Increasing Customer Engagement through Data and Technology
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Increasing Customer Engagement through Data and Technology

By Courtney Graybill, Vice President, Customer Experience & Product Management, David's Bridal

Customer EngagementCourtney Graybill, Vice President, Customer Experience & Product Management, David's Bridal

Courtney Graybill devises customer experience roadmaps and executes on those strategies to drive shopper engagements for David’s Bridal. She has been focusing on customer satisfaction and business value for various organizations by leveraging technology. In an interview with Retail CIO Outlook, speaking on the importance of shopper experience in the retail landscape, Courtney mentions the significance of integrating point-of-sales (POS) information with shoppers’ behavioral data to enhance customer engagement.

1. What are some of the latest technological trends in the retail landscape, particularly as they pertain to POS?

I see two major trends as related to POS in the retail industry: making the purchase process extremely easy by putting more power in the customer’s hands, and using data from all aspects of the customer journey to personalize the shopping experience.

A prominent trend in retail space is the adoption of mobile and customer enabled POS. Customer self-checkout was the first step in that journey, allowing customers to scan his/her own items and pay, most prominently at grocery stores and pharmacies. Then retailers like Apple started arming store associates with mobile POS to check a customer out on the floor without having to stand in line. Now organizations are taking the concept of easy checkout to the next level. Case in point, Amazon Go has introduced a mobile application that guides shoppers in stores, right from finding products to automatic checkout upon walking out of the store with no customer or store associate actions needed. The Nike Innovation store allows customers to use the mobile app to reserve items to try on as well as self-checkout, enabling customers to complete the shopping journey without even talking to a store associate. The idea of easy checkout has also been powered by new payment options such as Apple Pay, Amazon Pay, and other one-touch payment options.

“Decision makers should continue to challenge the status quo, leverage technology to solve customer problems, and streamline the retail workflow of both online and in-store shopping”

The second major trend is using customer data to personalize the shopping experience. The ability to personalize the online shopping experience by leveraging data collected online has gotten much easier as software companies have invested in solutions that can be implemented easily into a retailer’s ecosystem. This is important because many retailers have struggled with data being housed in many, disconnected locations. Thus, being able to add a pixel and some lightweight code to your website, and then provide shoppers with personalized product recommendations has become an attractive business solution.

The bigger challenge is truly connecting online and offline data such as POS purchase and offline data to then personalize customer experiences in-store and online. This is a focal point for us at David’s Bridal and we are investing in our technology to connect customer behaviors and transactions across all touchpoints to create a more personalized experience.

Today, buyers can receive relevant product suggestions on websites based upon their browse behavior and online transactions, but making those even more robust by incorporating in-store behaviors has been a harder lift for companies. That is because most POS systems don’t talk to e-commerce platforms, creating data siloes that are difficult and expensive to break down.

2. What are the technological challenges in the retail space that companies are facing and how can they overcome them?

The biggest challenge is that most retailers who started in the physical space are weighed down by many legacy systems that do not integrate with each other and are expensive to replace/upgrade. Companies struggle to consolidate traditional systems’ data with online transactional data; thus, they are on a continuous quest for solutions that can help them integrate transactional data with customers’ behavioral data. Connecting such datasets can enable them to personalize their offerings according to buyers’ expectations. Organizations have to understand how to use these data sets and address shoppers’ challenges. Companies must focus on finding the sweet spots where their business model aligns with customers’ needs and invest in solutions that boost business growth in those areas.

3. Can you elaborate on how to use the abundance of data effectively?

The one problem that many organizations don’t have is a lack of data. The problem is actually that a plethora of data resides in many forms and is stored in multiple disconnected locations, both on-premise and in the cloud. Assimilating datasets that can help in making decisions is vital. Companies should seek to understand where their biggest customer and financial opportunities lie, and then seek to glean and analyze the data sets that will allow them to support or refute those hypotheses. Having a clear focus on which data is important and actionable versus informative but not insightful will allow retailers to focus their technology and data investments in the most profitable way.

4. Where do you see the retail industry heading and what should be the strategy while looking for a solution partner?

The days of online and bricks being treated as distinct channels are gone. Customers expect that when they shop with a brand that their experience will be consistent, easy, seamlessly connected, and personalized at every touchpoint. We are in an Experience Revolution, and brands need to focus on how to provide delightful experiences, particularly where/when it matters. I think that you will see more and more usage of technologies that blur the lines between channels, for example, Augmented Reality within the online space so that customers can visualize products without going to the store, and more usage of self-serve technology in-store such as mobile apps helping with wayfinding, providing product information, and easy/quick checkout. Retailers are also thinking beyond their core products and looking for ways to incorporate services and adjacent offering that may be provided by partners, but within their physical space to provide a more holistic experience.

To stay abreast with such trends, along with stakeholders’ demands, organizations must analyze their needs and then look for vendors that can meet those requirements. Companies need to make hard decisions about investing in foundational, flexible platforms with robust out of the box functionality and the capability to easily integrate with new, advanced features through APIs. A more flexible approach will enable organizations to more quickly adapt to changing customer demands. Organizations should seek partners that understand their business model and customer needs so that they can work collaboratively to get the best return on those investments. Finding a good balance between out of the box functionality and customizable flexibility helps enterprises in gaining a competitive edge in the market while being economical in the longer run.

5. Tell us about your perspective on the retail industry?

The retail sector is getting more competitive and customers’ expectations are increasing as they seek similar experiences with both online and in-store purchase. Buyers expect to shop with brands that are able to provide them value throughout their engagements. Customers are good at giving feedback and expressing their concerns, but often don’t know how to tell companies their needs. Hence organizations should focus on finding an approach that solves problems faced by their users at different shopping stages by observing their customers in their shopping journeys and finding those unmet needs.

I focus on learning shoppers’ preferences, understanding their needs throughout the journey, and keeping an eye on competitors. Further, I analyze cutting-edge technologies and trends that we could leverage to deliver the experience shoppers deserve.

6. Any advice to entrepreneurs and startups in the retail industry?

Data is the key to the future, thus analyzing it to find opportunities is of paramount importance. Startups should upgrade their skills and explore the profusion of data to create value across their organization. However, they should not lose sight of the problems they are solving. Focusing on data is crucial, but in the end, they should devise and implement strategies to improve shopper acquisition, engagement, and retention.

Decision makers should continue to challenge the status quo, leverage technology to solve customer problems, and streamline the retail workflow of both online and in-store shopping. They should consider technology as an investment and leverage it to enhance customer engagements. Organizations must showcase their offerings, backed by relevant technology to surpass users’ expectations, as it is crucial for success in the retail space.

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