Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Retail Trend: Reimagining CRM and loyalty programs with technology

A recent news was about an interesting app rolled out by the up market department store chain; Neiman Marcus. This enables their customer to be linked to a specific sales associate and for a start enables the staff to update the customer about new arrivals, it alerts the store staff when the customer enters the store, etc. Obviously this enables a whole new level of personalized service and customer relationship management (CRM). This video about NM Service would help you understand how this works.


With a new year around the corner I have been fielding questions about what does the immediate future hold for shoppers and Retailers. A recent post of mine was about technology changes, namely 3D printing and Google glasses, which might redefine shopping and it might come into our lives even as you read this post. To use Neiman Marcus as a case to point, they have unveiled a range of exclusive gifts for Christmas which can be printed out in their store!
Neiman Marcus, Retail, Indian Retail, CRM, 3D Printing 
This lovely pendant can be printed (!) with the shopper’s initials at the store.
Even assuming that printing of products at home will take time as 3D printer penetration in households is a constraint, there are other implications to these development. If we are to combine all these separate technologies, it would lead to a completely new paradigm in shopping, especially in the CRM and loyalty space.
Imagine this, which could be a reality very soon. You as a shopper enter the store where the staff have been fitted with Google glasses which is linked to the loyalty database. As soon as the staff sees you, they know your name and can recall your preferences, etc. The staff will be able to wish you in a personalized manner and interact with you. Add on 3D printing and the staff might be able to print out a unique and personalized SKU for you. Your experience will be one of a kind and cannot be duplicated easily by a competitor. In essence the CRM would be at the absolute best.
Is it practical? Is it cost effective? Which formats can afford this?
Yes, it is practical and depending on the format and cost structure the technology will pay for itself in terms of customer retention and profitability. I have never been a big fan of loyalty programs by mass merchandisers and I don’t think that this is a path they should even consider. A typical CRM program would approximately cost 3% of sales and in the case of mass merchandisers who focus on pricing and volumes this cost would be better spent on lower prices of the KVIs.
On the other hand lifestyle and specialty formats should definitely explore this, especially in India. A good CRM program can ensure that loyal customers generate anywhere upwards of 50% of the sales for a retailer. Therefore, incremental marketing costs can be dramatically cut and such a technologically enabled CRM program will give more bang for the buck. The other direct benefit is the increased conversion rates. This means that the staff would be interacting with more of actual buyers instead of potential buyers, thereby making the staff more productive. Lastly, the lifestyle and specialty stores can also work towards rationalizing their assortment and increasing the stock turns, leading to increased profitability.
Needless to say, all these would remain as useless gizmos if the Retailer does not leverage the data being generated to customize their offerings. Just having loyalty cards, giving points or outfitting the staff with Google glasses will not make any customer happy unless they get some direct and tangible benefit from these initiatives.


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