Online to offline (O2O) commerce is one of the most frequently talked about topics in retail these days.
Its principles, however, are universal and companies from all industries are working to improve the flow between online and offline customer experience (CX).
One of the biggest barriers to success, though, is joining up online and offline channels data.
So, how are companies handling to the O2O data challenge?
To find out, Econsulancy recently invited dozens of client-side marketers in Singapore to discuss progress on this and other CX topics.
About the roundtables
The roundtables covered three topics all related to CX and were moderated by subject matter experts from Econsultancy and our event sponsor IBM.
Delegates brought experiences from many different companies and industries and they openly discussed their success stories and challenges with the group.
Below is a summary of the main talking points taken from the discussions around joining up online and offline data channels.
What is O2O?
In order to figure out how companies were joining data from both online and offline channels, participants on the day first wanted to define what O2O meant to their brands.
They arrived at three high-level definitions. To the attendees, O2O meant delivering:
- A non-stop loop of activation.
- Seamless brand presence.
- And a lasting impression.
For each of these, participants offered real-world examples and thoughts about the data required to make them happen.
A non-stop loop of activation
If there is one thing which is always top of mind for marketers it is activating visitors and making them customers.
Too often, however, online and offline activations are siloed, as are the resulting customer data.
What businesses should aim for instead, according to participants, is connecting existing online and offline customer activation initiatives.
Doing so will amplify reach, conversions, and tracking and create a ‘non-stop loop of activation.’
The aim is an O2O campaign which is more than the sum of its parts. ROI will increase for both the online and offline portions.
An example of this virtuous circle was Singtel’s ‘Need 4G Speed’ campaign.
The goal was to encourage more customers to recontract and purchase devices which supported the new 4G service.
Singtel used both online and offline advertising for the campaign and highlighted a hashtag (#need4gSpeed) in each.
When potential searched the hashtag on Twitter they found a series of entertaining videos created with the help of a local celebrity and suggestions from the public.
Once there, visitors were encouraged to register online, visit a Singtel shop and participate in creating the videos.
The online to offline experience started with a single piece of data, the hashtag, which then led visitors to more promotional, as well as entertaining, content.
Seamless brand presence
Another aspect of CX which requires both online and offline data is ensuring that the customer has a consistent brand experience.
This is becoming more important as the buyer’s journey involves an increasing amount of touchpoints.
A brand which cannot offer consistent information along the journey is at risk of looking out-of-touch with the customer.
With the right data, though, offers and recommendations can be made through both online and physical channels, say at point-of-purchase for someone using a loyalty card.
Using data in this way has an impact across the whole marketing ecosystem, according to one participant.
Another suggested that brands will be using data more in this way now that convenience, offers and recommendations are valued over privacy by most consumers.
The importance of the customer journey to marketers was highlighted in a recent global survey by Econsultancy, Understanding the Customer Journey: More Than Just Online.
Survey respondents indicated that understanding the customer journey had wide-ranging benefits from identifying cutomer pain points to driving revenue and profits.
Managing online and offline data effectively can help accomplish these goals to a great extent.
The third way that high-quality O2O management affects CX is by leaving a positive, lasting impression of the brand with the customer.
With the right data, brands can design promotions which are impactful at each touchpoint:
- Offline promotions to drive online behavior.
- Online promotions to drive online visits.
This may sound easy, but execution is very complicated.
One participant said that the key to driving this sort of behaviour is to first be able to segment your offers, then to target the segments with offers which speak specifically to their goals.
Brands, then, create bridges between the online and offline through relevant and personal campaigns.
Starbucks is a great example of a company that has been able to create a lasting brand impression through its use of both online and offline channels.
Visitors who register with Starbucks and pre-pay their loyalty card unlock useful features on an app.
The app allows smartphone users to:
- Pay for an order.
- Earn points.
- Place and pay for a customized order before arriving.
- Send gift cards.
- And even find out what songs are being played at their local Starbucks.
Then, when the person visits the store and pays with the app, Starbucks can register their visit and use it to make better, more relevant offers for the customer.
One participant said linking up online and offline data to this extent is almost like placing an ‘offline cookie’ on the customer.
Joining up online and offline data is essential for brands that are trying to provide excellent CX through both physical and digital channels.
Doing so well allows brands to create virtuous circles of activations, a brand presence which extends between the mediums, and leave a lasting impression on customers to keep them coming back for more.
A word of thanks
Econsultancy would like to thank all of the client-side marketers who participated on the day and our sponsor for the event, IBM.
We would like to extend a special thanks to the table moderator for the Joining Up Online and Offline Channels Data table, Bilal Serlaman, Regional Marketing Manager of APAC & ANZ at EXFO.
We appreciate all of the helpful discussion points participants provided on the day and we hope to see you all at our upcoming Econsultancy events!