This is the age of the customer. With just a tap on the screen of a connected device, anyone can get what they want, often within hours, or minutes. The companies providing this powerful experience are not only shaping expectations of what a shopping experience should be, but subsequently putting pressure on other businesses to follow suit or risk lagging behind. A recent Forrester report commissioned by Visa reveals most companies have the data to radically improve customer experiences, but lack the collaborative mind-set or analytic tools to make use of it. It's akin to having a treasure chest without a key.
Not surprisingly, the most common complaint companies are hearing from customers is that their experiences across channels are disconnected. The report found 50 percent of companies claim to be collecting behavioral data, but aren't applying it to enhance or predict customer journeys, discover insights, blend channels or streamline their processes. Similarly, the global survey of executives found more than 50 percent are using software programs or analytics tools developed in-house, which lack the data-deciphering technology that allow for the creation of more personalized experiences.
In this customer-centric world, digital technology has permanently shifted how people approach their purchases. While companies could once drive outcomes through product and price, the customer is now also interested in the quality of their experience. Product, price and a seamless, multidevice experience must come together in harmony for retailers to win customer loyalty and satisfaction. Businesses that can then learn to integrate customer data from every channel and unlock the patterns within that data will be able to accurately predict purchasing behaviors and stand out in this increasingly competitive market.
Some online pure-plays have learned how to access data insights through the power of analytics, including purchase and brand interaction. The best applications tie together mobile location data, social media activity and even sensor data from products to create infinite possibilities for understanding a customer’s behavior. The result? Hyperadoption and an uptick in purchases.
At physical store locations today, most businesses collect only the data from a single purchase, which is just a tiny slice of the pie. Stores are missing the rich information of who the customer is, why they bought the item, if they comparison shopped, what payment methods they might regularly use, etc. As a result, shops risk alienating these customers with a one-size-fits-all approach. They issue meat and poultry coupons to vegetarians, and diaper discounts to college kids. Without personalization, their marketing attempts get rebuffed and have no relevance.
What retailers can use are insights from online shopping data in their physical stores to create a more seamless shopping experience. This does however require companies to stitch together a complete picture of customer behavior, and to take targeted action. For example, take a loyal coffee drinker who lives in the Chicago suburbs and shops regularly at Target.com. Gathering all of the intel from their purchase history and repeat visits to the website, the neighborhood Target store could tailor offers and features for new coffee pots or coffee brands to make its store attractive to the devoted local customer. The key to building engaging interactions and fueling company growth is when brands work together to best solve a customer’s experience across channels.
Many companies are stymied by an outdated, proprietary belief that sharing data makes them vulnerable. The truth is that when businesses allow API access to some of their customer data, they open up a whole new world of innovation in customer experience. Two years ago Visa saw this need and opened up its network to allow access to traditionally proprietary products and services via APIs on the Visa Developer Platform. Since then, several companies across the commerce ecosystem have collaborated with Visa to build solutions and bring products to market faster.
Cooperating on one level doesn't eliminate competition between businesses, but it does expand the market possibilities for everyone. Using APIs to build new data-driven experiences may not just impact your bottom line but can ultimately propel the future of retail to a place where everyone wins.
Paul Walsh is senior vice president of Visa Developer Platform Strategy and Innovation.
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