Today’s customers rule their shopping experience. 

They research, browse, compare and purchase at any given moment and from every kind of device. This always-available digital connection has caused consumers to expect personalized experiences delivered by brands that understand their unique wants and needs — quite the customer mandate. 

What can brands do to deliver individualized customer interactions across channels, whether online or offline, so that each experience is seamless?

Integrate Legacy Systems

Many organizations today rely on customer relationship management (CRM) systems that use data to improve future customer engagements. 

While these CRM systems provide transactional information that may be useful in understanding what a customer previously did, businesses also need to understand what customers may be interested in doing in the future. 

CRM alone is no longer enough. Businesses must integrate these systems with data sources from other customer touchpoints — including those from sales, customer service, marketing, commerce, billing and more. Only then can brands derive data from each step of the customer journey. Connecting these siloed departments is key to preventing a disjointed experience. 

Move Beyond the Basics 

While incorporating more data into the process is one way to help drive contextual experiences, it’s only the first step. Organizations still need a way to unify the data, gain insights and then act on them. Otherwise, data from multiple channels remains scattered and silos will still exist.

To develop deeper insight from each step of the customer journey, brands must identify and consolidate all relevant data scattered across various customer management and interaction systems into a single consolidated view.  

According to eMarketer, 80 percent of marketers only have access to basic information — name, address, contact information, high level demographic information — and little else. This means they don’t have the behavior information they need to provide the personalized experiences customers expect. 

Organizations must capture the information customers provide — information that is both actionable and immediate — and consolidate it for a holistic view.  

Subscription-based customers, where regular purchases are made on a regular (often monthly) basis, in particular demand this. Without understanding everything about the customer, wherever and whenever they are, brands will fail to give customers what they need. 

Robust customer profiles play a critical role in this, enabling a real-time view into each individual customer as needed, regardless of where they are in their unique journey.

Connect Online and Offline Behavior 

As part of this 360-degree view of the customer, brands need to connect data from both physical and digital touchpoints in order to bridge the gap between the two. Armed with this insight, brands won’t send a primarily online shopper in-store coupons and vice-versa. 

Understanding customers’ rate of consumption and preferences helps to close the gaps and connect all of these disparate channels, ultimately leading to a purchase or even better, a loyal customer.

Multiple tactics are available to better connect brick and mortar experiences with digital preferences. For instance, a retailer may provide its sales teams with iPads to help them better assist customers in-store, or they may offer a mobile app that connects when customers enter the store. Brands can also send real-time contextual promotions based on geolocation data — such as a text with appropriate in-store offers — when customers enter or are nearby a store.

Keep the Relationship Alive

Customer journeys no longer travel a linear path

Rather, it is a continuous, winding relationship, with post-sales customer service, marketing touchpoints, social interactions and more. The relationship continues after a sale is closed with personalized offers, recommendations and customer service. 

All of these interactions, especially through digital channels, have created tremendous amounts of customer data.  But data in itself has no value unless marketers can view and gather insights from a consolidated, holistic view of the customer. 

The brands who capture data and use it well to enhance future customer touchpoints, will set themselves up to win new customers, establish a loyal audience base and beat the competition. 

Title image Matt Heaton