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Three Things Top of Mind Right Now
I’m frequently asked what the big, fundamental issues on the minds of retailers are. Well, after reflecting back on three inspiring days at the National Retail Federation (NRF) big show in New York last month, there are three topics that still resonate with me and the retailers I work with: social media, loyalty, and mobility. How well retailers pull together strategies and systems to maximize each will help determine how good 2012 will be.
We talk to a lot of retailers about their social media strategies and how to integrate their social media programs with loyalty and mobility strategies. We regularly field social media questions such as:
- What is the best way to connect with our customers as they walk into the store and when they’re at home?
- How can they connect with our brand using social media?
- How do we manage the data flow back into our systems, such as our customer relationship management (CRM) system?
- How do we use this data to improve customer-centricity with these customers to keep them loyal?
We know that for retailers social media best practice analytics tie in very well with increased customer-centricity. Deploying the right technology (CRM, point-of-sale, ERP systems) plays into this well and helps builds an understanding of who your customer really is today. Retailers today need to make sure they have a deep understanding of their customer’s buying habits and patterns, by learning from all of the customer’s transactions across multiple channels. They need to simultaneously develop strategies to tie in social media data to really start to understand who the customer is and what they do. This not only relates to buying habits from them, but from other preferences they can ascertain through their use of social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare. The leading retailers we’re talking to on a daily basis are starting to understand other aspects of their customer’s lives, and then adapting their marketing to what they learn from their social media interactions. Many, such as Carol’s Daughter, have been able to take this understanding and drive incredibly successful marketing campaigns.
True integration as it relates to social media is critical today. All of the social media feeds (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Foursquare, et al) must be integrated into a single system so that its data, along with the multi-channel sales data, can be analyzed together. Consolidation of all of this data helps get a 360 degree view of the customer in order to more effectively market to the customer. Bringing this data together will allow them to market to the consumer as a whole person, not just an entity or data point who’s buying a particular product or products from them. The results can be very powerful. We’re beginning to see some of the retailers we work with begin to tie in all of these avenues of data together to put together fruitful and revenue-generating marketing campaigns.
Loyalty and how to reduce customer fragility is another top-of-mind topic that comes up frequently. We field a lot of questions about loyalty and have some really powerful answers around how we’re able to help them increase loyalty by using Microsoft Dynamics technologies. One great example is with our customer DAVIDsTEA. Check out this case study to see how an innovative retailer utilized great solutions to get beyond the limitations of its legacy infrastructure and truly understand what they need to know about their customers.
These solutions can help to identify who your most loyal customers are and how to reward them for their loyalty. They also help to keep them loyal, all doing this in ways that don’t necessarily involve the customer walking in with a barcode on their keychain. What’s even more interesting is the ability to identify customers where their loyalty might be a little bit more fragile. There’s a lot that can be done today to improve their loyalty and make sure they’re staying true to the brand or the retail store.
We have a lot of new concepts that we’re currently deploying where loyalty can actually be managed without the use of loyalty cards. A consumer can be identified by many other characteristics, which enable us to really start marketing to our customers as people, not as simply an entity with a card. We can really start to identify their buying habits across multiple channels and rewarding those habits based on their buying patterns, what they’re buying, and of course what we think they might be buying or might be interested in based on those patterns and habits.
And finally, mobility’s a really hot topic and retailers are asking how Microsoft’s new solutions can fill some gaps. There’s a fantastic story there and we frequently showing how we can enable mobile commerce inside stores. The lines between mobile, e-commerce and in-store are getting very blurred. Because of that it’s more important than ever that retailers are invested in the right technology, so they can understand their customer across all channels and assess when (and where?) they may be purchasing or interacting with them, so that they can understand how to best market and sell to those customers. Investing in the right technology is a key part of that, and making sure we can be more customer-centric and understanding our customers’ buying habits, patterns, and likes and dislikes.
I look forward to providing many examples of this in my upcoming blog posts.