The Retail Dating Game
We've all been there. We've all sat at home on our couches on Feb. 14, a pathetic expression on our faces, laptop open, desperately crying out, "Why can't I find these shoes in stock?!" It's not quite the woe-is-me sob story we're used to reading around Valentine's Day, but it's a sad ending indeed when consumers can't find their retail love match. Even worse, it's an epidemic that strikes all year long.
As always in tales of love and redemption, however, there's hope! Retailers that gather their rosebuds now to capture the affection of their customers will float to the forefront of the upper echelon of extraordinary shopping experiences. There are ways retailers can do this, and just like dating in real life, it takes time, effort and attention to win the hearts of those you pursue.
Honesty is the Best Policy
Disconnects in data across an enterprise can cause serious problems between retailers and their beloved customers. Therefore, analytics are key to keeping lines of communication open and honest on products and SKUs for merchandising and inventory purposes. For example, let's say a major retailer had $400,000 worth of returned products due to a sizing issue discovered in customer reviews. Connected web analytics, merchandising, operations and customer data would be needed to understand where the lack of product information may be impacting returns.
Retailers need to head these issues off at the pass, and ensure product descriptions and cataloging are done properly from the start.
Know How Many Days to Wait Before Calling Again
Don't be that annoying retailer. If you've realized that 2,000 of your best customers haven't made a purchase in the last four weeks, it's normal to wonder, "What happened? Did I do something wrong? Why did they stop buying from me? I should call them, and maybe send them an email or two."
We've all had these questions race through our heads if a seemingly solid circle of loyal patrons begins to crumble. Retailers need to understand the science behind how and when customers shop by using customer and order data across all channels to anticipate fluctuations in purchasing activity, and set proactive and reactive efforts into motion.
First Impressions Are Lasting
Forbes reported that it takes just seven seconds to make a first impression. While retailers may have a bit more time to work with when introducing a shopper to an e-commerce site vs. introducing potential soulmates, they still need to create and maintain a good impression after a shopper's very first interaction with their brand. Furthermore, retailers must deliver on their promises for shipping timelines and estimates, being sure to avoid the disappointment that surely follows a "retail standup."
For example, let's say a retailer got caught in an unintentional lie after $75,000 worth of orders were found sitting in "held order" status and were going to miss their delivery promise dates. How would you turn that situation around? Visibility across the entire order journey allows retailers to truly understand that first customer impression, and can certainly help avoid a profit-plunging scare.
Don't Play Hard to Get
It's difficult enough to catch what you're chasing, so why make it harder? When shoppers find an item they like in-store or online, they want a smooth purchase process so they can begin enjoying the product immediately. Disconnects in the transaction process can cause purchases not to be ordered for delivery, making customers a disappointed player in the mutually beneficial relationship they expected.
For example, if you were missing out on $1.3 million in revenue from failed orders due to a flaw in the checkout process, you can imagine the number of unhappy customer counterparts to those ordered items that decided the reward wasn't worth the effort in the end. Using web analytics, order and finance data may help uncover other reasons why orders may be low, enabling you to plan accordingly.
Don't Talk About Assets You Don't Actually Have
We've all heard the horror stories of that first date where she under-reported ever so slightly her year of birth, or he added six inches or so to his height, right? Perhaps these examples are unique to every storyteller, but a good rule of thumb, regardless, is to never tout features or capabilities you can't actually deliver on.
Online retailers need to be sure their e-commerce sites are synced with store and warehouse inventory, as well as promotions and advertising efforts. Only then can they highlight products that are actually in stock and available to hungry shoppers with an itch to buy. Don't be the unfortunate retail soul that identifies $300,000 in lost opportunity on traffic from paid search keywords that are sending shoppers to items with fragmented stock.
By connecting e-commerce analytics and marketing data with merchandising and inventory, retailers can begin to understand the performance of marketing campaigns to make strategic decisions moving forward.
Love is a battlefield, a rock star once said. By connecting data siloes and responding to consumer needs, retailers have the power to make it less of a war and more of a mutual admiration society of customer loyalty and increased profits.
John Squire is the president of North America at OrderDynamics, a provider of commerce and order management solutions for retailers.
John Squire is the co-founder and CEO of DynamicAction, a decision intelligence application that analyzes data dependencies across a retailer's organization and presents immediate, detailed actions to drive profitable growth across the business.