Industry Trends

Competing with Amazon: How retailers can use their customer data

Industry Trends | July 27, 2018

To any retailer, Amazon is scary. How can retailers really fight back?

There are literally dozens of ways retailers are fighting back, from improving delivery options to creating unique product lines not available elsewhere. But Amazon will never be able to create the same kind of relationship you can have with your customers. As a CDP and Marketing Cloud, we see our customers succeeding in 3 specific areas that are helping to fight back against the retail giant: 

1. Connect all of your data

All brands have to get closer to their customers, and that requires making better use of data. 

Amazon is a competitor for most retailers, but it’s also just one channel for sales. If you have a catalog, retail stores or other active sales channels such as a mobile store, you have an advantage in being able to see a much more complete view of your customers and how they behave. Even without physical stores, you have key advantages over Amazon in leveraging all of your customer data to create a much more holistic view of your individual customers.

One of our customers, a high-end multi-channel retailer, is leveraging this consolidated customer data to transform their entire marketing strategy - shifting away from measuring individual campaign performance or channel metrics to a strategy focused 100% on customer lifecycle and lifetime value (LTV). With shared data across the entire marketing team, retailers can now all focus on key triggers and milestone indicators like number of days to attrition, number of days between purchases, category purchase patterns, etc. This frees up the team to focus on moving customers up the value chain, no matter what the marketing program or tactic might be.

Only through shared customer data can the team really share these objectives, and work together on a common set of KPIs.

2. Personalization is crucial

Price and convenience are Amazon’s core weapons. But they will never be able to communicate your brand promise as effectively as you can. Shoppers increasingly expect brands to interact with them in a personalized, emotionally intelligent fashion, with communications and offers that are timely and relevant.

We still see too many retailers “batch and blasting” their customers in the email channel, when the tools are there to create much more effective shopping experiences.

One example: a QuickPivot employee is in a band (this is true!), and visits a certain music retailer’s website on a regular basis. He has visited the site dozens of times, researching new guitars and guitar accessories. Yet, he still gets generic emails that feature keyboards, drums and other instruments he is not likely to purchase. Why not leverage his viewing history or onsite content consumption to deliver personalized offers? Or even invite him to register his band with the site and receive offers to all band members based on their instruments. Taking that time to understand your customers as people can make a huge difference in creating that personalized connection and brand loyalty.

Using data is great, but as marketers it’s still important to capture the emotional bond with your customers. Making them feel that you understand their needs is an important part of building that personalized experience.

3. Leverage AI Insights

AI and Machine Learning were custom made to make modern marketing more effective. Marketers can no longer wait weeks to analyze data and act on insights – customer behavior changes rapidly and marketers need to be nimble to react to any shifts they see. With advanced algorithms, faster processing speeds and customized analytics, retailers can quickly discover insights and connections that may have been hidden.

For instance, by using AI retailers can quickly identify customers most likely to churn in the next 60 days and customize a win-back campaign specifically to that segment. Or a deep cross-analysis of purchase history and demographic data may uncover which purchase behaviors apply to certain demographics, finding both trends and anomalies.

And don’t think of AI as just informing your digital strategy. We’re seeing smart retailers use AI to find cross-channel patterns and opportunities, looking at online, in-store and direct mail engagements to identify large shifts in customer behavior. And as millennials continue to respond positively to direct mail and catalogs (http://customerthink.com/millennials-mail-and-making-a-difference/), smart marketers are uncovering the right balance between online and offline efforts. 

Of course, we all know that data is at the center of everything for retailers, especially if they wish to compete with Amazon. Without a comprehensive customer data strategy, retailers are really flying blind and making just incremental progress in this battle.

So, what’s your “anti-Amazon” customer data strategy?