Digital channels, mobile technology, expanded customer choice and legislative issues have all evolved faster in the last ten years than ever before, and companies have had to update their marketing practices to keep pace and keep customers engaged. This has been especially challenging in the retail vertical as accurate customer identification can be difficult to achieve on a consistent basis.
While digital channels (i.e., email, mobile, social, search and display ads) naturally enable the sharing of customer information in order to facilitate a transaction, brick and mortar stores generally capture less information during a sale. Capture rates also vary wildly by retail vertical, from boutique to big box. Even within the same retail segments, techniques and strategies can differ greatly across companies. Legislative challenges and the increased skepticism among customers regarding sharing their contact information have made it harder to understand customer identity, which is central to multi-channel marketing programs.
With these expanded challenges, it may be tempting to consider walking away from even attempting customer identification techniques in-store. At the same time, consumers are demanding more relevant and targeted communications in all channels, so making the effort is worth it.
The good news is that technological advancements in customer linkage have made it easier to combine the customer information that you may already have across channels to resolve a customer’s identity. Even if you don’t ask or capture full customer information at the in-store point of purchase, any pieces of information that the customer willingly offers may be useful in understanding and linking them to your customer database. Your customer information is what enables targeted and relevant communications, so every little bit that you capture helps.
For example, if a customer opts into your mobile program for text message incentives, that contact information can be linked to the data the customer provided to you from a website purchase. Cross-channel identity resolution techniques then help bridge the offline and online worlds to understand that customer. Once you have completed the linkage of your own data, reputable data partners can help you to fill in any information gaps. The added benefit of working with an external data expert lies with compliance. The compliance rules surrounding proper use of personally identifiable information are complex and the risk of misuse can be detrimental to a business and a brand.
When people think of customer linkage, they often think in terms of digital channels. Remember, that linkage can cross over into other retail channels as well. What this means is that any information customers willingly provide in the retail store can be used to link them to your digital customer information enabling a consistent customer view across all channels – and the ability to communicate with that customer and provide the relevant and targeted communications they expect.
As noted above, to be successful, marketers must become more and more sophisticated in terms of their marketing capabilities. Understanding how a customer interacts with your brand in only one channel just isn’t good enough for most retailers these days. Retailers must become more effective in personally interacting with their customers via cross-channel optimization and linking all disparate data is essential to enable that level of marketing sophistication.