The past few years have seen incredibly rapid changes in the world of retail technology, as new ways to enhance brand experiences have been developed. The customer is now at the very heart of retailers’ focus, and with good reason: loyalty and brand affinity have been shown to increase as a direct result of the high level of understanding brands have about their audiences.
Personalisation solutions have come to the forefront of the industry as a means to provide a truly bespoke service to each individual, while sophisticated analytics tools have allowed retailers to learn more about their customers’ responses and attitudes than ever before. Cross, multi and omnichannel thinking has become the industry standard, with the majority of successful retailers investing heavily in joined-up strategies to optimise every facet of the retail experience - but to truly provide a unified experience, and with the deluge of investment into different technologies in full flow, retailers must not lose sight of their ultimate goal: to drive sales.
In order to achieve this, retailers need to ensure they have a single customer view – one that allows them an objective picture of the individual. It is only with an exclusive, centralized digital marketing platform that customer behaviours can be tracked across all channels, with data being analysed in a focused hub. By consolidating data in this way, not only is the entire system simplified in terms of practicality and functionality (the IT department will be far more streamlined as the number of systems employees need to be trained to use is cut down drastically) but brand consistency can also be improved.
Currently, retailers tend to rely on a number of separate digital marketing platform systems for many reasons, but mainly because they have accumulated different solutions for different parts of the business as they have grown; ending up working with a collection of various vendors. Other reasons for using different systems may include what appears to be the initial convenience of using local vendors that are familiar with the business’ country of trading – of course, this becomes much less convenient as soon as trading expands to different global locations.
The end result of a dependency on multiple systems is a more complicated and labour intensive way of handling data, which can quickly get overwhelming to make sense of. Data can easily be duplicated due to human error or glitches, while the different channels often remain disparate and dealt with as standalone entities rather than elements of a whole. On a more personal level, each vendor may have its own culture of customer service, which could result in extra negotiating work for IT staff if training, system maintenance or support falls short in any one area of the business.
Using a single centralised digital marketing platform, however, allows for consistency throughout the business, better and more comprehensive staff capability and, most importantly, an improved customer experience. Keeping track of channels with the same digital marketing platform makes switching between them effortless, allowing marketers to present customers with a ‘united front’ in every part of the retail experience.
As a final added benefit, this can eventually lead to a significant attitude change among marketers themselves: once a retail business starts to be seen as a living organism made up of various interlinked parts - as opposed to a group of independent channels - the joined-up mentality that brands strive for can be more easily achieved, paving the way for more successful omnichannel operations.
This leads us back to the motivation behind every carefully considered industry decision – the customer. Today’s customer has expectations that are evolving almost too rapidly for the industry to keep up with; they demand immediacy and relevance across all channels – often not seeing individual channels at all, but rather evaluating their relationship with a brand in a holistic way. They want retailers to predict their behaviours and show a deep and nuanced understanding of how they want to shop, while providing a predictably high-quality experience both online and offline.
The digital marketing platform is becoming the hub of the customer relationship, and a single consolidated system has the power to align channels and even lead customers seamlessly between one channel and the next – click and collect is a perfect example of this, and is something that would be impossible to successfully administer or sustain without a highly sophisticated and well-organised infrastructure. A more accurate view of the customer leads to strengthening of the connection between a brand and its audience, while making life easier for internal staff; these benefits make a compelling case for migrating to a single digital marketing platform.
Attending Adobe Summit EMEA? Drop by and see Cognifide’s revolutionary Retail Theatre and learn how to use Adobe Experience Manager to connect online and offline experiences.