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Creating the Single View in an Omni-Channel World

This summer’s eTail Europe conference in London was billed as the ‘Premier Multi-Channel Retail Event in Europe’. But, having experienced a fascinating three days of discussion and debate about all things ecommerce, it looks like retail is walking the journey from ‘multi’ to ‘omni’. Omni-channel marketing is now very much the order of the day. As retailers battle to improve customer engagement across every single channel, the multi-channel approach is no longer in vogue – it’s all about developing a cohesive brand experience across all channels.

In actual fact, we’re also moving from multi to ‘single’. Retailers are increasingly recognizing that brand success will only come from developing a single view of the customer; understanding the individual dynamics of the mobile, tablet and digital channels and how they work alongside other more traditional customer touch-points – and tying them all together to deliver a consistent and personalized customer experience to encourage individual brand loyalty.

So a major message coming out of eTail Europe 2013 was clear: exploiting the omni-channel, by creating a single view of the customer – will be the key to retail growth.

So how can retailers reach the utopia of omni-channel? The answer, on paper at least, is simple: through smarter use of data. Retailers know they need to develop an understanding of evolving customer behaviors, but to do this effectively they need to be able to measure and interpret mobile data – and integrate it with data and insights from other channels – to create personalized customer journeys. Simple on paper – but in the real world, much more complex.

And, according to many at the event, those complexities have been further heightened by an industry-wide obsession with the current buzz-phrase flavor of the moment: ‘Big Data’. An intriguing undercurrent of eTail Europe 2013 was the growing consensus amongst retailers that the Big Data philosophy has actually created unnecessary complications; companies are capturing huge amounts of customer data, but, as the volume grows bigger, interpreting it to create genuine business intelligence is becoming increasingly difficult.

The widespread view from retail was that business intelligence is not about Big Data – it’s about Smart Data. Retailers need to generate bite-size, usable data that is pertinent to their marketplace and helps them to take small, incremental steps towards improving the customer experience across all relevant channels.

The debate over Big Data versus incremental intelligence will no doubt stimulate much discussion on both sides. Whatever the position, it’s clear that the smart aggregation and interpretation of customer data from across all channels will be key to long-term success in an evolving ecommerce environment.

So, in a competitive online marketplace where personalization is becoming increasingly important, how can companies make the move from the Big view to the single view? Further, how can retailers exploit their Big Data to deliver individualized customer experiences to support an all-encompassing omni-channel approach?

Multi and single, omni and individual, big and bite-sized – it may all seem a mass of contradictions, yet it doesn’t need to be.

As retailers battle to develop customer-centric services in an increasingly dynamic digital marketplace, the solutions are already out there. Tools that combine powerful multivariate testing with sophisticated segmentation and personalization technologies are helping businesses address the twin challenges of exploiting rich data sets to inform wider online strategies, and at the same time deliver personalized experiences to suit individual customer preferences.

But there is no one-size-fits-all solution. In an increasingly personalized world, retailers will naturally develop their own individual approaches. They may be striving for the single view in an omni-channel world, but there is no single way of winning. The only way is to listen to your customers – holistically and individually – and let them tell you what’s right.

In testing times, testing is the answer.

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