Michael Brennan|June 7, 2021

As the UK steadily emerges from lockdown, we can see signs of our old, normal, life returning – including a notable shift in consumer spending away from ecommerce and toward stores, along with a resurgence in out-of-home leisure spending.  

The end of inertia 

As so many businesses across the UK continue to grapple with the negative impacts of the pandemic, they are also attempting to plot a course for the future, to understand where their customers are at, to think about what changes are here to stay and which will soon fade away.  

They will rapidly realise that one thing has changed forever – consumers have lost their fear of change. 

We have all had to try doing things differently. For many this will have meant trying ecommerce for the first time, for others new delivery options, for others transforming habitual shopping behaviours. For others it has been a period of reflection resulting in greater support for local businesses, or healthier, and more sustainable, consumption habits. Some will have simply got used to spending less. 

Little wonder then that Customer Experience (CX) is even more firmly in the spotlight. Those who were demanding, impatient, and hyper-critical before March 2020 are a whole lot more so now, and they have been joined by many more, newly empowered, consumers demanding the very best experience. 

Retail strategy must now be explicitly focused on the idea that every dissatisfied customer will leave. 

Enable pre-emptive action 

There are multiple implications arising from this approach. One of the most important is that we can’t afford to wait until the customer has left us before we act. Therefore we need to develop a joined up view of the customer such that every brand touchpoint, service interaction and sales transaction is captured and added to the individual profile – the single customer view. This is especially important as customers start to combine store visits with digital interactions. 

Without this holistic view of the customer our approach risks being seen as impersonal or irrelevant 

With the right data on individual customers we can then develop predictive intelligence in order to identify those with the greatest propensity to churn (i.e. your biggest risks) – allowing us to tailor and target interventions in good time. 

Predictive intelligence empowers you to devise and take action to retain your most valuable customers 

Closely related to the need to identify customers at risk of churn is the need to identify your most valuable customers, those who spend the most with you and who would be the most damaging to lose. If you can profile your most valuable customers you can then develop appropriate propositions to meet their needs. You can also use this information to support the attraction and acquisition of lookalike customers – and so increase your average revenue per customer over time. 

Maximise the impact 

With this level of customer insight, it is vital that we now maximise our chances of success by ensuring that we are communicating with our customers at the right time and with the right messages. 

Personally optimised messaging and send times can transform brand communications engagement 

There are two elements to this layer of personalisation, one analyses the propensity to purchase particular products across your database, the other seeks to send marketing communications at the optimal time for each individual, maximising the likelihood of opening, engaging and acting. 

Put together your communications will then be promoting the right products to the right audience at the right time. You will also be cementing a personal relationship with your customers who know they can trust you to only send relevant messaging and promotions to them.  

Important to note that this is a dynamic concept, our propensity to purchase different products and services changes over time as does the optimal time of day or week to receive promotional communications. It is important that we are able to spot the signals of change and respond accordingly. 

Don’t be shy 

As we explore such a data driven, personalised, approach to customer engagement and retention we will first need to examine the health and quality of our customer database. And that may be daunting! 

It has become a cliche to suggest that 80% of a data scientist’s time is spent cleaning data but there can be no doubt that data quality must be the number one priority when it comes to deploying analytics, machine learning and more. 

One lesson of the early stages of (the first) lockdown was that too many retailers didn’t hold basic demographic data on their customers, presumably sacrificing such detail on the altar of efficiency and frictionless commerce. This needs to change. Personalisation should be built on freely given personal data – not on inference alone. This is wholly consistent with the direction of personal data regulations.  

Now is a great time to, transparently, initiate customer surveys, enabling you to better target communications and customers based on the details they freely provide. 

Connect the store 

A key question many retailers will be thinking about is how best to connect the store visit to the individual customer and their historic relationship with the brand. 

It feels as though there will never be a better time to launch store check-ins, people have become familiar with the need to use the NHS app to check in to locations and this can be positioned, at least initially, as an extension of that safety first approach. 

For high value, committed, regular, customers, selling benefits of a retail check-in shouldn’t be too difficult – what’s in it for me? How about personalised pricing, automated updates on product availability, free home delivery, or more simply an informed shop assistant who knows a little about you and can provide relevant and informed guidance and advice. 

For the rest, you’ll need to develop your own value exchange with the most obvious route involving spot prizes or instant discounts based on in-store location and behaviours. For the time poor shopper there is the assurance that they can continue their journey online at a time that suits them. 

Leave no-one behind 

As we look to digitalise the store experience itself it is vital that we don’t leave anyone behind, especially those older consumers who may be less familiar with new technologies. Many will have seen the heart tugging social post about the old man in the Wetherspoons who didn’t have their app and so couldn’t order a pint. 

We can skip the stuff about his newly polished shoes, and ask instead why it took another customer to see what was going on – where were the staff to help? Why had no-one apparently given this any thought (especially given the (daytime) age profile of Wetherspoons customers)?  

Closing comments 

The bottom line is that retailers are going to need to be brave and to be prepared to test new approaches and tactics with their customers. Ideally much of the initial exploration and ideation can be developed and co-created through brand communities, surveys, workshops or similar. 

But the real magic involves the effective capture, analysis and application of customer data, starting with a single customer view that connects on and offline behaviours. And that’s where we come in! 

The Ai Marketer (AiM) from Profusion provides you with simple and effective access to a range of modules covering all the elements mentioned above; propensity to churn, customer lifetime value, propensity to buy and send time optimisation.  

With AiM plugged into your customer database you can quickly and easily identify your most valuable customers, identify those with the highest propensity to churn, understand the propensity to buy different products, and optimal communication times.  

With all of that analysis automated, you can now use your time to get creative and brainstorm new ideas to enhance customer engagement and to improve the customer experience in order to grow customer loyalty, advocacy and sales.  

Doing nothing is not an option. Your customers have lost their fear of change.  

Now you must lose yours. 

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