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Making that connection

By Retail Technology | Wednesday May 10 2017

Connectivity is essential to the modern retail environment but how do you maximise it? Steve Martin, VP and MD of consulting and analytics Europe at Acxiom, addresses the vital area

When it comes to the modern consumer, we all want a personalised experience when shopping. Whether it is Amazon knowing which products we’re likely to want to try next, or the staff welcoming us by name at our favourite restaurant, it’s the little things which can make the biggest difference to the customer experience. 
However, when you look at some of the biggest retail environments today – such as shopping centres, airports, or even your local high street – the journey from one shopping experience to the next is more often still a fragmented one for the individual. Essentially, each component of retail destinations will operate as a single, standalone experience, rather than part of one seamless journey. This misses the opportunity for the whole to be enjoyed as greater than the sum of its parts. 
When Heathrow – Europe’s busiest airport and recently awarded the World’s best for shopping – approached us to help them deliver a more connected and data-driven customer experience, this was exactly the problem they faced. Despite being made up of over 100 separate food and retail concessions, and additional associated services such as the car parking and trains, travellers passing through the complex still viewed Heathrow as one connected retail space. Naturally, they were expecting to be communicated with, by the airport,in the same fashion. 


Heathrow found that the retail and refreshment experience was a major driver of customer satisfaction, and that the 60-90 minute typical wait left them with a very captive consumer audience to target. The problem was that all of Heathrow’s many services and retail outlets were all functioning as separate businesses, and subsequently not sharing the wealth of customer insights into passenger journeys that was being generated on an hourly basis, and could be used to streamline the Heathrow overall experience. 
The solution to this issue was found in uniting that disconnected data, from the point of view of the traveller. 
For destination venues, such as Heathrow, shopping centres like Westfield or even department store behemoths like Harrods, every transaction and interaction with a consumer leaves behind a data trail. Whether they’ve parked a car, had a drink with lunch, or have visited every clothing shop on the second floor looking for a pair of jeans in a certain size;connecting the dots together from this data trail can help retailers maximise their opportunity for sale and tailor their communications accordingly, and Heathrow can understand the thousands of people who pass through their doors on a daily basis in more depth, and deliver on their promise to ‘make every journey better’. 
However, when you’re looking at thousands of customers, making tens of thousands of transactions each day, the concept of picking one data point to start with can be as challenging as it is daunting. The first step lies in identifying which strategic objective you need the data to help answer exactly and what it is you need it to be able to tell you, and work back from there to locate the right data sources to answer the questions. 

When working with Heathrow, what the brand needed was a strategy which matched the customers’ desire to interact with the business as one entity. And so, a solution was implemented through an integrated mix of CRM strategies, campaign planning, and execution services combined with post-campaign analytics and marketing intelligence, to tapinto the customer database and create audience insights from across a wide range of touchpoints. This in turn allowed the airport to leverage its customer data by reacting to passenger and visitor events in real time, developing and fueling personalised one-to-one communications with passengers across its operations.
The results for Heathrow have been impressive: the airport has increased membership in Heathrow Rewards, bookings for official Heathrow Car Parking, Heathrow Express trains and in-terminal service messaging to ensure a seamless experience when passing through the airport. With a highly personalised approach, Heathrow enjoys significant gains year on year from CRM related activity. Not only is the customer experience streamlined significantly, with passengers feeling like they are dealing with one unified experience rather than hundreds of disconnected ones, but they have also grown the value of passengers on site. By taking charge of their data and responding to different customer needs in real time, they have seen a 22% increase in loyalty retail spending, loyalty membership grow by nearly one fifth, active membership increase by the same amount, have reactivated over a third of previously lapsed Heathrow Rewards members, and increased spending per visit by nearly a quarter (23%).
Consumers are evolving faster than ever, and the pace of technological change will only set the expectation of a better and more connected service even higher. For connected spaces of any description looking to stay ahead, the answer will lie in addressing this need - and using the opportunity as a springboard to deeper, richer experiences for customers. After all, people are passing through the doors of major retail destinations on a daily basis by their thousands, increasingly looking for a leisure and entertainment experience as well as a shopping one. By taking charge of these people’s experiences, smart spaces can ensure that they keep coming back, and have a better, more engaged time while they are within those doors.  

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