The Impact of Ecommerce on Retail Brand Strategy For Future Growth

Consumer confidence has been harmed by rising inflation, rising interest rates, a potential bankruptcy, and the possibility of an economic slowdown. All these factors have stifled retail sales as government continues to implement measures such as Consumer Voucher Scheme in Hong Kong or CDC Vouchers Scheme in Singapore to stimulate the economy. Ecommerce businesses, which benefited from the pandemic in 2020, are also feeling the heat.

At the peak of ecommerce business, many companies were expanding aggressively from food delivery, grocery shopping, online classes and more. However, consumers are also slowly returning back to pre-pandemic norm. Hence, the massive layoffs came when many of these companies suffer major losses.

Shopify is the newest tech firm to layoff 10 percent of its 10,000 workforce in July 2022. According to the tracker, tech firms have laid off more than 62,000 employees so far. On the news, Shopify’s shares fell 17 percent in early trading. They are now about 83 percent below their 52-week average. Tobias Lütke, Shopify’s chief executive, wrote in a memo to employees that ecommerce adoption is still higher than it was pre pandemic, but the increase seen during stay at home orders is over, bringing the growth rate back to its previous high rate of the past 20 years. The apprehension was that the surge would hit a new high. Consumers have mostly returned to brick and mortar stores rather than continuing to buy some items online, as has been the case.

Retail brands need to recognise the new role they play by adopting Online-Merge-Offline (OMO) business strategy. The digital consumer generation expects to shop anywhere, at any time on foot or mobile devices. They are savvy to search for the best deals and expect instant gratification for their purchase from multiple delivery options. This presents an omni-channel retail opportunity for brands to adopt OMO business model. A model where online and offline integrates to provide personalised shopping experience through omnichannel touchpoints. However, the first challenge for an OMO strategy is to gain full understanding of your customers’ interactions and preferences; and that is impossible if your customer, order, inventory and campaign data are stored in separate systems.

Key Elements of an OMO Framework

1. Centralised master data – a robust data management platform will eliminate the challenge of connecting data silos from different systems to create a single customer view. Typically, data integration across systems can be done via sFTP or APIs. The focus is to consolidate and map all current and past customer profile, transactions and interactions from different sources.

2. Loyalty management – the role of a loyalty engine is more than just managing tiers and points. With OMO strategy, loyalty system needs to effectively support multi-tier and points calculation, earn rules, manage rewards redemption, create loyalty campaigns and more.

3. Headless commerce – one of the recent trends of ecommerce strategy has been the adoption of headless commerce architecture. Simply put, XGATE uses one codebase deployment for progressive web app, native app, online shop, member portal etc for ecommerce solution. Apart from the usual functions of an online shop, XGATE ecommerce solution has a built-in OMS to connect warehousing and shops for order fulfilment.

4. Retail clientelling – there has been an increased in the number of touchpoints (such as websites, apps, chatbots, email, phone and in-store) for interactions between customers and brands. However, the adoption of clientelling has provided a highly personalised retail experience that has been widely adopted by brands.

5. Marketing automation – with all the data in a single environment, marketers can create customer segments to launch CRM lifecycle programs (eg. retargeting, win-back campaigns) with personalised customer journey — discovery, research, purchase, support, customer service, returns; and building an ongoing relationship. XGATE marketing automation platform uses that data to automatically generate marketing content, recommend products, provide customer service, manage inventory and handle other related activities — all in real-time.

The future growth strategy for retail is to integrate online and offline touchpoints to create greater value for consumers and deliver exceptional customer experience. Planning and assembling the right stack of marketing technology platforms – CRM, loyalty, ecommerce, retail clienteling, marketing automation, BI & analytics – for your business are critical to build a long-term OMO transformation strategy. Afterall, the key point is for you to understand your customers’ intent so deeply that you can meet and exceed their expectations; and ultimately convert them to become your loyal customers.

Discover the Future Trends of Retail Business in the New Era of CRM & Loyalty Marketing

In a study entitled “In-depth: Luxury Goods 2021” (Statista 2021), the global luxury goods market is projected to increase from US$309.6 billion in 2021 to US$382.6 billion in 2025. The pent-up consumer demand from Covid-19 lockdown is set to fuel post-pandemic spending spree from Gen Z and millennial shoppers. However, marketers know having the best products and services cannot guarantee business profitability. Hence, building customer relationships will increasingly become an important strategy to ensure brand loyalty and retention that can significantly influence your bottom line.

From ecommerce to brick-and-mortar retail, many brands are already adopting different loyalty strategies to enhance customer experience and grow new revenue streams. In this report, we examine the future of CRM & loyalty from the perspectives of technologies, evolving retail strategies and overall customer loyalty thinking – the sweet spots for improving customer experience in the new norm.


 

1. Adoption of One Platform For Multichannel Marketing

We see an increasing movement this year towards using a multichannel approach to CRM marketing. Today, companies are using different software to execute their communication plans. On top of that, there are different social media and ad serving platforms to manage. Consequently, we believe the trend is for marketers to use a single platform to manage those campaigns with personalisation and marketing automation. That way, you put more focus on making meaningful connections with customers and using different touchpoints to design the customer journey.

At XGATE, we’ve integrated different channels (SMS, email, call, WhatsApp, WeChat etc.) with marketing automation and analytics tool that will allow CRM platforms to comprehensively track interactions with customers at various touchpoints. Hence, marketers can build a unified view of the customer lifecycle programs, measure performances and use the data insights to develop innovative loyalty marketing strategies – identify smart segments, test A/B offers, target more relevant communication channels and create more personalised experience.

2. Use of Clienteling in Retail CRM

The lack of personalisation is one of the biggest challenges faced by many retail brands when they attempt to engage with their high value members to give them a taste of exclusivity. The adoption of clienteling aims to fill this gap by allowing sales associates to establish meaningful relationships with the customers. This is achieved by empowering retail sales with access to real-time data, based on the customer profile which include not only birthdays and anniversaries, but also style preference, size, transaction history, expiring loyalty points, spend gap to next tier upgrade, wish lists and sometimes may be even names of their children, spouse and pets.

Experience sales associates holding on to such data will recognise opportunities to recommend purchases based on key events – spouse’s birthday or wedding anniversaries – to introduce new outfits for that special occasions. This one-on-one customer interaction is a fantastic way to retain a brand’s communication beyond the usual buying cycle. Clienteling can offer a truly personalised experience when the engagement reference colour, style, size etc. that fit the customer’s preferences.

Retail sales are driven by both the quality of products and customer emotions in the buying experience. Clienteling is the technology to deliver this unique memorable customer experience. So the time for mobile clienteling is right now.

3. Integrating Online and Offline Retail Experience

The pace of ecommerce sales is set to accelerate ever since the pandemic drastically shifted consumer behaviour into the digital shopping space to buy household goods, groceries and more. A recent forecast has projected retail eCommerce sales worldwide to reach US$7.4Bn by 2025 from US$4.2Bn in 2020 (eMarketer Jul 2021). Retail brands planning to launch a new online sales channel should consider the choice of ecommerce technology, integration of online and offline customer experience and transformation of retail operations.

Traditional ecommerce platforms are less flexible and offer little room for customisation or personalisation. Hence, it is imperative for brands to choose or make a switch to headless commerce in order to future-proof online store architecture. Basically, every piece of commerce systems such as store-front design, CMS, OMS, CRM & loyalty can all be connected using APIs. With a headless system, marketers can deploy rapid updates without impacting back-end systems, faster time to market for ecommerce launch and seamless experience across touchpoints.

No matter how far ecommerce technology advances, the human connection that customers received from in-store shopping experience is something that cannot be replicated. Therefore, bringing the same retail customer experience into ecommerce space is a valuable means of innovating loyalty marketing. Imagine the endless possibilities of headless commerce integrated with loyalty solution and clienteling. Essentially, it empowers brands to offer personalised online shopping experience where different member tiers can enjoy different product offers, level of service care and assisted shopping. On the other hand, retail staffs are no longer limited to generating sales at the store; they can use their clienteling tool to enrich their customer engagement and convert more opportunities to sales.

4. Personalised One-on-One Shopping Experience

There has been a significant increase in online influencers offering livestream shopping across social media platforms. However, the high cost of influencer marketing strategy and lack of brand control over many other livestreaming in marketplaces will eventually lead to brands considering one-on-one video assisted shopping.

Given the knowledge and experience in their own retail community workforce, sales associates can offer real-time product presentation and curating the shopping cart as a personalised in-video customer check out service. Ultimately, video technology in this instance is a personal touch to make the customer feel comfortable and build trust for his/her purchase decision.

Conclusion

The retail experience for consumers have undergone a fundamental mindset shift since Covid-19 pandemic. Brands need to examine their CRM & loyalty strategy to regain customers’ trust and build brand relationship for long term value. Having a single platform to orchestrate multichannel marketing will become increasingly more important to improve marketing efficiency and ROI. Similarly, choosing the right ecommerce technology such as headless commerce architecture will not only increase the brand’s flexibility to launch online store promotions rapidly, but also create personalised experience that will enhance customer loyalty.

Indeed, Dough Stephen has predicted in his article, The Future of Retail Is The End Of Wholesale, that “a new breed of experiential retailers will use their physical stores to perfect the consumer experience across categories of products. They will define the ideal experiential journey, employ expert ‘product ambassadors’ and technology to deliver something truly unique, remarkable and memorable.”

At XGATE, we believe as the merging of online and offline digital space progresses, it becomes clear for marketers to acknowledge this new era of CRM & loyalty being the next phase of development. Brands taking the lead to embrace the new trends in loyalty will benefit from the head start to deliver the next level of innovations for customer experience.

 

Marketing Magazine Master Report, September 2021

Navigating the Digital Terrain Without Third-Party Cookies

Google announced in June 2021 that it was pushing back the timeline to block third-party tracking cookies from 2022 to 2023, allowing more time for the digital advertising industry to strategize and make privacy-focused plans.

Cookies are small pieces of data created by websites that users visit. They can be used to track user activity across different sites for ad targeting and track ad performance. The demise of third-party cookie has led to advertisers and marketers looking for other ways to track users.

Cookie-based programmatic advertising accounts for 90% of digital media, and Google will need to progressively update the Chrome versions in the market. Consequently, the profiles created by these cookies will become less accurate, and your programmatic advertising campaigns will inevitably become less effective.

Data management platform (DMP) vendors may therefore need to invest in technology advancements to adapt to new changes. The higher cost of programmatic advertising will likely increase your marketing budget and affect your overall ROI. To handle secure cookie sharing between sites, DMP vendors will need to collaborate closely with Google before the 2023 deadline.

 

MARKETERS, YOU’VE TIME TO PREPARE

    • Since only secure cookies can be shared between sites, shift your focus to owned data sources. This includes first party data, which is information collected directly from website visitors. There are many leads capture strategies but they usually involve having a web form to capture the leads profile through free samples giveaway, contests & lucky draws or social media games.Using Facebook to drive sampling

 

    • Build a robust CRM database for Business Intelligence (BI) and data analysis. Discover undetected insights with powerful BI tools and use analytical insights to create detailed personas for marketing.

 

    • Based on keyword targeting, run ads on websites that are relevant to the publisher’s content. Consider direct B2B publisher advertising—buying ads directly from trade publications gives you access to first party data and sometimes also includes their email database, which broadens your target audience. An example below shows Instarem, a financial services brand, has a display ad appearing in a publication where the keyword “finance” is in the headline of the related article.
      Keyword targeting in FinanceAnother keyword targeting example shows luxury brand Pierre Balmain’s banner ad appearing in New York Times with a keyword “fashion” appearing in the headlines of the article.

 

    • Harness the power and reach of B2B social media advertising by using ad targeting tools on established social media platforms including Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.
      Audience targeting on LinkedIn

 

  • Using IP targeting or geo-targeting is also a great way to deliver online display adverts to people who in specific locations relevant to your campaign.Burger King Germany launched the #EscapeTheClown campaign, targeting McDonald’s customers through geo-targeting – customers at McDonald’s outlets received a message to download Burger King’s mobile app and search for a movie review of It Chapter Two (a scary clown movie) in McDonald’s magazine.Once customers scanned the article with the Burger King app, an ‘Escape the Clown’ button appeared on their mobile screens – the button launched a red balloon with a coupon for a 1-cent Whopper to “escape the clown”.

Four Holiday Marketing Tips For the Busy Marketers

As we approach the end of the year, the floodgates of back-to-back marketing campaigns open and we’re whisked away into another season of holiday gifting and shopping. While you’re busy racking your brains on how you can make this year’s marketing end off with a bigger bang than the last, here are 4 strategies to help boost your already awesome plans!

1. Make Your Loyal Customers Feel Loved 

You don’t need a reason to reward your loyal customers. But if you’re really looking for a compelling excuse to make your long term fans feel appreciated – it’s the season of giving and who doesn’t love gifts? 

Holiday season is the perfect time for brands to enhance relationship marketing. Design and launch a CRM marketing campaign for your most valuable customers with a free gift or exclusive promotion. Make the redemption campaign simple by adding a delightful note to your SMS or email message:

“We’ve reserved a special gift for you this holiday season. Tell us when you would like to pick it up.” Provide a link to confirm the redemption with a web form to update the customer profile. You can even set a quota for redemption at different outlets to divert traffic and ease the operational burden for crowded stores.

gifting season

 

2. Create a Festive Email Campaign To Raise Awareness and Engagement 

Through the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, build a consistent content marketing strategy with creative design to cut through the clutter and catch the attention of your customers. Of course there will be offers and rewards, but go the extra mile with content marketing to provide gifting ideas, a holiday guide with curated items, suggesting exciting holiday activities. Keep each marketing message clear and succinct in your communication strategy and consider using a combination of channels – email, SMS, WhatsApp etc – to enhance the brand engagement experience.

Want to learn how you can improve your email marketing response rate, check out these 5 practical tips to help you get started in a jiffy.

Every Christmas, Apple will prepare a gift guide to users ahead of time with a reminder closer to date – this enables them to maintain top-of-mind awareness amongst both early birds and last-minute shoppers.

 

3. Craft The Right Marketing Message at The Right Time 

Just because it is the season to be jolly, does not imply all your marketing messages have to be sales and further sales. We have all been exposed to the quirky ads during 11.11, Black Friday, Christmas campaigns in December. Take a fresh approach with your communication – craft the right message, at the right time for your target audience. 

As we approach the holiday season, create content strategies that focus on product curation and holiday guides. Then introduce your festive offers with personalised messages for different target segments. Finally, communicate a sense of urgency for the late shoppers who are still looking for the best deals. The right approach will drive traffic to your store or even online shop. Consider running a flash “complimentary delivery” sale to accelerate your marketing efforts and capture the last-minute holiday purchases.

Finally, apply the tactics across communication channels – email, SMS, social media posts and ad copies for search campaigns. The impact with this approach can generate business results and value insights to fine tune your next marketing campaign. 

IKEA keeps their creatives simple, with light-hearted messaging – this allows for quicker turnaround and they can also seamlessly weave in product placement at the same time.

 

4. Experiment With Novelty Marketing Tactics 

The cost of media investments tend to peak during the festive periods as brands compete for share of voice (SOV) in both traditional and digital media – Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Display, in the streets, paid media, earned media, shared media… It’s noisy and you will need to stand out from the cluttered marketing messages.

Take a refreshing approach this holiday season to create memorable campaigns. Apart from your brick-and-mortar stores, open a new sales channel with ecommerce if you do not already have one. If you’re concerned that it takes forever to launch ecommerce, you’re probably new to the concept of headless commerce architecture. Using an all APIs approach to build an online store, brands have successfully reduced the deployment of ecommerce from months to just days. Use this opportunity to grow your online presence and experiment with a whole new O2O strategy that could not have been possible just a few years ago. 

 

Apply the above simple strategies to kick start your holiday marketing campaigns. Design each campaign with a customer centric approach and you’ll create a delightful experience when they engage with your brand. As Mark Twain once said, “The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” If you haven’t already started planning for the upcoming holiday season, no pressure – but you might want to start NOW for Winter is coming. Running out of ideas? We’re just a phone call or an email away.

 

E-commerce loyalty: Putting the right ingredients together for growth

Customer loyalty has been a key factor in today’s retail business. With a good segmentation and customer lifecycle strategy, it influences where customers shop, what they buy, and how much they spend. But customer loyalty in e-commerce is complex as the brand interaction is different, hence, marketers need to continuously nurture and delight customers to stay ahead of the competition.

The motivation to build e-commerce loyalty is linked to the sales increase. Ultimately brands with the right technical framework, CRM and loyalty strategy will be successful in the race towards sustainable growth. This article offers several actionable strategies for e-commerce loyalty marketing.

1. Develop a rewarding customer loyalty programme
There are many different loyalty programs in e-commerce, but the most commonly used are loyalty points, member tiers, or a mix of both. In a point-based loyalty programme, brands should consider rewarding not only for purchases but also behaviours when customers leave reviews, share their discount code on various platforms and invite friends to join memberships to earn bonus points.

In a recent loyalty marketing report, marketers surveyed have indicated that they prefer using the a number of marketing tactics, such as vouchers (percent discounts, cash values, promotions); gifts (food and beverages, fashion and accessories, toys and gadgets); experience-related activities (hotel or travel, leisure activities, workshops, cultural experiences, premium access and luxury experiences); and VIP/point schemes (mileage points, loyalty schemes and membership clubs).

2. Offer exclusive rewards and perks to stimulate buying behaviours 
Reward customers with exciting perks like discount codes or free shipping vouchers that they can use with their points earned. Loyalty points for rewards such as:

PointsOffers
 500 Free shipping on next order
 600 $50 off your next order
 800 Free shipping on next two orders
 1,500 $150 credit for gifts
 2,000 Extra 10% lifetime discount

These tactics are great for stimulating repeat purchases and increasing the average order value for customers. However, using them too often will take away the excitement and condition shoppers to buy only when there are perks. So, weigh the pros and cons when you plan your loyalty mechanics.


3. Design customer journey with marketing automation

To design a loyalty programme that encourages engagement and build meaningful connections with the brand, you’ll need the right tool to design the customer journey for different target segments (ie. first-time buyer, actively buying member and churning customers); automate marketing communications and use the data insights to refine your loyalty strategy. With the right loyalty platform, you’ll also have the tools to provide customised rewards, incentivise shopper interactions, analyse detailed CRM metrics, and more.

4. Use data to improve your e-commerce performance 
A key part of optimising your online store is to measure the success for sales conversion. With loyalty marketing in e-commerce, marketers can gather more data from customer engagements and use those data insights to enhance marketing strategies. Apart from the usual e-commerce metrics (for example, the conversion rate of visitors, engagement of email subscribers, cart abandonment rate); consider loyalty metrics like customers making the first purchase within the first few days after signing up, or percentage increase in revenue per customer and increase in lifetime value, to drive business decisions and adjust loyalty propositions for long term success.

5. Offer personalised content and experiences
Brands that focus on providing personalised experiences will perform better in repeat sales. Customers see that the brand is relevant to their needs and tend to pay more attention to the offers and products recommended to them. Indeed, studies have shown customers are willing to pay a premium when offered personalised services. For millennials, they are also more willing to trade personal information like interests and likes to receive personalised content in return.

Brand should offer product recommendations based on customers’ profile, preferences, purchase history, campaign data (open email, click links, download coupons). Use this information to send them free samples, exclusive perks, invitations and content (for example, blog posts or videos) to show that you care and value their loyalty.


6. Provide seamless customer service support 

Consumers are constantly multitasking with devices turned on at all times. By offering different channels for customers to get in touch with your brand, you’ve made it simple for them to share feedback, comments, queries or contact customer service for support. Whether you provide an email address, a phone number, a chat or social media as customer service touchpoints, the faster and more convenient they can get answers to their requests, the better the brand experience they’ll have; and that builds loyalty.

According to Statista’s report, retail e-commerce sales in 2020 worldwide have reached US$4.3 trillion and is expected to grow to US$6.4 trillion by 2024. The e-commerce industry will continue to see new players, products, technology and marketing strategies that push the boundaries of online innovation. Brands that are successful at building a stronger relationship with their customers will ultimately emerge as winners in the race towards e-commerce profitability with a large base of loyal customers.

This article is contributed by XGATE for Marketing Magazine

Three important strategies to transform and future proof your e-commerce business

In this Master Report, XGATE proposes looking into three strategies to build a “headless commerce” architecture that will future-proof businesses as they dive into the new e-commerce reality.

Social distancing measures and lockdowns have resulted in a serious impact on businesses and consumer lifestyle. The pandemic has shifted consumer spending towards online e-commerce and this shift is not going away even after things get back to normal. Indeed, the crisis has led many bold companies to invest ambitiously into online channels and those with the right transformation strategy are likely to emerge as market leaders.

In this Master Report, XGATE proposes looking into three strategies to build a “headless commerce” architecture that will future-proof businesses as they dive into the new e-commerce reality.

As retail brands explore new online store strategies, it is imperative to understand the potential hurdles that e-commerce players may encounter when facing enhancing customer expectations.

Consumers are spoilt for choices, making the competition in digital online business fiercer than ever. Consumers can afford to be choosy in which brands receive their attention and then their business. Even companies with mature e-commerce capabilities today are facing challenging hurdles – capturing the right leads for conversions, retaining customers and rising customer acquisition cost. Hence, if the future of e-commerce is now, then companies must create a frictionless digital journey that comprises the following attributes:

1. A headless commerce architecture for rapid deployment
With paid media costs rising along with market competition, having a robust content strategy to attract organic traffic becomes vital. This strategy of content and commerce has been adopted by brands across social platforms such as Facebook Shops, Instagram Shopping, Taobao Live and Little Red Book, to name a few.
However, many retailers are adopting headless commerce architecture by decoupling the storefront from the backend e-commerce functionality. This approach allows brands to choose the best breed of architectural performance by integrating different systems such as content management, customer profile management, loyalty management, order management, warehouse management or even aPOS with an e-commerce platform. Here’s an overview diagram of how API-first headless commerce architecture is connected to support content distribution, loyalty marketing and commerce operations.
API-first headless commerce architecture

With headless commerce architecture, brands can launch e-commerce rapidly. A new online shop can be set up in days instead of months. In a competitive global market, timeto-market is always a key winning formula. Marketers’ ability to launch a campaign from weeks to days can determine the success or failure of a business. Additionally, brands can also share digital content rapidly and effectively. This truly opens up new possibilities to further distribute products, product videos, social blogs to different touchpoints – progressive web app, native app, member portal, social apps and any smart devices.

2. An omni-channel retail experience
Mobile technologies and social media adoption have changed the way consumers engage with brands. With the online and offline experience converging, brands need to adopt an omni-channel retail strategy as consumers will connect with a brand across multiple touchpoints throughout their buying journey. This means the product has to be everywhere when your customers browse, research or even buy.

Managing a multitude of selling channels online and offline is already a massive task requiring lots of resource planning, not to mention managing inventory across those channels. The implications for an out-of-stock situation or overstock position are costly from customer experience and operational expense perspectives. Hence, deploying commerce architecture with a well-integrated modular order management system (OMS) and warehouse management system (WMS) is essential in supporting e-commerce, ERPs and POS.

The omni-channel solution needs to ensure dataflow consistency across all platforms, consolidate data from all channels, reach customers at every possible touchpoint, and help manage inventory effectively. In fact, future approaches to commerce should incorporate user experience at every touchpoint as a critical solution design. Conversely, in comparison to traditional retail and online stores, the lack of a customer-first system architecture is the result of building solutions where individual channels were optimised continuously without considering the whole customer experience.

3. A loyalty strategy with personalised lifecycle marketing
The fierce competition for e-commerce has led to rising average acquisition cost for brands. From aggressive price-slashing during the Singles’ Day or Black Friday to the rising cost of influencer marketing campaigns, marketers are progressively changing their business strategies to invest more in building customer loyalty.

As brands implement loyalty marketing, one simple tactic is personalised communication. At various stages of a customer lifecycle, customers could be receiving welcome messages, birthday greetings, a reminder for points or membership expiry, pre-order invitations, private sales and even a small gift in shipped packages.

Creating a personalised shopping experience is more than the usual “people who bought X also purchased Y”. The backend systems have data on what a consumer has bought. Hence, it is important to use those data to power the personalisation engines on CMS, mobile apps and social channels. At different touchpoints, brands can reward loyal customers with small benefits. They can also highlight those extra benefits on the e-commerce page, such as free delivery after a certain spending amount or a personalised customer service contact for VIPs where they can reach out via telephone, SMS or where they can reach out via telephone, SMS or chat. Ultimately, the idea is to delight customers by delivering a consistent experience across touchpoints at critical moments in their journey.

The new e-commerce is here
One of the most compelling reasons for companies to embark into e-commerce is to avoid being caught up in a paradigm shift when retail business changes rapidly (especially during the COVID-19 pandemic). Today, different companies are in various stages of e-commerce maturity and some early adopters are already becoming mainstream online businesses in their industries – like Sephora in cosmetics, Suning.com in electronics or The Home Depot in home improvement products.

The future of commerce is already here as more people engage in new ways to explore product information, read reviews and place orders through various touchpoints. Today, new and mature online brands are meeting at across junction to evaluate a sustainable business strategy and choice of e-commerce platforms that offer true business agility. Therefore brands must make the switch to headless commerce architecture to support omni-channel (online and offline) retail marketing, create personalised experiences, retain customers with loyalty and remain competitive beyond the present.

Retail digital transformation from in-store to omnichannel
Omnichannel retail doesn’t require brands to Omnichannel retail doesn’t require brands to be present everywhere, just everywhere your customers are. Ultimately, the business goal is to create an integrated approach to commerce by providing a unified shopping experience across all channels or touchpoints.

Key business challenges:
• Weak retail sales – COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown have impacted retail sales, particularly luxury goods.
• The consumer behaviour shift – The slow economy has caused consumers to go for lower-priced premium brands that offer comparable quality without the high price tag. To address the challenges, D&G adopted an e-commerce strategy to bring the store experience to the consumers across touchpoints, while enhancing retail sales competence to provide customer service for online shoppers.

To deliver a unique seamless in-store and online shopping experience, they adopted headless commerce architecture as the foundation and developed mini-programmes around WeChat core functions. Three mini programmes were developed to serve different purposes:
1. E-commerce – for online sales activities
2. Member centre – for customers to check their transaction history, membership status and link to e-commerce
3. Clientelling – for retail sales to manage sales opportunities, connect customers toe-commerce and track sales performance. Additionally, D&G also developed a 360 degree virtual store with links to the online store.

The digital strategy has transformed retail operations to deliver omnichannel customer experience with high retention and sales conversion. At the retail stores, sales associates using clientelling were able to drive sales traffic into e-commerce and generated over 95%of new leads in a few months. The leads to sales conversions in the e-commerce mini programme have increased by over 13% and the brand was able to keep a healthy customer retention rate well above 40%. Indeed, D&G has successfully leveraged technology innovations to create a seamless customer experience and drive business profitability.

This post has been written by Xen Chia from XGATE under the Master Report series of Marketing Magazine, published in the January 2021 issue.

XGATE on the importance of loyalty and personalisation

This year XGATE walked away with bronze award for CRM & Loyalty Marketing Agency of the Year at the Agency of the Year awards. At the heart of the full service digital marketing agency is its proprietary DMS suite consists of a diverse range of multi-channel marketing from mobile to email, social and web. It also has numerous tech solutions such as marketing automation, CRM and loyalty system, data management platform, social media marketing, SMS gateway and others.

Apart from CRM & loyalty management, DMS provides real-time campaign performance tracking, behaviour analytics, reporting; and act as a social CRM for leads generation and nurturing. Hence, helping its clients to engage with customers throughout the entire lifecycle journey to optimise marketing ROI and build customer loyalty to grow their lifetime value.

According to Tang Pak Kay, business development director of XGATE, “Winning this award serves as a confidence booster to our clients, knowing that XGATE is committed to working and supporting our clients in building customer retention and brand loyalty with their members and consumers.”

This interview is done as part of MARKETING-INTERACTIVE’s winners and finalists’ interview series. To find out more about the awards, click here.

How has your clients’ marketing plans shifted this year?

Tang: Due to this unprecedented pandemic, many of our clients are starting to reach out to us to review and re-evaluate their marketing plans, especially in fostering a stronger relationship with their customers. We are privileged to be able to help them strategise new member recruitment and engagement solutions on various touchpoints.

What are some of the trends you see carrying on post-pandemic, and how are you readying your workforce to be ready with these trends?

Tang: Brands are starting to pay more attention and invest more resources on digital marketing strategies to engage with their customers. They see the need to offer personalised messages and promotions on multiple touchpoints to reach out to their customers and track their behaviors more religiously. The team is definitely expanding to support the increasing customer pool. At the same time, we are also doing more integrated campaigns on various platforms.

What do you think makes for great marketing these days?

Tang: Timeliness, relevance and personalisation. These are the key ingredients in achieving the marketing objectives. The right message / offer needs to reach your customers at the right time they are seeking for the particular information. Once the customer can identify and resonate with the message, that is when he/she is more open and receptive to your brand. Ultimately, personalisation – the ability to customise a particular offer that is one-of-its-kind for the customer, and creating a unique and exclusive customer experience.

How are you planning for 2021?

Tang: Year 2021 will be an exciting and busy year for us. We are expanding our marketing functions to the existing clients who are enhancing their marketing strategies; introducing more sophisticated marketing capabilities XGATE’s R&D team has developed. In addition, working with some new accounts we have won. We hope that 2021 will bring more opportunities for everyone and break new forays in the marketing landscape. We are eagerly looking forward to an exciting year ahead!

This article was adapted from Marketing Magazine.

A Big Win at Loyalty & Engagement Awards 2020

Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, when the rule to relax the gathering at functions was announced, the organiser proceeded to host The Loyalty & Engagement Awards Event on Jun 23. The format is a close group party of no more than 20 for the agency and their clients. There were coffee and refreshments. Each session is merely a brief 30 mins but the ambience is a lot more personal cause the clients and the team at XGATE can interact freely during the sessions. Congratulations to FrieslandCampina, AXA and Adidas. The winning campaigns for the Loyalty & Engagement Awards 2020 are:

Friso – Experience the Power of Natural Approach
Best Membership Programme – Gold
Best Loyalty Programme – Food & Beverage – Silver

AXA – Prosperous year of Pig Reward Programme
Best Partnership Loyalty Campaign – Silver

Adidas – YEEZY, adiCLUB YEEZY Boost Campaign
Best Loyalty Campaign – Bronze
Best Loyalty Programme – Fashion & Beauty – Bronze

Develop successful CRM loyalty programmes with marketing automation

Fuelled by the growth of the urban population, and rising household disposal income, the food and beverages (F&B) market are expected to grow exponentially. While driving the demand for new and innovative F&B concepts, discerning diners are also looking for more customisations and personalised dining experiences.

In recent years, marketing automation has emerged as an efficient software tool to create and manage marketing campaigns, and to track campaign performance. Indeed, marketing automation platforms enable business owners to attract new leads, convert leads to customers, and build brand loyalty with better business results. Alignment with corporate strategies and other organisational functions such as customer service, the on-ground operations team, marketing and sales, will improve the effectiveness of marketing programmes.

To build stronger customer relationships, here are four key points to keep in mind when building a successful CRM programme with reference to a case study in the F&B market.

1. Real-time data integration across systems

Many brands are still struggling to connect data seamlessly across different systems. Siloed data prevents marketers from stringing together useful information to build a consistent understanding of their customers’ preferences, spending patterns and behaviour, for personalisation and future communications. The fundamental step in building a meaningful database is to integrate the data generated by different systems at various customer touch-points to allow the unambiguous identification of each customer.

For example, joining CRM (Customer Relationship Management) data, transactional data, social data and behavioural data into a single environment will be required to create valuable customer insights. In these times where brands are always fighting for attention, knowledge and understanding of customer behaviours would be the first step to building more meaningful and loyal brand advocates.

Many current systems support real-time data transfer through an application programming interface (API), though legacy systems may require additional technical expertise to customise and script data connectors/interfaces. Real-time data processing enables instant gratification such as crediting/redemption of rewards, upgrade/downgrade of tiers, and ultimately, a better customer experience.

2. Customer lifecycle

Customers are not homogeneous. Applying customer lifecycle marketing to different customer segments allows marketers to clearly design the right CRM marketing campaigns to target different segments effectively. The lifecycle process also allows brand owners to better identify and focus on the critical marketing efforts required currently, and hence, be more effective in budget and resource planning.

At XGATE, we adopt a 5As customer lifecycle approach – aware, attempt, adopt, advocate, and abandon.

At each stage of the lifecycle, we design different marketing programmes aimed at evolving the target segment – from leads to first-time buyers, and then to brand advocates. At the aware stage, the main marketing activity is to create awareness for the brand by targeting marketing messages at selected audiences on various channels. The aim is to motivate visitors to interact with the brand and then convert them into leads – attempt.

Encouraging product adoption by nurturing leads to become paying customers is the key in the adopt stage. For new brands, most of the marketing efforts will likely be focused around activities within the first three“As”, for example, sampling programmes, and the offering of free trials. For more established brands, the focus may also include building strong brand advocates and loyalty within the active member base.

When members exhibit inactivity over a period of time, they are at risk of abandoning exhibit inactivity over a period of time, they are at risk of abandoning the brand. Re-engagement programmes can be put in place to reduce members leaving the brand when they become inactive.

3. Multi-channel marketing automation

With different marketing programmes to run at the different lifecycle stages, multi-channel marketing automation platforms have gained popularity in recent years. Such platforms enable marketers to design and program campaigns triggered by time, rules or events.

By targeting digital campaigns at the right customer/lead, at the right time, and with the appropriate messages on the suitable channel, brands can look forward to better campaign response rates, thereby leading to better customer experiences and business profitability. Most marketing automation platforms enable real-time tracking of campaign results, for example, SMS deliverability, new members’ sign-up rates, click through rates for offers, etc.

When integrated with transactional data from Point-Of-Sales (POS), sales conversion data from different campaigns can be measured effectively as well, thus giving brand owners and marketers up-to-date information on the revenue generated from marketing campaigns. With the aid of automation, mastering the art of CRM marketing will further propel more interesting and engaging marketing programmes, and grow brand loyalty through value-added services and experiences.

4. Customer analytics and business intelligence

Customers generate lots of data at various touch-points that reveal a lot about themselves.

It is imperative that brands capture such data to understand their customers and capitalise on the insights and opportunities presented. For example, customers may click on certain items of interest when browsing EDMs or interacting with a brand’s website. The data point may reveal the aspiration or desire of the customer.

With the aid of sophisticated artificial intelligence algorithms, different data sets can be meshed together to generate more accurate predictive models of customer segments, behaviour patterns and tendency to purchase. The continuous stream of data further helps to optimise the models and predictions.

Ultimately, brand owners will be able to predict even during the early stages of the lifecycle, the customer lifetime value generated by a customer if he/she exhibits certain purchasing patterns or propensity towards certain services or offers.

Equipped with such business intelligence, marketers can plan appropriate campaigns and respective budgets more effectively to optimise customer acquisition costs or forecast potential revenue.

This post has been written by Dr Tang Pak Kay, XGATE Singapore, under the Master Report series of Marketing Magazine, published in the March 2020 issue.

Clienteling: Redefining the future of the in-store customer brand experience

The customer journey is often looked at in rather stiff terms, as a chart moving from point to point in a sterile manner.

The customer journey is often looked at in rather stiff terms, as a chart moving from point to point in a sterile manner. But in reality, each individual customer journey actually tells an interesting story with stakes, goals, and ups and downs, hopefully resulting in a happy ever after for the loyal customer.

This is especially apparent when jumping in medias res to the most exciting central part of the story, the in-store experience with clienteling strategies.

Functioning as a tale of its own, the shopper’s quest to find what they’re seeking, and to walk out of a store with a smile, hangs in the balance. And, the hook this plot’s result largely hangs on, is the quality of the in-store customer experience.

In this Master Report, XGATE provides us with such a narrative of a shopper in a retail store and their hunt for an outfit. The twist being that the store staff have a clienteling portal on hand to facilitate the shopper’s experience, radically changing the story path at each step.

XGATE’s walkthrough demonstrates why it’s important to understand the implementation of new retail technology at the human level, and how it works in practice, rather than listing out a variety of functions. Only then can customer journeys be crafted in such a manner as to leave the shopper feeling like the brand is their hero.

Enabling the experience

Technology today is changing the very nature of relationships between brands and consumers. Marketers are constantly looking for ways to improve efficiency through automation and technology. Ultimately, every brand will develop its digital competency, which raises the question: “What sets you apart from your competitors?”

The answer lies in the connection between the customer experience and business profitability. Research from Temkin Group reports that a moderate improvement in the customer experience will impact the revenue of a typical US$1 billion company to an average of $775 million over three years.

Instead of discussing the customer experience in general, this article aims to provide an in-depth understanding of using clienteling as a retailing tool to recreate an exceptional in-store brand experience. Specifically, clienteling will enable your sales associates to deliver the kind of personalised customer experiences that consumers still crave.

To understand the concept of clienteling, imagine having a clienteling portal on an iPad and putting it in the hands of a sales associate to empower them with customer data to create a personalised in-store shopping experience.

Life of Patrick

Meet Patrick Lee, a store manager for an apparel brand.

Patrick starts his day accessing his clienteling portal to search for a list of VIP customers whom he had not been in contact for a while. He called and invited them to a special VIP promotion.

Michael Wong, a VIP on the list, was contacted and was interested to drop by for the VIP promotion.

At the store, Michael was greeted by Patrick with a friendly: “Welcome sir, you’re here for our VIP promotion? Do you have our member e-card?” Michael showed the e-card from his Apple Wallet. Patrick scanned the QR code using the clienteling portal and pulled out his profile details.

Instantaneously, on the clienteling portal, Patrick obtained a 360-view of Michael across channels, including order history, profile, and wish list.

Patrick said: “Mr Wong, we have several new arrivals and we do have them in your sizes for most of the pieces. Let me show you at the men’s section.”

Michael delightedly browsed the items and began trying them on. Eventually, he picked two jackets, three white shirts, and two pairs of jeans before asking Patrick to confirm the sizes again.

Patrick answered: “Mr Wong, you’re size 48 jacket, size 15 for the shirt and 33-inch waist for your jeans. Let me see what we have in stock.”

Minutes later, Patrick returned with the grey and black jackets, and the shirts: two in white and one in blue. But there was an issue.

Patrick explained: “Mr Wong, we have your size for the jackets and the two white shirts. However, for the third white shirt, I am sorry, but we actually only have that style of cut in your size, 15, in a baby blue.”

Patrick displayed an image on the clienteling portal of a co-ordinated brown jacket with the baby blue shirt.

Patrick said: “Mr Wong, I recommend the blue shirt because it matches well with the brown jacket you bought previously.”

Michael liked the matching outfit. Then he asked for one size larger for the denim jeans. Patrick checked the stocks on the portal and informed Michael that they had no stock for the 34-inch waist.

“Our new stocks arrive next week. I can see you’ve marked those jeans on your wish list on our online store. You must love denim,” Patrick said, adding: “Mr Wong, should I wrap up the jackets and shirts for you? Would you also want the blue shirt as well? You look charming in that.”

Michael replied yes to the baby blue shirt. He then signed on the iPad to pay for the items and informed Patrick to contact him when the jeans arrived.

An email receipt was sent to Michael for his records, and Patrick used the clienteling portal to set a reminder to contact Michael when the stock was in.

A week later, Patrick got an alert from the clienteling portal that the size 34-inch jeans were in-store and called Michael to arrange an appointment time to pick them up.

Michael arrived at the store and showed his VIP member e-card. Patrick used the clienteling portal to scan the QR code and pull out the order’s details.

Patrick said: “Welcome back Mr Wong. Do you want to try on the jeans once more?”

Michael tried them on and proceeded to pay by signing on the iPad. Patrick bid Michael farewell as he left the store: a satisfied customer with two new pairs of jeans.

Later that week, Michael used his social messaging app to text Patrick and thank him for the great customer service.

Patrick received the message on his clienteling portal and set a reminder to send a personalised birthday message to Michael in December.

Moral of the story

Clienteling strategies have ignited the magic of personalised retailing to enhance the in-store brand experience and customer loyalty. At XGATE, we believe such capabilities are possible with advances in CRM and loyalty marketing, integrating data across multiple systems, including CRM, loyalty,

POS, order management, eCommerce, and communication channels – mobile technology, and omni-channel services.

Ultimately, three essential factors – customer insights, personalisation and fulfilment – will drive the success for clienteling by offering a unique brand experience at different touch-points of a customer’s shopping journey.

Businesses looking to develop their own clienteling portal should consider the different functions (as illustrated in the graphic diagram) required by sales associates to deliver customer experiences distinctly crafted for a brand.

Empowering our sales associates with well-developed clienteling tools to target segments, create personalised services, and offer seamless fulfilment for shoppers will soon be the norm for retail marketing. This necessity allows brands to make technology feel more human and blend it with the most meaningful aspects of the customer experience. That’s the new future.