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How to Prepare for the Perfect Omnichannel Customer Experience

Feature Article | February 23, 2018 by Derek Klobucher

Retailers are closer than ever to delivering an unprecedented customer experience, but they still can’t optimize connections among all the data they’re gathering; that information is often hidden across channels, such as mobile and social media. This has some brands scrambling to solve the problem and has many others scratching their heads.

“With digital transformation in shopping,” Nasdaq stated last week, “retailers are fast adopting the omnichannel mantra to provide a seamless shopping experience, whether online or in-stores.”

But brands still have a lot to learn before achieving total omnichannel enlightenment, according to a panel of retail experts at NRF 2018. It will probably take years for retailers to adapt — themselves and their data — to all of the different ways that consumers can shop; and they should start working on it now.

Know What You’re Trying To Do

“This whole notion of having a single point of view of the consumer is very much driven by the fact that you need know where they are digitally and physically,” Evan Neufeld, Intelligence VP at New York-based business intelligence firm L2 Inc., told the panel. “We’ve talked about omnichannel for years, but one of the reasons it’s come to fruition is just because everything is so mobile-based — and mobile is kind of that unifying device.”

Customer traffic, spend and other indicators point to increasing mobile adoption, according to Neufeld. And it’s unclear to shoppers whether most retailers (more than 60 percent) prefer to close the transaction online or in-store, according to L2 research into mobile — and only about six percent of brands are obviously comfortable letting the consumer choose where to buy.

“Very few brands are actually rethinking the way they interact with consumers on mobile devices from scratch,” Neufeld said. “The state of omnichannel is that people don’t quite have a good sense of what they’re trying to do.”

Even an online pure play can learn a thing or two when getting into brick-and-mortar game.

The #IRL Dilemma

“We took all of those omnichannel capabilities into the store,” such as in-store returns, John Allen, chief technology officer of U.K.-based fast-fashion retailer Missguided, told the panel.. “But … in the digital experience, we know who you are — even if you’re anonymized, we know that it’s the same person who was here two days ago … we know how long you spend in front of the product; we know where on the digital shop you are spending time; and we know what you bought.”

That’s online; keeping track of in-store shoppers is a different matter entirely, according to Allen. Product placement, RFID tags and maps of foot traffic are effective for the in-real-life (#IRL) salesfloor, but they’re still not the same as individual online customer data.

“You can’t link those two up together,” Allen said, “not without some really clever stuff.”

And clever stuff is in the works.

Collecting Individual Customer Data In-Store

“This is information of my customer traffic in the store, mapped to the store layout and the product location,” SAP’s Libre Erasmus told me during a video demonstration at NRF 2018. “Combine all of that information to get much more intelligent and insightful analytics.”

The Philips Indoor positioning system broadcasts special codes to shoppers’ mobile devices via overhead lights, accurately pinpointing their locations on the salesfloor. A Point Inside dashboard lets retailers drill down into individual customer data, such as routes through the store and dwell time in front of specific products.

“For example, this lady may have stood in front of a backpack, but never bought it,” Erasmus said. “I can save that information to my customer profile record, [and] I can start to use that information for much more contextual, personalized campaigns.”

It may take a while to perfect those campaigns, but that’s all right, according to Missguided’s Allen. The data you’re collecting and storing now will eventually pay even bigger dividends.

How to Play with Data

“Don’t be afraid to just keep capturing [data],” Allen said. “Right now, you’re not going to use it all because you’ve got to build links between [mobile, in-store, etc.] — but the ultimate goal is to have a continuous view of the customer where literally everything you know about me is fed into the next action.”

That’s still years away, but brands have opportunities to make connections between some of those channels in the meantime, according to Allen. One way is to hire data scientists to examine what you’ve got.

“Don’t spend too much money; don’t spend too much time; let them play,” Allen said. “Let them see if they can find things that you wouldn’t have found on your own — and don’t tell them what you want to find.

“Let them go and find it.”

Follow Derek on Twitter: @DKlobucher

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