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CRM & Loyalty

River Island hopes renewed customer experience focus can help it see off digital rivals



River Island has been a core part of the British high street for the last 30 years. And yet its roots date back even further than that; to the 1940s, when founder Bernard Lewis decided to start selling more than just fruit, veg and knitting wool from a bombed-out site in the east end of London.

From Lewis Separates to Chelsea Girl to River Island, the fashion brand, in all its iterations has survived for eight decades in an ever-changing retail landscape.

But as the UK retail sector undergoes one of its most dramatic transformations to date – from the rise of ecommerce and fast fashion, to rapidly evolving technology, changing consumer needs and inflated business rates – River Island’s future, like most British retailers, will depend on whether it can create a solid customer experience that keeps people coming through its doors.

So when you take on the role as the first ever head of customer experience for a “billion-pound business” that has more than 350 stores, six websites and ships to 100 countries worldwide, where do you begin?

“You kind of take a big gulp and go, ‘I’m not entirely sure where to start’,” says Tim MacIvor, who joined River Island in May 2017 after stints at Tesco Bank, EE and

To break the job down into more manageable chunks, MacIvor and his team divided the customer journey into eight core areas. “Rather than this behemoth of change, we were able to chunk that down in a way that was a little bit more manageable,” MacIvor explains. “But there was still quite a task there.”

One of the bigger tasks that will resonate with many retailers that started out on the high street, is creating a digital infrastructure that matches the demands of consumers in 2018. And for River Island, the need for a slick, mobile-optimised ecommerce business is growing, with online and mobile sales up 21% year on year in 2016, when it last reported its results.

“We had legacy platforms we were trying to stitch and in come cases weld together, which when you’re trying to be nimble and quick doesn’t really work,” MacIvor says. “It’s absolutely about being more agile in that space.”

Why the high street is more than a cost

While the pureplay, fast-fashion retailers such as Asos, Boohoo and Missguided can often operate much faster than more traditional retailers – whether that’s getting a product to market or delivery time – MacIvor “absolutely” sees River Island’s high street presence as an opportunity rather than a hindrance and believes the stores allow it to have a “much stronger play” than a digital-only channel.

“It’s not just about shipping stuff to somebody, it’s about the curation of a look and really deep personalisation, and we’ve got a real opportunity to be more a part of a customer’s lifestyle than just providing garments to them,” he says.

“There are aspects [of the high street] you need to get right and it is a cost, but if you just look at a high street estate as being a cost then you’re missing a trick. Because it’s fashion and because people have to wear clothes they need to know how they feel and how to wear them.”

This is why River Island staff are encouraged to take on the role of ‘fashion experts’; to talk to customers, find out what they like, what their end point is and to be able to create a look for them rather than just putting clothes in a carrier bag. To do this better, MacIvor and his team are looking at how to start pushing data into the hands of the shop teams so they can drive a more personalised experience.

There are aspects [of the high street] you need to get right and it is a cost, but if you just look at a high street estate as being a cost then you’re missing a trick.

Tim MacIvor, River Island

“That’s absolutely where the high street should excel,” MacIvor says. “Merely as a place as somewhere you can go and buy something, you could argue you could do that quicker and easier through the click of a button; there has to be a USP to high street stores.”

Another “critical” component of keeping customers engaged, MacIvor says, is ensuring it gets the transactional aspects of the relationship – payment, delivery, returns – right every time. That is especially the case when much of the appeal of the digital-only rivals competing for River Island’s core demographic is their ability to serve customers with ease, speed and convenience.

From that, the focus moves to emotional engagement, which MacIvor says is the closest retailers like River Island are going to have to any form of loyalty within the fast fashion area.

“Emotional engagement is about appealing to the customer’s heart rather than their mind,” he says. “If we can get into that realm of having a conversation with our customers that makes them look and feel great then we are along the way to getting them to at least think about us when they go through the inspiration cycle.”

Behind the shop front

MacIvor explains that River Island does most of its work in-house so it has more control over the design and direction of the brand.

Internally, he and his team work closely with performance marketing and CRM, as well as ecommerce and retail heads, which he says allows them to understand pain points and drive the strategic direction of the business.

“Customer experience works best when it’s a hub department; [departments] absolutely don’t work better in silos,” he says. “It’s about the coordination piece. So you have specific activities that you designate to an expert.

“For example, how you run a shop. There’s no point customer experience coming in and saying ‘you should do this’ because the shop will definitely know better. Likewise with optimisation or CRM on the digital side. It’s making sure you have a very clear objective and strategy about what you want the customer experience to be.”

The post River Island hopes renewed customer experience focus can help it see off digital rivals appeared first on Marketing Week.

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CRM & Loyalty

Measuring the customer success of live chat: Tips, strategies and best practice



Online marketing offers many advantages over its traditional brethren from a metrics perspective. You can, for example, examine click-through-rates to a promotion, to a blog or to an article to your website, and with eCommerce you then analyse whether that online interaction has led to a number of sales. At the core of this marketing effort is also the ability to collate customer data, which can be used with the help of a customer relationships management (CRM) system to learn more about your customers to improve sales and customer service to develop profitable customer relationships.

To achieve the same level of data collation and analysis with traditional offline marketing techniques would take much more time, effort and money. It’s also often said that customers have become more demanding because the vast majority of us is able to connect to the internet while on the move via our smartphones, tablet devices and laptops. This customer requirement for immediacy therefore brings us to the benefits of offering live chat as one of the ways for offering them an omnichannel experience, and to improve the ability of companies to resolve customer queries and issues.

Live chat: Important benefits

CRM consultant Patricia Jones therefore writes in her article for CustomerThink magazine, ‘Live Chat Software Metrics for Measuring Performance Using CRM Database’: “Live chat support…carries some …important benefits. Recent research shows that 79% of businesses that provide live chat support say that they have received positive impact on their sales, revenue, and customer loyalty programmes by implementing live chat facilities on their websites.”

Live chat can therefore be used to measure ‘customer success’, and integration into a CRM system could also prove to be advantageous to the point of allowing you to find ways to develop long-term customer relationships with loyal customers that may buy more of your products and services.

Gemma Baker, marketing executive at Click4Assistance, adds what her view of customer success means. “Customer success, in my opinion, is what the customers get from the live chat service," says Baker. "More consumers are using this instant communication channel over other contact methods, and they are leaving with a positive experience.

"This may be because all their questions have been answered to their satisfaction, which may lead them to to buy a product or book a service. Such positive experiences, and good customer service, that lead to results can therefore be defined as a success.”

No complaints

"The measure of customer success is a lack of customer complaints and the completion of the customer journey – customers getting the response they want," adds David Bate, managing director of Call Centres Group.

“From our perspective we continue to keep our customers and they continue to pay us. The system evolves and gets better, and we are going to bring in artificial intelligence. Another way to measure success is the number of completed orders via live chat. That’s what our customers would consider to be success. We need to be reasonably priced without being extortionate too.

His colleague Lucy Kitson, relationship manager at Your Business Voice Ltd, adds: “If the query is resolved, then that’s a measure of customer success. Customers might define success as value-add.”

“It’s very important to measure the customer success of live chat to identify any pain points that may exist, and to improve the customer service they provide”, advises Baker before commenting: “Without regularly analysing the performance of live chat, the channel could only be running at half potential and never be fully optimised.” With this optimisation organisations should be able to reduce the number of complaints while improve customer satisfaction levels.

CRM system integration

As for CRM integration with live chat, Bate finds that none of his clients back-up their data to a CRM system at present. However, he sees this becoming more important. “In the call centre, with the call handling we’re putting more into CRM systems, but we don’t have a lot of experience in it with live chat handling.” Kitson adds that most of the data extraction and analysis is done manually, but application programmable interfaces can be used to integrate live chat with CRM systems.

It’s not mature enough, and it’s financially viable in our experience to deploy a CRM system for the moment”, says Bate who also advises that companies should retain their telephone numbers and customer enquiry lines to avoid creating customer frustration and customer attrition.

Customer satisfaction

“I think the most important customer success metrics for live chat is the customers’ satisfaction with not only just the agent(s), but with the service as a whole”, Baker argues. She says that customer feedback is also essential, enabling organisations “to ensure their chat channel is meeting customers’ expectations”. The measure of this will come from regular analysis, she says, “to ensure that live chat operators are performing as they should be.”

In her view the other metrics that are used to measure live chat customer success include:

  • Waiting times are only applicable if queuing is used and/or operators have to leave visitors waiting regularly to find information out
  • Chat duration depends on whether the organisation is more interested in getting through enquiries as quickly as possible, as some organisations can spend over an hour advising someone for it to become a beneficial or high value conversion (e.g. universities recruiting international students)
  • Total chats per day, this is a metric that only large organisations measure, they benchmark this to see seasonal trends, or comparisons with other contact methods
  • First contact resolution rates are one of the metrics that is likely to count towards customer success, however the results are affected by if the chat is routing through to the correct departments, the correct type of enquiries are coming through the chat channel, and the right people/teams are operating the service
  • Conversion rates, this is the next metric that can be used to measure the customer success of the live chat service, as if customers are happy with the information provided in chat, they are more likely to convert. Customers are four times more likely to make a purchase after having a live chat

Some of the aspects of measuring customer success are intangible, and so there is a need to assess things such as their emotions and motivations before during or after each live chat session. This can be achieved in a number of ways, including with pre-chat forms and post-chat surveys.

Post-chat surveys

“Post-chat surveys are the best way to capture the intangible aspects of live chat”, claims Kitson before adding: “In terms of emotions, it’s a tricky one. You can see what a person is typing before they press send, and this may give you an indication as they may alter their tone or wording as they are typing. Before that chat, the person can fill in a pre-chat form to say what’s the session is about. This may include how they are feeling.”

Live chat and chatbots

Kitson and Bate says that 24-hour coverage is becoming critical because live chat isn’t always switched on. Customers want their queries, issues and complaints addressed immediately, and so the resolution response rate is a crucial element of customer success. The answer to achieving this is to integrate live chat with chatbots, and to use a CRM system or knowledgebase to capture much of the data created as a result of each interaction.

Bate says innovation is important to his company, and that includes the use of chatbots in support of live chat: “I am looking at chatbots at the front of live chat to respond to the obvious questions, but when the bot gets into difficulty a live chat operator will come in. This will reduce our costs. That’s the sort of innovation that I’m looking for to go out into the market for our clients.”

The customer success metrics for chatbots won’t be dissimilar to those involved in measuring outcomes and agent performance of live chat. However, it should therefore be remembered that chatbots use machine learning, and so they may not always have the right answers. For this reason, it’s important to use a combination of channels, include human live chat operators.

Customer success tips

Baker, Kitson and Bate all believe that it’s possible to achieve customer success with live chat as part of an omnichannel experience, and to help you to achieve they offer the following tips:

  • Understand what your organisation wants to achieve with live chat (reduced phone calls, increased productivity or sales)
  • Ensure you can measure this by collating information from various platforms, and where possible integrate live chat with a CRM system to make your data analysis more efficient
  • Analyse live chat data and performance statistics regularly to help you to make amendments where necessary
  • Offer instant satisfaction with live chat, making customers feel they’re talking to an expert. It may not be the answer the customer is looking for because it may be a policy decision. Customers aren’t necessarily going to get the answer they want. However, that could lead to another conversation
  • Ask customer to complete surveys to gain feedback, including complaints which are a measure of customer success.

Two final pieces of advice, which can also be used as a measure of customer success, include the need to address any frustrations that prevent live chat from being efficient and effective. By dealing with them you can increase customer satisfaction – and even sales. Kitson and Bate also stress that customer patience is finite. A failure to respond quickly enough will only increase your customer attrition rates. While they won’t be good for your company, they may be good for your competitors. So, don’t keep your customer waiting and make sure you don’t make them repeat themselves. This does nothing for customer satisfaction, and that’s the key metric that leads to customer success.

Interested in hearing leading global brands discuss subjects like this in person?

Find out more about Digital Marketing World Forum (#DMWF) Europe, London, North America, and Singapore.

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CRM & Loyalty

The rise of blockchain loyalty in 2019



The rise of blockchain loyalty in 2019

The general consensus is that loyalty is broken. Recently we’ve seen Avios close its doors, Waitrose dramatically alter its offering, Worldhotels call time on its Peakpoints programme, Coca Cola shut its Coke Zone and ASOS axe its A-List reward scheme.

Ever since Tesco demonstrated just how powerful loyalty and data insight could be, literally thousands of brands launched some kind of programme to engender the holy grail of marketing: customer loyalty. The problem was that often these programmes failed to deliver. For instance research shows that despite 94 per cent of people belonging to at least one loyalty programme, half of those signed up never actually using it. This reveals that too many schemes struggle to fully engage their members – and thus fully utilise the potential insight and gains to be made from better understanding customers. It is no wonder, therefore, that schemes come and go with alarming regularity.  Even Clubcard, the undisputed leader of UK loyalty, recently announced some hefty changes which left legions of its members outraged by the downgrading of some of the rewards.

So we’ve reached a bit of an impasse. We know that loyalty schemes can deliver significant competitive advantage, but too often they become a drain on resource rather than the value-adding entity they were designed to be.

However, all this could change as a result of blockchain. Of course it is most well-known for the role it plays behind the scenes for cyrptocurrencies. And this is key – because loyalty is by its nature a digital currency. The technology that manages millions of transactions every day for Bitcoin could do the same for programmes like Boots Advantage Card, Intercontinental Hotel Group’s Rewards Club, Emirates Sky Miles and many more existing and as yet unconceived programmes.

The benefits of applying blockchain to loyalty are six fold:

  1. Blockchain reduces cost: the systemisation of the loyalty process will result in significant savings in the management of the loyalty scheme. This means that smaller organisations will also be able to offer sophisticated schemes and reap the rewards like their bigger rivals.
  2. Better customer experience: Blockchain firstly allows instantaneous transactions meaning that points can be issued, registered and therefore used in real time. For instance if a person accrues points on their credit card whilst on a shopping trip and then stops for lunch at a restaurant. They can use their newly accrued points to pay for the meal. A common complaint about loyalty schemes by consumers is how hard it is to ‘spend’ points – this would be eradicated by blockchain and suddenly the loyalty scheme does what it promises to do – reward customer loyalty!
  3. Points don’t mean prizes: under blockchain points become tokenised meaning that they have an actual market value. This means that it will be much easier to set up partnerships with brands for point redemption – because you won’t be comparing apples and pears.
  4. Greater consumer control: With the advent of GDPR control over consumer data has become increasingly important. Using a blockchain to underpin a loyalty programme hands all the control to the customer. In real time they will be able to set preference rules. Furthermore, with blockchain as a loyalty engine it will be possible and easy for consumers to ‘gift’ or pool their points – have you ever tried booking a flight using the points of multiple members? If not, don’t even attempt it!
  5. An enhanced omnichannel experience: No matter which channel the customer interacts with the programme through, the experience will always be the same because all transactions are processed in real time.
  6. Reduced risk: whilst blockchain is not infallible it is more resistant to fraud than traditional backend systems. This means that the risk of a breach is minimised and it will be harder for consumers to ‘cheat’ the system.

Blockchain is not a loyalty panacea, but given the above benefits 2019 will spawn the start of the loyalty revolution.

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CRM & Loyalty

Want to create better experiences and brand loyalty? Lean on your data



Marketing leaders are in the throes of 2019 planning and there’s no doubt improving consumer experiences is among the top priorities for the new year. Data shows consumer expectations (and frustrations!) are on the rise, and brands are scrambling to understand to deepen brand-to-consumer engagement. This article will explore three ways brands can make the most of data to improve consumer relationships.

Understand that consumers are evolving, and grow with them

Recent data from a global study which polled 7,000 consumers shows a third of consumers expect brands to anticipate their needs before they arise, and a whopping 70 percent of global consumers are annoyed when every company correspondence is about making a sale. Likewise, Accenture reports 75 percent of consumers are more likely to buy from a retailer that recognizes them by name, recommends options based on past purchases, or knows their purchase history.

Now more than ever, consumers expect brands to understand them and treat engagements as evidence that they are committed to knowing them better as individuals. Whether it be through recommended products, engagement channel preferences (like social media or email), more relevant content (back to school tips or downsizing advice for empty nesters) or selecting better promotions (free shipping versus bundle deals versus free sample products), brands will benefit from going the extra mile.

Glossier is an excellent brand example of evolutionary marketing. In an extensive feature on its founder, Emily Weiss, Entrepreneur Magazine wrote:

Her customers lived on social, and her products are visual by design, which meant that, with the right tools in place, sites like Instagram could become Glossier’s R&D lab and marketing platform…the company began using Instagram to build mini focus groups and quickly create products based on what they learn.

Make data-driven marketing strategies a consistent reality

According to six months’ worth of database, customer and engagement research, Forrester Research found that “‘data-driven marketing strategies are the new standard.” According to Forrester, “B2C marketers are collaborating with CRM teams to optimize customer relationships. Customer database and engagement agencies have used this opportunity to carve out a spot for themselves on agency rosters by keeping databases secure and compliant with global regulations, as well as creating real-time insights for marketers to act on.” The industry is seeing more proof that data-led strategies are working, but that doesn’t come without its challenges.

Many marketers find critical data is spread widely across various platforms. Sixty-nine CMOs from the likes of Tacori, Fidelity Life, Office Depot, recently shared their challenges in a study conducted by The CMO Club, with 42% of them citing customer data management as the most difficult aspect of marketing technology. For 2019, marketers will need to increase efforts at data consolidation to allow truly effective multi-channel strategies.

One such success story is Opel. The 110-year-old German automobile manufacturer, which prides itself on product and service innovations, looked to marketing technology and data to strengthen its pipeline. Ultimately, by developing a data model tied to a specific goal, the company’s prospect database grew 30 percent in four months, while the number of identified profiles increased over 473 percent.

Look at data as an opportunity by working backward from a goal to determine which data sets are meaningful. Intentional, focused data collection, consolidation, and output is possible when marketers are working to uncover customer trends and opportunities. Here are a few tips:

  • Create an audit of data collection methods and management systems. This focus allows you to truly understand what systems people use and how they use them.
  • Apply industry standards for your business and create data consolidation plans accordingly. This should be a fundamental driver of systems designed to collect, manage and store data for both short term and long-term basis.
  • Know the privacy laws of your state and country. For those companies managing personal information of Californians, the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 (CCPA) requires that certain data be available on demand as of January 1, 2020. Legislation like this should be incorporated into your data consolidation strategy.

Experience is everything

CMOs know how critical it is to improve relationship marketing, with 62 percent of marketers noting it is the most important (or one of the most important) functions of their team this coming year. Of course, communication and engagement is a big part of that, with two-thirds saying their top marketing automation goal for 2019 is to speak to their customers in a more relevant way. That sentiment is echoed by an Adobe report: 33 percent of retailers cite “targeting and personalization” among their top three tactical priorities for the year ahead, higher than for any other marketing tactic.

So how does a brand build both the communication channels and experience they seek? Here are a few things to consider:

  • Ensure sales and customer service teams are properly aligned: Nothing irritates a person more than being solicited to buy a product they’ve already purchased (or hated and returned). There are many opportunities for customer feedback and service requests to inform which marketing strategies are working or not. Be sure your customer service department is a part of marketing and campaign conversations – they’ll have real-time insights that are worth hearing.
  • Lead with your values: Digital marketing can be a double-edged sword. There is enormous value in connecting via multiple channels with your customers and learning more about them through data, but brands that don’t honor consumer preferences ultimately fail because their values are being compromised in favor of potential sales. And, let’s face it, if you don’t respect things like opt-out requests or address poor consumer experiences, customers will melt away like post-Christmas snowmen.

More Expert Predictions

The post Want to create better experiences and brand loyalty? Lean on your data appeared first on Marketing Land.

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