Are you contemplating your next move as a retailer in a challenging landscape? Not all retailers are the same and each retail business experiences different circumstances. Depending on the nature of your business, there are several approaches you can take to ensure you’re maximising current and future revenue streams, delivering exceptional customer service and reinventing yourself in preparation for when restrictions are lifted.

Due to changes in consumer shopping habits, retailers are likely seeing an influx of data from their digital channels – for example, baking (250%), exercise & fitness (104%) and electronics (97%) are just a couple online retail categories that skyrocketed while the nation was locked up inside1. The way retailers choose to leverage their first-party data will make a real difference in how their business holds up post-pandemic. Those who take a holistic approach to ‘data orchestration’ – synchronising all data from the initial collection stage onwards to establish a strong data foundation – will deliver positive customer experiences in the short term and position their businesses for long-term success.

A complete customer view 

While retailers possess a huge amount of valuable information about their customers, it is frequently stored latently in siloes, with in-store point of sale, loyalty card, website visitor, online transaction, mobile app, call centre, and social data all held in disparate systems that lack interoperability and real-time execution capability. By enabling these different systems to seamlessly work together using a Customer Data Platform (CDP), retailers can ensure all customer engagement data is updated and stitched together in real time to create a single, comprehensive view of each customer. This profile incorporates interactions from across all channels, and the next best action is based on that live view of the customer ‘in the moment.’

This real-time cross-channel view provides in-depth insights into customers and their changing needs, which is vital at a time when nobody can really predict how consumers will engage with their brand. Many customers who usually shop in-store will be driven to online shopping, which presents certain challenges. Using real-time data, retailers can detect friction within the purchase process and take action by triggering an immediate response such as a chat window to help guide the customer through the process and prevent them from abandoning their purchase. At the same time, regular online shoppers may be showing an interest in products they would not usually buy online, or from a particular website, so retailers need to respond to these evolving behaviours. Real-time insights allow retailers to support the changing needs of their customers, whatever they may be.

Agility in customer experience 

Carefully laid plans for promotions, product launches and marketing campaigns will inevitably have been placed on hold by unforeseen events. But a strong data foundation makes it easier to change course and adapt to a continually evolving situation, maintaining the best possible customer experience.

Retailers can take the opportunity to do something new and proactive that considers the changing priorities of their customers. This includes mapping new messaging or distributing messaging to additional channels (digital, app, SMS or social for example). With a strong data foundation, retailers have the agility to test out different campaigns and ideas to see which gain the most traction. They can adapt their approach to different audience segments, for instance being especially sensitive to demographic groups or areas of the country impacted by the pandemic in a particular way and can offer an improved experience to them based on how they can address that impact.

Build trust for the future 

Communication is vitally important in troubled times. Simply letting customers know in a personalised manner that they are understood and supported can help retailers build trust and strengthen relationships. While some retailers and even their customers will only be focusing on the here and now, others will be looking forward and making plans for when restrictions are fully lifted, and life returns to normal – bearing in mind that many aspects of the retail landscape will be changed permanently. Real-time customer insight resulting from a strong data foundation helps retailers take part in active outreach, engaging customers respectfully with timely and relevant messaging while building their brand image. It enables them to control the relevance and frequency of communication, allowing them to stay top of mind when customers turn their attention to shopping once more, without bombarding them with insensitive content at the wrong time.

During the most challenging times in recent history, focusing on a holistic approach to first-party data orchestration can maximise business results in the short term, build or maintain a strong brand association with customers and most importantly prepare retailers that are struggling in the current climate to bounce back with amazing agility as we inevitably lift restrictions.

Chris Russell is managing director for ANZ at Tealium