With digital competition intensifying and the cost of acquiring customers rising ever higher, we heard from a panel of digital commerce leaders at IRX 2022 on how they were leveraging customer data to improve buying journeys.
Moderated by Retail Connections’ managing editor and Fieldworks MD, Chris Field, the panel included Mairead Masterson, Director of Business Intelligence at Bloom & Wild, Autotrader’s Insights Director Nick King, Matthew Clark, Head of Architecture at the BBC and Kristian Burnard, Lounge Underwear’s Head of Ecommerce.
The session explored how retailers and brands can leverage data to build personalised and brand-immersive shopping experiences across each of their customer touchpoints.
Know when to communicate – but also when to say nothing
“It absolutely has to be a two-way communication between a brand and its customers – and customer feedback is crucial here,” Bloom & Wild’s Masterson told the audience. “That’s why we make sure customer feedback is embedded in everything we do, which allows us to create tangible relationships with our shoppers. And for us, sometimes that’s about knowing when to communicate and when to leave customers alone too.”
Based on customer feedback, the online letterbox flower retailer started asking customers whether they wanted to opt out of certain flower gifting occasions, such as Mother’s Day, if they found the day difficult. This allowed Bloom & Wild to communicate personally with its customers, delivering more thoughtful marketing that was sensitive to shoppers’ feelings.
Deliver value with each interaction
The BBC’s Clark said that while it was funded through the TV licence – and so didn’t have the same commercial model as the other retailers on the panel – delivering value to the listener or viewer via its online services was still paramount. “As an online service provider, we gather a lot of online data which offers lots of opportunity for personalisation and to deliver great value and experiences to our audiences,” he said.
Autotrader is also finding new ways to add value to shoppers’ interactions with the brand, it’s Insight Director, King, told us. The car selling platform doesn’t just sell cars to the 11.5 million UK consumers who visit its website each month but it also sells its services to the dealers who sell their cars through its platform too. And because it has a dual role, it has to ensure the data it harvests delivers for both audiences.
For this reason, adding value isn’t necessarily just about serving up product recommendations – it’s about educating the customers and the market. He told us how it is currently building services around electric vehicles (EVs), such as charging point maps that help make EVs more accessible to shoppers while educating them on the benefits of choosing electric; and at the same time it is using its platform to help car dealers build the EV segment of the market.
Choose your channel – but don’t expect customers to stay there
When it comes to channels, King recognised that consumers are channel agnostic: “you can’t force someone down one route – shoppers want to be able to do what they want to do, and how and when they want to do it. While that’s hard, that’s the secret to online trading and retailing well.”
Bloom & Wild is also changing up its channel mix – while it was born a pureplay, and saw a huge boost in demand for online flower deliveries during the pandemic, it is now adding IRL experiences into its offer, with wreath-making and flower arranging masterclasses, as well as its first pop-up store in Chelsea.
Put customers fully in control of their experience – and their data
Discussing the trade-off between privacy and personalisation, the BBC’s Clark told us that, unsurprisingly for a government-funded organisation, the broadcaster had to be “whiter than white” when it came to customer data and GDPR. Not only does it make sure that the customer is fully in control of their experience, but it is committed to making sure its algorithms don’t serve customers news or content that bias the customer’s view by narrowing the freedom to consume news and discover content.
Putting customers in control of their shopping experiences was also something Lounge Underwear’s Burnard highlighted. In the context of Lounge’s customers, this meant giving them the data to build confidence into the buying journeys, by helping them better understand sizing. It had been seeing growing levels of size sampling because its ranges featured so many cup and back sizes, so using sizing data from well-known High Street brands, such as M&S, they were able to offer up personalised size and fit recommendations to shoppers. This not only helped to put the customer in control, but it also reduced size-related returns by 425% – which not only improved CX but helped maintain margins.
Bloom & Wild, Autotrader, the BBC and Lounge Underwear were speaking at IRX, which collocated with DTX and UCX at London’s Excel on 12 and 13 October. For further information about future events, webinars and roundtables run by IRX, Internet Retailing’s event arm, visit: Events – Internet Retailing.