Michele MarzanMichele MarzanJune 7, 2019
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7min646

There are few better ways of minimising costs than offering products straight to buyers – and it seems brands increasingly agree.

Survey’s suggest nine-in-10 plan to launch their own direct-to-consumer channel (DTC), and at least 23 aim to do so in the next 12 months.

But the value of DTC goes beyond its profit-boosting potential. While the rewards of cutting out stores and retail partners can be considerable – see Huel, the powdered food brand soon tipped to reach £45 million in annual turnover – going straight to the source also allows brands to simplify consumer journeys and forge closer relationships.

Food for thought: Nutrition brand Huel is reaping the benefits of DTC

Success, however, depends on authenticity. Vital to the lure of DTC offerings is uniqueness; consumers are drawn to individual brands that connect with their specific needs and values. So, when it comes to experience, every interaction must be personally meaningful.

The question is – how can brands consistently achieve the personal touch?

Discovering your own data goldmine

The first step towards better DTC experiences is harnessing the assets brands already have at their fingertips. Streamlining the supply chain provides more than simply a chance for independent companies to compete with large corporations; it also offers access to precious data. Because they deal directly with consumers, information about purchases, preferences, and habits flows into their own insight pools, instead of filtering down in fragments from interim partners and stores. As a result, they have a wealth of high quality, first-party data that can be used to gain deep understanding of customers and prospects, and inform marketing and sales strategies.

Utilising machine-mined intelligence

By far the most efficient tool for unlocking the valuable insight data repositories contain is artificial intelligence (AI). More specifically: sophisticated analytical platforms powered by AI subsets, such as machine learning (ML). Contrary to expectation, the main reason for this isn’t the high-speed, large-scale processing ability of smart platforms – although it’s worth noting ML initiatives have driven a 90 percent reduction in analytical run time. It’s the capacity of ML platforms to autonomously learn from experience and make fast, informed decisions. From a DTC perspective, this means ML can pave the way to delivering exactly what their customers want: authentic experiences with real-time relevance, and personal resonance.

Fuelling creativity with data smarts

The best-known use of ML as a driver of personalised interactions is dynamic creative optimisation (DCO). Essentially a smart matching process, DCO involves evaluating several data sources – covering contextual, demographic, and behavioural information – against varied creative elements. Its main aim is establishing the best blend of imagery, format, and background for specific consumers, in line with their unique attributes, such as individual preferences, location, language, activity, and progress along the path to purchase. For example, if a returning mobile site visitor is scrolling through product reviews and has previously viewed explainer videos, it’s likely a short-form testimonial video will be the ideal fit.

In the know: Data-driven insight can be key for DTC

Understanding the optimal format to deliver your brand message to the consumer so that it is relatable is another consideration for brands that are taking the DTC plunge. Video advertising has become a key focus for a number of organisations, with an estimated 26 percent of the total video ad budget in the UK to be spent online. The ability to use data-driven insights to deliver these creative and personalised ads to consumers at the right time will help develop positive associations with brands and provide a competitive edge.

Deepening bonds over time

A combination of digital formats such as display and video ads, delivered to the consumer at the most relevant times, and including content based on detailed audience data, will help build brand awareness and consumer relationships in the DTC sector. By collecting insights about which strategies, message types, and offers work, brands can continually optimise interactions to ensure relevance increases over time. All of which will steadily strengthen the direct bonds between consumers and brands, driving lasting loyalty and value.

DTC is certainly proving to be an effective means of minimising journey friction and standing out in an increasingly competitive market. But to ensure consumer relationships stay close and profitable, brands must ensure the experiences they provide are personal enough to keep individuals hooked; and that calls for machine-powered intelligence. Only with a combination of AI-fuelled analysis, tailored messaging, and creative communication can brands maintain a direct line to consumers who always come back for more.


Kevin MurrayKevin MurrayMay 29, 2019
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7min423

The impact of poor Customer Experience is not one easily forgotten.

The reality for retailers today is that for even the most loyal customers, one bad experience is enough to make them abandon their shopping baskets and never hesitate about returning.

Modern customer expectations are undoubtedly at an all-time high. Not only do consumers now have preferred channels, they also expect brands to deliver the best possible service across all channels, at all times. According to research by Walker, expectations have amplified so much that by 2020, Customer Experience is predicted to overtake both price and product as the leading differentiator for brands.

To meet this demand, retailers are ramping up their investments in omnichannel to deliver the exceptional experience customers now require. As technology continues to advance, the value of omnichannel continues to increase and retailers have begun to invest significantly to integrate both front and back end systems.

The era of omnichannel

Gone are the days where physical and digital channels work in silo. The world has evolved into an omnichannel environment, where the boundaries between online and offline have become blurred. At present, this presents both a challenge and an opportunity for switched-on brands.

A successful omnichannel experience is made up of individual customer touchpoints, over a variety of channels, that allows users to move from one channel to the next seamlessly, whilst maintaining a continuous thread of communication. Being able to provide this single congruous shopping experience is crucial to keep up with customer expectations and continue to grow the bottom line.

A diligent and well-thought-out approach is key to creating a strong omnichannel experience. Companies are now recognising the central role technology continues to play, and the importance of moving in-line with new disruptive technologies available to help them achieve an effective omnichannel strategy. Over the next few years, global analyst house, Gartner predicts that AI will become a mainstream Customer Experience investment, while 47 percent of businesses will use chatbots for customer care, and 40 percent will deploy virtual assistants.

However, rather than just rushing to implementing the latest and greatest functionalities to disrupt the market out of fear customers will demand it, omnichannel is as much about what to avoid, as it is what to include. Rather than attempting to do too much, too quickly, the key to success lies in always having the core needs of the customer as the driving force behind any change. Failure to do so can compromise Customer Experience, negativity impact brands, and shake up customers’ loyalty.

Using data to enhance Customer Experience

At the heart of strong omnichannel customer engagement is the data that drives it. In today’s competitive environment, the customer insight that brands are able to glean from different touchpoints can make a huge difference in how a company shapes its CX.

The digital environment produces mass amounts of data, and finding new ways to understand customer needs, buying habits, likes, and dislikes can help inform and enhance the personal experience brands deliver, allowing them to develop that much sought-after loyalty between brand and customer.

Data can help dramatically improve the customer journey, but only for brands eager to be led where the data instructs them to go. Those still focused on holding onto legacy structures, or past ideas, products, or services, will not find as much success in Customer Experience enhancements, simply because of their resistance to change with the evolving market.

For those switched-on brands that collect and interpret omnichannel data correctly, they have a more holistic and informative view of their customers and are better equipped to deliver more personalised and targeted offerings, streamlined buying processes and develop new customer services in the future.

Customers at the core of omnichannel

The power that consumers now hold shapes not only the success or failure of a brand, but also shapes how they need to adjust to customer requirements in order to remain relevant. Modern customer journeys aren’t simple and linear, but a series of crossovers between traditional and digital channels that can vary significantly depending on the type of shopper. Understanding this requires in-depth knowledge of what customers truly want by utilising the data readily available to them.

While new and exciting disruptive technologies may seem appealing, to leverage the maximum potential of an omnichannel strategy, brands must focus on getting the basics of CX absolutely right first by always remembering the core needs of the customer. Only then can companies ensure they keep pace with the competition and provide a seamless customer experience necessary to drive consumer loyalty today and over the years to come, as new technologies become more and more prevalent.


David RosenDavid RosenMay 7, 2019
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8min1011

Anyone who has booked a flight recently will have likely noticed the level of personalisation creeping into their travel experience.

Even before you’ve settled on timing or your destination, airlines are tapping into your intent, with some shrewd speculative interventions.

For example, if you have ‘liked’ a resort on Instagram or Facebook, you may find yourself targeted by an app that provides all the options for getting there, followed by itinerary recommendations via TripAdvisor. It seems all the main players in the travel ecosystem suddenly ‘get’ you and are able to anticipate your plans and preferences.

Advanced analytics that can glean deeper actionable insights from customer data are fuelling this transformation, compounded by greater industry-wide collaboration, and improved sharing of this intelligence. The result is more relevant products and services which have raised the bar of personalisation, along with the expectation that the personal touch shouldn’t stop when we book our travel plans.

If we stay in the realm of travel, we can see how this extends to the hotel sector. For an industry outside of the high-end luxury segment that has taken a one-size-fits-all mentality, it poses an interesting challenge.

This shift is set to disrupt some of the familiar routines that have long been part and parcel of the hotel experience. Think of the multiple adjustments that we make to a room on arrival almost on autopilot – the swift rejection of the wrong pillows and hair products that don’t fit our unique preferences, the trial and error that goes into resetting temperature, often with limited success.

It’s a routine on the cusp of being rendered entirely redundant if data collected prior to arrival based on previous stays can inform the housekeeping team of a preference for non-allergenic bedding or a particular branded hair product.

Behind the scenes, data platforms are doing the heavy lifting, with advanced analytic algorithms that combine customers’ historical engagement data, purchase history, digital behaviours, and environmental data. Predictive analytics then inform the kind of contextually-rich engagements that add value, ramp up the convenience and comfort factor, and provide a meaningful connection that can differentiate an experience in a saturated market.

And it needs to; customer expectations have changed irreparably!

Digitally-empowered and more discerning, consumers no longer fall into the crude categories based on gender, age, or marital status that were once used to determine rudimentary personalisation. In short, they know what they like and what they don’t; who they are and who they’re not. Today’s consumers expect to be treated as individuals rather than a segment, and with intelligence, relevance and empathy.

Yet there is still a fine balance to negotiate to ensure that such intervention remains engaging rather than intrusive and creepy – a trend often rooted in data overload and a heavy-handed approach to its personalisation. 

Without question, we’re in a world of big data, where gathering ever-rising volumes and the ‘more-the-merrier’ ethos, can be the default approach to throw at any issue, sometimes at the expense of consumer consent, internal ability to act on the data, and ethical practice to how the data is applied.

Many organisations are struggling to manage the data they hold. Common challenges include navigating through too much data, managing the complexity of data, determining which data are appropriate for decision making, and upholding the security of data in an increasingly dangerous world of identity theft and fraud.

Nowhere is this more challenging than in financial services, where major decisions of credit worthiness, loan pricing, and customer service are increasingly based on analytics from integrated, intelligent data platforms; and where sensitive data must be protected from fraud and other cybercrimes. No wonder regulators are also balancing the need to protect personal data from both discriminatory decision making (e.g. the use of gender in insurance pricing models) and the rules for data protection.

It’s a reminder of the need for big data to become ‘impactful’ data, in order to cut through the excess and address the data basics; clean it and make it available to run in advance analytics platforms. Injecting a big dose of transparency into the process, by taking the cue from the customer in terms of the financial information they are comfortable sharing, is the next consideration. While this might be a slower burn approach, it is one that is fundamental to developing and instilling the requisite levels of trust.

Crucially, a common dominator of all this activity is the investment in time and commitment. Personalisation by its nature is not a quick fix; it demands innovation on multiple fronts if is to be applied successfully. Furthermore, technology cannot thrive in isolation and must be supported by a broader cultural shift that sees all staff committed to the process.

Returning to the hospitality sector, it is notable how many of the intuitive service touches depend on both the observations and initiative from front line, customer facing teams who are best placed to notice the small details and act on them directly with the guests. Ensuring they understand how their actions can resonate and be informed by the technology to build on this further, is a crucial piece of the jigsaw.

Being mindful of the pitfalls, while being open to embracing the innovation at our disposal, is a tightrope to negotiate, but once achieved can deliver the CX breakthrough on everyone’s wish list.


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthMay 1, 2019
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3min455

International CX management firm Assist Digital has acquired world-leading consultancy IG Group UK Ltd.

In a move which positions the company favourably in the rapidly growing global Digital Transformation market, Assist Digital is looking to widen its skills base and strengthen its presence in the UK and wider European markets.

With its headquarters in Italy, and a presence in France and Germany, Assist Digital plans to take advantage of IG Group’s impressive client portfolio of leading global brands. IG Group’s expertise spans a broad range of complementary capabilities, including an accomplished data analytics department, extensive business transformation experience, and a contemporary CX practice.

The purchase follows the recent acquisition by Assist Digital of French UX design company Attoma.

Speaking of the company’s latest acquisition decision, Enrico Donati, Co-Founder and Executive Chairman of Assist Digital, said: “Our focus as a company is on the whole Customer Experience management process. The complexity of today’s digital and multichannel reality requires ever greater design capabilities to offer customers simple, effective and intuitive solutions. The IG Group’s significant global customer base, knowledge and strength in analytics gels perfectly with our existing skill sets.”

Matthew Ellis, Managing Director of The IG Group UK Ltd, added: “This is a defining moment for our company and one we’ve been building towards for the past decade, which has seen us focus on enabling clients to make strategic sense of their data.

“This exciting acquisition enables us to make our proposition even more tangible and current, helping clients to realise the potential of their organisation. It clearly strengthens both companies and provides the springboard we need to move to the next level and dominate the market still further.”


Patrick HeadleyPatrick HeadleyApril 5, 2019
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9min545

It is clear we are racing head first into a data rich world, meaning businesses cannot afford to mis-manage their customer data.

Customer data management is a fundamental part of a company’s marketing strategy, as 83 percent of companies expect data and analytics to become more important in the business decision making process over the next five years. Optimal data management practices equip a company to gather insights which can be used as the cornerstone for Customer Experience improvement initiatives.

Improved Customer Experience is a clear-cut way to keep customers buying, thus increasing businesses’ revenues. However too many businesses are struggling with how to make sense of the available customer data; they lack the ability to merge cross-channel data thus hindering their ability to draw meaningful insights and consequently optimise revenues.

Therefore, it is of paramount importance for investors to include searching questions on good data practice as a standard part of their investor briefing. Asking the right questions will elicit the necessary insight for investors to determine whether the data management practices embedded at the target business are as mature as they should be and whether they will have an influence on the return on investment. 

Here are five crucial questions which (institutional) investors can pose to corporations to better understand how well a business is managing customer data and whether or not their investment is well placed.

1. What is your share of customer?

It is crucial for investors to understand whether the target company knows their customers’ spending profile, the reason being to understand what potential ‘share’ of the customer’s wallet the target company holds. Customers split their spending across varying providers on a day-to-day basis therefore knowing the share the target company has of each of their customers will help investors determine the growth potential for those customers.

If a target company is able to demonstrate to an investor where the growth potential lies, it will show investors that the target company has access to fundamental insights on customer data and thus are well placed to grow the share of customer further.

2. Are newly acquired customers still buying a year later?

Continuously putting effort into acquiring new customers can be an expensive undertaking for some businesses, especially if those customers are not staying for the long-term. Investors need to look past whether the target company is offering sufficient customer acquisition incentives and focus on whether newly acquired customers are still buying a year later (and more). Customers who disappear shortly after acquisition highlight to investors that marketing spend is being wasted.

The target company should have the necessary data to highlight to investors that they have a proper grasp of their customer insight. Therefore questioning whether a recently acquired customer is still spending a year later will show whether the target company is using customer insight properly and will help gauge how the company will fare in the long-term.

3. Who are your best customers?

Collecting and analysing the right customer analytics will arm the target company with the crucial information needed to see if it is recruiting the best customers to fit the business’ priorities. Typically there is a key group of customers who contribute the most to profits; usually they buy high-margin products, don’t alter or abandon an order, pay on time, and don’t require much attention post-sale.

It is important for investors to ask this question so they can see whether the target company is wasting its time on a cohort of customers who in actual fact turn out to be the least profitable. If investors have clear evidence that the business knows what type of customer profile to keep targeting then they can be reassured about long term growth.

4. Which customers are in growth or decline?

A critical question not to be ignored. If the target company can report that its best customers (high value, high loyal) are in decline, then it is important that customer data is being used appropriately to reverse the trend. It may be the case that these customers are demanding discounts or are just looking elsewhere in the market.

The key for investors when asking this question is to determine whether the target company is using customer insight to pursue look-alike customers. Has a particular group of slightly less valuable customers been targeted with internal growth strategies to replace the declining group with potential high value and high loyalty contenders?

5. Do you have an integrated online and offline view of your customer behaviour?

When it comes to enquiring about the target company’s marketing strategy, the key for understanding marketing success is seeing how much incremental revenue a company’s marketing activity is generating. Any savvy investor will know that incremental revenue trumps isolated marketing campaign measures such as response and open rates.

Customers are influenced on a day-to-day basis by a variety of channels, and as confirmed by our latest research it is companies who combine online and offline methods who produce the highest commercial results. There are now a variety of techniques for harmonising all behaviour/transactions of a given customer into a single, integrated, 3600 view, and only if the target company can achieve this (and demonstrate this) will customer insights be valid and actionable.

Conclusion

Deciphering whether a business has a well-implemented and well-managed strategy for managing their customer data is critical for any investor, as the potential for future growth will be apparent. More and more customer data is becoming accessible and it is up to businesses to collect, analyse and use it to bolster their marketing strategies. Investors need to probe the business for their key customer figures to establish how advanced their customer relationship strategy is, as well as identify which tools are in place to effectively manage and analyse the plethora of available multichannel data for future growth.

Using the above five questions will help investors to get a feel for how mature a company’s customer insight management processes really are.


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthMarch 21, 2019
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3min685

A new report has found that 20 percent of marketing and CX professionals feel they will “never truly understand” their customers’ buying decisions.

The study from analytics firm Clicktale, titled Defining Digital Experience, states that part of the reason for this is due to 34 percent of marketers and CX professionals being unable to unite data between their web and mobile-optimised sites to create a single customer view, while 39 percent struggle to unite data from their websites and mobile apps.

This inability, the report continues, also means that 71 percent of brands can’t action customer insights in real time, while 73 percent are struggling to provide a consistent experience across channels. Ultimately, this lack of ability to understand customers is hindering brands’ chances of securing customer loyalty and damaging potential sales.

The study explores the current state of digital with 200 marketing and CX professionals working in some of the world’s leading brands in the UK and the US. The report uncovers how brands are building a strategy around Digital Experience, including who is ‘owning’ the function, and what technology they’re deploying.

Clicktale CMO Sara Richter said: “With so many brands struggling to build a single customer view, is it any wonder that marketing and CX professionals feel they cannot build a true understanding of their customers?

“But while uniting data is undoubtedly key, so too is capturing the right kind of data – beyond the usual demography, geography, purchase history and preference. Very few brands are tapping into the power of behavioural data, which enriches the marketer’s understanding of the customer immensely. With behavioural data and the right analytics, brands can better serve customers, improve loyalty and drive more repeat revenue.”


Rees FlynnRees FlynnMarch 6, 2019
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9min597

Spring has certainly sprung in the UK and many high street retailers will be looking ahead to how they might refresh and renew their offering to entice customers.

The pressure remains high for bricks-and-mortar retailers as well as online brands following a challenging previous year of sales and increased competition. Over the festive period high street brands overall saw store sales drop by 1.9 percent in December for the sixth year running and there was a surprise profit warning from ecommerce leader Asos.

With consumer confidence at its lowest in five yearsnothing is certain for retailers in 2019.

The high street is at a turning point and stores must adapt to reflect shoppers’ changing tastes and habits in the digital age. Offline and online shopping have their unique challenges, yet incorporating cutting-edge WiFi connectivity and analytics in-store is a simple, powerful, and cost-effective way for retailers to maximise the benefits of both channels.

WiFi connectivity enables retailers to revitalise their store by taking it online and delivering the ultimate best-of-both shopping experience which adds personalised value for today’s consumers.

A straightforward shopping experience

It is time to spring clean the in-store experience for customers who prefer simplicity and effortlessness over busy department stores. With no time to waste, busy shoppers will appreciate in-store WiFi to quickly browse the retailer’s online site for more product information or perhaps order a product which is out of stock in-store.

Connectivity is also important for customers to access order details if they have chosen a click-and-collect service, whilst WiFi supported messaging services allow shoppers to quickly communicate and get opinions from friends and family. Spring means new product launches and promotions and it can be a challenge for retailers to drive sales. Therefore, to attract modern time-pressed customers, the physical shopping experience has to be quick and effective.

Seventy-one percent of shoppers say they use mobile in-store, with 83 percent in the 18-44 age bracket, confirming that mobile is a key platform for engagement between retailers and customers and providing a robust connection will help drive customers into your shop. WiFi makes it easier for shoppers to log into mobile apps and consult the latest offers or perhaps the Wishlist they made at home.

Retailers should not forget that their ecommerce site works in tandem with their store and this is never more important given the current cross-channel competition. Maximising your WiFi means increased sales volume across digital and physical channels and increased customer engagement.

Shoppers increasingly prefer a self-service approach in retail and WiFi connectivity provides the ease and flexibility to browse from their smartphone. Simple digital tools such as in-store WiFi enabled tablets for self-service help customers to access whatever they might need whilst shopping and saves them time.

New consumer tastes deliver deals and discounts

Consumer confidence is struggling amidst economic uncertainty and retailers need to energise their services with something customers can trust, which is where providing value for money becomes critical.

We are a nation of increasingly savvy shoppers, scouting the best discount codes and promotions to lower the costs. For instance, while Barclaycard saw a 20 percent increase in the number of transactions over Black Friday from 2017, the amount spent dropped by 12 percent. Retailers can deliver competitive prices, which is especially important for today’s customers, and make promotions as accessible as possible by promoting their discounts as soon as customers walk in store via their WiFi’s fully-branded User Experience.

Greeting the user with the latest news and promotions once they log into the WiFi User Experience will increase the likelihood of sales and impulse buys, whilst also creating a more personalised experience. As one of the key consumer trends, personalisation helps to strengthen the brand-customer connection and drive customer loyalty.

Although retailers are struggling, the high streets are still crowded with options for shoppers, twice as many as need be according to one report, and retailers will want to ensure customers choose their store above others. Maintaining loyalty is critical for high customer retention and stores might consider loyalty programmes and incentives integrated directly via the WiFi or available on apps which can be accessed via in-store connectivity. The best loyalty programmes will use multiple methods to encourage users to shop with your brand again and again.

Get to know your customers in 2019

Seamless WiFi connectivity is a great incentive for customers, but it can also enhance your understanding of what customers want thanks to advanced WiFi analytics. The identity of the modern shopper is changing. Today’s consumers are heavily influenced by brand experience and stores which offer memorable experiences, whilst less disposable income means customers want well-priced, quality products. Any insights on how customers engage with your store will help brands to meet expectations.

WiFi analytics reveals data such as how many people enter your store, their average dwell time, which department sees highest footfall and the most popular marketing subscriptions, insights which can influence store layout and targeted promotions to better serve the customer. Data analysis can make a great difference for retailers and enable them to provide a more competitive service.

The way shoppers browse and spend is always changing according to the time of the year and continually analysing insights on how customers interact in-store will help retailers to improve the Customer Experience and how they relate to their customers straight away.

Shoppers’ brand expectations are increasing at a rapid pace, with cutting-edge WiFi high-street stores can not only deliver the mobile connectivity which customers demand but also have a detailed view as to what customers will want next and why.

In the current dog-eat-dog climate of the high street, where competition for increased footfall is rife, ignoring the potential benefits of digital connectivity could sound the death knell for many businesses commercially speaking which is why they need to act now to avoid being a casualty.




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