Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Creating a Unified View of the Customer

Whether in-store, online, via catalog or smart phone app, consumers draw on all touch points when formulating an overall image of a retailer. Can retailers say the same about their multi-channel customers?

To provide what customers demand -- a seamless experience across all channels -- retailers need a unified view of their customers. Retailers should, for example, be able to draw on behavior learned about a customer in one channel and apply it to a targeted offer relevant to the shopper in another. And so, a successful multi-channel strategy must not only provide a comprehensive view of the shopper's activities but enable the deployment of cross-channel tactics. In essence, what is needed is a unified customer engagement platform.

Many chain retailers have been building out their online (and now mobile) commerce efforts over the last decade. How are they doing so far with their cross-channel integration? According to the 2009 RIS Cross-Channel Tech Trends study, over half (55 percent) of retailer respondents say they have no integration of their CRM/customer database across brick and mortar and online channels. Another 36 percent say they maintain only a loose integration. And for loyalty applications, 36 percent have no integration, while 43 percent have loose integration across these channels.

ACTION ITEMS: Unified Customer Engagement
In the recent RIS White Paper, The Cross-Channel Imperative, the following action items are recommended for retailers looking to develop a unified customer engagement platform:

#1: Work toward a single customer view.
Bridge departmental silos to create a single database that captures customer preferences and transactions across channels. That's accomplished by ensuring customers can enroll in, and gain access to, the unified customer database from whichever channel they frequent. Tagging all transactions with a unique customer ID marker is an important component of the process.

#2: Concentrate on actionable analysis.
Retailers can leverage business intelligence and customer analytics to: determine which items customers are most loyal to, channel by channel; improve personalization of offers; and engage in relevant and timely conversations with customers across channels. Further, a unified customer engagement platform can feed the analytical results into other enterprise systems, including merchandising, inventory and promotion, thereby creating greater value for the customer.

#3: Unify infrastructure around customer engagement data.
The unified customer engagement platform can be used to map points of integration with customer touch points in the store, online, catalog, call center and the mobile channel. In this way, retailers can develop web services, composite applications or services-oriented architecture to seamlessly cross channel boundaries (e.g. a cross-channel search function).

#4: Provide a single view of the retailer to the customer.
Standardize the view that the customer gets of the retailer across all channels, thereby improving customer convenience and ease of use. The same must apply to the customer views of promotions and communications from the retailer in all channels, while also leveraging the uniqueness of each channel.

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