The following article originally appeared on the SymphonyIRI Group CPG Blog.
Seemingly everywhere you go in the retailing and CPG industries today, it's about personalization, big data and having the right product for the right person, every time.
Yet, for many consumers, the reality is not the same as the vision. Consumers appreciate customized offers and personalized service, but too often retailers fail to complete the circle they are now capable of drawing with better data and improved analytics. Here are a couple of examples:
1. A top tier sporting goods retailer - A popular sports product retailer sends out e-mails regularly to subscribers, touting specials, as many retailers do. But its e-mail program is not smart enough to know that the chain does not carry a particular size in a brand of shoes (the same size as this e-mail recipient). There is a way for the customer to figure this out, but it requires a little sleuthing. In this case, contacting the company via e-mail from its site elicited no response, so the shopper tried its corporate Facebook page. That got a response from a company employee, but it was a lower-level associate who said it was an odd size, and that it was the manufacturer's fault anyway. There were plenty of inappropriate comments on this particular employee's Facebook page, as well. In an age when Zappos carries seemingly every shoe and size, plus offers free shipping both ways to boot, brick-and-mortar retailers need to better link their loyalty and e-mail programs to better target e-mail offerings.
2. A top tier drug chain - This one is real simple. In some cases, when swiping a credit card, the customer is asked to provide their zip code to the employee. This is what I call "reverse personalization" because it is presumably being done to make sure the credit card is not stolen. In any event, in one recent case an associate was given a zip code. After entering it, he announced, "That is not your zip code!" But it was. When requiring additional information from customers, associates should be trained to explain to the customer in a friendly fashion why the information is required and why it is in the best interest of the customer to provide it.
In short, there are now many streams of data available to retailers, but the training of associates on how to use it, how to talk to customers about it and how to personalize online and offline shopping experiences doesn't seem to have kept pace. It's as if we are constantly layering on new data streams before we have the basics right. So the customer often ends up with a disjointed shopping experience that makes one wonder if the retailer has any idea what things look like from the shopper's perspective or if the merchant is just trying to jam as many sales through the funnel as possible. This leaves a large opening for retailers that care and spend a little more time catering to the wants and needs of individuals.
I'm reminded of a corporate cafeteria I frequented while working in an office complex some years ago. They had a special loyalty club for employees of the corporation, but allowed non-employees to use the cafeteria, albeit paying increased prices. After a few months of hearing grumbling about this, the cafeteria came up with a special program for non-employees to use. They got a little better deal than someone off the street, but not as good as the employees. It was called "The Outsider's Club."
How close are retailers to delivering the benefits promised from the insights associated with Big Data analysis?