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NRF Session: Omnichannel Personalization

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You can’t go far at the National Retail Federation convention without hitting an omnichannel seminar, a vendor showcasing new technology for omnichannel implementation or a retailer seeking to understand how this new trend taking over retail can help him grow his business.

Omnichannel is the big idea at this year’s conference and at a breakout session today, experts discussed how retailers can tailor the experience to their own individual consumers.

At the talk titled, “Omnichannel Personalization: Where is the Retail Industry Now and Where are They Going?” the message was clear: It’s not the retailer that’s omnichannel, it’s the customer.

Retail has moved from monologue to dialogue and with things like ratings and reviews, there’s a two-way conversation going on, said Dick O’Brien, director of marketing at Revionics, provider of end-to-end merchandise solutions and the talk sponsor. “You have to start listening to your consumers and show that you’ve heard them by taking action,” he said.

The critical first step in understanding your customers, O’Brien said, is to know what you’re listening for. Retailers should consider what their customer does inside and outside of the store, what that shopper wants, what they’ve posted on Pinterest and Twitter and aggregate all of that data and analyze it. They’ve got to present the customer with a product, engage them, convert them and, finally, retain them.

Nadine Dietz, SVP of business development and global marketing for 5one, a global consultancy firm dedicated to retailers, also spoke at the session. She said retailers have got their marketing models all wrong.

“The upside of retention,” she said, “is probably five-fold that of acquisition and all our marketing efforts are focused on getting new customers.” There has to be more effort put toward creating and keeping loyal customers.

Omnichannel personalization means having a 360 degree view of the customer and determining which specific metrics are really indicative of your customer’s behavior, Dietz said.

Although there is often a buzz about Millennials being the focus when it comes to omnichannel marketing, Dietz said, “It’s not just a Millennials game, it’s a Boomers game, too. They’re just using it [online resources] differently. They’re even spending more time on it, using it for research,” she said. The omnichannel model must be all-inclusive but personalized based on how the shopper shops.

Both O’Brien and Dietz agreed that all omnichannel practices have to feed together. Retailers are going to have to collaborate with all parts of their organizations to get fully on board the omnichannel bandwagon.

“If you’re going to succeed in this new world, you can’t operate the status quo,” O’Brien said. The focus in the retail industry needs to shift from being product-centric to customer-centric, he added.

With all of this information and the new era of seamless cross-channel experiences, both speakers addressed the worry most retailers have about where to begin in the whole process.

First and foremost, having better engagement and showing the customer that you are listening will be key. “Social engagement drives loyalty,” O’Brien said.

He gave an example of how PETCO has done this well by creating an environment where they were able to interact with consumers in a way that helped build brand loyalty and kept them at the forefront of pet shoppers’ minds.

PETCO established places for people, whether customers already or not, to post videos about their pets and forums where people could talk about their pets and share stories with like-minded pet lovers. It is all about creating an emotional engagement with customers, O’Brien said, which PETCO was able to do well with these social measures.

Mobile is another ever-growing platform that retailers need to be increasingly savvy about. This last holiday season, year-over-year mobile shopping was up 50 percent, O’Brien said.

Constantly engaging the shopper with relevant messaging on mobile devices is going to continue to be important to business success. Some retailers have invested considerable money into heat maps that track where customers look most often on email messages, and they take that data and make adjustments to fonts/messaging/imagery until they find the ideal way to reach that shopper. It is that kind of initiative and analysis that will set successful retailers apart from those that may get left behind.

Retailers have to keep looking to the future, O’Brien said. There are already companies, like Quiznos, implementing and using data that recognizes customers as they enter a store and can send instant coupons to their mobile devices based on past purchases and things they know that shopper is likely to be attracted to.

Both speakers agreed that no one really knows exactly where this omnichannel movement will take us, but that retailers have to start thinking about building roadmaps that will steer them in that direction.

Dietz mentioned a statistic that showed happy customers tell nine people they are happy about a product or service and unhappy customers tell twenty-two people. Keeping customers happy and satisfied is vital.

“Getting this sorted out is worth so much more than making a creative ad,” O’Brien said.

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