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5 Customer Experience Cues From Retail

Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes courtesy of Alicia Fiorletta, Senior Editor of Retail TouchPoints, an online publishing network for retail executives, offering content focused on optimizing the customer experience across all channels. She frequently writes about how retailers are tapping social media, mobility, and Big Data to create a personalized and compelling brand experience. Follow Alicia on Twitter @AliciaFiorletta

Imagine you’re walking around your local mall or shopping center. On your way to the destination at hand, you get a text message or push notification delivered from one of your favorite brands. “Store nearby! Get 25% off your purchase! Today only!” Not one to ignore a great incentive, you go off track and end up visiting the store.

Thanks to the powers of technology, you probably have marketing experiences like this on a monthly, weekly or even daily basis.

But technology alone is not what makes a compelling and memorable brand experience. The success of online retailers like Amazon confirms one simple fact: Consumers want to feel like their favorite retailers know — and deliver upon — their unique wants and needs.

Retailers have spent the past few years refining and optimizing the customer experience based on consumers’ tech-savvy shopping behaviors. And, evidently, these browsing and buying strategies are bleeding into other areas of consumers’ lives. That’s where you—the marketer—come in.

There are many things marketers can learn from their retail counterparts. Based on my coverage of the retail space, following are five key tips to help you ensure your buyers and prospects have a great experience:

1. Become customer obsessed. When you consider implementing an email campaign or crafting a new piece of content, the first question you ask should be: What will my customer get out of it? Why would they need this? Cosmetic brand Julep was created with the sole goal of bringing beauty lovers together, and by using their feedback to generate new, innovative products. If consumers test a product and are unsatisfied, it doesn’t get put on shelves. The model is entirely customer-centric, and its what makes the business successful.

2. See Big Data as an opportunity, not an obstacle. To create valuable and memorable brand experiences, you must collect all the information you can about your customer and build comprehensive, 360-degree profiles. These profiles can include attributes such as full name, address, phone number, site browsing behavior, purchases, and more. Retailers are leveraging demographic, transactional, and even social and mobile data to better understand customers, and create brand experiences they’ll respond more favorably to. In fact, many sources who contributed to Retail TouchPoints’ annual Outlook Guide emphasized that personalization would be a key differentiator for retailers in 2014.

3. Build the relationship. Today, it takes far more to spark the interest of consumers who have fingertip access to all the news, products and information they could ever need. Ironically, many consumers want retailers to get back to the basics and focus on forming one-to-one relationships with them — especially if they’re loyal buyers. Brands like Moosejaw and Bonobos  engage in repartees with their consumers on social media. Sure, Facebook and Twitter are valuable outlets to get the word out on new products and sales, but it’s the dialogue and witty posts that keep customers coming back for more.

4. Listen (and respond)! Since we’re talking about social media, I’d be remiss if I didn’t highlight the importance of listening and responding to your followers. Many companies are turning to social scheduling solutions. While they may be valuable, people can smell phony from 100 miles away. Showing your customers that you’re eager, willing, and dedicated to building a dialogue with them and hearing about their experiences is more important than ever. You’d be surprised how many retailers especially are still ignoring comments on their Facebook pages — or even worse — deleting them!

5. Deliver on the brand promise. The more data you collect on your customers, and the more conversations you have with them, the more pleased they are with the overall brand experience. But this is not just a one-and-done deal. As soon as consumers have one positive experience, it becomes the expectation. It’s up to you to deliver on that brand promise that hinges on not only providing the right messages, and the right offers at the right time, but to the right person, at the right time.

Retail TouchPoints will be at the National Retail Federation’s annual BIG Show in New York City from January 12-15, 2013. During these few days, we’ll get the inside scoop on what marketing and engagement best practices are on the horizon, and how new technologies will help improve the customer experience. What is your favorite customer experience cue from retail?

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