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Ryan Rose strategically advises an array of leading footwear providers on the technology and strategy behind delivering personalized customer experience to ultimately generate loyalty. From Asics and New Balance to Frye Boots and Aerosoles, Ryan works with a spectrum of brands across the industry helping to develop stronger customer relationships.
Ryan recently sat down to talk about the customer challenges facing the footwear industry and how innovative brands are overcoming them both strategically and technologically.
Q: Ryan, why are footwear brands starting to widely embrace consumer management technology?
RR: Whether a brand is in the athletic space, focuses on fashion or is about utility and durability, footwear is fundamentally an emotionally connected product for many consumers. No matter the motivation, footwear often has a range of factors that can be critical to the purchase from comfort to durability to style. Given this emotional connection, many brands are getting much more savvy with their understanding of how their customers engage their brand and use their products in order to cultivate and enhance the relationship with the customer.
Technology is playing a critical role in this process. Specifically, consumer management technology is allowing brands to gain a holistic view of the customer on an individualized basis to develop personalized experiences and engagements around their preferred products. For the first time, many brands are able to gain complete cross-channel customer views of individual behavior and preferences. This understanding allows the brand to deliver a personalized experience to the individual customer across their in-store, online, mobile, email, direct mail and social channels. Customer relationships are reinforced and behavior is motivated with relevant, targeted engagements. This, in-turn, helps strengthen brand perception and further shift their product from a would-be commodity to a ‘must have’ purchase.
Q: What’s one of the biggest myths you encounter with brands looking to launch a customer loyalty program?
RR: Often there is a lot of concern around cost and complexity. Many brands think they need colossal budgets to undertake a massive technology initiative or replace standing technology systems they currently have in place. This could very well be true if the company is trying to build a stand-alone solution itself, but most brands quickly realize that the right platform technology can easily integrate into their established customer data streams, be it in-store point-of-sale, online ecommerce, mobile application or social channels. Not only are these integrations easy to install, they are extremely cost-effective in identifying and motivating the brand’s Most Valuable Customers (MVCs).
Beyond this, genuine loyalty is more than discounts and coupons, which is often a cost concern as well. The ‘buy ten, get the eleventh free’ transaction approach has created a major disservice to brands and consumers. Achieving true loyalty is rooted in the consistency, relevancy and personalization of the experience a customer has with the brand. Once you identify and understand your customer, you’re able to deliver what they want in order to m8otivate them and build trust and affinity.
Q: What do the brands that are leading this race towards the customer have in common?
RR: On the surface many of these brands seem dramatically different, from high-performance athletics to high-style fashion. Outside of the fact that their products are shoes, they don’t appear to have a lot of commonalities. However, many consumers have an emotional connection with footwear and the brands we partner with are focused on delivering common benefits like comfort and quality.
These traits largely drive their ambition to become truly customer-centric. A lot of brands will say they are “customer-centric” or “customer first,” but could not tell you who their top ten customers are. If you can’t identify them, you can’t understand them and if you can’t understand them, you can’t effectively engage them. These brands see the importance of evolving beyond the “one size fits all” approach and realize technology and data can effectively drive that strategy to motivate customers, develop their commitment, earn loyalty and even cultivate evangelism.