Know Thy Customer: Access Customer Information Before They Walk in the Door

Posted by Ian Newcombe on Thu, Feb 12, 2015

Collecting and using customer information allows you to better communicate with your customers along every step of their journey but how should you do it?

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When a shop assistant refused to serve television star Oprah Winfrey last year because she didn’t recognise her, it was like a scene straight from Pretty Woman. It showed, at its most extreme, the importance of having the right customer information to know who your customer is before they walk in the door.

Of course, the concept is nothing new. In years gone by, with the retail experience restricted to a local one, the shopkeeper would recognise a customer before they’d even entered the shop and would tailor their service to match.

Today, customers no longer shop just locally or only in-store, they now shop across multiple channels. 83% of UK brands are looking to have an omni-channel strategy in place within the next year and tying up the information to enable that is key. Amazon is set to open its first store in Manhattan - proof that the high street is far from dead, just changing. Whilst the idea is the same, retailers today have to turn to technology to extract the customer information that allows them to know their customers better.

Learn the basics first (and the distance sellers are great teachers)

Capturing customer information has always been at the root of how mail order and distance sellers do business. Because they don’t always get to meet customers face-to-face, they have to get to know customers via other means. They learn basic information about their customers (age, size, buying preferences etc.) and use that to better target their offer.

For omni-channel retailers adopting the same strategy, with a single view of customer behaviour and customer information across channels, the ability to serve the customer is greatly improved since they are better able to predict behaviour and tailor their service to buying habits.

It’s a trend retailers can’t ignore. By 2018, 44% of all in-store retail sales in Europe will be influenced by online research which means that effectively using all the data a retailer holds about their customer is increasingly key.

More challenging for bigger retailers

Capturing customer information online and through mail order is simple enough at a basic level – the challenge then comes through using that information productively. But in-store it’s a bigger challenge since the customer is often unidentified. Generally, the only information recorded is sales information. The exchange of data in-store can be as basic as checking name, address and email address for direct marketing that allows the retailer to target customers with relevant special offers.

However, this is harder to do in a busy store and customers have to feel they are getting something for the exchange of information.

Get social to get even closer

There are also valuable lessons to learn from social media too since these channels are one of the most honest sources of customer information. From social channels, you can gather information regarding the tastes and interests of your customers, which will help improve marketing and product ranges in order to increase sales and enhance service levels.

Make use of technology

The use of tablets in-store is allowing retail staff to capture more information electronically about their customer, whilst being able to retrieve stored shopping baskets or recently viewed items to aid sales.

Customers are also increasingly using their own mobiles and tablets in-store. Smartphones influenced around £18 billion of UK store sales last year with customers spending 61% more than average so tapping into this customer behaviour is vital.

To get even closer, mobile apps and Beacon technology use location-based technologies that allow retailers to identify customers upon approach to the store or whilst in-store. The ability for retailers to connect the customer to in-store shopping experiences through their own devices means a less intrusive experience for the customer. And, with these sorts of technologies, retailers not only know who their customer is before they’ve walked in the door but can also be ready for them.

Make friends with your customers

The value of customer information really cannot be underestimated for the retailer. Capturing customer information and maximising its value really does encourage customer loyalty. Get it wrong and they remain simply strangers to your business.

Your to do list:        

  • Review what customer information you are already collecting and whether you are making the most of that information.
  • Consider new customer information that would be useful for your business.
  • Make use of social channels to learn more about your customers.          

Information isn’t the only thing you need to connect with your customers. Discover more tips by downloading: The store of the future: 10 ways to make people love shopping again.

The store of the future: 10 ways to make people love shopping again

Topics: Customer Experience, Multi-Channel Retail