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Can technology desensitise marketers?

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Today’s marketers look at visits, impressions, opens, clicks, mail-outs, conversions, abandon rates, bounce rates, average order value, total lifetime value – but are we blinded by the numbers and what they represent?

Think of your average subscriber, and you’ll not see the uniqueness and complexity you see in the people you meet day-to-day. You and I are the average consumer to most of the brands we engage with. As a result, they treat us identically. And I am pretty sure that what influences you, dear reader, isn’t identical to what influences me. No hard feelings. Let’s look at a great example of ‘connected marketing’ from a technology point of view, then from a customer’s point of view.

My customer experience of connected marketing
I went into a shopping centre a few weeks ago and visited a well-known shoe retailer. I looked around for a while then one of the sales assistants asked if I needed any help. I said I was looking at three different styles but I’m an annoying shoe size (UK 12, European 47) so didn’t expect them to have much in stock in my size.

The sales assistant took me to an iPad mounted next to the shoes and checked what they had in-store, but was also was able to search their warehouse and surrounding stores. The warehouse had my size, and if they sent them to my home or office I could easily return them either to the store (no return cost) or post them back with a courier using the pre-printed returns slip (no cost again!). Awesome.

To me, this was a great customer experience – I ordered the shoes I wanted, they had joined up their online and the offline activity and as a customer I was getting what I wanted. So I ordered at the check-out in store, gave them my email address and was told to expect an email.

Follow-up emails undermine positive customer experience in-store
The confirmation email I received came several days later at the same time as three other emails into my personal Gmail account, the first two can be seen below:

The first email, (from ‘comments’!?) told me I had signed up to their VIP programme (I’ve made one purchase and have yet to receive the goods, why am I a VIP?). This email gave me 10% off my first online purchase (the call to action is to cancel my existing order and reorder online for a 10% discount?). Good to know they’re concerned with saving me money, at least.

The second email, sent at an identical time again from ‘comments’, was an order confirmation email which was so poorly rendered in Gmail that I couldn’t actually see what I had bought, what it cost and when it would arrive (I had been charged shipping that wasn’t explained to me in-store) and the order tracking link to a Royal Mail delivery service was broken.

There was no way to contact their customer service team in the email, no contact email, no contact number and it’s incredibly difficult on the website – they direct me back to the local store, which in the email was different to the store where I made my purchase!

The third email, again from “comments”, came nine days later confirming that the items had been dispatched – and I was told in-store that they were in stock at the time. At this stage, I still have not been told how much my items in the basket were or the cost of shipping, the delivery link to Royal Mail still does not work and I still don’t have any contact details for customer services. I don’t know when they are being delivered and how much they have already cost me, I needed to check my online banking to see how much I’d been charged. Outrageous!

I eventually got the products I ordered in-store two weeks after I had purchased them. The magic was gone. I’ve got the product I wanted but what could have been a great experience had left me frustrated and unlikely to repeat it.

How can this happen?
It’s happened here, and in many other cases, I suspect because no-one has attempted to look at the communications process from the customer’s point of view.

Test the customer experience not just the technology
I don’t doubt that the integration of the inventory management system, supply chain management, marketing automation tool and parcel delivery system was complex and time-consuming. But how often during the testing of data transfer processes, API calls, templates and content creation did anyone look at the whole end-to-end process for the customer?

We are told by industry experts in the US and Europe that 70% or more of a customer database has only made a single purchase in the last 12-24 months in online retail. If we look at the process above, functionally everything is in the right place and the data and communications are running.

But by not looking at what they’re actually sending to the customer, providing me the right information, asking me for feedback about the process or even attempting to promote other products and services I might be interested in in future they’ve lost an opportunity and they’ve lost a future customer.

Their first email told me I was enrolled as a VIP. I don’t feel like one, and that’s why I’m in the 70% of customers who – while happy with the product – won’t buy from them again.

By DMA guest blogger Alex Timlin, Director of International Sales and Solutions, Emarsys

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