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Think BR: A shopper's paradise

Modern retailers need to get to grips with data to respond to the current and future needs of their customers, write Tim Watson, strategy director at Ogilvy Action, and Richard Matthews, head of customer insight at Logica.

Tim Watson and Richard Matthews

Tim Watson and Richard Matthews

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Welcome to the digital age. Access to the wealth of information from social networks, peer reviews and search engines means people can find the cheapest prices from suppliers, large and small, anywhere in the world, in seconds.

Digital news has undercut traditional newspapers, Expedia obsoletes travel agents and eBay and Amazon reduces the profits of the whole retail industry.

This Christmas, we’re already seeing the start of a high street upheaval based on that digital revolution.

With eBay’s pop-up store in London heralding the convergence of online and offline retail, and the growth of smartphone apps that offer a great deal more than just the opportunity to order online, technology is enabling fantastically personalised offers and experiences.

Over the next couple of years the way we will shop will be transformed yet further.

We’re all becoming socially-connected shoppers who utilise the technology of our mobile devices to find products, use reviews and ratings, encourage intelligent personalisation of services that help us make shopping decisions and receive the best offers and promotions based on previous behaviour, geolocation and loyalty.

Retailers have more data on our shopping habits than ever before, and they will be able to use that information to make the experience more personal.

Shopping at a department store or high street womenswear chain will soon be as bespoke as getting a suit made to measure at a Savile Row tailor.

The smartphone is the key. Even before we spend a pound, augmented reality (AR) apps will allow us to see how that new sofa will look in our living room.

We can check reviews online, order the item we want (using the electronic credit card held in the device) and receive the confirmation by text or email.

Shoppers will be able to try on an outfit in store, post a photo on Facebook and make their buying decision based on how many of their friends like it.

Meanwhile, the store itself will receive a constant stream of social media, past buying behaviour and other data into its control centre – allowing it to target us with personalised offers and customer service while we’re shopping.

The big retailers are already starting to get the revolution underway. Amazon and Tesco, for example, both offer mobile-optimised websites.

They have Facebook communities and apps that offer services like store locators and price checks.

And that’s not all – Amazon and its advocates are developing a number of services that use barcode reading and image recognition technology to find products and then offer the ability to buy them on the site in a few taps.

In essence, what we’re seeing is the growth of "customer intelligent" organisations that use data and insights in order to respond to the current and future needs of their customers.

To be successful in this new environment, companies need to invest in four key areas:

  1. Real time customer data and insights
  2. Multi-channel experiences and customer service
  3. Channels that deliver customer intelligence
  4. Engaging entertaining or useful content and interactive marketing

These come together in what we’ve termed applied customer insight (ACI).

Retailers have to use data to create and develop better customer experiences across multiple channels.

It’s about monitoring conversations and understanding opinions, creating engaging and intuitive shopper journeys, creating multiple touch points, understanding the ever-increasing importance of the smartphone to the mobile consumer and stimulating and measuring both "word of mouth" and "word of mouse".

Insight is a horribly overused word, but in this case it fits the bill perfectly.

Businesses that don’t have real insight into their customers, that don’t know who and where they are, what they do and when and why they do it, are doomed to failure.

Organisations that do possess that level of understanding, on the other hand, are the only ones who will prosper.

It would be remiss of us not to finish with our thoughts on the trends which we think are going to be big in 2012 in the multichannel world. In no particular order they are:

1. More relevant personalised communications 

Messages and promotions to customers based on previous purchase and social behaviour that are triggered by time and geolocation and delivered via mobile devices

2. Real time multi-screen interactive experiences

Brands will engage with customers using mobile, tablet, in-store and social channels using the unique interactive properties of each medium to give exceptional customer experiences

3. Mobile shopping becomes the norm

It will become normal for shoppers to be scanning barcodes in shops and making more informed and financially-savvy choices deciding where to buy certain products

4. Image recognition

Augmented reality engines that identify clothes will revolutionise the fashion industry and make fast fashion even faster as the supply chain will turn around high end fashion into high street fashion in days.

5. Mobile wallets start to establish themselves

The battle for wallet ownership and customer relationship management gets really interesting between the traditional financial providers, telecoms providers, Google, high tech intermediaries offering brands the ability to own digital brand relationships and customer loyalty operators.

6. London 2012

The most successful and digitally mind blowing event ever – multi channel, 3D, personalised, digital experiential entertainment event for those with tickets and the majority without.

Welcome to the digital age, indeed!

Tim Watson, strategy director at Ogilvy Action, and Richard Matthews, head of customer insight at Logica

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