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It's clear that brands' current priority is uniting data. Companies are striving for the single customer view, allowing smarter marketing and increasing customer lifetime value or better mapping the customer journey.
Even in the UK, where online shopping is at it highest (compared to offline), the percentage of transactions that happen online is around 13%. That's 87% of purchases happening somewhere in the real world.
That's 87% of customer purchase data that brands and retailers want to capture, if they are to identify and market to all of their customers online (providing they opt in).
And, of course, there are some products bought relatively infrequently online, as a percentage of overall sales. Cosmetics is a good example.
Club Clarins is nothing new, it's nearly two years old. But, the scheme is a simple and effective attempt to incentivise customers to hand over some purchase-history data online, after they've purchased a Clarins product in a department store.
I thought it was worth discussing loyalty schemes in the context of brands' pursuit of the omnichannel grail when selling wholesale and retail.
Here's the Club in a nutshell, taken from the US site:
To show our appreciation for your loyalty, Club Clarins offers you the opportunity to redeem special gifts and sample sets reserved just for our VIPs. Track your purchases, rewards, and earned points all in one place, gain access to exclusive information regarding new product launches and more!
Anyone can sign up to Club Clarins, you don't have to buy a product first. As a higher end cosmetics brand with heritage, it's easy for Clarins to create an impression of exclusivity that its customers want a art of (even when anyone can join).
Club Clarins registrants enter a UPC barcode from the product packaging into the Clarins website. Once a customer hits a reward threshold, they can redeem points as below.
Improving the customer experience of Club Clarins
How do I order a reward?
After you have mailed us the proof of purchase form, we will verify your UPC barcodes and send you a notification when your points have been approved. After that, you can choose from our selection of gifts to redeem your points.
This is far from ideal when we consider the new type of demanding, connected customer. However, it's a start, and is the current reality for many retailers. One of the difficulties with doing this entirely electronically is the need to generate unique codes that demonstrate proof of purchase and can only be used once.
Clarins is working on achieving this, as are many of its competitors, notably L'Oreal and its brands such as Lancome.
The challenge of wholesale and retail
There's a further challenge when brands sell wholesale.
This not only drastically reduces the data that the brand gets from the retailers (essentially only receiving overall unit sales), it also reduces the methods in which a brand can collect consumer data in-store, compared with a brand store. For example, it's unrealistic to think a sneaker manufacturer could gather customer data from a Foot Locker store, whether using iBeacons or simple pen and paper.
Of course, this doesn't just apply in-store. If Clarins products are sold by a retailer on its website, or through Amazon, eBay or anywhere online outside of the Clarins website, the same principle applies.
Brands want to gather as much of this consumer purchase data as possible, to aid marketing and inform product strategy. Social media can help with this. Clarins and other brands are in touch with customers more than ever, but there's still a challenge of getting more from a customer than simply engagement.
Brand websites need to become the only place for brand and product information
It may seem that there's a disconnect with brands that sell wholesale and retail. These two sides of sales have very different customers, objectives and working practices.
What was clear, speaking to lots of dually wholesale and retail brands at Demanware's Xchange 2014 conference, is that brand websites need to be both shoppable and full of content.
At the bottom line, brands don't mind where a consumer buys a product, whether through brand.com or through a retailer website, or indeed a brand or retail store. What's important is that the brand makes an impression.
If consumers are visiting a brand website and not getting the product information they need, and so are finding it on Amazon, Zappos, Boots or wherever, this is damaging for the brand.
The multichannel ideal cannot be attained if consumers aren't interacting with the brand online.