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8 Ways to Collect Retail Customer Data (and Why!)

Posted by Petra Geiger on Feb 21, 2018
Petra Geiger
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Often retailers feel reticent to ask for personal data. It can feel uncomfortable and often sales associates will just skip the process out of fear. Yet, the reality is that today’s world is driven by data and utilizing it correctly in a retail setting can provide a more valuable, relevant and enjoyable experience for the customer. Learn why it's important to collect data and how to do it thoughtfully.

Retailers must understand their customers deeply and accept that this is the new normal. Collecting data at the point of sale and actively searching for answers to key questions helps you know your customers as individuals, but also as members of larger segments. This data helps inform strategic marketing decisions that can become highly personalized. Thinking about and asking questions like...

•  What do they like and dislike? Favorite brands, colors, or categories?
•  What channels do they prefer to use? Online, in-store, social?
•  What have they recently purchased, added to a shopping cart, or browsed for online?
•  What is their budget or typical spend level?
•  What generation do they belong to?
•  Are they married, do they have children?
•  What is their shopping style?
•  How did they hear about your store?

... will yield data that can inform different ways to segment your customers into relevant groups.


 “79% of customers want retailers to send them personalized offers based on purchase history.”
~ Salesforce Connected Shopper Report


Initially, you will build a strategy to gather relevant “first-party” data at the interaction point, starting with name, email address, and possibly mailing address and phone number. It’s critical to stick with it; ultimately, spotty or inconsistent data wastes both you and your customer’s time. Collecting this kind of data all starts with a few basics.

Make it easy – simplify the input and process as much as possible
Build trust
– readily explain how you will utilize any data collected
Make it relevant – show how providing data provides a better customer experience
Build data at each interaction point – make it a natural process throughout the sale, not just limited to the cashwrap
Don't overwhelm – think of it as a long-term strategy, you're not going to get everything in one place at one time

With more robust marketing or loyalty programs in place, you can begin to collect the next layer of data, like anniversary dates, birthday month, favorite brand or color for example. Additionally, with surveys, emails and other technology driven programs, you can convince customers to voluntarily disclose more personal data, especially if you share something with them! As these pieces begin to fit together, you start to gain a complete picture of your customer demographic as well as their unique, individual preferences. 

8 Ideas for How and When to Collect Retail Customer Data:

1. Purchase transactions  Your POS absolutely must be able to collect and easily report on all customer transactions. This is the most seamless way to begin to understand and segment customers. At minimum, each transaction should be associated with a customer's name — a good practice is to require it for a sale/return to be completed. By doing this you will be able to segment customers by all sorts of data, such as spend level, brand preference, category and so much more.

2. Sign up forms  In some states, privacy laws are more stringent than others. Keeping a sign-up sheet or notecard at the register for people to add their name and information to is a good workaround. Let them know that if they sign up, you'll email them a welcome coupon with a special discount.

3. Loyalty programs  Regardless of what type of program you choose, points or dollars spent, loyalty programs are a great way to engage customers and learn more about them. Loyalty programs that integrate with your POS are a huge time saver and will help streamline the data collection process especially across all your channels.

4. Email preference forms  Do you already have customer names and emails in a comprehensive list? Why not consider sending out an email that asks about their preferences? Do they only want to hear about sales, new merchandise or events? What kind of content interests them — style guides, community news, designer profiles? Consider using landing pages as a way to gather this kind of data.

5. Surveys  This is another great way to learn more about your customers. Send them a brief survey and ask them the questions that will help you make better marketing, merchandising, sales and product decisions. Even better if you can integrate this data into your marketing platform, something that Mailchimp supports.

6. Social media through special apps  Along with direct comments on social media channels,  many social networks have polling tools built in that you can use to poll or ask your customers for feedback. Everyday there are new retail apps and services launched that can help you learn more about your customers — time to use technology to your advantage!

7. Competitions  Quid pro quo. A good rule of thumb is, ask a little, give a little. Competitions are a great way to ask for the specific information you would like to gather while giving something in return. For example, the first 25 customers to share their favorite spring trend, gets a free gift.

8. Web analytics  If you have a website in conjunction with your brick and mortar store, regardless if it's ecommerce or not, you can build content on your website that provides info, resources, insight and entertainment for your customers. By looking at a web analytics tool, like Google Analytics, you can start to see what resonates with your customers through metrics like page views, bounce rate and time on page. That data can be invaluable when you are devising new events and marketing initiatives.

Each retailer must build a cohesive strategy that correlates with their unique retail business. However, each strategic plan must include staff training and use of technology as a data collection tool. Collecting data requires a dedicated and concentrated effort by everyone involved in the business (in each channel). Each team member must understand why they are collecting data and understand deeply how it impacts the bottom line. But, most importantly retailers need to use that data to provide better and more personalized experiences for their customers.

Customer experience is a major differentiator for customers today. According to Gartner, 89% of companies now expect to compete mostly based on customer experience, up from 36% just four years ago. Within the next 5 years, customer experience will be the primary competitive driver for repeat business, so the time to start knowing your customers deeply is now!


To learn more download our NEW Retail Customer Relationship Management Report   Download Now! 

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Topics: Customer Relationship Management, Retail Tips & Techniques

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