When was the last time you felt like a business really knew you? As a consumer, I know I feel more affinity for a brand when they know who I am, my preferences, and can send me relevant products and services. Mecca is a great example of this, suggesting new product lines based on my favourite purchases. As a result, they receive a significant share of my disposable income.

The reality, according to Salesforce’s State of the Connected Customer Report, is that half of customers say companies are generally impersonal and there is a widening gap between their expectations versus their experience. 

For retailers, it’s never been more urgent to address this gap by looking at ways to use data to create fast, frictionless and connected experiences. Seventy-four per cent of Aussies say that their customer experience is just as important as the products or services themselves. 

Common pitfalls of data-driven customer experiences

It’s no surprise that today’s consumers expect the same level of experience from their local retailer as some of the world’s biggest digital-native brands, from Spotify to Amazon. To deliver on their expectations, retailers need to fully leverage the power of customer data. 

While brands are well accustomed to capturing data, a common mistake we see is that they allow these interactions and data to be stored and used in silos. This creates a fragmented picture and limits the ability to truly understand what your customers want. 

By creating a unified view of the customer, retailers are better placed to respond to the demands of digital-savvy customers, understand their needs, and deliver relevant content tailored for each individual shopper. 

Getting personal to drive meaningful connections 

When data is centralised it helps to create personalised experiences, which goes a long way to create meaningful connections. In fact, 54 per cent of Aussies say that they prefer products and services from brands that are personalised.

While personalisation is good, retailers can build even deeper conversations with their customers through hyper-personalisation. For example, where personalisation seeks to deliver relevant content to a customer via their preferred communication channel, hyper-personalisation seeks to engage customers in a one-to-one conversation across all channels.

Take Norths Collective, a membership based hospitality group, that used hyper-personalisation to connect with its members via its ‘What’s On’ newsletters. By segmenting its members based on their interests, the business was able to double the organisation’s email open rates from 18 per cent to 30 per cent.

Creating life-long customers through loyalty programs 

We’re also seeing loyalty programs quickly become an important part of brands’ customer experience programs, helping to drive more personalised consumer experiences, stay on top of current consumer expectations and drive business value by creating loyal, life-long customers.

To make the most of any loyalty program, retailers need a single view of customer data to better understand how to target their members. The urgency has never been more important, with the rise of digital making it easier than ever to switch brands. Seventy per cent of consumers agree that it’s easier than ever to take their business elsewhere.

While traditional loyalty programs have been built on a points or rewards basis, they can and should be so much more. I often look for brands that not only reward me for how much I spend with them, but create a sense of community through their loyalty programs. Mecca, known for its in-store experiences, offered its members access to a number of ‘meet the founder’ events last year, and a series of events with panels and Q&A via its Beauty Loop Loyalty Program. 

More recently, I wanted to purchase a new tinted moisturiser during lockdown, and as a valued customer of Mecca I was able to chat online with one of my favourite beauty advisors to ensure the colour matched my existing foundation. These kinds of personalised experiences build customer loyalty. 

So, where do brands start? It’s about putting the customer at the centre of everything that you do. By centralising customer data into a single platform, you can get a richer understanding of the unique needs and wants of every customer when and where they want it. 

Enhancing the customer experience requires compelling personalisation strategies and loyalty programs. Once there, brands will be in a stronger position to build long-lasting relationships with their customers. 

Jo Gaines is AVP, Salesforce Digital360 and Executive Sponsor Salesforce Women’s Network.