Retail Therapy: What you say to customers is just as important as how you say it…

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On the high-speed up to London this week – a totally hilarious announcement from the train operating company. ‘We apologise for the lack of available seating on the train this morning. This is due to excess passenger loading’.  What on earth!? Apart from loud guffaws and wry smiles from the passengers,  this maladroit message got me thinking about the importance of corporate language.

In advertising speak it is called ‘tone of voice’ but in an increasingly connected world, what you say to customers is just as important as how you say it.  A badly worded customer message is as likely to be trending on Twitter as a bake-off recipe – only the results are probably not as tasty.  So how can companies get it right?

Know your customer!

Yep, this is pretty obvious, right?   In retail it’s key that your ‘message’ is consistent across all customer touch points whether in the real world or the virtual one. Increasingly this means that organisations are reliant on robust customer data.  The rise of Omni-channel retailing is challenging CMOs everywhere to think carefully about how they spend their budget in order to improve the bottom line. Continuing to bombard your customers with those annoying internet adverts long after they’ve purchased the actual item in question can be detrimental to your brand, and will disengage your target market.  So data is a vital ingredient in keeping the message fresh and relevant.

Integrate, then innovate!

In the absence of a complete, accurate view of your customer base across your sales, CRM, campaign management and delivery mechanisms, you are simply keeping fingers crossed and hoping that the right message is getting through at the right time.  The stats I’ve seen estimate that 20-30% of operational expenses are directly related to bad data.   This is because poor data quality drives bad market intelligence, which in turn magnifies the inaccuracies of your strategic marketing decisions.  Having a marketing strategy with data quality at it’s cornerstone,  and a business plan that integrates IT and creativity, can mean better customer information, and a more finely focused way of engaging and delighting your audience.  No point in spending big bucks on advertising if the message is wrong.  You will just annoy, instead of inspire.

Customers are the lifeblood of any retail organisation.  So what you say is as important as how you say it.  In the words of Michael leBoeuf : ‘A satisfied customer is the best business strategy of all!’

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