How retailers can adapt to the new wave of hybrid consumers

By Anthony Botibol, VP of Marketing at BlueVenn.

On the 12th of April, retailers in England and Wales will breathe a collective sigh of relief as all non-essential shops hope to open up once again. After a turbulent year, the government’s plan to ease lockdown restrictions promises much-needed stability for retailers. However, the pandemic has led to marked changes in consumer behaviour, which retailers will need to adapt to.

Personalisation is a crucial part of the enhanced customer experience that consumers have come to expect, with research showing that 80% of customers are more likely to purchase from a brand when it offers customised content. However, as customer journeys have become increasingly complex, achieving this level of personalisation can be difficult for marketers. 

The emergence of the hybrid consumer 

Covid-19 has impacted consumer behaviours around the world, forcing retailers to adapt almost instantaneously. Due to lockdowns, customers who have previously shopped in brick-and-mortar stores have moved online, while those who shopped online are doing so more frequently. While many may take this as an indication of the death of the high-street, such assumptions are premature. 

It’s not expected that footfall will return to pre-pandemic levels, however our research finds that, while some traditional high-street buyers will maintain their new-found online habits, others are eager to start spending in physical stores again. More than a third (37%) of Brits say they would be more likely to shop in-store once vaccinated, highlighting that retailers cannot underestimate the importance of brick-and-mortar stores in the overall customer journey. 

However, consumer interaction is becoming more fluid, which has led to the emergence of the ‘hybrid consumer’, those shoppers who shop via a combination of online and offline channels at multiple touchpoints, proving that retailers will need to work on delivering an omnichannel customer experience in order to successfully rebuild brand loyalty. 

However, with consumers interacting with brands across an increasing number of channels, unifying this data to provide a joined-up customer journey that is tailored to individual needs is more complicated than ever before. Our research found that 57% of marketers were concerned about their ability to respond to this changing customer behaviour, with technology and data (at 57% and 48% respectively) being pronounced as two of the main barriers to the retailers’ ability to adjust. As a result, data management platforms have become a saving grace for many marketers. 

Making effective use of customer data 

With the rise of the hybrid consumer, savvier marketers will realise the need to invest in technology solutions to capture and unify consumers' cross-channel identities as they roam between online and offline touchpoints. 

Central to this is being able analyse customer data effectively. Our Online Marketing Excellence report revealed companies that collate and analyse customer data, online and offline, have grown 16% in the last year and, in doing so, are more than twice as likely to significantly exceed business goals and see a strong return on investment.

The recent acquisitions of Debenhams and Arcadia Group by online retail giants Boohoo and ASOS further demonstrates that data is the most valuable for asset held by many brick-and-mortar retailers. Both acquisitions have been regarded as significant, for the increase in the market space they achieve and because they provide both businesses access to new demographics of consumers they can target. It has been reported that this is one of the core reasons why Boohoo acquired Debenhams, due to the significant access it gives them to data on an older generation of consumers.

However, the biggest challenge for marketers has been the ability to link the data of their online and offline channels to get a holistic view of how customers are engaging between various platforms, and to what extent. 

Identity resolution holds the key to understanding hybrid customers 

While most modern businesses have an abundance of data, the issue has constantly been collating it and using it to inform marketing and wider business decisions. The main barrier is that the data often resides in many different databases. A typical business can have up to 90 different systems holding customer data, often unfiltered, making identifying individuals at scale an incredibly laborious process. 

This is where identity resolution can become a marketer’s greatest ally. Identity resolution works to stitch together all the various data points within a business, to create unified profiles on known or unknown customers. Ultimately, it enables marketers to identify individuals across their inbound, outbound, owned, and paid media marketing channels, and centralises all customer knowledge into one single, trustworthy, and usable profile that provides an overview of every click, visit, purchase, interaction, and return. 

Identity resolution enables businesses to track customer behaviours from offline to online and back again. It provides businesses with a deeper understanding of the hybrid customer journey, making effective targeting and advanced personalisation much easier.  

Integrated data crucial to appeasing hybrid consumers 

In an increasingly competitive market, achieving customer loyalty is an essential objective for marketers. Consumers want brands to know them inside and out, and this means understanding their preferences, wherever they are shopping or browsing. In fact, Gartner found businesses risk losing 38% of their customers due to poor marketing personalisation efforts. 

Much of the insight on customer behaviour already exists within the business’s magnitude of data. The key is being able to unify this data into a Single Customer View via a data management solution, such as a Customer Data Platform (CDP). Once this has been done, marketers will better understand the transition of their customers across all channels, ensuring they have the knowledge needed to deliver the personalised experiences their customers expect. With shops opening up in less than a few weeks, there is still time for businesses to get their data management strategy in place to ensure they are set up for long-term success.

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