‘Tis the season, folks, and retailers are gearing up. A few including Macy’s and Toys ‘R Us are anticipating an uptick in demand this year, but overall the seasonal hiring outlook is looking less than bright. Looking at the customer marketing practices of many retailers, the news is not that surprising. On this front, retailers never cease to amaze and disappoint me. A few cases in point:
- I opt-in to loyalty programs but I am completely ignored
- I prove unresponsive to email messages that a retailer has sent me at least 2x weekly for the last five years (no kidding), and still I’m sent messages
- I’m sent a lovely birthday card with a discount six months past my birthday
Think of what relevant and well-timed messages could do for the economy! In our own practice, we’ve proven again and again how leveraging customer knowledge can deliver tremendous response and bottom-line ROI. One of the keys to this success is data, and though most retailers have robust transactional data systems, many struggle with integrating this data into holistic business intelligence systems that marketers can effectively tap. I suspect being in the dark about data is one of the reasons companies shift to acquisition, when loyalty efforts no longer pencil.
Retailers can’t afford to wait to get their arms around overcoming these data and loyalty challenges. Not to state the obvious, but consumer media consumption habits and how these influence shopping behaviors are changing. Fast. Likewise, retailers are feeling the heat. A recent Aberdeen Group study of retailers shows that 43% of retailers are “scrambling to keep up” with “the dramatic shift in the way consumers want to be marketed to.”
Building a centralized consumer intelligence system can take time. So what can a retailer do now to avoid some of the debacles I’ve shared? Talk to your customers (I’m not talking just focus groups here, guys). Ask them for their preferences. Survey them, often (and not just with those annoying pop-up online survey programs). Home in on what messages they want, how often, and what way they prefer to receive them. Then please, please use this intelligence to re-shape your customer loyalty programs. These simple steps will move the needle. Let’s get going!