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Serving Customers "In the Moment" [Q&A]

Posted on 7.17.2016

As customers hop from channel to channel and expect to be engaged in a consistent manner wherever they interact with a brand, some brands are scratching their digital heads about how to serve these customers content that fits that moment and their history with the person.

Eric Larson, head of revenue for explains how brands are gaining insights into high-value customer behavior and bridging a customer's shopping activity across channels in this interesting Q&A included below.

How have customer expectations of their online experience evolved in the last year or two?

No question that expectations have been hugely shaped by Amazon, especially Prime. I mean, they just created their own shopping holiday out of thin air - in the middle of summer no less. So things like fast low-cost shipping and frictionless ordering are table-stakes.  

Beyond those table-stakes, customers increasingly expect to be known and to receive service and advice accordingly. Personalization, which is many times about convenience, needs to be rich and deep. The consumer is saying “Don’t just splash my name on the page and call it personalized. My interests are out there. They’re on your website, on social media, and with the associate who I just talked to today. I’m not holding anything back so know me, anticipate my needs and interests and help me.”    

Are retailers keeping up with these expectations?

Candidly, there is work to do. Take BOPUS – buy online pick-up in store – which has garnered a lot of retailer interest and investment in recent years. Retailers implement these services to reduce shipping costs and increase speed and convenience for the consumer while bringing traffic to their store. That strikes me as a short-lived value proposition. If Amazon can ship a product to my door faster and cheaper, why would I bother with shipping to a store where I have to spend my own time and money to go pick it up?  

That’s not to say this is an entirely bad idea and in fact there are advantages for the retailer. Not everyone is an Amazon Prime member and not every product is on Amazon. And BOPUS brings traffic to the store where they can drive more sales like impulse buys. Many retailers report that those shoppers convert and spend in the store at the same rate as other shoppers, so I understand the motivations.  

But long term, retailers need to re-think the strategic advantage of their stores and create attractive, fun experiences that fit the brand story. Restoration Hardware (see image) and Design Within Reach are great examples here in Chicago where they have each consolidated their retail footprint from multiple locations to a single showcase space that is almost like visiting a museum or gallery. And they can’t forget the strategic potential of the store staff who, if armed with the right training and tools, can be the difference maker. After all, when was the last time you actually spoke to someone at Amazon?  

What challenges do retailers face when trying to tie together data from disparate sources to inform customer interactions?

The biggest challenge we see is making the data available and meaningful when and where it really counts. Typically, retailers are building data warehouses but those tend to be difficult to access and only available to analysts or the folks building lists. But if you can put it in action in real-time, like triggering messages on your website or notifying the store manager that a VIP is in their store, that becomes actionable and powerful. And the data I need to drive engagement in the moment is very different and actually simpler than typical customer records. I don’t need to know your shipping address and billing address and all of that. I just need to know you.    

How does ENGAGEcx help retailers improve customer experience?

We help the brand capture all of their customer knowledge from online, mobile, in-store, and call center interactions and put it to work in the key moments that matter to tailor the experience to the individual customer. In addition, we give the brand attribution visibility across all of those moments so that they know which ones move the needle on customer experience, and which ones need work.   

Can “customer happiness” be measured and what decisions can those metrics help inform?

Oh wow, measuring happiness. PhD’s have been wrestling with that one for years! But a brand can measure engagement, and that’s a pretty good proxy for “happiness” with a brand.  

ENGAGEcx captures every customer interaction across the customer journey and scores those interactions based on a brand-defined set of criteria such as quality, duration, sentiment and outcome. The output is the ECX Engagement Score, which is an evolution of customer lifetime value and provides a real time measure of customer loyalty for each customer that is based on their interaction with your brand. As a customer engages more frequently and deeply, their score increases; and when they stop it naturally degrades. And as you correlate engagement to spend, the retailer can fine tune actions that optimize engagement, knowing that those actions will drive sales. 

Think of it this way. Say I have 2 customers who walked in my store just now. Customer A has spent $10,000 with me but hasn’t engaged with me in over a year. Customer B has spent $1,000 with me but they’ve been highly engaged on the website in the last week and have $10,000 of product sitting on a wish list. My engagement and approach with each will be very different, but traditional customer value measures will miss the distinction.

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