Customer Singularity: Where Online and Offline Meet

There has been much written about omnichannel strategy and how to support your customers across physical and ever-increasing virtual channels. But one of the pieces retailers continue to struggle with is how to tie the two together effectively. The good news is that there are a lot of smart people working on this from a number of different angles. We may be gaining traction in finally being able to (most importantly) know our customers regardless of where and how they are engaging with us, and being able to provide the right experience at those touchpoints.

The most critical pieces of the puzzle are the ability to gather and connect all the data to be able to profile and follow your customers across channels, and to attribute offline sales to online activities.

Why you should care: Forrester predicts that US retail sales influenced by the internet will grow at 6% CAGR (compound annual growth rate) to make up 42% of in-store sales by 2020.

A roundup of some emerging technologies addressing these areas:

  • Walmart’s WMX platform which launched in 2014, although ostensibly an ad exchange, also provides advertisers the ability to track not only online sales resulting from display ads running both on and off Walmart.com, but also to track in-store sales impact based on traceable tender, making it one of the first technologies to make this holy-grail connection.
  • A startup called Zenreach, which recently came out of stealth with an announcement that they have $50M in funding and have added Peter Thiel to their board, offers free wi-fi at restaurants and similar businesses, enabling them to capture customer data and build a profile which can be used to retarget them. In their case they are measuring foot traffic at the business attributable to follow-up online and mobile communications.
  • Verizon’s acquisition of Yahoo also includes some key elements which will help them tie the online and offline worlds together to provide invaluable insights to advertisers and partners – AdWeek reminds us that “After buying the mobile [analytics] player in 2014 for between $200 and $300 million, Yahoo began plugging Flurry into its ad network, letting advertisers measure how many people actually visited a store after seeing a video ad.”
  • Foursquare leverages precise location data to identify businesses consumers visit, which they can match up with typical user profiles for that location to enable additional insights and further targeting. We anticipate Pokemon Go at some point will start to leverage the incredible data they are collecting for similar ends, and they have proven without a doubt that consumers are willing to give up a significant amount of privacy if they feel they are getting value in return,  despite Oliver Stone predictably warning of government conspiracy.

The upshot of all of this is that businesses can be well-positioned to truly know their customers, regardless of where they are engaging, and be able to provide the best omnichannel experience which consumers have come to expect. Take a look at how you currently surround your customers and where you need to bridge the gaps:

  • What opportunities do you have to gather and connect 1st, 2nd & 3rd party data to build a comprehensive customer profile across channels?
  • What personalized value are you providing your customers in exchange for asking them for more info?
  • Are you able to track attribution (or at least have strong indicators) across all touchpoints so you know if, for example, a customer has made an in-store purchase due to receiving an email, or has made a purchase online after touching and feeling it in your store?

We’d love to hear how you are tackling these issues, or if you’ve been inspired by great examples out in the wild – hit us on Twitter @narvarinc.