In the first part of our feature on Customer Engagement & Loyalty, Kathy Kimple, Chief Retail Officer of FitForCommerce takes a close look at the topic and highlights how data can be used to deepen relationships between brands and their customers.

D igital innovation has led to a myriad of ways for retailers and brands to engage with and sell to customers. But with so many options, it’s also more challenging than ever to determine the right strategies for deepening customer engagement and loyalty. As retailers and brands compete for customer attention, loyalty, and wallet-share, personalising the customer journey and experience should be high on the priority list.

Countless studies show that personalisation is worth the investment. Keeping customers engaged, connected and resonating with your brand, increases loyalty and therefore spend. Most shoppers prefer personalised experiences and are more likely to make a purchase and spend more money with retailers that leverage personalisation strategies – as long as they feel confident that their personal information is secure and not misused.

Although most retailers, brands, and mall operators recognise the value of personalised shopping experiences, the topic of personalisation is often surrounded by intimidating concepts like Big Data and Artificial Intelligence, and thus, putting theory into practice can seem like a daunting endeavour. The fear of GDPR and CCPA is restricting full personalisation, however new ways of working within these privacy laws are emerging.

It Is All About The Data
It has been said that information is power; however information is just data that has been shaped into a solution. Therefore, if data is the new oil, it has the potential to become the most important asset on the planet and is at the very heart of personalisation. You need: data to deliver relevant and engaging experiences across all channels and devices, the right systems and resources to capture and make sense of the data you have, and content that helps deliver personalised experiences that are aligned to the data insights.

We frequently hear from retailers that they do not have enough data and that the data they do have is too messy, resides in too many different places, and is impossible to manage. A FitForCommerce survey found that only 1/3 of retailers felt confident that they had the right data, that it was usable and that they knew how to leverage it to personalise the shopping experience.

More often than not, the challenge is not the lack of data, content, or resources, but rather that existing data and content are under-utilised, and resources are overstressed. Many organisations already track a huge amount of valuable data points and may not even realise it therefore it becomes the quality of the data that is the issue.

In our experience, when retailers stop and take inventory of their existing resources, data, and content, they realise that they already have the ingredients needed. The real challenge is figuring out how to effectively bring it all together.


Take Inventory
Personalisation starts with knowing who the customer is. Beyond basic customer profile information, true personalisation requires a complete view of the customer throughout the entire shopping journey and across channels, including her preferences, habits, interests, etc.

Start by asking a very simple question: What do you already know about your customers? Most retailers quickly realise that they are in much better shape than they expected.

Retailers use many different systems and technologies to power digital commerce and retail operations such as digital commerce platforms, order management systems (OMS), content management systems, marketing engines, analytics, and so on. These systems typically capture and store data. Modern POS systems and in-store clienteling tools now also enable retailers to significantly improve processes for gathering data about in-store customers. In an ideal world, all these systems are integrated with a centralised database management system that stores data across all departments. In reality, this is not always the case, even for larger retailers. Many companies have started to implement centralised databases to manage data from multiple sources to obtain a complete view of the customer. However, the lack of a centralised system should not be used as an excuse not to personalise. The most critical step is to understand what data already exists, where it resides, and how to leverage it

Just Do It
It may not be feasible to integrate digital commerce, POS, CRM, OMS, or email data in one place, initially. While an AI-powered personalisation engine can help leverage data to deliver personalised experiences across multiple customer touchpoints, retailers can get started with what is available today. Most digital commerce and marketing platforms offer some level of personalisation functionality that requires little effort to automate yet yield a high return.

After mastering basic personalisation tactics, retailers can start to build the foundation for more advanced personalisation by ensuring that data is accessible by all departments and by having a clear personalisation strategy across the entire organisation. The next step is to enhance experiences throughout the shopping journey by adding new layers of data, cross-channel insights, and artificial intelligence.

Create, Test, Iterate, Repeat
Testing is an integral part of successful retailing. It is even more important when delivering personalised experiences because the risk of being irrelevant is so high. As shoppers become more demanding, they have less tolerance for those that do not rise to meet their expectations. Customers’ needs and wants change over time, product offerings change and new technologies continuously provide improved ways to deliver personalised experiences. Personalisation, therefore, is not a “set and forget it” effort. In order to maximise performance, it is critical to constantly test and refine strategies and tactics.

Following this approach will help to identify data gaps and allow you to build a solid personalisation roadmap supported by relevant technology solutions. The personalisation space has evolved considerably and there are many technology solutions that may be right for you – ranging from existing capabilities offered by the platforms you already leverage to support your business to specialised personalisation engines. The time to start is now… Just Do It, Take Inventory, Create, Learn and Expand.