Putting — and Keeping — Retail Customers in the Center, Part 1
This is part one of a two-part series.
The heat is on retailers to become customer-centric. Customers have higher expectations than ever before, and competitors that reliably meet those expectations seize a reliable edge. The key is to put the customer at the center with cohesive data and purpose, starting at the top.
The C-Suite Customer Dance
Software providers say to chief marketing officers (or sometimes chief information officers), “Hey brand, give us your data and we’ll provide seamless cross-channel marketing and powerful dashboards.” To an exec under siege, that kind of handoff can sound like a big relief. However, complete outsourcing not only pulls data away from the business, it becomes just one more point solution to cut and paste from when attempting to prepare for the next board meeting.
In today’s world, that CMO or CIO sells the project internally; it’s not really everyone’s project. The business might end up with another capability or a subset for a specific function, channel or touchpoint. It helps, but it doesn't provide a single view of the customer nor a central point of control to create the right customer treatment across all touchpoints. Unfortunately, marketing organizations are becoming as siloed as the point solutions they're using.
We can only optimize one point solution at a time, and it's not thought of as our shared solution. More like “We did that because it makes our systems better.” The CMO may sell it as a way to have better targeted results across digital channels or a more accurate media spend. If that CMO fails, he or she is fired and the system goes away. Rinse and repeat.
What about the CEO, the one calling the shots? I haven’t seen a case yet where the CEO is on the same page in the search for a shared view of customers. The process becomes disjointed as a result.
CEOs often operate from a financial point of view, in financial statements where a lot of this customer stuff doesn’t exist. Revenue per customer metrics aren’t in there. Revenue by channel, by product line, by category — all there. But read a 10K, read a financial report: it talks about channel strategy and product strategy. There might be a small, pithy paragraph about customer strategy, but there’s nothing in the numbers.
It’s in a CMO's best interest to bring it to the CEO and tell him or her to sell it to the company. This helps the business start to become customer-centric when it starts to value its customers.
It’s Worth the View
Is it worth all these hassles? Yes. Retailers that want to succeed in a world where customers and competitors are shaking up the status quo daily need to double down on putting the customer at the center of their efforts.
They need to create the full 360-view of the customer by seeing their omnichannel marketing behavior, lifecycle purchase behavior, and everything in between. Then, they need to act on that customer intelligence by sharing it across all channels to deliver a better consistent experience for any given customer’s interaction with the business. And it can reveal a tricky path …
Untangling the Customer Web
A footwear maker learned to measure attribution by joining omnichannel data to its customer database. As a result, it knew it was driving a ton of web traffic with paid search, but it turned out to be mostly buying existing customers. The retailer learned to focus its paid search efforts on owning its brand because that's the way its best customers are navigating the internet.
The brand was hoping paid search was driving net new eyeballs to its website. However, traditional co-op marketing/look-alike marketing (i.e., buying lists for catalogs) was shown to outperform paid search for new prospects.
Once the business saw that, it gave up on nonbranded search terms, like wingtips, brown shoes, etc., for existing customers by suppressing best customers from nonbranded paid search words.
The brand still uses nonbranded paid search as an acquisition tool, and it's seeing results — not better than co-op marketing and catalogs, but there are improved results. At a certain price point, it’s worth it to produce new eyeballs without wasting money.
To put customers at the center — and keep them there — isn't an easy task, but it's far from impossible. The technology is there if the commitment to customer-centricity is there to drive it. And given the state of customer expectations, do brands today really have a choice?
Related story: When AdTech Meets MarTech, Part 2