Unifying the in-store and online customer experience

  • 6-Jan-2014

I’m not loyal to many brands. But as someone who specializes in brand management software, I have a lot of conversations about building brand loyalty. Lately I've also been working with some major retailers, strategizing about the synchronization of customer data gathered in stores with the customer data gathered online.

For most retailers, the in-store shopper and the online shopper -- even if she's the same person in real life -- might as well be two different people. The customer data is not shared or synchronized between online and in-store systems. Recently I had a holiday shopping experience that made me realize that even to one of my favorite brands, I too am two separate people. 

One of the very few brands I am loyal to is Tumi, the suitcase company. I spend about half my life on the road, and a great suitcase or bag is my portable home. Truth be told, I own four Tumi suitcases of various sizes, three Tumi laptop bags, and a several Tumi purses. I’ve bought these bags at the Tumi stores on Piccadilly in London or Walnut Street in Philadelphia. Salesmen in both stores have recognized me, not only because I pop in often to see the latest bags, but also because on the rare occasion that one of my Tumis gets damaged, I bring it to the stores for repair (which is free in most cases -- another reason to love Tumi). In London, Tumi once repaired one of my baggage-handler-mangled bags within two days, so I could continue on my trip without having to buy another bag.

During the repair process, Tumi updates you on the status of your bag via email, and then returns it back to your home -- or lets you know when it can be picked up at the store where you dropped it off. 

Flash forward to the present: on December 26th, I decided to take advantage of a post-Christmas online sale and buy a four-wheeled large Tumi for an upcoming month-long trip. I clicked on an email Tumi had sent to me about the sale, added the suitcase I wanted to my shopping cart, and then tried to sign into my account using my email address and my usual password. And then, Tumi.com rejected me. Tumi.com had no idea who I was. You see, even though I received emails from Tumi for years, and clicked on the email Tumi sent to me, I had never created a tumi.com account.

I blinked at the screen, shocked. “What do you mean you don’t know who I am?” I practically said out loud. My data-management mind was reeling: based on my repairs, my email address, the data you’ve gathered about me in the stores over the years -- and you, web site, are still not saying: “Hello Theresa, thanks for owning so many of our bags!”

I did go through the process of entering all my personal data, shipping, and credit card info (which I’d given to the stores before), and ordered the suitcase - but was still sad. Forlorn. Wishing my favorite suitcase brand was smarter than that. 

Odds are, several non-integrated technologies caused me to have this experience:

1) An in-store purchasing system
Likely tied to an inventory management system, stores don't seem to share anything with other tumi.com databases or technology.

2) A repair tracking system
It uses “Tumi Tracer” numbers as IDs, but isn't using what it knows about the bags I own to market to me. I know that system has my home address, because repairs have been shipped to me before -- and I always register my Tumi Tracer numbers (and that, evidently, is how Tumi originally got my email address).

3) A marketing automation system
Even though I clicked on an email that Tumi sent to me, tumi.com didn't do anything to personalize the experience for me (though it could have, by using that same data about my bags that I submitted simultaneously with my email, when I registered via Tumi Tracer).

4) Tumi.com identity management
Despite all my interactions with the company, I was never compelled or prompted to set up an account, so I was “missing” in that system. Having never ordered a bag or suitcase online, to tumi.com, I was a nobody. Why weren’t my Tumi Tracer numbers all affiliated with my email address, at the very least, so that when I finally created a tumi.com account with the same email address, I could get an inventory of my bags? Or, tell me what's available in my two favorite Tumi stores in London & Philadelphia, where I've already bought bags?

Systems integration remains a major challenges for any retailer. This experience hit particularly close to home because RSG is currently helping several retailers with similar challenges.

If your organization manages brick-and-mortar as well as online stores, what’s your strategy to integrate the two experiences, and build brand loyalty along the way? I admit, if Tumi popped me an extra discount for my customer loyalty, I may have added a purse or accessory to my online order. Alas, to tumi.com, I was someone who’d never bought a Tumi before.

These days, a combination of carefully-managed CRM, marketing automation, web content management, and eCommerce should make a unified customer profile and consistent brand experience possible. It should empower today's modern and savvy digital marketer to know more about her customer than she ever has, and to market to that customer very precisely, based on the channel and past purchase history. It takes a lot of planning, data management, customer knowledge, and technical integration.

If this is a current challenge for you, do let us know. We'd be happy to help.

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