Kohl’s CTO on personalizing customer experience and how data plays a big role

| by Judy Mottl
Kohl’s CTO on personalizing customer experience and how data plays a big role

Photo source: istock.com

When it comes to creating a true 'MEaningful' customer experience, Kohl's is relying big time on data to understand customer behavior for crafting a personalized experience.

The retailer has been focused on redesigning its e-commerce site, advancing mobile initiatives to unify the experience and tapping data on both those fronts in addition to providing associates greater insight on customer wants and needs.

"The next evolution is to bring the store into that equation," said Kohl's CTO Ratnakar Lavu, with the goal of connecting the digital store and the physical store.

Lavu shared Kohl's customer experience philosophy and strategy during a panel talk, "Creating MEaningful Experiences — Unifying Digital Journeys," at the NRF 'Big Show,' held in mid-January at the Javits Convention Center in New York City.

Data intelligence, noted Lavu, plays a role upfront with customer interaction as well as in the back-end, given Kohl’s expanding consumer service options of ordering online and picking up in the stores as well as the pure play e-commerce service.

Data is helping Kohl's be more efficient in the picking and packing of products and in routing associate resources more intelligently. It's also helping Kohl's know its customer better and respond better to customers' needs.

"Having data is key for associates to serve the customer," he said. “It plays into understanding merchandise they buy and don't buy," said Lavu.

As with most leading brand name retailers, mobile is a big focus.

"We're looking at the end-to-end in terms of customer experience, from search to fulfillment. The entire ecosystem," said the CTO, noting customer feedback is as critical as data gleaned from back end operations.

"We want to identify and eliminate friction points," he said.

That's why Kohl's is taking a 'maniacal' approach to customer experience with Lavu's team reviewing everything from customer reviews to ratings as the customer is the "heart of it all."

"I drive my team nuts," he noted with a smile.

The focus is also on streamlining customer service and support and being able to effectively address issues quick. That's a prime reason Kohl's will continue to build out its data intelligence strategy and is also looking at emerging digital tools.

"We're exploring chatbot and want to do a lot more with that," said Lavu, who expects other emerging technologies, such as virtual reality, will hit in the next two years.

In 2008, Kohl’s IT budget represented 5 percent of the retailer's $1.18 million capital investments budget, according to the Kohl’s Fact Book.  In 2015 it represented 45 percent. The retailer operated 1,155 stores as of Q3 2016.

"We have to put the customer at the center [of technology use]. We talk about innovation and transformation inside the company and have a dialogue to get all stakeholders to really think about innovation. If you're just doing technology [without that dialogue] it's not going to work," said Lavu.

Want to learn more about retail customer experience innovations, and hear insight from retailers making it happen? Register for the ICX Association’s annual Interactive Customer Experience Summit  happening June 5-7 at the Four Seasons Resort and Club  in Dallas. Check out the agendaregister here.

Topics: Augmented Reality, Consumer Behavior, Customer Experience, Customer Service, eCommerce, Mobile Retail, Omnichannel / Multichannel, Online Retailing, Retail - Apparel, Retail - General, Supply Chain, Technology

Judy Mottl

Judy Mottl is an experienced editor, reporter and blogger who has worked for top media including AOL, InformationWeek and InternetNews. She’s written everything from breaking news to in-depth trends. She loves a great pitch so email here, follow on Twitter and connect on LinkedIn.

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