Operators can acquire a new customer base by supplying real-time consumer intelligence to merchants for targeted marketing campaigns and other benefits.
In an uncertain economy and with customer expectations at an all-time high, retailers face marketing and customer service struggles that communications service providers (CSPs) are in a position to remedy. Because CSPs already collect large volumes of data on consumer activity from their extensive networks, they can partner with retailers to help them intimately understand the customer and consumer shopping behaviors and preferences in real-time to deliver a customer-centric experience.
These relationships can expand for a win-win-win – the third “winner” being large retail brands that smaller or more specialized shops choose to use as storefronts and sales channels. Smaller sellers often team with high-profile brands to reach more customers and provide those shoppers with secure, hassle-free shopping experiences that take advantage of the more deep-pocketed partner’s technology.
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But how do lesser-known retailers know which big brands to partner with – and in which geographies – to maximize their customer and prospect reach? Similarly, how do the big-name sales aggregators know when there’s a product line they should pick up from a smaller player?
It’s all about getting access to the relevant customer analytics and insights in real-time – data that’s stored in CSP networks and that operators can share (for profit!) with retailers of all sizes.
The CSP’s unique position
Retailers need information that helps them stay relevant and win consumer loyalty. That takes staying focused on customer needs more than ever and reducing friction in the buying process, both in-person and online. It so happens that CSPs have large numbers of customers in common with retailers and are undergoing their own digital transformations (DX). With behavioral analytics, for example, they’re learning about what third-party content, entertainment, and other related services their subscribers are using so they can run campaigns to convert them to their own competitive offerings.
CSPs can also run analytics on consumer data that retailers want to understand for their own marketing campaigns—data that helps them put their own customers front and center. Behavior analytics lets CSPs support retailers’ digital strategies in a partnership model to connect retail brand(s) to the right buyers across the many and varied sales channels, both physical and digital, that they have available to them. And to connect retailers to the right resellers, too.
The plight of the retailer
The economy is sagging under the weight of COVID, yet customer demands have never been more stringent. Most expect immediate access to products and services through their favorite physical and digital channels. They’ve also grown accustomed to near-instant purchase transactions and ultra-fast shipping and delivery.
To keep their sights front and center on customers and prospects, retailers need to create or enable these “frictionless” shopping and buying experiences, often through a larger resale partner. They need access to information about where shoppers are going and when allows sellers to determine where they should have their brand represented, physically by geography and digitally online. For some retailers, particularly smaller ones or those with limited offerings, it makes sense to have brands that their target buyers frequently purchase and sell those items rather than to expect consumers to find them and do business with them directly.
A small provider of home improvement products, for example, may not know if consumers are using, say, a Home Depot app in addition to their own store app or Web site. The retailer might also not know whether their target customers are visiting Home Depot in person. That small retailer generally has insight only into the behavior of its customers through its custom app and Web site and sometimes into the activity of shoppers with wireless devices who visit the retailer’s brick-and-mortar location(s).
If that retailer were able to discover that the majority of its target customer base was regularly using the Home Depot app and/or visiting Home Depot stores in certain geographies, it might decide that it should partner with Home Depot as a virtual storefront and reseller of its products. It might also decide that it should have a physical presence in the geographies where Home Depot attracts the most walk-in customers.
Making matches based on trust
Choosing an anchor retail partner is a strategic decision because the retailer needs a shopping channel that it can trust to allow customers to find the products they’re looking for swiftly and to purchase them easily and securely. Smaller sellers might lack the budget to offer world-class Web site shopping experiences, but they can partner with retail giants like Home Depot, Amazon, eBay, Walmart, and others that have already found ways to make their sites highly convenient and safe to use.
What would also be very helpful to that retailer would be an understanding of what its target customers are doing at peak shopping times and where, what shopping apps they use, and what communications networks and channels they prefer. The retailer can get that kind of intelligence from the CSP, which is able to run analytics on every network subscriber’s interaction, what apps each is using, and in what locations.
Comparative analytics can be used to reveal the shopping peaks and valleys at multiple storefronts based on time of day, day of the week, and which subscribers are accounting for the greatest volume of sales. This is all information that CSPs can access, segment, and sell to retailers, who can then make location and partnership decisions or run marketing campaigns based on it.
Built into these analytics platforms are privacy protections that ensure compliance by allowing or not allowing certain customer data to be shared with the CSP’s retail customer based on the privacy laws in a given geography. CSPs are under strict regulations and know exactly how to comply in each region.
For example, making customers’ personally identifiable information (PII) for sale to retailers generally isn’t a model that will work in Brazil, which recently passed the General Law for the Protection of Privacy (GLPP). The GLPP essentially applies the maximum enforcement of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). However, in many other regions, including North America, as long as data remains stored in the CSP’s own environment, it can be shared in an aggregated way that lets retailers make more informed decisions based on the buying trends, apps, and channels used by its target customers.
How the slicing and dicing works
The retail company can decide what types of intelligence it wants from the CSP, such as how many people using its custom app have also visited Home Depot in the past n months, how often, and in which geography. The CSP, which can see what apps all its network subscribers use and also collects location data that tells them where their mobile subscribers go, can cross-correlate this data for its retail customer.
The CSP might use its analytics platform to learn that it has, for instance, 1.7 million people in its network who meet a given retailer’s requirements and can break that data down by city, best-performing locations, and other variables. That information could help the retailer decide if its brand should be represented in that area, such as with a store or franchise. The retailer can subscribe to updates provided every n months, depending on the contract it strikes with the CSP.
Similarly, the big brand—again, such as Home Depot—could discover a hot-selling product line that it doesn’t carry but should be offering.
CSPs can take their retail relationships to the next level with campaign management services. In other words, once the CSP provides visibility into the behaviors and sales channel preferences of the retailer’s target audience, the retailer may wish to run an awareness campaign broken down by cities, age, spending histories, and other segments—which the CSP might offer to run on behalf of the retailer as a value-added service.
Multiplying your analytics ROI
CSPs have huge volumes of rich data stored in their networks. They can apply analytics to that data to better understand and target their own network users with new and competing offerings through the channel of each subscriber’s choice. But they shouldn’t stop there.
They’re facing a golden opportunity to further capitalize on that data by selling it to retailers and other interested parties. Those companies, in turn, can use the data to help fuel their own DX initiatives, which call for putting customers and their preferences at the very center of their businesses.