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Everything Old is New Again… When it Comes to the Retail Customer Experience

AcxiomJune 08, 2015

HH I 6-15HH C II 6-15


I’m notorious for writing these blogs last minute.  Most of the time, its accidental (craziness of the week, travel, that sort of thing).  This week, it’s actually not, but I can’t say it’s any easier, because I came in with a plan, and now I’m a bit distracted, because I see how it fits EVERYWHERE.

A little context – this week was the Customer Relationship Management Conference in Chicago.  Known to most retailers as the CRMC, the conference started out two decades ago as a hyper focused event for specialty retail marketers, and has grown to include travel, hospitality, telecommunications, and consumer packaged goods.  It’s a wealth of content about what retailers are doing to differentiate in an ever competitive landscape.

This is my sixth CRMC, and it’s been fascinating to watch the evolution.  Channels of sale, channels of messaging, forms of communication, everything is relevant here, and people are willing to talk about it.  Not just willing, they’re hungry to get what they’re doing out there as a mechanism to learn more and to get better.

That said, there was an interesting undercurrent running through the conversations this year, and I’m incredibly glad I decided to hold off on my blog until after the conference, because it’s too relevant not to talk about.  Candidly, I almost feel ridiculous for bringing it up, because it’s so obvious.

Note I said almost.

As I think back on previous CRMC’s, the underlying context was channels.  How do I leverage mobile, how do I drive online sales, how does social fit into my strategy?  There was a hyper focus on singular facets, and how to get the most out of them.

Not the case this year.

With the proliferation of channels to contact and buy, it’s forcing what may seem like dated to the forefront.

  • How do I know that it’s you across all these different channels?
  • How do I bring that data together to understand what it is you want, and where you’ll be responsive to a contact?
  • What combination of messages actually move the needle?  How can I even begin to know what that combination is?

All of these channels, but the question stays the same: how do I recognize a customer and act based on that information.  The biggest difference? The exponential growth of channels of interaction, and how to capitalize on that in a scalable, productive way.

Remember in the late nineties, when CRM became the buzzword? It was all about how to create that specialized customer experience that was so appropriate, so relevant, that defection wasn’t a consideration, let alone an option.  The dotcom boom definitely threw a major wrench in that, creating competitive channels and exploding out ways to interact.  The irony is, even with the evolution of marketing, that concept still holds true.

Just like fashion, everything old is new again.  Sure, social media is still a sexy concept, but it’s meaningless without the backbone of CRM and customer data.  To play out a slightly clichéd metaphor, it may be the new accessory, but the core fashion is something that was relevant twenty years ago, and it’s still just as core today.

Data driven customer engagement.  You can’t have marketing at scale without it.

I’m currently sitting in O’Hare, waiting for my flight home.  As I look around me, I see people on their phones and laptops, looking at Facebook or websites, reading email or responding to texts.  There are customers everywhere, controlling their interactions and sending you signals on the experience they want.

Can you C?

What’s your X?

Everything old is new again.  It’s all about how you recognize and capitalize on it.  The information is all there, the question becomes how do you access and use it?