Identifying customers in store can help tie together sales information and enable a deeper more meaningful relationship with the customer.

But how do we do it well?

I’ve recently started taking golf lessons and needed to pick up some gear from American Golf.

At the till I was asked if I was a member of their loyalty scheme. I wasn’t and signed up in the store. The clerk asked for me name, postal address, email address and mobile number before scanning a new loyalty card and handing it over.

I had a similar experience in Thomas Pink recently. At the till I was asked to confirm my postcode and name.

I did and the clerk appeared to connect my store order to some kind of account they keep on me. I assume this links to my online purchases to give a complete view of my purchase history.

With Black Friday almost upon us, these experiences got me thinking about a few questions that retailers should consider:

  1. How do we best identify customers in-store?
  2. What data do we collect and when?
  3. How do we best activate and engage those who provide their details in store?

In-store customer identifiers

The American Golf loyalty card and accompanying flyer

The following identifiers can be used to connect a store sale with a single customer record. These should apply whether the customer is using a self-checkout or being served at the counter by a team member.

Loyalty card number

A number that can be stored in a barcode, QR code or magnetic strip to identify the individual. Examples would be Nectar or Tesco Clubcard.

Debit/Credit card number

Securely matching the card number back to a customer record. Becomes difficult due to cash transactions.

Email address

Requesting an email address at checkout is becoming more common. On a recent trip to the US I noticed that some retailers were offering a screen at the till point to type it in.

The challenge here is that email addresses can be difficult to say aloud or to hear and type in to an EPOS.

Mobile number 

Could easily be entered through the chip and pin terminal or said aloud to a staff member.

The key thing with using this channel is to quickly follow up with a text containing a URL to complete an online registration form.

Postcode

Thomas Pink asked for a postcode to start off the customer lookup process and then they asked for my fullname to confirm the address.

A postcode is quick to say but requires a second stage to validate that this is the right person – also it will require further information from the customer to communicate with them digitally

Wi-Fi

Instore Wi-Fi can be useful for locations where there is a prolonged dwell time.

Once registered it is possible then to match the device MAC address back to the individual when they return to the store (potentially triggering real-time offers). Wi-Fi antennas can also triangulate customer movements within a store

Mobile app

Sandwich retailer Subway, for example, has an app that contains a QR code that can be scanned at the point of purchase. Effectively the app becomes a replacement for the traditional loyalty card

iBeacons

iBeacons require a mobile app to track precise customer movements in a store. It could be challenging to directly connect proximity with an individual transaction.

Facial recognition

High resolution cameras at tills can scan faces and facial recognition software can identify and profile individuals.

Accuracy can be an issue but it could be combined with other methods of identification (MAC address, iBeacon or payment card) to improve certainty. Cost is likely to be another issue.

Personal voucher code

Vouchers with a personalised redemption code can be used to connect transactions with an individual record.

Data collection considerations

Before selecting the method for customers to identify themselves, the following factors should be considered.

Speed 

How much information do you need from the customer? Minimise this to ensure you don’t create huge delays in the checkout process that will create a poor impression for customers.

Customer privacy

What information is your customer going to be happy to say aloud in a store?

Proposition

Why are you trying to identify this customer? What’s in it for the customer?

Serious consideration should be given to these questions as the old points for pounds spent is getting a little tired.

Consent

Marketing consent should be requested and under GDPR you may also need to clearly state that the customer is consenting to have their data processed by you.

Enrichment

Remember that you don’t need to request every bit of data upfront.

Demographic profiles (such as ACORN) and social information can be added post transaction. Follow up registration forms and questionnaires can be used to collect additional information on the customer.

Activation

Probably the most important element. After collecting the data what are you going to send? Will it be personalised?

What proposition will be used to encourage the customer provide more information.

Personalisation

Retailers should respect the data a customer gives them by personalising contact plans around the individual.

Don’t be tempted to over-communicate and spam the customer into unsubscribing. Stay relevant and engaging

Staff rewards

What incentives, if any, can be given to the team for identifying customers in-store?

Also its important that stores don’t feel threatened by the idea that capturing data will reduce stores sales and undermine them. 

Activating and engaging the customer

I can’t stress how important this next stage is. Once the customer has given you contact information how are you going to use it?

Remember at this point the customer is giving you permission to have a post-transaction relationship with them. The data and consent granted needs to be respected.

When will you send the first message? What will it say? What do you want them to do next? Which channel will you use?

American Golf's welcome email - could do much better

The channel choice will be governed by the consent given with the possible exception of sending a transactional message such as a receipt.

Also you may need to arbitrate between channel choices. For instance if the customer uses the mobile app and isn’t responding to email, then a push message to the app will be the preference for messaging.

Timing can be a critical; too soon and the customer will still be in-store completing their transaction. Delay the communication for too long and the moment will be lost.

My recommendation is that you attempt to use a testing schedule to see which activation message timing works best.

Next comes the message itself. This ideally will be personalised to the individual based on their purchase and any demographics you have on them. It should also contain clear calls to action to either provide further information, provide a review or make a second purchase.

The call to action should link in with the loyalty/membership proposition.

Conclusion

Identifying customers in-store is a vital way of building up a complete profile of their spending patterns and multichannel shopping habits. This can then guide display advertising, CRM initiatives, web personalisation and overall buying strategy.

The challenge is in getting the proposition, process and use of the data spot on.

If you’re proposition is wrong, people won’t bother registering. If your method of identification is too time consuming or requires yet another plastic card in a wallet, forget it. If you just spam people with the same email over and over again, why did you even bother?

What is needed then is a clear strategy, proposition, data collection process and personalised marketing campaign to make the most of the customer data you receive.

Personalised marketing tech will help support the ambition of a single customer view. This approach should then be subject to rigorous testing and optimisation to ensure that it is achieving the original objectives.

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