How high-touch brands can avoid crossing the “creepy line”

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By Linda Palanza
Chief Operating Officer, OneView Commerce

Long ago and far away in a simpler retail environment, high-touch brands were masters at customer engagement. They built their success on understanding and meeting customer needs in the store, by mail and by phone. They manually tracked customer preferences and had longstanding relationships with store associates.

Then e-commerce shattered that retail universe, and high-touch brands were hard-pressed to keep track of their customers’ changing preferences and behaviors. Yet the new retail reality offered a huge opportunity for these brands to gain a worldwide presence.

Cross-channel data: powerful engagement vs. creepy

Fast-forward to today’s omnichannel retail environment with sophisticated technology that can help high-touch brands keep tabs on customer behaviors in-store and online.

Shared data among all channels empowers store associates with customers’ cross-channel histories and preferences, as well as collective trends. This information is valuable for engaging the customer, driving revenue (cross-sell recommendations) and fostering brand loyalty. Yet associates must guard against crossing that nebulous “I know-too-much-about-you” line at any given time, which can damage the relationship between a high-touch brand and its customer.

This may sound like hitting a moving target, but it’s not impossible. The beauty of omnichannel is that it enables “choices of convenience” for meeting a variety of ever-changing customer realities and needs. For example:

  • The fashionista who buys for next season wants to book an in-store meeting online with a personal shopper and wants the convenience of having all selections shipped home. This is not about instant gratification. Rather this shopper is a planner, setting her sights on the next season. Two services appeal to her: booking an appointment with outstanding service; and the convenience of shipping home, which sends the order back into the online channel.
  • On Thursday, the panic-stricken customer who needs a certain shoe for a wedding this Saturday wants to buy online and pick up in-store. In a few clicks, she finds the right size at a conveniently located store, puts it in her cart, as well as the extra pair of hosiery recommended (based on her cross-channel profile) to avoid a fashion emergency. She completes the purchase and picks it up on her way home from work. This is about instant gratification. When this highly qualified shopper enters the store, the associate has yet another engagement opportunity.

Shift from channel to customer focus

In order to support true cross-channel engagement, high-touch brands need to discard the “channel engagement” mentality by eliminating online and offline silos. Their recognition/reward structure needs to inspire a customer-focused team approach where each drives a well-qualified customer into the other channel.

With proper credit and training, store associates will encourage interested-but-not-ready-to-buy customers to put items on their online wish list. And vice versa, the online channel gives shoppers the opportunity to locate items of interest at their nearest store.

Back to strategic basics

Key considerations for formulating your omnichannel strategy:

What does your brand represent? How do you maintain brand consistency across all channels? Who are your customers? Where are potential disconnects? How do you use the digital platform to empower your store associates to engage your customers and convert the sale?

Discuss. Ask me.

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June 19, 2015
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