Part III: Great Expectations: Reaching Your Customers With What They Really Want
2021 forever changed how brands and retailers understand consumer journey and demand. With updates to privacy laws that hit many harder than expected, it sent brands (and agencies) scrambling for the best way forward to fill in the gaps. Tapping into the wealth of first- and zero-party data troves brands and retailers have at their disposal can unlock answers to how and where to target, reach and even retain customers. Not only is the data important, but a major takeaway over the last two years is consumer baseline expectation of ultra-quick delivery and seamless returns. Understanding your unique customer’s priorities in their shopping journey will create a road map towards your successful year strategy.
How to Survive in a Cookie-Less Future
As Google and Apple (and others) address consumer privacy concerns with the depreciation of third-party cookies and iOS device identifiers, collecting robust first- and zero-party data is crucial in deepening the relationship between customers and brands. Let’s quickly break down the what, the why and the how to take advantage.
First-party data is collected directly from customers, prospects and users. This can be online or offline data that's collected via websites, apps, social media or surveys. Prioritizing the collection of first-party data is important as new privacy solutions have undoubtedly impacted how to target and reach customers.
- Determine your experience goals to inform your strategy on data acquisition.
- Identify opportunities to continue to grow your database, including sign-ups through social channels, incentives to email subscribers, and customer service interactions.
- Constantly segment and actualize the data you collect to develop actionable personalization opportunities.
Zero-party data is collected voluntarily from customers, such as robust information about a customer's birthday, occupation, family size, gender, etc. The data can assist you in accurately understanding your customers and their preferences.
- Establish the value exchange for customers providing you with this data. Offering a discount code/reward post survey completion is an effective way to incentivize participation.
- Communicate use of this data to alleviate any privacy concerns customers may have.
- Determine ways to continue collecting this data to gather additional information and insights. Zero-party data will position brands to thrive in this shifting landscape.
Quick Delivery and Painless Returns Will Continue
2021 showed us that consumer demand for ultrafast delivery isn't slowing down any time soon. According to research from January Digital and Coresight, 57 percent of U.S. respondents report they consider fast, free delivery for online orders to be one of the most important considerations when shopping. Luxury retailers like Net-A-Porter and MatchesFashion have offered same-day delivery in major cities for years, but many major retailers — like Ulta, Target, and Abercrombie & Fitch — have introduced new quick delivery options in partnership with the likes of Uber and Lyft to meet this increased demand. While 15-minute delivery isn’t reasonable across the industry, there should be a focus on leveling up their delivery and pickup options over the next year to remain competitive — even if it means passing along the delivery cost to the customer.
Testing what products customers want quickly (cue the section on the importance of collecting/understanding data above) will help brands develop a strong foundation for a financially scalable strategy. Your employees at brick-and-mortar locations are essential in understanding the unique demand of customers in specific locations. For example, areas with warm weather tourism might see increased demand for sunblock, swimwear, pajamas and other items that might have been missed when packing, while urban locations might see demand for event and special occasion items. Having a strong personalization strategy that encourages customers to set up auto-renewals on their favorite products can alleviate the demand for certain categories and items so this service can be scaled more easily for one-off orders.
In addition to enhancing delivery options, the demand for return solutions continues to increase. UPS had already anticipated 8.75 million returns during the first week of January alone this year, a 23 percent bump compared to the highest week of returns during the previous holiday shopping period. Return solution companies are beginning to raise more capital as e-commerce returns have been a pain point for both customers and retailers. Happy Returns — which was recently acquired by PayPal — partners with over 2,600 physical drop-off locations that collect your return, refund you immediately, and send back the product to the retailer. Solutions like this help compete against Amazon.com and Walmart, which offer the convenience of accepting returns at their physical stores. Determining the challenges in your returns process and implementing solutions to improve convenience and reliability is a valuable way to acquire and retain customers.
As 2022 continues to tick on, it's imperative to test out the conveniences that you believe to be important to your customers and evolve your strategy based on that first- and zero-party data to make actionable recommendations for the months to come. In our final byline, I will underscore the importance of authenticity in your purpose-driven brand and unlock the secrets of the metaverse to win over customers.
Tierney Wilson is senior vice president, client strategy and consulting at January Digital, a digital leadership company that solves business challenges through media, analytics and strategic consulting.
Tierney Wilson is SVP, Client Strategy and Consulting, leads strategic leadership for all client services employees and clients. In her role Wilson is also responsible for the consulting practice which accounts for the agency’s largest area of growth. Prior to her role as SVP, Wilson served January Digital as its Managing Director and Director of Digital Strategy. Before joining the agency, she helped lead e-commerce for Dutch LLC (Joie, Current/Elliott and Equipment), Tory Burch and spent time at Condé Nast.