Just who owns the customer, anyway?

As technology expands rapidly to manage customer experience, a subtle shift is under way in who gathers and uses loyalty and other data to manage the customer relationship.

No one needs to remind us how quickly the nature of shopping and customer experience is changing. We see signs of it everywhere and need look no further than the startups, pattern of acquisitions and alignment of technologies reported in the tech press every day.

The big question

There’s a second shift happening that might not be quite as apparent as those news reports. It involves manufacturers creating ‘direct to consumer’ capabilities that open the door to the question, “Just who owns the customer?”

This is being driven partly by infrastructure spend by the biggest product companies that serve fashion, sports and fitness, grocery and every other major category. Technology now allows for personalized, one-to-one marketing relationships from the biggest manufacturers down to the individual consumer.

This side of e-commerce isn’t about the money, necessarily – that will remain mostly in the hands of the front-end of retail. It is more about additional touch points that build trust, relationships and communication that complement retailer activities.

Retailers playing catch up

This leaves the retailers needing to follow through on the brand-building investment of their suppliers. Many retailers are still slow off the blocks when it comes to customer-facing technology. That will need to change quickly to keep pace with rising customer expectations of convenient, in-the-moment offers and loyalty rewards.

Just who owns the customer will be decided based on who has the best system to manage the new model and set and meet those expectations.

This post first appeared on the Loyalty Lab blog.

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Categories: Loyalty, Marketing

Author:Jeanne Roué-Taylor

I'm fascinated by disruptive technology and its impact on our world. I manage sales operations for an excellent startup with a unique team of highly experienced data scientists.

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2 Comments on “Just who owns the customer, anyway?”

  1. Rob Mian
    February 19, 2013 at 10:51 am #

    There is a lot of great customer-facing technology out there and it’s logical to think that digital channels could be used to improve the retail experience. Unfortunately, it hasn’t worked well in practice because the humans on the receiving end of customer feedback often lack the knowledge, authority or desire to take meaningful action. Retailers racing to add new customer touch points must insure they have the right people on the end of those channels else they risk alienating customers and tarnishing the brands the represent.

    Manufacturers concerned with the end-to-end customer experience roll up their sleeves and get directly involved on the retail side to control the customer experience. They tell their retailers exactly how to sell their products and how to service their customers. You can buy Louis Vuitton at Bloomingdales but LV actually builds and runs the boutique. You can buy Apple at Best Buy but it is set up like a mini Apple store. Microsoft recently opened retail stores to sell tablets. Hmmm…

    Retailers need to continue to find ways to add value for customers in order to exist in this connected economy.

    • February 19, 2013 at 10:55 am #

      Great point, Rob…it all goes for naught if it doesn’t get used correctly. At our local Safeway (Von’s really, but no one knows that brand outside SoCal), they have a mini-Starbucks and a system to key in your shopper code for the store. Several times, as I key in my customer ID, the Starbucks clerk (who works for the store) said, “You don’t need to do that…there’s no discounts.”

      Those clerks are undoing the very system set up to help the store track how often I buy a coffee when I shop. Those analytics go into the cost/benefit of having the Starbucks and give a clearer picture of my spending patterns. I usually just smile but every now and then I explain why they shouldn’t say that…

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