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Data is in fashion – but barriers exist for customer engagement strategies

Commentary by Simon Knight, Senior Product Marketing Manager EMEA, Trillium Software

GENERAL MERCHANDISE

Data is in fashion – but barriers exist for customer engagement strategies

Commentary by Simon Knight, Senior Product Marketing Manager EMEA, Trillium Software

CMO Data Improving customer engagement is a hot topic, particularly in the retail industry. However delivering the personalised experiences consumers crave by having access to the right data for employees across an enterprise is an issue many organisations are wrestling with.

Two recent events were useful barometers of the progress retailers are making in their quest to keep pace with and even surpass customer expectations by improving their experience. I had the pleasure of attending and presenting at the recent Retail Bulletin Customer Engagement Conference in London which followed hot on the heels of a Retail Bulletin roundtable on Big Data. There were multiple presentations and conversations about the challenges retailers are facing in delivering world class experiences, however and wherever the interactions are occurring.

Topics ranged from the need to be data-driven to inform customer interactions through to the 'softer', more personal side of customer engagement. The challenge is to bring these seamlessly together as part of an overarching customer engagement strategy so that every exchange with a customer is supported by the right insights. Customer expectations are such now that it is no longer acceptable to be just "good enough" and there is huge opportunity for those organisations that get it right. To illustrate this point, a study by RightNow technologies revealed only 1% of consumers felt their expectations for a good customer service are always met.

Customer data must be used not just to personalise the marketing and selling of new services or to drive loyalty programmes, but to also serve and delight customers by anticipating their needs and being an integral part of the end-to-end customer journey. However, the barrier to achieving this is the way that organisations, consumers and technology have evolved has created so many islands of customer activity that it can be difficult to unite this information.

Ensuring employees across an organisation can access the right data to deliver the right experiences can be beyond many organisations. As I covered in my presentation 'Gathering your customers as they scatter' with John Lewis, a Trillium client, in marketing alone there are now up to 43 categories of technology that they are utilising and increasingly, purchasing directly. This is creating even more customer islands. John Lewis outlined the journey they are on to join up the vast amount of multi-channel data they hold to underpin their customer experience programmes. In addition to identify a large number of additional customers as a result of better linking of data, they have reduced the amount of customer complaints they receive.

Automated approaches to quickly bringing together large amounts of data from multiple sources to form a single, actionable view of customers in a cost effective way are now achievable. However, leveraging this data must not be at the cost of de-humanising the interaction. Organisations that achieve this will stand a much better chance of building the long-lasting, profitable relationships they seek. Data will then move from being another "here today gone tomorrow" fashion item to become a staple of retailers' wardrobes.

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