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Today’s retail customer expects seamless, customized experiences. Here’s how to do that.

Roughly one year ago, I discovered the holy grail of holiday shopping experiences: Buy online, pick up outside store.

For those who didn’t experience this brilliant innovation, let me take you back to November 2020. During last year’s holiday season, I remember I wanted to interact with as few humans as possible (as was the case for many). So, I took advantage of a process a few awesome retailers were offering: 

  • Make purchases online

  • Indicate in my order that I wanted to have someone at an in-store location come to my car and place my items in my trunk without me ever having to open my car door 

  • Drive to said in-store location and experiencing a seamless, safe hand-off (with no actual hands) 

While this process was primarily functional for the time, I remember thinking to myself as I stayed in my warm car listening to holiday tunes on the radio: You know, I could get used to this. In fact, maybe I’ll never get out of my car again.

Now, all joking aside, I, of course, still love the in-store experience. I will never not want to try on clothing and makeup, and I do really like being around other people—in a safe way. 

But have my expectations been raised when it comes to getting a seamless online and offline user experience customized to my preferences? You bet.

And I’m not the only one. Retailers everywhere are being tasked with upgrading their marketing to prioritize the customer experience, customizing how they interact with every customer to offer a seamless experience that matches that customer’s preferences. 

Like me and my love for sometimes never getting out of my car.

As we close out 2021, in this blog post, I’d like to share three things retailers should be thinking about for their marketing in 2022: 

  1. Use first-party data to actually get to know your customers 

  1. Create KPIs that aren’t vague—for your sake and your customers’ 

  1. Activate messaging that will truly resonate with whom you want to connect 

Get to know your customers on an individual level—you have the data to do it 

In 2022, retailers should no longer be making assumptions about any of their customers; peoples’ habits are totally new. Retailers today need to be consulting first-party data and any accumulated data.  

There is so much data—to not know your customers contextually is to squander valuable opportunities to create lasting affinity. In particular, your first-party data is gold—especially in a world where third-party identifiers like third-party cookies and device IDs are soon to be gone. You may be thinking to yourself: “I need a data lake, or a CDP, or a data mart.” 

But what’s most important is whatever allows your organization to centralize your data so you can be truly people-based. 

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When you can identify your customers across multiple accounts and devices, keeping track of who they are across in-store and online activity, then you can offer relevant, non-repetitive marketing to them and ensure they’re getting the experiences they want. 

Define KPIs that are agreed upon across teams 

Part of the base of your marketing structure needs to be clear, measurable KPIs that are created and agreed upon across teams. No longer is it passable to remain in silos. The CMO, CFO and CTO must all work in harmony and alignment, and a big portion of that is defining KPIs that everyone agrees upon and is invested in achieving. You can call these your true north goals; they’re the focal points around which all your marketing choices should orbit. 

Having a greater focus on this part of your foundation helps you avoid “shiny object syndrome” when it comes to new omnichannel developments, like Instagram piloting ads in their store. It may be worthwhile for your organization to test that out, but it also may not be depending on what you’re trying to achieve. This is not only important for your organization internally, but also ensures you’re taking the best steps to connect with your customers most effectively. 

Figuring out the right omnichannel paths for your marketing will be a lot easier once you truly know your customers and have the exact right KPIs in place.  

Activate your data to connect with the right customers at the right time 

You can have all the data in the world, but if you’re not effectively activating it, you’re not going to get where you want to go. If someone comes to your website and you’re not able to activate your first-party data, in a privacy-safe way, you’re missing quite a powerful opportunity.  

Modern customers, and especially younger generations, expect personalization in their buyer journeys and brands relationships—they just want it respectfully. With the right privacy-compliant, innovative partners, you will be able to achieve this crucial balance. 

With today’s data capabilities, you immediately should know if people who visit your site are buyers, lapsed buyers, browsers, in-store buyers or prospects. Essentially, being able to quickly identify people is huge; it will become table stakes over the years to come.  

L’Occitane discovered the importance of this. They were able to increase their incremental return on ad spend (ROAS) and ability to reach lapsed customers—as well as quantify their investment. And with their clearly defined KPIs up front, they were able to accurately measure their campaign’s performance for the sake of future campaign spend. 

You are also able to leverage first-party data via retail media networks. Again, with third-party data taking a backseat, your brand partners are in need of new insight on their customers—and with your data assets, you can provide this to them. Not to mention non-endemic brands, who also have an interest in the kinds of insight your data can provide. 

Use your data to create lasting affinity 

While not everyone is going to want to stay in their car to pick up holiday gifts as often as I do, everyone today is looking for seamless retail experiences. Marketers can create those. 

We are entering into a new era where customers are increasingly open to sharing their data in exchange for experiences that add a bit of ease and delight to their lives. Stepping into the future of retail means using all the data and identity capabilities that are available. 

For much more information on that future, I invite you to read our guide on how to create a digital retail marketing strategy that dominates.