Build customer loyalty with analytics and AI

Winning and retaining customers has always been a challenge for retailers. However, this has become increasingly difficult over the past few years with the explosion of online retail and the arrival of several new brands in the market, giving customers more choice than ever.

According to multiple research studies and industry experts, the secret to success is for retailers to deliver fast, convenient, and enjoyable experiences that will delight customers and build loyalty. Microsoft’s 2020 Global State of Customer Service report, for example, found that 90% of consumers consider customer service to be a very important factor when choosing a brand, and more than 88% consider it important. when making buying decisions. And, with 55% of consumers saying they have higher expectations for customer service than a year ago and nearly two-thirds admitting they would sever a relationship with a company over poor service, now is the time. for retailers to invest in the development of unique experiences. that set them apart from the competition.

“Recently, retailers have tried to create more engaging shopping experiences, but it has become even more essential for them to do so in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, as it has dramatically changed the way people want to buy products and interact with brands,” says Naveen Tadepalli, director of data strategy and artificial intelligence (AI), retail and consumer goods at Microsoft. forced retailers to close physical stores or at least limit capacity, which meant they had to rapidly develop e-commerce capabilities and introduce new services such as curbside pickup to continue serving customers .

“Meanwhile, retailers that previously had e-commerce platforms have seen increased demand and they have been experimenting with new techniques to improve the quality of their digital content and marketing materials to differentiate themselves from the competition. For example, some are trying livestreams or using influencers to promote and endorse their products through social media.

According to Tadepalli, the most effective way to attract and retain customers in the post-pandemic world will be to provide personalized experiences that allow individuals to choose how, when and where they shop.

“Some people will only shop in physical stores, others prefer to buy products online, and most like to switch between channels throughout the shopping journey depending on what suits them. best suited at that time,” he explains. “The speed, ease and convenience of online shopping has led to the significant growth of e-commerce in recent years and its ever-increasing popularity during the pandemic has confirmed that it is certainly here to stay, but physical stores still have a critical role in the buying journey of many customers, so retailers need to offer both physical and virtual shopping experiences – and deliver a seamless and consistent experience across every channel – to ensure that they can meet the needs of all their customers.

To develop the types of services and experiences that will delight consumers and retain them, retailers must first have a complete view of each individual customer. This can be achieved by implementing a Customer Data Platform (CDP) with built-in analytics, AI, and machine learning capabilities, such as Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customer Insights.

“Retailers already collect vast amounts of data across multiple customer touchpoints, but it’s often trapped in siled systems, so it’s largely underutilized,” says Tadepalli. “Dynamics 365 Customer Insights enables them to aggregate data from their internal systems and other external sources into a unified platform, then use AI and machine learning to gain actionable insights and build profiles.” 360 degree accurate for every customer.

“Once they have a complete understanding of everything from their customers’ product preferences to their buying behavior, retailers can easily personalize advertising campaigns, communications, product recommendations and more for each individual on each channel in real time. Sellers can also identify new up-sell and cross-sell opportunities to increase customer lifetime value, retention and loyalty. »

US gift retailer Edible Arrangements, for example, deployed a CDP based on Dynamics 365 Customer Insights, Azure Synapse Analytics and Power BI to help expand its brand appeal across multiple demographics, double purchase frequency and expand its product line to include daily fresh produce, as well as gifts. The company, which delivers thousands of gifts every month via its online and physical stores, now has a centralized view of customer, inventory, supply chain and merchandising data. “Edible Arrangements has simplified decision-making and can predict customer buying behavior and automatically tailor communications and promotions to individuals,” says Tadepalli. “He plans to extend the capabilities of his CDP to other areas of the business and also use it to develop more personalized browsing experiences on his e-commerce site.”

Microsoft works with an extensive network of partners to help retailers leverage its technology to build end-to-end solutions that enable them to deliver omnichannel personalization at scale. For example, he worked with PwC to help Dubai-based conglomerate Al-Futtaim Group build a CDP using Microsoft Azure Databricks, Azure Data Factory, and Azure Synapse Analytics. The group relies on AI-powered CDP to capture data from more than 40 data sources and customer touchpoints across the 120 brands it serves in retail and other industries. industries in the Middle East and Africa.

“Al-Futtaim Group is the ‘beacon child’ of a successful CDP implementation because the platform has transformed the way it understands and interacts with customers at scale,” Tadepalli says. “The CDP connects all of the group’s physical and digital channels, enabling it to leverage previously inaccessible data and real-time insights to better predict individual or group buying behaviors and identify new sales opportunities.

“It also enables the group to deliver consistent personalized experiences to all customers, ensuring they receive the right products, recommendations, offers and support through the right channel at the right time. This will accelerate customer acquisition, prevent churn, boost loyalty, and drive profits. »

Once they have developed a strong customer base, retailers must also introduce ways to reward individuals for their loyalty.

“Customers want to feel valued, and research indicates they are far more likely to shop at retailers that offer exclusive discounts, cash back, the ability to attend VIP events and more. special perks and incentives to thank them for their loyalty,” says Tadepalli. “Studies also show that loyalty programs not only promote customer retention and repeat purchases, but they also encourage people to buy more expensive items and to recommend the brand to their friends and family.

“By offering loyalty programs that span all of their channels, combined with unique personalized experiences tailored to individual consumer needs, retailers can easily turn customers into brand advocates and retain their business for years to come. »

Partners’ views
We asked several Microsoft partners how they help retailers create the kinds of physical and virtual shopping experiences that will build customer loyalty. Below are excerpts from their responses, which you can read in full starting on page 147 of the digital edition of the Summer 2021 issue of The record.

Michael Klein, director of industrial strategy and marketing at Adobesaid, “Adobe Experience Platform, which is built on the Microsoft Azure cloud, enables retailers to bring together data from all their Microsoft Dynamics 365 and other systems into one central customer data platform to create a unified profile of every customer. . ”

Mike Menkes, Senior Vice President of Analytical Partnerssaid, “Holistic, multidimensional measurement and technology enable a winning retail strategy that is forward-looking and adaptive in the face of disruption.”

Barry Padgett, Chief Operating Officer of amperagesaid, “Amperity and Microsoft are dedicated to bringing customer data solutions to enterprise consumer brands that deliver unmatched personalization, flexibility and speed.

Navjit Bhasin, Founder and CEO of new minesaid, “Newmine’s AI-powered Returns Manager is based on Microsoft Azure and is the first solution to solve the source returns problem.”

David Clements, Global Head of Retail Sector at dunnhumbysaid, “dunnhumby’s partnership with Microsoft helps retailers bring data to life and make insights accessible, enabling faster decisions to improve customer experience and create business value.

Assaf Haski, Partnership Manager at ciValuesaid, “ciValue leverages big data, artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies to extend the customer experience across all channels, helping retailers achieve omnichannel insights, hyper-personalized offers at scale and better collaboration with their brands. »

This article originally appeared in the Summer 2021 issue of The Record. To receive future issues straight to your inbox, sign up for a free subscription.

Joseph P. Harris