or not buying online. As a retailer you should try to find out what that motivation is. Imagine yourself as the customer and align the next message or communication method to your customer’s views. Emphasise things like convenience, a complete range, or any other aspect that a particular customer finds important.

Don’t stop at sending e-mails though, also create a personalised homepage, personalised AdWords ads, and make full use of the mobile app or social media. This of course further increases your chance of success.

The unconditional success factor is that the retailer must offer the consumer a seamless experience across all channels. By structuring processes intelligently, but also by establishing a bridge with the help of technology. The better that bridge connects with the perceptions of the target group, the more successful the strategy will be.

At Sephora, every customer has access to her own “Beauty Bag”. The in-store personnel can add purchases to the Beauty Bag directly from the cash register. Afterwards, the consumer receives a confirmation by e-mail, including an invitation to write a review or to share the purchase on social media. This way, just after her visit to the store, the customer visits the webshop, where she sees other relevant products. The multichannel journey has once again come full circle.

JCPenney uses its mobile app as a bridge that connects the offline and online world to one another. Consumers can take a photo of a product on the street, after which the app gets to work and looks for a similar product on Once the product is found, it can be ordered directly in the app and picked up at one of the 1,000 stores: a seamless multichannel experience. Seamless, because JCPenney has completely optimised its store pick-up. The consumer can only choose from stores with sufficient stock, sufficient staff to make sure the order is ready, and takes overly busy days or special events into account where the item may seem to still be on the shelf, but in fact is already in someone else’s shopping trolley. Thanks to this intelligent use of data, JCPenney booked over 4% more revenue during this busy festive season compared to 2014.

Geo-fencing and iBeacons, or a combination of both, offer valuable possibilities in location-relevant communication. Large supermarkets such as Tesco, Carrefour and Walmart are already in the midst of experimenting with sending targeted messages to consumers within a certain radius of the store, as well as to customers who are already inside. By making clever use of data, the message can be even better attuned to the online buying behaviour. Nordstrom, for example, sends its store visitors a mobile push message if one of the items that is in the shopping cart at that moment is on sale.

Sephora is doing something rather similar. Members of its loyalty programme whose birthday it is or has just passed, and who are visiting the store, receive a push message via the mobile app which entitles them to a surprise gift package with a purchase during their birthday month. 80% of customers were eager to opt in to this service.

Starbucks is taking things a step further and has made its mobile app part of the overall ordering process. The Starbucks fan can already order coffee and pay for it in the app and, as soon as he or she walks into the Starbucks branch, automatically sends the signal to the staff, who make sure the coffee’s ready.

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