Disruption has been at the heart of the retail sector in recent years as technological advancements have increased innovation and thereby competition in the sector. No longer can businesses survive by employing antiquated methodologies in a space where consumer preferences and habits change by the minute.
These digital advancements of recent years have created a plethora of new opportunities for businesses and consumers are at the helm of technological innovation in the British retail sector. According to the ONS, the average weekly UK internet sales nearly tripled between November 2010 and 2017. Indeed, utilising data and personalisation methods can help businesses take advantage of available technology if they are to keep up with the competition, but they must be compliant with consumer data laws if they are to build trust in their brands.
Every customer is unique
Thanks to the ever increasing amounts of consumer data available to businesses, personalisation has increased dramatically. This has benefitted businesses, with 74 per cent of customers believing personalised promotions would encourage them to purchase relevant products they’ve never purchased before. Transitioning to a digital-first approach may sound intimidating for traditional businesses, but the opportunity to harness customer data to better understand behaviours and thereby predict desires and drive loyalty is too beneficial to ignore.
Personalisation can be as simple or as complex as businesses choose; take for example Starbucks’ mobile payment app. It provides brand focus and a value add by way of convenience for customers, which no doubt increases loyalty whilst streamlining processes in-store. A win-win for all. This can be achieved by companies which, firstly, define the consumer journeys across their sales ecosystems. If you do not have Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) then there isn’t a framework to work to. Secondly, businesses could execute real-time recommendations. Contextual based marketing can prove a powerful way to engage audiences across multiple channels in the marketing mix. Then finally, developing a customer genome with a test and learn approach can help marketing and sales teams identify customer archetypes through tapping into demographics, such as age, marital status and profession, for instance.
A tool like this likely provides useful information on purchase patterns, reactions to deals, frequency of use, geographical information and many more useful insights, all of which help to shape strategy and respond to market changes where necessary. This is information that competitors without such a tool will have to compete against.
Knowledge is power
Businesses should consider each and every customer as unique sources of information. A sound knowledge of customer preferences and habits is certain to improve customer retention and develop customer lifetime value. The potential of consumer data is almost infinite, so businesses should build their entire sales strategies to utilise as much data as possible to help inform decision making.
Adopting a view of the entire customer journey can provide an essential solution. All marketing channels can be tapped up for data and the customer experience overall provides a great reference point for how consumers interact and perceive engagement across channels. What’s more, such an approach could provide valuable insights into how other brands use analytics, reporting and intel whilst reducing man hours and effort through data automation, this, in turn, would also reduce outgoing costs.
There can be no trust without transparency
Using data wisely will help drive activation channels (such as SEO, brand websites, content marketing and more) which can power sales through personalised marketing. With the EU GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) now in full force, data protection and transparency surrounding its use is more pertinent than ever. Particularly when we see examples such as Google’s recent GDPR fine of 50 million euros by the French data regulator CNIL, for failing to meet the regulatory standards. Such events diminish consumer trust and can damage a company’s reputation as well as prove costly.
Not only will responsible data storage and management improve consumer trust due to the fact that their data is being managed and stored responsibly, but it can even facilitate brand engagement and drive conversions. Retailers must ensure that their customers are providing consent before their personal data can be used, with the option to revoke that consent at any time.
It’s even advisable for businesses to go above and beyond and give customers more control over their data to capitalise on that trust. Indeed, by providing customers with more options when it comes to their data, businesses can go beyond current regulations to ensure the highest data security standards. This can be even achieved in an engaging way. This was especially noted when the GDPR was first rolled out. Instead of adding to the flurry of GDPR emails, Yahoo! allowed users to specify which third-parties should be able to send them personalised ads. This presentation of options puts customers in the driving seat, simultaneously increasing brand engagement and ensuring optimum GDPR compliance.
Transparency is becoming more important to consumers and regulators as information about misuse of data continues to be reported by media in all regions. Regulation should never be considered a hindrance, rather a structure from which to build systems that can ensure customer loyalty for years to come. A transparent relationship with one’s customer base is a solid foundation for a long a fruitful relationship. This trust is what will secure a continuous flow of data between businesses and consumers that will result in the desired loyalty and improved service appreciated by both parties.
Anshuman Singh, General Manager & Head of Digital Strategy & Consulting, Mindtree
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