Understanding customers has never been easier thanks to advanced data technologies, behavioral recording tools and a stronger understanding of customer touchpoints that enable retail owners to define the reality of who their customers are versus who they think they may be.
When aiming to understand your customers, it's important to first recognize where you are capturing your current customer data. Is it from past sales? Online marketing? Data collected in your store? Email marketing lists?
Or nowhere at all?
If insight into your customers has historically been gathered through perception and observations alone, it's time to look ahead into 2018 with a fresh perspective. No longer can retailers lean on their opinions and idealism to manage customer expectations. Instead, merchants must embrace data generated from various touchpoints that can help reveal the authentic customers of their stores – which ultimately leads them to strengthening store inventory, marketing efforts, staff scheduling, business operations and more, including sales.
Luckily, resources most retailers already use offer concrete insight on who their customers are. The key, of course, is reviewing this data — which is what most retailers fail to do. If you're among the thousands of busy small business owners looking to better understand your target market, consider how the below resources can help.
Google Analytics: This free tool delivers insight on where your online customers are coming from, including whether it's organic Google searches, via social media or as click-thrus from your email marketing campaigns. By reviewing this data, you are able to better understand the actions of your customers and the value you offer in your online communication. Even for merchants who do not sell online, these details are vital in understanding how consumers engage with your business while on the web. Most importantly, however, is that this resource is free to use — making it something that every retailer should lean on to help them better understand their business.
Email Marketing: You've heard it before and you will hear it again—capturing customer emails is a great way to increase retention while keeping consumers informed and connected with your store. By analyzing and reacting to data captured via email marketing, retailers can better understand what actions are capturing the most attention from their audience, how often customers actually click from the email to a store URL address and more. Finally, 68 percent of consumers reported in a 2017 study from Bluecore that they prefer email over all other avenues to receive brand information — one more reason to make sure you are incorporating email marketing into your customer strategy.
Point-of-Sale: Point-of-sale (POS) delivers value unlike any other technology available to merchants, capturing insight based on consumer sales, inventory turnover and much more. Due to the expansive range of data received via POS, merchants are able to generate key reports that identify vital information for merchants to review and react to — ultimately helping them better understand and support their customers.
Make Your Data Actionable
While it's easy to capture data nowadays, it's not always easy to implement it into your store strategies. To help, consider the following tips:
- Schedule time each week to review data collected from your various touchpoints. Monday, for example, may be a great time to review weekly sales and customer loyalty identified via your POS while taking time every Friday to review data collected via social media and email marketing. Making it a routine and a priority brings you one step closer to both understanding and utilizing the data captured.
- Identify action steps based on data collected. Over time, the details identified through data will offer you clarity and shed light on how you can better support your customers. Using this data collected, take actionable steps towards improving your customer care and overall customer management.
- Welcome other viewpoints based on data collected. It still requires a human touch to translate much of your data into store strategies. Task key associates to help review data and offer their insight into what has been generated. Multiple perspectives can help strengthen store goals.
While insight into your customers is undoubtedly helpful for retailers to strengthen their consumer understanding, it's important to remember that one platform alone can't do the job. Consumers react to retailers in a variety of avenues and as a result, merchants must react to consumers in a variety of avenues, as well.
Remember that data is a key asset here and should be used whenever possible to help understand and support your customers. To best support your customers, keep an open mind on who your customers are as well as who they have the opportunity to be.
Find more ideas to strengthen your customer relationship in CNA's 2018 Guide to the New Realities of Small Retail.
From the Author
Nicole Leinbach Reyhle is the Founder and Publisher of RetailMinded.com, an industry publication that has been recognized worldwide for its leading retail insight. With a core concentration on independent retailers and small businesses, Reyhle is a frequent guest and contributor to various media outlets that include The Today Show, Forbes and countless B2B publications. Additionally, Reyhle has been the spokesperson for American Express's Small Business Saturday since 2014 and is the author of the book Retail 101: The Guide to Managing and Marketing Your Retail Business from McGraw-Hill. Reyhle writes regularly as a retail thought leader for various industry resources that include Entrepreuner.com, Fiverr.com, Forbes, IBM and more, as well as having taught Retail Management at Columbia College for eight years as part of their adjunct faculty. Reyhle is also the Co-Founder of the Independent Retailer Conference. Learn more about Reyhle at RetailMinded.com.
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