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You would be hard-pressed to discover a retailer or marketer today that will contest the critical importance of customer data. But not everyone can leverage this analytical tool with the same degree of sophistication and expertise. For many, the personalized customer experience that such data delivers means relying on an external technology provider to complete this part of the engagement equation.
ciValue is such platform. It helps retailers create a culture of customer centricity. Driven by data to generate highly precise and targeted marketing solutions, ciValue facilitates retailers across numerous high-frequency categories including supermarkets, drugstores, and health and beauty retailers exploit collected data to enhance loyalty programs and build powerfully comprehensive customer profiles.
Besides increasing retail customer engagement using analytics, segmentation, and personalization that lead to higher ROI, ciValue also helps design brand co-promotions by sharing key insights. To delve deeper into these topics and more, Loyalty360 was recently able to speak with Beni Basel, CiValue Co-Founder and CEO.
What is the big picture of customer loyalty today? And how can retailers be doing a better job?
Basel: By and large, retailers make precious little use of their customer data with the majority simply rewarding loyal customers with points–not very effective for retaining that customer loyalty or growing basket size. That said, retailers that take advantage of customer data do an outstanding job designing and executing customer loyalty programs and are significantly more sophisticated. Typically, they have impressive in-house projects teams with many data scientists on the roster or they outsource the loyalty management and personalization projects. The majority of retailers, however, are not only not yet there, they’re doing very little in terms of data-driven retail marketing. By not leveraging the data that they already have, they’re leaving money on the table.
We hear a lot about retailers needing to leverage real-time data. Do you think that retailers are ready to use real-time data? Or should they focus more on making the data they have more applicable over a longer period of time?
Basel: In my experience, you’re ready to leverage real-time data only after you’ve leveraged the data that you have in your database. Otherwise, you’re putting the cart before the horse. This doesn’t only apply for retail; other industries should take notice as well. First leverage the data that you already have and then you move to real-time analysis. However, making good use of any data, including real-time data, demands a proper marketing strategy that exploits the data to engage customers. Though some platforms, like ecommerce or mobile, make a lot of sense for real-time analysis, even there, you have to ascertain that the analysis is yielding outcomes that support high customer engagement—and real-time is just one dimension of that.
On the strategy side, how many retailers employ a good strategy to use data to create good customer experiences? Where are retailers along this spectrum of sophistication?
Basel: Before we founded ciValue, our identified market challenge was that there was no affordable solution for creating data-driven, engaging customer experiences. Because the technology now exists, marketers can focus on leveraging their skills to deliver broad, technology-enabled engagement. The first step–this affordable technology that they can easily integrate–will drive them to sit around the table to plan their sweeping marketing strategy. Today, most retailers are hardly at the stage of designing the strategy, but at a much earlier stage, where marketing strategy is not even a practical question.
How do you help retailers if they are not all at the same level of sophistication? Is that a challenge?
Basel: I think at all levels of sophistication retailers can derive value from analytics, segmentation and personalization. Our emphasis from a product perspective was to ensure that even less sophisticated retailers would reap an ROI from their product with a minimum of effort. But when two retailers with differing levels of sophistication use the same product, be certain that the more sophisticated of the two will garner greater value, and be better positioned to compete. Both of them though will still draw a positive benefit and that’s an integral part of our product design, our guiding principle that the less sophisticated customer will have commensurate benefit.
Where do you see customer loyalty, customer experience and CRM going in the next 12 to 18 months?
Basel: I see vast expansion of interest in customer loyalty and personalization. That’s because ecommerce and retailers like Amazon and Alibaba are already delivering these experiences, which are now all part of the retail competitive landscape. And reflecting on all these retailers that have built CRM into their marketing machine from day one, I know they understand that they and their CRM have to be as good as Amazon because Amazon is now their competition. To compete with Amazon necessitates focus on customer experience and customer data science. They must be customer-proactive now. The product-centric approach has gone the way of the beeper. Today, the way to win–as much as it has to do with having the right store in the right location–is to know their customers and take the initiative with them.
If you could give one piece of advice for retailers to focus on in the next 18 months, what would it be?
Basel: Get your hands on customer data, take control of it and empower your marketing departments.
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