Winning at the Shelf with Cross Channel Engagement

By | April 17, 2013

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A 2010 study by Retail Systems Research (RSR) found that consumers who shop across channels were among a retailer’s most profitable.  They could determine this because of data: customer transactions matched to their sources across physical stores and websites.

This makes sense when you consider that a customer who buys from you using multiple channels is demonstrating a greater degree of engagement than those who do not.  Add the availability of many alternatives and the density of marketing messages in all media, and these relatively committed consumers are ones retailers need to know.  The fact they can be proven more profitable is icing on the cake.

Could the same hold true for consumer goods manufacturers, even though they lack closed loop insight into identifiable consumers and their retail transactions?  Surely highly engaged consumers across multiple channels are worth knowing, yet how could that insight relate to the path to purchase and help influence product choice?

Data Silos the Norm

Consider how branded goods makers have been engaging consumers and shoppers for many years across digital channels.  From in store text message promotions and email coupon programs, to websites, social media and mobile applications featuring recipes, games, and lifestyle content, brands have generated a great deal of consumer and shopper data.

For the most part, however, data created during the course of these interactions – system generated data like email opens, click throughs and website activity or consumer-generated data like opt in permissions, communication preferences, demographics and household characteristics – hasn’t been captured in that most fundamental of marketing resources: a database.  Instead, the data has been scattered within company silos and among the external agencies that often created the programs.

The logic goes: absent closed loop transactional insight, what possible benefit could be achieved by capturing and integrating this data?

Shifting Moment of Truth

There’s a lot of evidence to suggest the benefits are considerable, if not necessary to compete effectively today.  Google’s “Zero Moment of Truth” describes research showing the influence of out of store online activities on in-store purchase decisions for many categories of consumer products.  This view challenges the long held belief that a “First Moment of Truth” when a consumer greets product on the shelf is the predominant interaction that drives sales.

Marketing message saturation is reaching a point of diminishing returns for marketers in all industries, so the companies who understand and communicate “best” with their consumers anywhere, anytime stand to win the lion’s share of attention.

If the data were captured and integrated – within and across brands – could it represent the holy grail of insight needed to understand and influence the shopper’s path to purchase at a time when growth is elusive, new product introductions continue to fail, trade promotion expense grows at a disproportionate rate to sales, and retail private labels continue to take share?

Create to Consumer Visibility

This was the topic of my recent presentation with colleague Tim Shaw at the 2013 Teradata Marketing Summit.  In our talk, we explained how Teradata simplifies the process of obtaining and leveraging consumer marketing data with other sources within and outside the company to improve decision making across all functional areas – including agencies.  We called this insight “create to consumer visibility” to describe connecting the dots from production all the way through purchase and consumption.  Check out the deck on Slideshare here.

I thought it a worthwhile follow up to illustrate how reconciling all consumer digital marketing data around a single consumer profile can power intelligent engagement that aligns to the shopper path to purchase, and ultimately show how this impacts sales.

Cross Channel Behavior Informs the Path

Perhaps the simplest way to view this opportunity is to envision the cross channel engaged consumer as a segment unto itself.  Many brands possess tens of thousands of these today, but probably can’t tell you who they are.  Creating more of them should be the objective if you embrace the notion that highly engaged consumers are the most valuable.

Consider the digital promotions and marketing activities consumer goods companies and their agencies have engaged in over the past decade:

  • SMS text message promotions near the shelf or point of sale:  Shoppers have been enticed to enter contests while shopping using ubiquitous text messaging.  Theses interactions often yield the consumer’s mobile phone number and permission to communicate with them “on the go,” but also tell the marketer when the individual tends to shop (time of day) and location (when using unique SMS keywords per store).
  • Email coupon programs: Consumers have registered with their favorite brands to receive limited time offers and coupons.  They have opted into these communications from brand websites, in-store promotions (sometimes via text message) and in response to calls to action in mailers.  Marketers are able to discern between opens on mobile devices versus desktop or laptop PCs, providing further insight into where a consumer is located at the time of viewing.
  • Brand websites: This is where consumers can be encouraged to “register,” providing important details about themselves, their households and social networks to inform segmentation, message and offer relevance, and research.  It’s also where email marketing points to, so marketers can understand when a consumer moves from their email reader to a web browsing experience.
  • Social Media: Social media helps brands understand their most passionate consumers as well as those most influential and offering the greatest “reach.”  Knowing the identities and attributes of these consumers, and obtaining communication permission from them offers marketers a key resource to test messaging, trial or launch products, and expand the reach of digital marketing programs deployed within social and other channels.

These digital channels independently provide a means for brands to engage with their consumers, but when looked at together bring to light a “path” of sorts that marketers can use to target more relevant messages and offers at the right time and place to influence shopper behavior.

Cross Brand Engagement

Viewing possibly millions of consumers in this fashion across brands offers an unprecedented opportunity to begin directing shoppers to your product more frequently while not cannibalizing the marketing efforts of sister brands — at the expense of less informed competitors.

Confidence is further enhanced when shopper location information is married with transactional sales data.  POS data is often made available to brands to support category management and supply/demand plans, but this anonymous data can also be related geographically to where known consumers shop or live and therefore allow marketers to show how their cross channel efforts affect actual sales.

With comprehensive cross channel behavioral data in-hand, questions begin to arise how to create more consumers within this segment most cost effectively, and maintain and grow existing relationships.  To those ends, understanding the optimal combination of channel interactions, their nature and sequence becomes critical.  This is a big data analytics problem Teradata solves for with a Discovery Platform featuring pre-packaged capabilities for assessing paths and assigning attribution based on any available data source no matter the volume.

Teradata’s recently announced Interactive Customer Engagement solution encapsulates these analytics with the activation required to create the type of on-going engagement across channels necessary to maintain hard won direct digital relationships.  Learn more about it here.

Gib Bassett

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