Debunking common myths about the retail Customer journey

Debunking common myths about the retail Customer journey

This guest blog was authored by James Glover, President and CEO of Coherent Path, a dunnhumby Ventures portfolio company.

Everyone agrees on the importance of customer data in helping build relationships and guide customers on their retail journey. The problem is that many of us still subscribe to myths that are no longer true – if they ever were – about the most effective ways to win customers over and keep their loyalty. Here are a few prevailing myths, and the truth about how retailers can use customer data to become a valued partner in their customers’ retail journeys.


Myth #1: It's possible to predict each customer's retail journey in advance.

One thing that too many retailers get hung up on is trying to plan the customer’s journey for them. Rather than attempting to guide customers to a specific destination, retailers need to be responsive to their “journey through the journey,” focusing on improving customer experiences which can lead to increased loyalty and a more sustainable ROI in the long run.

Part of that comes back to how we talk about these sorts of ideas. We tend to say “the customer journey” as though there is only one, but really, every customer journey is unique, and there are as many different customer journeys as there are customers out there. Rather than trying to tell a customer what their journey should be, data can instead be leveraged to respond to the customer journey as it’s happening.

A successful modern email marketing program is able to turn the entire retail journey into an experience, one that is responsive to each customer’s evolving tastes and desires. The key lies in not trying to dictate what the customer’s journey is going to be but, instead, in using the insights that customer data is able to provide to help guide customers along the way.


Myth #2: Once you’ve won a customer over, they’re yours for life.

Retailers and marketers place a lot of focus on building relationships with customers – and, absolutely, building relationships is important – but just because you have a customer relationship doesn’t mean your work is done. Retailers who only focus on the start of a relationship will soon wake up to find the relationship they had taken for granted is gone.

A relationship with a customer is like any other relationship: it takes work, day in and day out. If you only tell your spouse that you love them on special occasions, your relationship probably won’t be as close as if you tell them every day. The same goes for customers.

Many retailers only “touch” customers when they first attract them, when the customer makes a transaction, and when the retailer is trying to rekindle interest that has waned. Getting a customer used to hearing from you regularly, and not just when you’re trying to sell them something, will help build an actual relationship that leads to trust, loyalty, and, ultimately, a long-term return on your investment.

Retailers need to do the equivalent of buying them flowers “just because” in order to keep that bond strong; show them new and interesting things that keep them engaged and maintain a positive connection.


Myth #3: Getting your message in front of customers is more important than telling them what they want to hear.

Brands that succeed at building customer loyalty are ones that know when to show the customer something new, when to show them something they are already interested in, and when to take a step back. Inundating a customer with too many emails, especially ones they aren’t interested in, is a quick way to lose that customer. According to the Direct Marketing Association (DMA)[1], 59 percent of people said that they unsubscribed from email marketing lists due to receiving too many emails, while 43 percent cited receiving emails that weren’t relevant.

The challenge for email marketers is to know how to reach out to customers in a way that the customer will find engaging. How do you incorporate what you have to say into their retail journey, without trying to dictate that journey for them? It’s a constant give and take of adding new experiences to their diet while also keeping the content they see relevant to their interests.

What’s more, tastes change over time — and what a customer wants today may not be what they’re interested in tomorrow. Keeping up with and adapting to those changes is challenging, and it’s unreasonable to expect marketers to keep tabs on each customer’s evolving journey manually. That’s why marketers need to embrace solutions that use data to adapt to a customer’s changing palate in real time.

Ultimately, the retailers of the future will not be a destination for shoppers, but rather partners in their retail journey. This means helping customers to explore paths and find products they might not otherwise have known to look for and building relationships that go beyond a few transactions to last a lifetime. In order to do that, though, retailers need the help of customer data and the insights that it can provide.



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