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Becoming the preference

April 22, 2016

Once a customer is aware of the brand, marketing efforts should be focused on ensuring the customer chooses to purchase from you, over the potentially several other brands they have also been exposed to. Your competitors are employing customer experience tools too after all. Brand preference is almost directly correlated to brand experience – together, the two have a defining impact on customer’s purchasing choices, hence this stage is often considered the most definitive stage of the customer journey.

It is at this point therefore that it is imperative businesses are aware of the ‘moments of truth’ referred to in the introduction and their impact on defining experience. In a competitive market, the customer won’t hesitate to shift to a competitor offering the same product if the interaction becomes frustrating for any reason. Providing the information and tools the customer needs to seamlessly pass through the path to purchase regardless of interaction, device or location is crucial to ensuring the customer values your service over any other.

Website frustrations lead to lost sales

With a strong SEO campaign in place to drive awareness, a brand’s website is normally the first point of contact. Once at the website the consumer has sight of all the information needed about products, services, locations and so on that can help to shape preference toward the brand. Ensuring SEO is supported by as much consumer-useful information as possible, such as up-to-date details about stores and locations, including being searchable on Google and social channels is the best way to ensure the consumer’s search isn’t disrupted by uncertainty. Coupled with this is making sure the responsiveness of the site’s design and functionality doesn’t divert the customer. A recent Kantar study revealed that 69% of shoppers become frustrated by brand sites that aren’t mobile ready. So much is the case that it leaves a bad impression on the customer who is then unlikely to return to site.

Similarly, localised versions of the website can have a huge impact on a customer’s preference of your brand over another. Companies can use localised sites to foster a greater connection between customers and their local store. These localised sites are a great opportunity for brands to answer consumers’ expectations of practical information such as product inventory, comprehensive description of services, or experts offered at individual locations, geolocation features, all of this in an engaging, brand-consistent, environment. Research has shown that 50% of mobile and 34% of tablet users visit a store within a day of their local search, highlighting just how important both optimised and localised sites are for driving preference and a seamless customer journey.

In our next post, we will discuss the purchase stage – providing tips for marketers on the best way to ensure preference coverts to sales.

Driving brand awareness

March 22, 2016

An outstanding customer experience is key to impacting business results, and as such every customer touchpoint along the journey to purchase must be foreseen and the action implied for the consumer always relevant and seamless. However, in order to achieve success, the business must first start at the very beginning and analyse its ability to provide a positive experience throughout the customer journey – but specifically at the first stage, ‘awareness’. This is the very first time the consumer comes into contact with your brand and so making sure an acceptable image is being portrayed via the key interaction points – website, social channels, customer service and so on – is crucial, otherwise awareness will quickly turn into the next stage, ‘preference’, but in favour of your competitor.

Businesses should remain consistent and proactive when establishing new ways to attract customers by promoting their brands though the correct and most relevant channels.

Stand out from the crowd

With copious brands competing for consumer attention on desktops, smartphones and tablets, delivering content which stands out from the crowd is vital to the success of awareness strategies. 65% of shoppers begin on mobiles devices, 61% continue on desktops and 4% continue on tablets according to Google. As such, multiple channels from traditional desktop to mobile access should be at the forefront of consideration when forming a marketing strategy.  Ultimately, the brand needs to be everywhere the consumer is if it is to stand the best chance of being seen.

 Using data to intelligently target

Push marketing can be seen as invasive to customers, but the rise in use of data, either from browsing or market research, means marketers can work smarter to tailor push messages, providing value which will drive sales rather than inhibit them. Armed with insights such as customer product preferences, push marketing allows the brand to emphasise these, or similar products in order to attract consumers into the brand.  To further entice the customer, the brand may offer the product at a discounted rate, or other incentives related to that product to increase awareness.

Data driven advertising is another way of utilising knowledge about customer preferences to drive sales as this can be used to intelligently offer customers what they want.

 Online visibility is key

Employing good SEO tactics is perhaps the most meaningful way to drive awareness of a brand amongst customers.  In this digital age businesses are hyper aware of the importance of a consumer-friendly website, that’s the basics.  Optimising that website to provide tools that enhance the experience is now common best practice. What’s more, 81% of consumers research products online before buying instore. By using localised SEO tactics to attract shoppers, businesses have the potential to then drive them into stores via online tools such as ‘store locators’ and ‘product finders’. Tools such as these are invaluable when facilitating a seamless customer experience, as they enable the customer to pass easily from point to point without interruption.  One brand who employed this tactic is leading luxury watch manufacturer Tag Heuer, who using SoLocal’s BRIDGE solution drastically increased traffic to its bricks and mortar stores by improving their visibility.  We deployed our web-to-store solution initially to assess the traffic and interest of online users. The results showed that traffic to bricks-and-mortar stores increased significantly as a result of the web-to-store solution because consumers wanted to quickly and easily find the nearest retailers.

In the next post, we will cover ways in which brands can drive preference for their product or service over competitors.

The consumer journey – an insight into purchasing behaviour

December 16, 2015

This will be the first in a series of blog posts dedicated to the customer journey. Throughout the five part series we will walk you through the stages of customer engagement with brands and how those various touchpoints can dictate the success or failure of a business. The blog series will then be converted into a white paper to be downloaded and shared – providing a guide to customer purchasing and insights to assist businesses with the necessary tools to maximise engagement.

Understanding the power of customer experience

In a competitive marketplace, customer experience has long been heralded as the key to ensuring a business can stand out from the crowd – but more than this, marketers and brands are now realising the power ‘experience’ can have in determining the success or failure of a company. Too many bad experiences between customer and brand will inhibit sales, creating a negative impact on the bottom line. Such is the importance; many of the largest firms in the world now have dedicated customer experience personnel – with some even taking a seat at board level, to ensure customer experience is not a siloed consideration but ingrained within the fabric and strategy of the company.

With much at stake, it’s important for businesses to understand how customers are experiencing their brand in order to close any gaps or make changes. This can be done in many ways, but the best way to create a real framework around charting these experiences and analysing them is in creating a customer journey map (CJM). Largely, customer journey mapping is about understanding the path to purchase and the stages at which consumers interact with the brand, and perhaps most importantly, how they feel about the brand as a result of those interactions.

Customer Journey Mapping

The idea of CJM is not anything new, in fact many commentators on this trend have noted its similarity to the stages mapped in the traditional purchase funnel conceived in the 19th Century, however it’s this idea of the emotive responses to brand interaction that is perhaps one area where theory has evolved over time, and is the key to delivering a great experience. With the increasingly indignant consumer keeping today’s marketers up at night, tracking emotional triggers in the customer journey is now crucial, as a bad experience will not only prevent purchases from a single consumer, but could have a ripple effect to others, damaging the brand’s reputation in a way not seen before the birth of the internet.

Different approaches

Theories relating to CJM characterise these interactions as ‘touchpoints’ or ‘moments of truth’ in explaining the importance they have in influencing the customer’s decision to purchase. These touch points expand way beyond a visit to store, to include every interaction the customer has whilst travelling through the customer journey stages, from visiting the website to social channels, reviews, newsletters, customer service calls and so on.

While there has been plenty of research, views and reporting on the value, uses and challenges of customer journey mapping, the relative stages of the customer journey are less in contention. In fact, the stages are fairly unanimously agreed as; awareness, preference, purchase, use and loyalty – though some theories may use slightly different expressions, the action in each case is more or less the same. With that said, research has indicated 47% of companies say that the digital part of the business is driving customer journey initiatives, with the additional touchpoints digital introduces creating greater exposure to the brand and therefore need for management.

Continuous development

Many commentators emphasise the importance of ensuring mapping is an ongoing process, and as a result some of the final steps are repeated to show a continuous loop. In some cases this loop is used deliberately to indicate where changes have been made, to ensure a better ongoing experience– for example, awareness, preference, purchase, use, complaint, preference, purchase, use, loyalty.

In the following posts we’ll go on to examine each of these stages in more detail, providing considerations for marketers in making sure they’re optimising the opportunities at each stage to provide the very best experience for customers, while driving company success.

How digital marketing operations can transform business

August 11, 2015

New digital tools and data are an increasingly strong opportunity for marketers to improve their marketing operations and achieve customer-centric strategies. These new insights allow organisations to be attuned to their customers’ needs and create effective and measurable marketing campaigns.




Last month, McKinsey released a publication on digital marketing operations titled ‘How digital marketing operations can transform business’, explaining the importance for companies of adopting digital tools for their marketing campaigns. This corroborates perfectly with Solocal Group UK’s vision on digital marketing technologies (read our previous “Why brands need to embrace sophisticated technologies” post) and this is why we found it valuable to extract and summarise insights in this blog post.


  1. Truly understanding customers

For any company the key point is to establish a meaningful relationship with their customers. Marketing operations give the opportunity to monitor this. By analysing customers’ behaviour it is possible to create a real experience for the company to share with its customers. This analysis should be based on an important and mapped marketing operations database which the right tools are able to provide. Some basic technologies and tracking tools could be used by companies to better know customers’ cross-channel journey. Unfortunately, many companies do not consider this strategic point very important and the customer understanding is thus weakened. Without a proper understanding of customers’ behaviour, marketing cannot be truly efficient. Digital brings reachable and effective tools for marketing operations.


  1. Delivering superior experience

Within the customer journey, the experience is a corner stone. Experience is at the forefront of a customer’s interaction with the company. A bad experience for a customer means a customer defecting to the competitor and a possible snowball effect if the company is not reactive enough to correct it. Here again, understanding customers is the best way to reach their expectations. If this point is often well-considered by marketers who deployed a lot of sales, support and services initiatives for customers or fulfilment and order management by their side, there are some back-end operations and systems which are neglected in this journey. Actually the magical recipe is not a secret. In this interaction and exchange with customers it is important to listen and adjust the experience according to customers’ uses and feedbacks. Comforting this idea, McKinsey article indeed reveals that best-in-class companies are reallocating up to 80% of digital-campaign budgets during a campaign. A company should propose a boulevard to consumers. To do so, it should observe wisely which particular paths or shortcuts customers are using and adapt this boulevard accordingly, closing some useless pavements, enlarging others, better indicate popular shortcuts, clearing some ways.


  1. Selecting the right marketing technology

As said previously, technology can bring numerous and relevant tools for marketers to optimise their operations and to automatise processes. Technology is a strategic expense, to be more efficient in the customer relationship, offer customers the expected experience, retain them, attract new ones and consequently keep an advantage over competitors. It should bring flexibility to a responsive platform, and not race for the last innovation which might be useless for the experience customers are looking for. Too many newish technologies can be a brake by making the experience too complex, when marketing technologies should aim to make a simple and responsive customer experience. The choice of technology should also be flexible to permit incrementing emerging tools.


  1. Implementing processes and governance

In order to manage the customer journey and implement technologies to improve the experience through this journey, the company needs to set clear and efficient governance. Technology can do amazing things to simplify processes, but cannot do it all on its own. Human decision is still above any organisation. To benefit from the added value brought by technology, all the marketing processes should be organised and this governance must be simple and the same for every link of the process chain. Employees, partners, suppliers and agencies should be part of it, and aware of their precise role in this chain to be able to adapt themselves when the strategy and campaigns evolve according to the customer’s expectations. Finally, as it is implied all along, the customer is the pivot and the governance aims to satisfy its expectation by driving appropriately – with adjustments and reorientation when needed – the campaign. Marketing, more than any other business activity, must be guided by a customer-centric approach.


  1. Using the best metric to drive success

Technology brings more and more powerful measurement tools. Metrics are the fuel of any marketing logic and have to be oriented and exploited wisely. Marketing effectiveness can be measured, customer journey can be detailed and understood, customer satisfaction can be monitored and its insights should be analysed to adapt processes, experience and governance. Metrics, as a quantitative indicator of the company interaction with its customers, should be used to understand customers’ behaviour and draw meaningful conclusions on past marketing actions. The effective metric is, thus, the one which delivers important insights to be interpreted and used to improve ongoing marketing campaigns and adapt past ones according to the user experience and expectations.


Marketing operations might not be the most thrilling part of marketing and many marketers are therefore not really interested in them. But consumers are the centre of any business, they have many expectations and many of them rely on marketing operations. This is why the lack of marketing operations is a main reason for marketing failure. Seamlessly integrating marketing operations into the digital era goes through five steps: truly understanding customers, delivering superior experience, selecting the right marketing technology, implementing processes and governance, and using the best metric to drive success.

Please contact Solocal Group UK team if you would like to discuss how your brand can take advantage of implementing valuable marketing operations technologies throughout the customer journey.

Retail Gazette – How Kérastase drove sales conversion, generated leads and enhanced the customer experience

February 17, 2015


Luxury haircare brand Kérastase historically built its distribution through a select network of 40,000 hair salons in 75 countries but while the brand was deploying e-commerce directly to the consumer, how could it drive customers to its independent professional’s salons and promote stylists’ expertise too? The question was asked in 2012, and before long, communications company Solocal Group provided an answer.

Solocal Group implemented a section into Kérastase’s website which would allow consumers to locate salons and learn more about…


Retail Gazette – Personal shopping services are improving

November 20, 2014

Retail gazette

Fashion retailer Oasis this week announced the appointment of multi-channel marketing company Solocal Group, to launch ‘My Personal Stylist’ – its personalised shopping service.

Through Solocal’s real-time booking platform Timendo, Oasis customers can now arrange in-store personal shopping appointments 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Visitors to Oasis’ website will be able to book a consultation with a personal stylist across 15 flagship stores in the UK via Timendo. The online booking solution also lets each store control their own calendar in order to arrange appointments convenient for both the personal shopper and the customer.

Oasis does well in embracing omni-channel initiatives, from 90 minute and nominated time slot deliveries to mobile gift vouchers, it offers a fairly enriched shopping experience. Now the contemporary fashion brand has directed attention to its personal shopping service.

Personal shopping services have been a longstanding preserve of high-end retailers and department stores, now non-luxury brands are adopting the concept to deepen connections with customers and drive sales.

Mirroring the mood of nightclub and gentleman’s clubs’ atmospheres, brands like Selfridges and even premium shopping destination Westfield, have invested a considerable amount on personal styling environments for shopping and socialising


Drapers – Oasis offers 24/7 online booking for in-store styling service

November 19, 2014


Oasis has set up an online booking service enabling customers to make in-store personal styling appointments at any time of the day or night.

Visitors to the Oasis website can use the real-time appointment booking platform, provided by Solocal Group, to set up a consultation with a personal stylist in 15 stores across the UK and Ireland. The platform lets each store control their own calendar, allowing them to manage stylists’ timetables and arrange appointments convenient to both Oasis and the customer.


How to use personal shopping to drive footfall to your stores and provide an exceptional customer experience

November 18, 2014

Whilst personal shopping was once traditionally reserved for high-end, designer outlets, it has proven to be such an effective tool for brands that an increasing number have now introduced the service. As well as driving footfall to bricks-and-mortar stores, personal shopping services help to increase order value, drive customer conversion, build a stronger relationship between customer and brand and boost brand loyalty – with so many advantages, it’s not surprising to hear that many brands even offer personal shopping to their customers for free.

Exciting high street examples Leading contemporary fashion retailer Oasis, for example, has just launched a free personal shopping service called My Personal Stylist,’ which is designed to guide a potential customer from initial research (most likely online) to purchasing products in store. Easy and fun to use, the service not only lets customers book an appointment with a stylist at a time that suits them, those using ‘My Personal Stylist’ can choose the occasion which best suits their needs, including everything from bridesmaid outfits to holiday wear. What’s more, customers are even able to see a profile for each stylist to ensure they can choose their favourite, and helping to build a personal connection between customer and brand.

Oasis My Personal Shopping

Using a personal shopper is also becoming increasingly popular in the menswear sector as well; start-ups like Trunk Club in the US and Chictypes in France have even built their entire business model on this trend! These innovative stores are best described as personal shopping websites, as they offer the service of a personal stylist exclusively online. Both work by finding out details about a customer’s personal style, specially selecting items suited to their taste and delivering everything to their door for them to try on at home, making it easy and convenient for the customer to find clothes that suit them.

American jeans brand Bonobos has also adopted a personal shopping service; however they wanted to ensure that they maintained a face-to-face relationship with their clientele. They therefore offer in-store appointments in one of ten ‘guideshops,’ where customers schedule a 1 hour appointment with a knowledgeable stylist. Any items the customer buys during the appointment will then be delivered to a location of their choice, allowing the shopper to leave the store with their hands free. By putting the customer’s needs at the heart of their services, all of these brands are able to boost loyalty and customer engagement, ultimately increasing their ROI.

The importance of real-time booking Whilst the benefits of personal shopping for both brands and customers are clear, to ensure the service is as successful as possible it must be incorporated seamlessly into the customer journey. A number of brands, for example, offer personal shopping but only allow customers to arrange an appointment on the phone, or using an online booking form. From a customer perspective this is inconvenient, as this approach requires a number of interactions to find a time slot which suits both brand and customer. In addition, the brand is likely to only engage with the customer during working hours, which may not suit the customer’s schedule.Fortunately, however, dynamic real-time online booking solutions, such as offered by Solocal Group UK, are now available, and can generate fantastic results and maximise booking opportunity in any sector. By implementing a real-time booking system for personal shopping appointments, brands are able to dramatically reduce the time staff spend on the booking process, meaning that they have more time to dedicate to sales. In addition, real-time online booking solutions can send automated reminders, allowing brands to reduce no-shows by up to 80%, and is fully customisable with the brand’s image.

For the customer, real-time booking services offer a drastically improved experience. With 40% of appointments being booked outside of opening hours, the solution enables them to book their meeting at a time that suits them, without restricting them to business hours. Solocal Group’s service is available on any device, and with 40% of bookings being made on mobile, this exceptionally important for the customers’ convenience. Quick and easy to use, real-time booking solution can also send email confirmation and text reminders to ensure the customer has stylist appointment details in writing, making it easy for them to access all the necessary details.

Advantages for both customers and brands Personal styling services undoubtedly help create a great shopping experience for the customer. By giving customers the added value of a styling package, they’re able to find clothes personally tailored to their tastes, encouraging them to engage with the brand to make use of the service. Once in store, customers can foster a personal connection with their stylist and subsequently the brand. By allowing the customer to book styling appointments in real –time, the process is incredibly easy for them, and can be done from the comfort of their sofa, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

After deploying a personal shopping service, brands can expect increased footfall to their stores, increased order value as stylists will be able to upsell items, improved customer loyalty and retention and greater connections with customers. Through allowing customers to book appointments online and in real-time, personal shopping services are integrated seamlessly into the customer journey, improving the customer experience whilst also reducing no shows. Offering a personal shopping service really makes brands stand out from their competitors, and builds a strong, personal connection with their target market.  As more and more leading retailers are implementing the solution, it looks set to change the high street and permanently improve the customer experience.

Masterclassing – How do retailers ensure a seamless customer experience from online research to in-store purchase?

October 27, 2014


There has been an undeniable change in people’s buying habits in recent years, with how consumers choose to buy and research products evolving as technology does.

The rise of mobile and online technology has had a huge impact on consumer behaviour, and the surge in the number of smartphone and tablet users has led to an ever- increasing number of consumers who research products online before buying in store.

It is therefore essential that retailers manage the customer journey seamlessly from attention to action, and engage with customers along their purchase journey in a personalised and contextual way.

By offering customers an easy to use, personalised service, the user experience is greatly improved, leading to increased loyalty and engagement. This interaction with consumers can be made possible through solutions such as personalised display advertising, cross-channel store locators, real-time online appointment booking and mobile-enabled websites.

Creating an optimised, seamless customer journey from initial search to in-store purchase is at the core of everything Solocal Group UK do. To enhance the customer experience, we encourage brands to build a real understanding of the customer, as it enables them to personalise their marketing campaigns.

Personalised marketing allows consumers to cut through the masses of information available online, and makes them feel like they are receiving a special service, tailored especially for their needs and interests. When running a display advertising campaign, it is therefore important that retailers identify their target audience and take the time to understand this group, by analysing detailed social, behavioural, geographic and demographic data.


Bridging The Gaps On The Customer Journey

October 14, 2014

Every day we take part in a journey. It doesn’t require train or bus tickets and we don’t need to make sure there is enough petrol in the car. The journey that I am referring to is the one that billions of us as consumers make when we decide or find the need to purchase something. It is the customer journey.

Unfortunately, similarly to some of our other travel experiences, many of us have less than smooth experiences, leaving us disgruntled and vowing never to make the same mistake again.

The typical customer journey is comprised of six stages:

  1. Discovery and consideration (through word of mouth, content or advertising)
  2. Research and evaluation (both online and offline)
  3. Purchase (both online and offline)
  4. Fulfillment
  5. Product returns, exchanges or maintenance
  6. Customer feedback, which fuels the discovery and research stages of the journey of another customer

Getting the customer journey right requires planning, a high level of commitment and a certain amount of empathy to avoid any pitfalls along the way. After all, we are all passengers at some point.

Avoiding flaws at each leg of the journey

At each stage of the customer journey, there is a risk that the brand could lose the customer if they don’t sufficiently engage with them and meet their requirements. When a shopper encounters a flaw, retailers become open to the risk that the customer might be tempted to switch to a competitor who is better able to engage with them, or may even abandon their intent to purchase all together. This means that having even one weakness along the customer path could dissuade potential customers from continuing on their purchase journey, harming other marketing strategies which have been implemented along the way and hindering ROI overall.

It’s therefore crucial that brands engage with customers along each stage of the purchase journey. And while engaging with consumers has become more difficult with the advent of online and mobile shopping, technology has enabled us to develop multichannel marketing solutions that will support brands looking to optimize their customer’s journey both online and in-store.

The importance of seamless connections

A recent study by Accenture, which offers some insight into the customer journey, highlighted the importance of a seamless customer experience:

To help create a seamless customer journey, research by Capgemini published last year clearly stated that brands should invest in digital tools to support the ‘clicks to bricks’ journey. The company identified 13 digital services which customers can use across the purchase cycle. These include: store locator solution, store happenings, e/mcoupons, product locators and click & reserve services, appointment booking system, online personal shopping, m-payments and multichannel loyalty programmes.   In today’s digital age, while customers have come to expect these tools, they are surprisingly still not implemented by a significant part of the businesses:  the IAB UK Mobile Retail Audit, released in June 2013, found that only 48% of the top 50 UK retailers have a store locator on their mobile site.

Improving the customer journey

While the Accenture research shows that there has been an improvement in seamless customer experience there’s clearly still a long way to go to achieve complete customer satisfaction. The latest UK Customer Satisfaction Index reveals that satisfaction has continued to fall among UK customers, leaving people more unhappy with their customer experience now than they were in January 2011.

Our advice for a brand to ensure it is providing a seamless, smooth customer experience is to consider the following steps:

Solocal Group’s mission of connecting brands and customers is strongly linked to the customer journey, and this is a topic we will continue to investigate and discuss during  several upcoming industry events including Internet Retailing Customer Experience Research Briefing (October 22) and Local Search Today! – The Customer Journey (December 16) – hope to see you there!