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Keeping customer engagement simple and effective

Retail Bulletin Customer Engagement Conference 2016 Customer engagement can be over-complicated as retailers grapple with social media and develop personalisation strategies but at its heart it is simply about communicating with people and the human touch should not be pushed aside by technology-driven solutions.


Keeping customer engagement simple and effective

Retail Bulletin Customer Engagement Conference 2016 Customer engagement can be over-complicated as retailers grapple with social media and develop personalisation strategies but at its heart it is simply about communicating with people and the human touch should not be pushed aside by technology-driven solutions.

Speaking at the recent Retail Bulletin Customer Engagement Conference in London Joe McEwan, head of digital and communities at Innocent Drinks, says: “Social media is just the act of talking to people. Initially for Innocent it was through our packaging on which we started putting all sorts of messages and not just the ingredients. This was pretty revolutionary and was like your mate had left a note for you on the packet.

Humanise engagement

Even though Innocent now uses the likes of Facebook to engage digitally with its customer base it still sends out many hand-written notes, which McEwan values highly as an engagement tool: “We’ve forgotten how human a hand-written note is. I encourage people to write to notes to customers.”

The company also invites people to visit its office and last year 1,000 people turned up, and the large festivals it hosts are typically staffed by Innocent employees because he says it is important to “get out there and meet people face-to-face”.

As with its social media activity Innocent does not justify such actions on the basis of directly driving sales but instead as value-added initiatives that could affect the way a customer makes a purchase when faced with a “snap decision of what to buy”.

Keep it simple

Healthy snacks company Graze has taken a few pages out of the Innocent playbook in how it positions itself and communicates with its customer base and, according to Emma Heal, retail director at Graze, the company values simplicity around the customer experience.

This is being brought to bear as the company builds its presence in physical stores – in addition to its core online box subscription service – with its products packaged in distinctive craft packs with see through fronts showing the contents.

Behind this simple customer-facing proposition - that is now sold in Boots, Sainsbury’s and WH Smith stores - is very much a data-driven operation. “We’re all about data points. We’ve done a Nectar card tie-up with Sainsbury’s 11 million members and our seven million customers that show 80% of Sainsbury’s buyers’ had not bought with us before. And our online customers are more likely to buy, and also spend more, in-store,” says Heal.

With a combined source of data from both online and in-store Graze will be able to improve its engagement with customers through more effective communications based on richer insight. “Thinking about both channels we can be more effective with our marketing and we can look at the lifetime value of customers,” she says.

Single view of customer needed

Once retailers start to engage with customers over multiple channels – and their increasingly complex shopping journey - it should be the aim of all companies to have a single view of the customer. Rob Booth, senior product manager at, has worked on creating such a view that takes the company away from using separate databases for the likes of finance, CRM, and loyalty and towards a single repository.

Systems follow an organisation’s structure and none of the databases talk to each other but the customer journey goes across the channels and involves lots of touch points so identifying customers across them is the challenge,” he says, acknowledging that without this visibility of the customer and associated data then it is hard to personalise the engagement.

Danny Crowe, CRM manager at B&Q, is making the same journey as part of a major overhaul at the company involving the installation of a new SAP platform: “It will deliver a single view of customers with one conversation that straddles all the channels.” This enables personalisation to come to the fore, which B&Q is now experimenting with.

Personalising the engagement

Through its recently launched Club loyalty card, Crowe says 50 different communications are being used including those for lapsed customers and for delivering localised offers dependent on the customers’ previous activities. “It is all becoming much more personalised, based on customer life journeys – such as moving house, having children, and children going to University,” he says.

Greater personalisation has also been on the agenda of Craig Wheeler, e-commerce & retail operations director at Feelunique, who says: “We’ve done a lot of work profiling skin types, and hair type such as colour and texture etcetera and given a personalised offering when the customers browse. There’s a recommendation engine that’s based on their profile factors.”

Alison Conway, global e-commerce director at Belstaff, says the personalised messaging to customers will be determined by a number of factors including where they are in their shopping journey and how many times they have visited the store/website. “We don’t discount to get them over the line [to make a purchase] but we will tailor the content,” she says.

Targeting influencers

Since Wheeler finds only 15% of customers actually want to fully engage with Feelunique there has recently been a big focus on targeting specific individuals. “We can’t fight on price because 99% of health and beauty is sold at RRP so we’ve engaged with beauty experts and bloggers. The sales numbers go up 10, even 20-fold in the 20-30 minutes after a trendsetter mentions Feelunique. That’s why we’re particularly focused on trendsetters and trends,” he explains.

This power of bloggers and influencers is down to social media, which should definitely be utilised by retailers in their engagement strategies. Mark Spicer, director of loyalty solutions at Snipp, says some of the figures from the US show social media having a strong impact on people buying goods.

Power of social media

As many as 93% of shoppers’ say their buying decisions are influenced by social media and 72% of people who follow a brand on Twitter are more likely to make a future purchase from that brand. In the UK, 43% of shoppers use social media to find inspiration about products to buy.

Spicer recommends retailers overlay social media data with that from their internal CRM systems and loyalty programmes in order to create the most powerful insight platform from which to engage customers in the most effective and personalised manner.

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