COMMENTARY

As back-to-school looms: What retailers need to know to be ready year-round

Aug. 4, 2017

Photo: iStock.com

By Enda McShane, CEO, Velocity Worldwide

Each year, retailers tend to gear up toward the end of summer in anticipation for the mad rush of shoppers expected for the back-to-school season straight through to Black Friday.

For months in advance, they put all of their resources into luring in the most customers for these short-lived holidays with "limited-time" offers or experiences they can't resist. Surprisingly, or maybe not that surprising to consumers, is the fact that retailers can't or won't think about this level of marketing year-round.

The idea of being ‘retail ready' is a new concept for most retailers, but an important strategy to adopt early on for continued business growth and success. Being retail ready has less to do with having the "OPEN" sign buzzing in a storefront window and more to do with the strategy retailers can employ to be fully aware of their customers' needs no matter the time of year.

This may not seem like the easiest idea to come by as the needs and demands of today's consumers are constantly changing and customer loyalty is fleeting. In fact, one-third of U.S. retailers struggle to maintain customer loyalty. If retailers were ready to engage with customers 24/7, they'd have crucial insights into how to better build relationships with them.

Retailers need to invest in proper data

According to a recent Darius For Retail and Sapio Research survey, 35 percent of retailers are analyzing and using customer data in real-time. Customer experience is clearly at the top of the industry's agenda, especially for larger companies, and 95 percent are measuring this using a variety of methods including online surveys and customer feedback records.

Retailers are conscious of the need to have actionable insights into who their customers are, why they shop, and how best to connect with them. The failure to fully understand their own consumers leads marketers to lose valuable business and potential purchases.

Even the retailers that do invest in customer insights could use some help. Only 50 percent of retailers use Wi-Fi to gather data; with just 32 percent using the data they collect in this way to actually engage with their customers. Offering Wi-Fi to customers is a convenient and important way to not only benefit customers but also grow a retailer's data pool, giving stores more opportunity to act on the data collected.

Collecting customer data in real-time with Wi-Fi enables retailers to operationalize and collect data at every touch point throughout a customer's journey to have a complete view of that shopper. Once they understand a customer's wants and needs, they can effectively personalize the experience. However, this can only work if retailers step back and understand the importance of in-store engagement and embrace the technology solutions that can connect shoppers at every stage of their shopping experience.

In a digital world, consumers will shop around

‘Overchoice' is becoming a problem for not only consumers but retailers as well. When customers are lumped into a large group macro-targeted by generalized marketing campaigns they're less likely to be happy with their purchase. In fact, 80 percent of shoppers reported that personalized offers make them more likely to remember and shop a brand in the future.

In a world where you can browse hundreds of Amazon pages for the same product, consumers crave targeted content that gives them a personalized, even VIP-style experience. Young Americans are the most likely to share their personal data in exchange for benefits or rewards alongside China, the most willing in the world.

If retailers could build relationships with their customers through gathering, analyzing and — crucially — activating data to make better, smarter engagement decisions they could capture loyalty and build trust. With 87 percent of consumers shopping around, brands must be able to hone in on customer preferences to offer an experience that makes the shopper feel like they are truly understood; failing to do so will inevitably cause the customer to shop with a brand they feel truly "knows" them.

The solution is simple

Retailers need to build out a longer-term strategy, capture the right customer data, and use it to their own advantage, as well as customers'. Engagement without data does retailers no good; it doesn't matter how many digital displays or beacons a retailer has in-store if they don't have the knowledge of how best to use those tools.

Of course, the holidays are always going to be an important time for both consumers and retailers to connect, but being retail ready throughout the year will help protect and grow the business all 365 days of the year. By gaining enhanced insights into what top customers are doing, any retailer employing the retail ready strategy will get to know their own business better while streamlining their customer engagement approach.


Topics: Consumer Behavior, Customer Experience, Customer Service, Digital Merchandising, eCommerce, Marketing, Merchandising, Omnichannel / Multichannel, Online Retailing, Retail - Analytics, Shopper Marketing


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