Only 30% of retailers said they’re effective at driving seamless, consistent omni-channel experiences across marketing channels, per a 2020 Bluecore and Forrester survey.
That’s a problem. Why? Because 83% of consumers want personalized product and service recommendations and shopping experiences spanning multiple channels as well as desktop and mobile devices, according to McKinsey research.
In short, connecting with individuals across their (increasingly complex) customer journeys with timely, relevant messaging that factors in their behaviors, engagement, interests, and past purchases is now retailers’ biggest growth opportunity.
Specifically, it’s an opportunity to:
- Provide a cohesive customer experience (CX) across all offline and digital channels
- Realize sustainable revenue growth by ‘owning’ their customer relationships
- Create efficiencies across growth-focused teams (marketing, customer service, etc.)
- Differentiate from competitors that rely on fragmented customer data and systems
To build an omni-channel strategy that ‘meets’ individuals where they are, though, retailers must prioritize personalization. And that means rethinking both their customer engagement approach as well as their technologies.
The macro factors that made an omni-channel approach essential for retailers
The days of being able to rely solely (or mostly) on business from brick-and-mortar stores to get by are over for traditional retailers. We now live in the era of omni-channel retailing — and mutually beneficial experiences.
That is, ones that foster loyalty and lasting value among customers and help retailers grow:
- Retailers prove to consumers they have something of value to offer and, in turn, get their target audience to opt in to receive their omni-channel marketing messaging.
- Customers are then served timely, relevant promotional messaging, based on first-party data (e.g., items bought, pages viewed, lifetime value scores) retailers have for them.
- As retailers learn more about their customers, they can continue to refine their omni-channel messaging these individuals (e.g., learn who to target with discounts or suppress deal-messaging to) based on their behaviors and interactions.
- Specifically, retail companies can nurture, cross-sell, and upsell individuals and shopper segments at the right places (i.e., the channels and touchpoints they most engage with) and in real time to increase customer satisfaction and loyalty.
But what exactly led to this ‘era’? How did omnichannel become such a critical component of retailers’ success today (and in the years to come)? In short, a handful macro factors.
COVID-19 and ensuing changes to consumer behavior
More than half (56%) of retail companies polled by Euromonitor in mid-2020 said one of biggest ways COVID-19 affected their businesses was it accelerated their need to sell via more digital channels (e.g., online marketplaces, social media).
Per McKinsey, though, in-store purchases have been declining for retailers since 2017. Thus, the pandemic wasn’t the only driver behind the (sizable) shift to online shopping.
The silver lining? McKinsey’s analysts projected retailers with an ecommerce presence would see a 10-13% rise in “online penetration” due to COVID-19. And this affords them a chance to transform their customer engagement strategies.
Euromonitor International Head of Digital Consumer Michelle Evans told Retail TouchPoints today’s retailers must “replicate the unique elements of the in-person experience” with their online stores to adjust to the new commerce climate created by the pandemic.
Many retailers are heeding her advice and adopting an omni-channel approach and mindset.
Pressure to compete with digital natives, retail giants
Retailers that relied heavily on brick-and-mortar sales, in particular, discovered they were perpetually behind digitally native retail businesses — notably direct-to-consumer (DTC) retailers and Amazon. Thus, many shifted their focus to developing ecommerce stores.
“Transaction data, web behavior data, demographic data, consent preferences — all of that is captured at an individual level by digitally native companies, BlueConic VP Marketing Michele Szabocsik noted for MarTech Advisor.
It’s this omni-channel customer view so many traditional retailers have lacked and now must prioritize today and in the years ahead to keep up with the digitally savvy retail leaders.
Emergence of consumer privacy laws (GDPR, CCPA)
General Data Protection Regulation and the California Consumer Privacy Act altered how companies across industries — including retailers — gathered and used consumers’ data.
In fact, it led many businesses to develop new consent management strategies to ensure their personalized, omni-channel messaging reached solely opted-in prospects and customers — and, in turn, strengthen both their trust and engagement with the brand.
Given how poorly retailers are rated in terms of consumer trust, a transparent data collection approach — and factoring in real-time consent preferences in their omni-channel marketing activities — has become a critical competitive differentiator.
Deprecation of cookies — and rise of first-party data
Third-party cookies have crumbled. But savvy retailers quickly knew its demise simply meant it was (finally) time to instead build their omni-channel strategies around first-party data.
They also realized it was time to invest in a single source of truth to store said data and make it accessible to all business functions who engage customers and/or drive growth: customer experience, digital product, marketing, and analytics, to name some.
It’s this point that’s arguably the biggest driver toward omnichannel for retailers.
Marketing to individuals based on impermanent, anonymous third-party cookies and/or relying on disparate customer data living across systems and sources makes it hard for today’s retail companies to truly understand their audience as a whole.
(Let alone gain any semblance of a single customer view.)
How retailers accelerate their omni-channel marketing with our pure-play CDP
All in all, the retailers with the most successful omni-channel strategies share one crucial commonality: They prioritize first-party data collection and utilization — and liberate their data with the aid of a customer data platform (CDP) like BlueConic.
For instance, retailers that use BlueConic are able to unify their first-party data from disconnected databases in dynamically updated, individual-level profiles.
What’s more, they can easily deliver that data back to cross-functional teams and their tools in a format they can use to deliver a cohesive and compelling omni-channel experiences.
- As we discuss in our eBrief on omni-channel acceleration, the furniture retailer’s marketing and ecommerce teams had to rely on its IT-owned ERP prior to onboarding BlueConic to access and eventually activate its event-stream data.
- This dependence on limited data — in terms of both scope and the time window in which it could be leveraged — meant these growth teams were missing an opportunity to deliver high-quality experiences in every customer lifecycle stage.
- Now, both departments can not only see where each individual is on their unique customer journeys, but they can also act on that data in real time through its omni-channel marketing efforts.
This ability to access and activate data in persistent profiles and build multi-dimensional segments in mere minutes (i.e., not wait days or weeks on IT to pull lists from the ERP) has helped the above teams become more efficient and improve their tactical metrics.
But it’s also helped Bob’s as a whole transform how it understands and engages customers.
Real-time, first-party data liberation (i.e., a modern omni-channel marketing strategy) is ultimately what distinguishes the top retailers from competitors that lack unified profiles and advanced segmentation, analysis, and activation capabilities — and helps them gain an edge in a highly competitive marketplace.
Download our omni-channel acceleration eBrief today to discover how you can transform your retail company’s customer engagement strategy with our CDP too.