Most of us have a hobby. Something we love to do to clear our heads from the worries of work and life stress. For me, it’s hiking, ice climbing or mountaineering, lumped together as “the great outdoors.” During my favorite season – winter – I’m fortunate enough to have fantastic ice climbing very close to me in New Hampshire (northeastern U.S). Of course, because I climb, I’m always looking for deals on climbing equipment. (The climbing is free, but the gear is not!) Last week, just before Black Friday, I had fun buying a few ice screws for the upcoming season. I received a pre-Black Friday marketing offer for loyalty members touting that I could beat the crowds and get what I want now – and online even – at the same prices that would be offered on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. How could I resist? In essence, the retailer was moving those two events a bit earlier – for me. Or so I thought.
From shopping bliss to shopping miss
Happy with my purchase and feeling lucky not to have to fight the crowds for the same deal, I went on my way, thinking about when I’d get to use my new gear. However, when Black Friday came, I received another email from this retailer, and when I looked at their deals, I found that the item I’d just purchased days before (with the promise of being at the same discount as Black Friday/Cyber Monday) was even cheaper now. What?
Customers don’t want to feel like a number unless it’s “1”
Suddenly my feelings for this retailer, with which I’ve spent a lot of money over the years, changed. How could they send me one offer and then another for a better price within the week of purchasing from them? Didn’t they have a record of my sale or the first offer? What was the benefit of being a loyalty member?
Unfortunately, you probably have your own story to share in this regard. Retailers want your business and many claim that you matter, but they don’t act that way. Today, there’s no excuse for what happened to me because there are personalized marketing systems that make it easy for retailers to track all sort of customer preferences, purchase history, promotions etc.
Retailer have the key to knowing their customers… it’s just buried in a pile of a million keys
So many retailers rely solely on loyalty data. That data is important, but it’s only one part of the “understanding the customer” equation. What are customers buying in other channels outside of the scope of that data? Customers want a dialogue with you, but how can you possibly listen to all of your customers across so many channels as individuals? Retailers need additional profiling data like demographics, lifestyle, life stage etc., but this just complicates things even more.
Customer relationship management relies on technology that enables a full view of the customer
Customers like myself are becoming more demanding. We simply expect more from the retailers we support. We work hard for our money and we expect you (Mr. Retailer) to work equally hard for it. There’s just no way that retailers can keep pace with the expectation of the “connected customer,” without enlisting advanced technologies that draw on advanced analytics. And today, that means artificial intelligence (AI) with machine learning. A CRM system that uses AI can recommend what offers are best for a given customer. For example: same-product offers are usually tiered, and so customers receive varying levels of discounts. AI-enabled marketing systems can determine how much of a discount to give one customer vs. another.
It doesn’t have to be so hard
Fortunately for me, my story ended OK, but could have been better. I was able to call the retailer and explain what had happened and how I purchased based on their offer, only to be sent a better offer days later. They did credit me the difference in price and even give me additional credit for my trouble. But imagine how much closer I would feel to this retailer if none of this had happened. Even this would have been acceptable:
Email: “Mr. Hoffman, we realized that you recently purchased an item which is going on sale tomorrow for a reduced price. Because of this, and because we value your relationship with us, we are crediting your account with the difference in price. Thank you for being a valued customer.”