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CRMC Proves It Again: Customer Experience Is the Key to Success

Mike WagnerJune 17, 2019

The themes at the 2019 Customer Relationship Marketing Conference (CRMC) in Chicago last week, where I had the pleasure of attending and representing Acxiom with several other of my Retail Industry friends, were familiar to marketers striving to succeed in this rapidly changing Retail environment. As you might expect, the need to use better and more robust types of data more wisely to deliver personalized experiences for consumers was at the top of the list.

Attendance was up this year with about 750 retailers and partners in attendance. And about half the attendees were first-timers. Many of them told me they were there because, “we need to do a better job with our CRM/loyalty program.”

As usual, CRMC was a thought-provoking event and a great opportunity to swap stories and experiences with the top retailers in the business, hear about innovation and what might be next and to learn from some of the best minds in the industry. Here are some of my observations from the event:

  • The need for better personalization was addressed in just about every session I attended. For example, a session that focused on artificial intelligence for retailers was essentially focused on personalization.
  • The need for better, more complete and more integrated data was also a key topic especially in terms of improving personalization, customer experience (CX), offer strategy, and communication effectiveness.
  • This event was very positive and upbeat concerning the retail environment. There was no gloom and doom about the retail apocalypse.  But rather, the thought was, we are in a period of significant transformation.  Transformation requires you to get closer to your customer.  CRM and loyalty programs help you do that. Innovation around the customer experience is required.
  • What I didn’t hear a lot about in the sessions was mobile and the role it is playing in the shopping/buying experience.  Mobile was framed in terms of “mobile first” communications, rather than a massive shift in consumer behavior. Still seems like an area for opportunity and improvement in retail.
  • There was virtually no discussion about acquisition, which should be expected at a CRM event.  That said, there were a few sessions that highlighted the need to grow the customer base through smart, targeted and more personalized prospecting.

And here are some key points shared during the sessions:

  • Redpoint talked about how retail marketing will be affected by artificial intelligence (AI).  Bottom line, shoppers want a combination of human interactions and machine interactions.  This bodes well for retail in that AI and machine learning can help arm store associates or customer service reps with the intelligence to have better in-person interactions.
  • Nicholas Thompson, editor in chief at Wired, outlined seven changes in technology that matter for retail, including: our jobs will change dramatically over time; Augmented reality (AR), an interactive experience of a real-world environment,  will matter more than Virtual reality (VR), an experience taking place within simulated and immersive environments in the shopping experience, and technology is changing what it means to be human.
  • Elpida Ormanidou of Chico’s discussed how her company utilizes personalization and “retailtainment” to win with their loyal customers.  She shared that smart personalization has helped Chico’s dramatically improve open, click-to-open and click-through rates by as much as 5X.
  • Brent Cooke from PetSmart shared that there is a revolution occurring in retail loyalty and CRM programs, and there is a need to take control and liberate insights in order to thrive.
  • Josh Linkner, a notable author, entrepreneur and disrupter, shared the five core mindsets of innovators.  Among them are the belief that every barrier can be penetrated, break the rules to get the jewels, and seek the unexpected. He challenged all attendees to “go be disruptive”!
  • Allegra Stanley from Sephora shared that the secret to becoming the most loved beauty brand and community is putting the client first. To Sephora’s clients, this means making beauty personal and using creativity and technology to fuel personalized engagement and exclusive experiences to drive brand love and loyalty.
  • Emma Rushe from Sweaty Betty commented that insight without activation is useless.  She also shared that her company has been going through an incredible digital transformation.  In 2016, 80% of Sweaty Betty’s marketing budget was allocated to catalog. Today, direct mail makes up less than 10% of her budget.
  • Dan Rosenthal from Lands’ End discussed the challenges the retailer has faced throughout its history.  He shared how today the company leverages hyper-personalization to gain marketing efficiency and double program revenue.  He shared that their triggers are twice as effective as regular emails and have five times higher open rate.
  • Rob Stravitz of Valvoline talked about how his company’s transition from product-centric to customer-centric has helped it create a competitive advantage in a crowded field.
  • Kate Jung from Express shared how this wear-to-work brand has re-launched its loyalty program to support a strategy to win customers in their 20s and keep them into their 30s and 40s. Utilizing a series of five-question surveys, Express acquires data from consumers to drive relevant communications and offers.  They are seeing 85% engagement rates and a 5X lift in conversion from this approach.
  • Susan Fletcher of Best Buy said loyalty program membership does not necessarily yield loyalty.  She shared her company’s journey to reinvent the Best Buy loyalty program and the launch of My Best Buy to incorporate experiences and customer account-based offers, and move away from just being about points.
  • Blake Morgan, an author and CX futurist, shared that 86% of consumers will pay more for a better customer experience, and that CX will help a brand stand out in a sea of sameness.  And companies that invest in CX are four times more profitable.  She shared three top trends:  the impact of the experience economy, the shift in power from the brand to the consumer, and the role of technology and connectivity in enabling exceptional CX.
  • Kerrie Adams from Disney/ABC shared that in 2011, only 21% of adults were multiplatform technology users.  In 2017, that number increased to 63%.  And for kids, it’s even higher at 73%.  This has led the company to develop a multichannel tracking and analytics platform to generate viewer insights.  She also shared that Disney is innovating with facial recognition to understand viewer emotion and happiness, enabling the company to make better choices about what content it broadcasts.

For some of Acxiom’s perspectives on where we see the more effective and compliant use of data making a difference in the outcomes retailers should expect, please take a quick read through our Retail eBook, which you can find here.

All said, CRMC was yet again proved to be an informative and collegial event.  I can’t wait to see what’s on the agenda for next year and to watch how the retailers who embrace the lessons learned at this year’s event flourish and grow!  See you in Chicago in June of 2020!