Data unification is a hot topic for merchants. Even before the pandemic caused a rise in online shopping and omnichannel experiences like curbside pickup, 82% of brands surveyed by SAS and Futurum in 2019 were already unifying their customer data in the cloud or planning to begin. Since then, the need for real-time alignment of data across channels and locations has increased.
Why is data unification such a big trend? A single data source can support better operational efficiency, more accurate fraud protection and more consistent and accurate brand personalization. All of these factors can improve customer experience, and that’s critical because customer expectations are higher now than before the pandemic. So, let’s look at some of the things data unification can help you do better.
Make sure customers can get the items they’ve ordered
Think about all the frustrations you and the people you know had to deal with early on in the pandemic when retailers’ websites couldn’t always keep up with changing stock levels and inventory locations. Unified data is what prevents those frustrations from happening. Unified data also makes it easier for employees to do their jobs, because they can find the right items at the right time, answer customer service inquiries with good information and spend less time dealing with the consequences of outdated or missing data.
Improve fraud screening accuracy
Data unification also plays a role in fraud prevention. Marketing and order screening both rely on data to get the job done. When a company uses two separate datasets for these tasks, the result can be a customer experience that’s personalized beautifully—until it’s time to check out. Then, if the checkout process uses different data, the customer may have to prove their identity, which undermines the sense of recognition all the previous marketing created.
Worse, the fraud program data may cause the system to reject the order, based on issues like a different shipping address or a new geolocation. Now the retailer is essentially telling the customer that they not only do not really recognize them, but they also suspect they’re a fraudster. It’s no surprise, then, that 39% of consumers in a 5-country Sapio Research survey for ClearSale in March 2020 said they’d never buy again from a merchant who declined their order.
But if the retailer’s marketing and fraud control data are unified, with the customer’s consent, then the fraud screening algorithm could evaluate the customer’s recent data indicating that they’ve traveled to visit relatives in another state and are getting items delivered to that address. The result is a seamless experience that maintains personalization and the customer’s sense of being recognized. It also helps avoid false positives during times when customer behavior can suddenly change, like the pandemic shutdown.
Keep up with changing customer behavior and circumstances
Salesforce found in 2020 that 66% of customers expect companies to “understand their unique needs and expectations,” and unified data makes it easier to market to customers as their behavior changes. Does your loyal customer who used to shop only for children’s clothing and toys suddenly need puppy food, toys and training pads? Time to adjust your marketing messages. Or does your customer who used to shop from the road and have things shipped now order from her desktop for pickup at a store near her home? Time to drop the road-warrior messaging and surface things she can pick up today.
In the same vein, if a customer was searching and shopping for wedding supplies, a new home or baby gear but suddenly stops, your brand can avoid seeming insensitive by quickly shifting your messaging away from those categories. That matters a lot, because 68% of customers expect brands to show empathy, according to Salesforce data.
Help customers get all the way through checkout
What else can unified data do? One seemingly small but really big hurdle it can help with is checkout abandonment. When your data is unified and you recognize your customers, you don’t have to ask them to repeatedly enter the same information to buy from you, whether that’s a separate log in to access their rewards points or a requirement to type in their home shipping address again. Our Sapio survey found that 44% of consumers have abandoned purchases because the checkout process was too long or complicated, and 34% have bailed out because the store wanted them to create an account to check out.
Deliver consistent, personalized customer service
Most of us have had the frustrating experience of calling a company’s customer support line only to be transferred to several different representatives and re-explaining our situation to each of them. That’s a recipe for dissatisfied customers, even if the problem eventually gets resolved. Now, 78% of customers expect “consistent interactions across departments,” according to Salesforce, and the only way to provide that kind of experience is with unified data. When your marketing, fraud prevention, customer service and any other customer-facing employees are working with the same information—and that information is current—your company can deliver the kind of service experience that customers want.
To sum it up, unified data can help you connect customers to the products you have in stock, get them through checkout quickly and without mistaking them for criminals, keep up with the changes in their lives for better, more empathetic messaging and make it easier for your front-line employees to deliver great service.
With so many benefits, it’s clear that an investment in unified data can pay off well for retailers and brands.