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Digital Connect 2018: Transforming to exceed customer expectations

Seize Digital
Retailers and brands understand the need to digitally transform their business models and operations to meet the needs of the modern consumer.

That was the underlying message of the “Digital Connect” theme for our annual industry event in central London recently.

While attendees agreed the Digital Connect event theme captured their collective strategic ambitions, it emerged that many shared common challenges in meeting the needs of their specific target customer groups.

“Driving footfall and attracting a younger audience are two priorities,” said one attendee representing a national leisure and hospitality operator, during one of the event’s breakout sessions. “But it isn’t always easy to make sure the supporting tech is always frictionless.” 

Although attendees came from a variety of retail and hospitality sectors, including grocery, food-to-go, restaurants, pubs, and food and beverage brands, there was broad agreement that digital transformation is difficult while simultaneously having to manage different speeds of digital adoption by customers.

“It’s not always the case that the customer is digitally-enabled or not,” said a representative of a well-known UK pub chain. “Some like to transact via digital, but then get a paper voucher to redeem; some like to come at the digital redemption process the other way ‘round.”

Moving from analogue to digital

A number of attendees highlighted the effort required to phase out fraud-prone paper vouchers or coupons, for example. Others cited how the different technology integration requirements of issuance and audience partners could sometime add friction to the customer redemption experience.

“We need to make the process of redeeming offers as easy as possible for customers,” said a digital leader at a large UK restaurant, pub and bar operator. “The concept of online-to-offline redemption is brilliant but needs to be made easier.”

Here, the always-on requirement of digital came under the spotlight. “We’ve all been in the situation, now that we’ve started to move operations to the cloud, where the customer comes in with a digital voucher that can’t be redeemed at the time because the POS [point-of-sale] network is down, for example,” another said.

There were also calls for more cross-sector industry collaboration to ensure as friction-free a redemption process as possible. “The ease of redemption needs to be looked at sector by sector,” one said. “In Food and Beverage, for example, the customer can’t give the product back as they redeem offers after consumption.”

A fellow restaurant chain operator suggested empowering staff to handle system or process failures at the point of service. “You can also bet that’s the customer who takes to Twitter,” they said. “So, we always try to enable our staff to serve the customer, even if the POS is down or they don’t have the right code.”

A casual dining restaurant chain representative also suggested simplifying the offer issuance and redemption process through better cross-industry integration and standardisation. Many agreed the Eagle Eye AIR platform had the potential to be such a facilitator, which also led attendees to discuss data analysis.

Gaining customer insight

One grocery representative asked, “Do we really understand our customers?” They also said: “We’re really good at understanding products and sales, so it’s about how you translate that information into a way or understanding customers to serve them better.”

Legacy systems were cited as one of the major drawbacks of, “joining the dots on the data,” as one attendee put it. Steve Rothwell, Eagle Eye founder and CTO, suggested: “Where someone may decide to eat with their kids may be different to where they take a business contact, for example.

“So, retailers and brands need to look at multiple data sources to understand what influences a customer, where the voucher or coupon code acts as your digital cookie in the offline world,” he added.

Tim Mason, Eagle Eye CEO, said: “You also need to be clear about what behaviour you’re looking for: Are you about driving visits or spend per visit? The BOGOF will attract the most customers but eats into margin. Yet, they might also like collecting airmiles or other types of rewards and incentives, so you need variety.”

Attendees agreed it was not always necessary to have personally identifiable information to garner useful customer insight on and tailor engagement to target groups. “The third party data being shared could be, ‘someone buying some theatre tickets near a particular restaurant or bar, for example,” one suggested.

In his plenary presentation, Tim also pointed to the potential of mobile to deliver marketing in the moment, as a way of engaging consumers more effectively. He highlighted how mobile is driving Eagle Eye app redemption rates of between 33% and 58% for its clients among over 2 million app users.

The plenary keynote speaker, Dave Coplin, focused minds on the emergence of Artificial Intelligence to realise the potential of promotional marketing systems that can not only enrich customer engagement with tailored offers content that drive sales, but that can also dynamically respond to changing customer needs.

AI represents “the ability to use data as a strategic asset to look forward, not backwards,” he said. Coplin also had this advice for retailers and brands: “Digitise every asset, especially the intangible ones, of your business. This will allow retailers and brands to focus very differently on how they think about customers.”