How Theory and Splendid Glean Customer Insight

In today's Age of the Customer, it's increasingly vital for brands to strategically identify, understand and connect with their customers, especially as "always on" consumers arm themselves with shopping engines, price comparisons, and product reviews. Many brands are frustrated and even defeated by this increasing complexity, but some see a tremendous opportunity to gain deep customer understanding from the digital footprints customers create with their interactions and preferences, recognizing this increased intelligence as a path to understanding customer needs and fostering deeper relationships while driving greater levels of loyalty.

"Technology plays a huge role in our customer experience," explains Jenna Habayeb, vice president of marketing for Splendid. "We are always trying new ways to engage our consumers through digital experiences. There are certain software solutions and platforms that allow us to be flexible in creating robust experiences that allow us to constantly shift and change based on our customers shopping habits. We're working on initiatives now that allow us to create personalized experiences and messages based on predictive analytics. We are also creating lifestyle experiences that are interactive and allow customers to shop full looks, individual items and trends all within one hub."

The challenge in tracking these digital footprints largely lies in a brand's ability to find them across the expansive array of sources, from point-of-sale systems and e-commerce platforms to mobile applications and social networks. Marketers must access multidimensional, streamlined views of their customers to gain a comprehensive understanding of their shopping habits, engagement preferences and purchase trends in terms of timing, frequency, categories and products.

"We are using data to build a deeper relationship with our customers," says Jennifer Parker, vice president of retail operations and CRM for Theory. "We want to be more than just a store they walk by and decide to shop at. We want to make them feel a connection to the company through the clothes we make and the experience we create. We want to say thank you to everyone no matter how often they shop through personalized surprises."

The first step to accomplishing these sort of connections is centralizing and synthesizing the organization's cross-channel customer data. This is an initiative that scares many organizations given the diverse, fragmented nature of the data sources, many of which are disparate and antiquarian. The way many brands achieve this is with consumer management technology, which integrates with an established marketing technology stack, collecting the ongoing data feeds in order to collate the information from each system into a central profile for each customer, allowing brands to gain a holistic view of their customers.
Understanding loyalty

While generating customer loyalty is a primary goal of most brands, the concept of loyalty itself has largely been relegated to that of a transaction, the idea of "buy four and the fifth is free."

In many cases this transactional view can actually diminish the perceived value of a brand, conveying a discount focus that can erode its image. Conversely, genuine loyalty stems from the long-term experience a brand delivers to its customers.

This misunderstanding has drawn brands away from the foundation that builds trust, earns loyalty, and even drives evangelism among customers. Although the customer experience is a complex endeavor across the spectrum of interaction channels, there are fundamental drivers of loyalty that every brand should focus on.

Relevance: Too many brands continue to deliver one-size-fits-all engagements that lack personalization for the individual consumer. This conveys a lack of interest and effort by the brand to understand the customer, who can perceive apathy.

Loyalty lesson: Apathy is a two-way street; making the investment to understand the behaviors and motivations of customers will pay dividends.

Predictability: Predictable, reliable, consistent experiences will often drive consumer behavior with a brand, good or bad, depending on the value of the experience. High predictability will often turn repetitive customer behavior into a habit.

Loyalty lesson: Quality consistency is king; focusing on the reliability of the entire customer experience will drive repeat visits.

Value: Typically defined as perceived benefits divided by cost, value is a primary driver of customer commitment to a brand. So reducing the cost with continual discounts can diminish the perceived worth of a product or service in the eyes of the customer.

Loyalty lesson: Drive toward stronger experience benefits, rather than merely discounting costs, to increase overall value.

Commitment: Brands displaying a commitment to customers and their consistent experience tend to receive commitments from customers in the form of return purchases and customer referrals.

Loyalty lesson: Focus on a top-to-bottom commitment to customer experience at every point of interaction, both digital and in person. This is no small task, but has a big impact.

Trust: Each of these focal points serves as a building block for trust, which once achieved, consistently clears a path for the brand to earn genuine loyalty from the consumer.

Loyalty lesson: Driving toward a commitment of predicted and relevant value will breed consumer trust and ultimately evolve into loyalty and even evangelism.

Steps to success
So while this all sounds great, where does a brand actually start? The good news is that although earning loyalty from always-on consumers is challenging, their digital activities reveal exactly how they behave and what motivates them so brands can personalize their experiences. The first step to earning genuine customer loyalty is to listen to what your customers are saying with an eye to understanding them. "It's all about omnichannel," according to Habayeb. "Brands will be expected to have a full 360-degree view of their customers and will have to be able to deliver what they want, when they want it and more importantly where they want it." In other words, track those digital footprints.

"Currently [technology] does not play a large enough role in helping us truly understand our consumers' behaviors," Parker explains. "We aim to be deliver the highest customer service to our clients by being more scientific with a deeper understanding of what they want from us. Connecting with our clients on a more personal level is key, we want them to be loyal to us and love the brand as much as Theory employees do."

Your brand more than likely has access to a vast array of customer data from a variety of systems: your point-of-sale network, e-commerce platform, mobile application, and social accounts, to name a few. The issue for most brands is that this data typically is fractured and fragmented, limiting its utility.

Unlocking the value of this data requires:
  • Centralization of each independent data source into a single, central data hub.
  • Synthesis of the cross-channel data to provide a holistic customer view.
  • Analysis of customer data for trends understanding and opportunity identification.
  • Visualization of customers in the form of advanced personas and segments.
  • Understanding cross-channel customer behaviors and motivations.
  • Incorporation of this insight into your brand's overall experience strategy.
Impacting influence
Strategic consumer management technology focuses on the consumer to deliver relevant engagements and build relationships with an eye on earning loyalty but also empowers the brand to strategically adjust its approach to create personalized value for the customer. Instead of surrendering to the mercy of shopping engines and product reviews, brands are now able to take advantage of a customer's digital footprints to motivate behaviors, drive sales, and perhaps most importantly, strengthen relationships with customers.

"Technology will help us work smarter, it's not important to have technology splashed all around our retail stores," says Parker. "It's about using the right technology to convert more loyal Theory enthusiasts and to keep them coming back again and again."

As Habayeb explains, "We are really just dipping our toe in the water here, and we know we could be doing more. But we are sifting through our customer data and utilizing software that provides predictive analytics to help us craft personalized messages. Some of the things we are doing are ‘Win Back' campaigns based on the frequency our customers shopping patterns. Other initiatives include tailored messaging and experiences based on specific product affinity."

Many brands realize that today's savvy consumers are not only here to stay but can actually be good for their business. However, this can only be accomplished with robust consumer insight rooted in actual customer behaviors. Deep understanding of these consumers through their shopping, loyalty and interactions can elevate brands' business by enhancing affinity, driving loyalty and ultimately increasing sales.

Matt Segal, a strategic customer experience advisor for Clutch, provides strategic advisory and insight to leading brands across the apparel industry including Theory, Lucy, Dooney & Bourke, True Religion, Seven for All Mankind, Suitsupply, and Lacoste. His areas of expertise focus on consumer intelligence, customer engagement and strategic loyalty.

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