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Creating a Unified Customer Profile for Your Retail Brand

Like many consumers, I shop different brands to satisfy different needs: clothing, gifts, groceries, personal goods, accessories, etc. Sometimes I shop independent small businesses, and other times I shop larger retailers with a network of related brands. But no matter who owns the shopping experience, I expect the experience to be tailored to me. If I don’t see content and product recommendations that are of interest to me, chances are I won’t stick around long, and I’m certainly not alone in this behavior.

Ninety-four percent of customer insights and marketing professionals across different industries believe that personalization is important, very important, or extremely important, so we’re all in agreement here - it has to happen. From a brand’s perspective, though, creating a personalized, contextualized experience full of relevant content and product recommendations for each shopper can be, well, a huge hurdle!

Here’s a great example: I wear a lot of LOFT clothing, a brand owned by Ann Inc., which also owns Ann Taylor, Ann Taylor Factory Store, LOFT Outlet, and Lou & Grey. While each of these brands has its own unique personality and product line, they are very much interconnected. I’ve purchased a Lou & Grey dress from a Loft store before, and have used my Ann Taylor card at several different stores and online locations with different brands in the Ann, Inc. family. I am a LOFT shopper at heart, but I sometimes stray.

So given my history, it’s safe for me to expect that when I shop one of those brands, they’ll remember my demographic information, my browsing habits, and my purchase history, right?

In an ideal world, sure, but in reality -- maybe not. Unfortunately it’s not that easy. ANN Inc. has actually put considerable effort behind their omnichannel, integrated experience strategy, but this is still a big struggle for many brands. Creating a comprehensive history of my browsing and purchases across all of the brands within one larger corporation is exceptionally challenging. While all of the brands under that umbrella might share similar characteristics, manufacturing locations, or even corporate staff, they are operating as separate entities with different target markets and buyer personas.

Finding a way to unify information collected across brands is a tall task, and requires the right set of systems to execute. Conversely, it’s a business imperative today. Seventy-four percent of consumers get frustrated when website content isn’t tailored to them, and to put it plainly, if your company can’t do it, your competition probably can.

Big brands today are trying to find ways to collect, store, and mine the masses of data their customers are giving them. For each individual brand, there are myriad channels that can inform a comprehensive user history, including in-store, online, mobile, and social. This is where purpose-built solutions come into play. Your organization needs to implement a system that not only collects data, but tracks and sorts that data in a way that makes it actionable.

Solutions like Acquia’s ContextDB, for example, create what we call a Unified Customer Profile (UCP) that is able to aggregate all of that raw customer data, pulling it into a data repository for safe keeping, and making it accessible for future use. It also allows customer data to flow between your integrated marketing tools and systems, so that all of your different internal teams are working with the same basic set of customer data. This customer profile -- different from the one that a shopper voluntarily creates with their personal and shipping information, and other shopping preferences -- contains no personally identifiable information (PII), and is great for keeping track of what a customer does over time, across different channels, or even with a company’s different brands. It allows your business to develop rich, progressive customer profiles for each and every shopper that visits your site -- both anonymous users, and known users.

The data can also shine a light onto powerful customer behavior patterns. One brand may find that it gets the majority of its traffic from social referrals, and the majority of its sales in-store. Another brand may find that it gets loads of in-store traffic to touch and feel its products, but that most purchases actually happen online. Being armed with this data can help inform marketing activities, and even dictate where to put budget dollars to maximize the impact of your investments.

Because customers expect a brand to know–and even anticipate–their needs, only a sophisticated tool like the UCP can help accomplish this challenging goal. By investing in this next level of customer information management, your brand can meet those customer expectations and anticipate what they may require next. And because you’ve put your customer’s needs first, you’ll also be rewarded with the rich insights about customer behavior that would not be possible without such a powerful technology.

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