All posts by garyangel

Customer Strategy for Retail – Using Analytics and Customer Journey Tracking

I’ve detailed five different ways that in-store customer journey tracking drives store improvement: from optimizing store merchandising to improving in-store digital experiences and tuning omni-channel visits. All are important and each can drive measurable ROI. But in-store customer journey also tracking has broad implications at the strategic level of your organization.  Everyone wants to be more customer focused. I hear that all the time. Over and over. I even agree. And if you’re delivering a physical experience to customers without adequate measurement, you’re not just delivering a sub-optimal experience, you’re missing out on an opportunity to drive customer-centric thinking deeper into your enterprise.

In organizations that take customer focus seriously, the key question isn’t what will maximize sales. It’s what does the customer like/want. Getting an organization to think that way isn’t easy and it’s not even always clear that it’s the right thing to do. I’ve seen plenty of cases where operations and sales people just roll their eyes at a customer-centric proposal – sure that the bottom-line impact will be unsustainable. I tend to shy away from absolutes. The world is a complex place and not every problem demands absolute customer focus regardless of cost. But I do know this; unless you take that customer question to heart, your customer journey exercises will fail. You really do have to care about the customer’s experience and you have to get used to thinking about it that way.

Analytics in general and in-store measurement tracking in particular is a powerful tool for driving customer-centricity. Customer experience issues aren’t captured in traditional ERP data. They don’t show up in our BI reports on product sales by SKU. They aren’t illuminated by marketing studies. To bring customer experience into focus in the organization, you need a set of tools that help the organization map, track, and study real customer experiences.

In physical measurement, store tracking systems aren’t the only tool in your customer experience toolkit (just as digital analytics tools aren’t the only tools in the digital world). Voice of Customer data, in particular, is a critical part of building customer-centric thinking and fueling both strategy and continuous improvement. For years now I’ve championed the integration of VoC data with behavioral data so that decision-makers can see and balance the trade-offs between hard goals (sales optimization) and soft goals (experience, branding, satisfaction). That’s every bit as true in physical retail as it is in eCommerce with the additional requirement that Voice of Employee becomes almost equally important.

You can’t craft and hone an effective customer journey strategy on the back of a one-time customer journey mapping consulting engagement. That doesn’t work. Part of real customer-centricity is realizing that the work of understanding and optimizing customer journeys never ends. It’s a continuous process that requires tools and organizational commitment.

But by bringing real-measurement of the in-store customer experience to your enterprise, you drive a whole new set of customer-centric questions and a fundamentally different approach to staying customer-focused into the enterprise. I spent the last few years prior to Digital Mortar helping drive enterprise digital transformation. It’s hard. But customer measurement is both a hammer and wedge into the organization; it’s one of the most effective tools around to drive organizational transformation.

Use it.

Questions you can Answer

  • What types of customer shopping experiences are there in the store?
  • How do those experiences change in nature or distribution by store type and region?
  • How do my traditional customer segments map to in-store behaviors?
  • How do loyal customer visits in-store differ from casual or non-loyal visits?
  • Are there customers who aren’t well served by the store layout?
  • Are we finding the right type of sales associate and is there incentive structure encouraging both sales and customer satisfaction?
  • Have we setup the store and store operations to minimize customer frustration?

To find out how Digital Mortar can help you improve your in-store experiences and drive transformation, drop us a line.

Omni-channel Analytics and In-store Customer Tracking

While digital experiences are just beginning to penetrate the physical store, the customer’s integration of digital and physical shopping behaviors is already robust. If you have bricks & mortar, you have to figure out how to use that fact to your advantage in delivering experience. That’s what omni-channel is all about. There have been a number of omni-channel retail initiatives in the past couple of years that were undeniably successful. Online to in-store pickup, flexible return, and store localized supply chains have become key ingredients to omni-channel success. But there’s a long way to go before those experiences are mature and optimized.

Not surprisingly, retailers have discovered (sometimes to their chagrin), that omni-channel initiatives have a real downside when it comes to store operations. If you’re staff is spending more time processing online returns, what happens to customer service and sales?

It’s all too easy to steal from Peter to pay Paul. You may be delivering great service to one customer while you’re simultaneously ignoring another. And the two facts may be deeply related. Unless you can measure what’s actually happening in store, you’ll consistently miss these types of interactions.

With in-store tracking technology, you can explore how those omni-channel initiatives are actually impacting store operations AND customer experience. You can track what customers do after a return or before a pickup. You can track the over-time behavior of omni-channel customers to understand the impact on loyalty. You can measure whether sales interactions increase, decrease and are changed by omni-channel duties. And there are at least a couple strategies for beginning to join the in-store customer experience to the digital world. That join is hard, but it allows you do better analysis of almost every aspect of your business. Even better, it opens up a world of new marketing opportunities.

If there’s any area of online display advertising that works, it’s re-marketing. With the store to digital join, you have the opportunity to do digital re-marketing based on in-store behavior. That’s taking show-rooming to a new (and better) level!

If you’re looking for a deep-dive into the single hottest area in modern retail and in-store customer analytics, check out this video introduction I put together. It provides a crisp, easy introduction to the ins-and-outs of omni-channel analytics with in-store customer data including the all-important digital to store join.

Questions you can Answer

  • How much do omni-channel initiatives impact store operations and sales interactions?
  • Are omni-channel tasks being handled by the right staff?
  • Are omni-channel customers significantly different in their store behaviors?
  • What are the best cross-sell and personalization opportunities around omni-channel visits?
  • How much can a digitally sourced visit be steered to traditional shopping without damaging the experience?
  • How omni-channel initiatives change the way the store layout functions and are their opportunities to advantage some kinds of promotions or products as a result?

Getting the Digital In-Store Experience Right

In creating Digital Mortar, we’ve made a huge leap from measuring and optimizing digital experiences to trying to do the same for store experiences. But we haven’t left digital entirely behind. It’s a huge part of Omni-Channel (of course), and you can hear more about that in this distilled down video. But it’s also, increasingly, a part of the store experience. And when digital experiences have made the leap from the web to the store, measurement has generally been left behind. That’s unacceptable.

Optimizing In-Store Digital Experiences

Digital is pervasive in our lives now and the in-store experience is increasingly digital. Integrated mobile apps, geo-fenced couponing, endless aisle digital supplementation, digital signage and integrated digital/product experiences have all gotten real interest and investment as retailers try to figure out the best ways to bring digital experience into the store. A lot – and I mean a LOT – of these experiences have failed. That doesn’t mean they’re bad ideas and it doesn’t mean they can’t succeed. I’ll say it again. Doing new stuff is hard.

But part of the reason the failure rate with these digital experiences is high is methodological. A friend of mine running retail analytics for his company describe it this way: “We spend a ton of money building something. Then we roll out these experiences, nobody measures them, nobody improves them, nobody figures out how they change operations or how operations needs to change. They just sit there. And after a while, they’re just gathering dust.”

I see plenty of in-store digital experiences that are gathering dust. Lumped in deserted areas of the store or with blue-screens of death. And I see plenty of digital signage that might as well be paper signage given how often it’s changed and customized.

If you’re rolling out a digital experience, you need to make sure that good digital measurement is incorporated. That might be a traditional measurement system like Adobe, but there are situations where tools like AppDynamics might be a better bet. Either way, it’s essential to measure the intra-tool experience.

If you’re investing in an in-store digital experience without baking in digital measurement, shame on you. And that measurement shouldn’t be the equivalent of so much App measurement (how often it’s opened). For hands-on digital experiences in the store, measuring success demands thoughtful and quite detailed data collection and analysis.

But what about the experience around the tool? How many customers might have engaged with it but didn’t. Of the customers who did, did it change the way they interacted with the store? Was it a draw or was it an impulse experience? Did using the experience increase total time in the store or did it cannibalize traditional browsing? Did users interact more or less with Staff? And was that a good thing?

If you can’t answer these types of questions when you deploy ANY type of digital experience in store, you can’t optimize the experience and you can’t really tell whether it’s working. That’s a prescription for failure.

Of course not all these types of digital experience use similar measurement techniques, Digital signage, for example, is a little bit different than hands-on digital experiences. Since digital signage has no interactions, traditional measurement techniques are worthless. You can’t put Adobe tags in digital signage (well, you can, it just isn’t useful in the traditional way). But you can still integrate the signage data into broader in-store customer journey tracking – in fact that’s really the only way to create a meaningful measurement context around the signage data and the only way to build a program of continuous improvement. Digital signage is sadly underutilized, under-localized, and under-optimized. All because it can’t really be measured.

Going digital in the store is part of the future retail has to embrace. Getting it right? That’s a job for analytics and in-store customer journey tracking.

Questions you can Answer

  • Are experiences used by a significant percentage of customers?
  • Are there some shopper types more or less likely to engage with a digital experience?
  • Are digital experiences additive to store engagement?
  • Do digital experiences increase or decrease staff interaction with customers?
  • Do digital experiences increase consideration time in a section?
  • Do digital experiences increase or decrease subsequent product consideration?
  • Are digital experiences a draw or an impulse?

The Strategic Uses of In-Store Customer Journey Measurement

Store layout, promotion and staff optimization are the immediate and obvious ways to use the core data from customer journey analytics. Together, they comprise the “you” part of the equation – optimizing your operational and marketing strategies. But the uses of in-store tracking don’t end there. There’s tremendous strategic value in being to understand customer journeys – a lesson we’ve learned over and over again in digital. When it comes to omni-channel, store and experience design, and the integration of new technologies to the store, you simply can’t do the job right without in-store journey measurement.

I cover the fundamentals of why the in-store journey matters and how to build in-store customer journey data in this new post on Digital Mortar.

 

Using In-Store Customer Journey Data: Associate Optimzation

If store layout/merchandising and promotion planning are the core applications for in-store customer journey measurement, staff optimization is their neglected and genius offspring. For most retail stores, labor costs are a huge part of overall operating expenses – typically around 15% of sales. And staff interactions are profoundly determinate of customer satisfaction. In countless analytic efforts around customer satisfaction and churn, the one constant driver of both is the quality of associate interactions. People matter.

The human factor is a huge part of the customer journey. Some in-store measurement solutions treat staff interactions the way digital solutions treat employee visits – as data to be culled out and discarded. The only thing worse is when they leave them in and don’t differentiate between customer and staff!

No part of the customer journey and no part of the store has a bigger impact on the journey, on the sale, and on the brand satisfaction than interactions with your sales associates. And, of course, labor costs are one of the biggest cost drivers at the store. So optimizing staff is critical on every front: revenue optimization, customer satisfaction and cost management. It’s rare that a single point of analysis drives across all three with so much impact, highlighting how important associate optimization really is.

With staff data integrated into customer journey measurement, you know how often associate interactions occurred, you know how long they lasted, and you know how often they resulted in sales. Some stores will already track at least some of this as part of their incentive programs, but customer journey data provides a true measure of opportunity and productivity. Some of these data points are straightforward, but there are interesting aspects to staffing data that go beyond basic conversion effectiveness. It’s possible, for example, to isolate the number and impact of cases where staff interactions should have happened but didn’t. It’s also possible to understand optimal contact strategies, answering questions like ‘how long should a customer be in a section before a contact becomes desirable or imperative? ‘  Even more interesting is the opportunity to bring sports-driven team and player metrics to bear on the problems of staffing. You can understand which associate combinations work best together, how valuable team cohesion is, and the value spread between a top associate and an average hire. This is all invaluable data when it comes time to plan out schedules and staffing levels and, when paired with weather data, can also be used to optimized staffing plans on a highly local basis.

Finally, there are deep opportunities to use this data to optimize broader aspects of staff optimization. By integrating Voice of Employee (VoE) data with associate effectiveness, you can hone in on the golden questions that will help you identify the best possible hires. Creating a measurement-driven, closed loop system to optimize associate hiring decisions isn’t what people generally think of when they evaluate in-store measurement. But it’s a unique and powerful use of the technology to drive competitive advantage.

 

Questions you can Answer

  • Are there days/times when a store is over/under staffed?
  • Are there better options of positioning staff?
  • What’s the best way to optimize staffing teams and placements?
  • How much does training impact staff performance?
  • What questions should I ask when I hire new staff to identify potential stars?
  • How successful is any given associate in converting opportunities?
  • What’s the right amount of dwell-time to allow a customer prior to an associate interaction?

To find out more about retail analytics and in-store customer journey tracking, check out my new company’s site: DigitalMortar.com

The Uses of In-store Customer Journey Data – Store Marketing

I’m working my way through the broad uses of in-store customer journey optimization. I started with Store Layout and Merchandising optimization – which is really the foundational analytic capability that this type of data provides. Today, I’ll tackle a use that’s nearly as fundamental – optimizing in-store promotions. For those of you from the digital world, you can think of these two applications as parallel to site optimization and digital marketing optimization.

Promotion Planning

In-store promotion planning is one of those constant grinds in the life of retail analysis. You never stop planning promotions and you never get good enough. With PoS data, it’s pretty easy to measure the single most important aspect of a promotion – how much it sold. It can be a lot harder, however, to answer questions about why something worked or, as is often more salient, why something didn’t. In-store measurement can fill in the gaps around performance measurement AND help develop new promotion and display strategies.

With in-store journey measurement, you can track how and whether a promotion shifted behavior. Did a promotion steer visitors to a section? Did it keep them there longer? Did it drive key milestones like staff interaction or dressing room decisions? With only PoS data, you can easily misunderstand what drove a promotion’s apparent effectiveness. Almost as important, in-store journey measurement provides unique insight into how a promotion cannibalized shopping behaviors and generated new opportunities. When you change navigation patterns in the store, you ALWAYS cannibalize some behaviors and you nearly always disadvantage some sections/products. You also create new opportunities and traffic corridors that might present additional optimization or promotion opportunities. Understanding how cannibalization and redirection worked and whether or not their impact outweighed the promotion benefits is essential to developing sound long term strategies.

And it’s not all about the customer. In digital analytics, we didn’t have to worry much about compliance issues. What you pushed to the website is what was on the website. With dozens, hundreds or thousands of stores to manage, though, pushing content and making sure it’s consistent and correctly deployed is no joke. In-store customer journey measurement provides a strong behavioral compliance check. When a promotion drives specific patterns of behavior, it’s easy to see which stores are roughly following the pattern and which aren’t – given you near real-time feedback on potential compliance issues.

 

Questions you can Answer

  • Why did a promotion work better or worse than expected?
  • How did promotions localize and were there stores that didn’t “play along”?
  • How much opportunity did promotions have to influence shopping?
  • How successful were shoppers who were exposed to the promotion?
  • Did the promotion create new “impulse” opportunities?
  • Did the promotion cannibalize other areas/products and to what extent?
  • For a potential promotion, what are they placement areas that will drive exposure to the right shopping segments?
  • Were there stores that didn’t deploy or correctly implement a promotion?

Next up? A really powerful and oft-neglected aspect of customer journey measurement – staff optimization.

What is in-store customer journey data for?

In my last post, I described what in-store customer data is. But the really important question is this – what do you do with it? Not surprisingly, in-store customer movement data serves quite a range of needs that I’ll categorize broadly as store layout optimization, promotion planning and optimization, staff optimization, digital experience integration, omni-channel experience optimization, and customer experience optimization. I’ll talk about each in more detail, but you can think about it this way. Half of the utility of in-store customer journey measurement is focused on you – your store, your promotions and your staff. When you can measure the in-store customer journey better, you can optimize your marketing and operations more effectively. It’s that simple. The other half of the equation is about the customer. Mapping customer segments, finding gaps in the experience, figuring out how omni-channel journeys work. This kind of data may have immediate tactical implications but it’s real function is strategic. When you understand the customer experience better you can design better stores, better marketing campaigns, and better omni-channel strategies.

I’m going to cover each area in a short post, starting with the most basic and straightforward (store layout) and moving up into the increasingly strategic uses.

 

Store Layout and Merchandising Optimization

While bricks&mortar hasn’t had the kind of measurement and continuous improvement systems that drive digital, it has had a long, arduous and fruitful journey to maturity. Store analysts and manager know a lot. And while in-store customer journey measurement can fill in some pretty important gaps, you can do a lot of good store optimization based on a combination of well-understood best practices, basic door-counting, and PoS information. At a high-level, retailers understand how product placement drives sales, what the value of an end-cap/feature is, and how shelf placement matters. With PoS data, they also understand which products tend to be purchased together. So what’s missing? Quite a bit, actually, and some of it is pretty valuable. With customer journey data you can do true funnel analysis – not just at the store level (PoS/Door Counting) but at a detailed level within the store. You’ll see the opportunity each store area had, what customer segments made up that opportunity, and how well the section of the store is engaging customers and converting on the opportunity. Funnel analysis forever changed the way people optimized websites. It can do the same for the store. When you make a change, you can see how patterns of movement, shopping and segmentation all shift. You can isolate specific segments of customer (first time, regular, committed shopper, browser) and see how their product associations and navigation patterns differ. If this sounds like continuous improvement through testing…well, that’s exactly what it is.

Questions you can Answer

  • How well is each area and section of the store performing?
  • How do different customer segments use the store differently?
  • How effective are displays in engaging customers?
  • How did store layout changes impact opportunity and engagement?
  • Are there underutilized areas of the store?
  • Are store experiences capturing engagement and changing shopping patterns?
  • Are there unusual local patterns of engagement at a particular store?

Next up? Optimizing promotions and in-store marketing campaigns.