If you open the hood on the technology execution to deliver on the vision it has mostly been patchwork and workarounds that have been extremely painful, expensive, and slow to build. In the end, it has become a monster of point-to-point integrations that is not only costly to maintain, but is also under a constant threat of breaking and certainly does not scale to the extent that any growing company needs. But times are changing and there is a new solution out there to support retailers to deliver their omnichannel vision, and it’s called; an Experience Data Platform!
First of all, why has it been so hard to deliver an omnichannel experience?
Let’s explore the problem a bit to get more context. The biggest problem with building an omnichannel experience the traditional way is that data cannot flow seamlessly across channels in real-time, because the technology stack held by retailers is dated and built-in silos. Systems have typically been purchased/built for a very specific purpose, meaning they contain data for a specific area, such as ERP for transactional and stock data, PIM for product information and CRM for customer data, etc.
These systems are built more for backend processes to create and store data, not to combine and activate the data in a customer-facing frontend experience. It is in the latter where it actually creates the most business value. There is nothing wrong with this because you need different systems to support different business tasks/processes/teams. However, because such an important software piece to combine and activate the data has been missing in the stack, the result is that the omnichannel experience has suffered. But times are changing and therefore we see the rise of the Experience Data Platform!
So, what is an Experience Data Platform?
An Experience Data Platform (XDP) is a unified data layer that sits on top of these systems of records. This platform unifies your data assets without the need for costly and time-consuming integration projects and makes the data available in real-time on a global scale, using real-time APIs, while at the same time collecting new data from your digital destinations.
Using this type of software means digital teams can easily access all their data from different systems in one place (e.g., customer data from CRM, product data from PIM, transactional data from ERP) and deliver selected data to any frontend experience without spending months on data integration.
With all experience data in one place, they can easily combine the data and quickly build a new digital experience fit for any channel, which is instantly available on a global scale through purpose-built real-time APIs. As you can imagine, this has many benefits, five of them solving many headaches for retailers with omnichannel ambitions.
Five ways an Experience Data Platform can support digital teams at retailers to build better omnichannel experiences
1. Connect and re-use data across channels
This is probably the ultimate benefit for digital teams and retailers wanting to build a good omnichannel experience. With the current tech setup, every time you want to build a new digital experience you need to build new integrations from the ground up which takes 6-12-18 months. Integrations that only function in that specific experience and cannot be reused.
With an Experience Data Platform, your data is easily accessible sitting on top of these systems where the digital team just picks and chooses the data they want (no coding needed) to use in a specific initiative (e.g. a mobile app for store associates).
These specific assets are then made available through a real-time globally scalable API to a developer to build the frontend experience. Every time a customer logs in and uses the tool, behavioural data is funnelled back into the Experience Data Platform and enhances your intelligence about the customer.
The next time you want to build a new experience you don’t only have the data instantly available, but also have more data about the customer! When all your channels are fueled by data through a purpose-built API from an Experience Data Platform, data just flows seamlessly between channels and can easily be re-used.
With an Experience Data Platform you can access, re-use and share all necessary data between channels that is needed to create a true omnichannel experience.
2. Drive loyalty and conversion by creating a better experience in your own digital destinations
It costs many times more to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one. The way to do this is of course to use your data to increase relevance for customers. Just being able to connect your product data to your customer data to build relevance in your digital sales channels will do wonders for your conversion rates and sales. Previously this task has been impossible to execute because the current systems are not built to combine data. According to the 2020 Impact Omnichannel Index, 65% of retailers use product data at a siloed level. It also uncovers that 6 out of 10 retailers have a customer loyalty club. This means that many have the data in place but still don’t have the technical means to combine it. With an Experience Data Platform this becomes an easy task.
You will be able to combine 1st party customer data from your loyalty program with your product content to tailor product text to specific segments or use a specific set of images. This is a whole new ball game when it comes to personalization and is vastly different from using cookie-based personalization tools based on anonymous sessions!
You can also combine ANY type of data, for example, build segments based on contextual data, e.g location, weather, price range, size range, etc. Moritz Zimmermann, seasoned CX Technologist, has written more about why contextual relevance is the way forward for brands to win in the future in this article.
3. Quickly and easily launch a new channel/concept/feature
According to Harvard Business Review, 73% of consumers are omnichannel shoppers. Making your products available in as many sales channels/destinations as possible is therefore vital to gain/keep market share. In a fast-moving world you simply cannot afford an initiative that takes 6-12-18 months to launch. With Occtoo’s Experience Data Platform, global luxury brand Cartier managed to build a first version of an in-store mobile app to support their sales associates in just 30 days!
Fashion retailer MQ Marqet has also experimented with a digital fitting room concept, it took them only 2 months to go from idea to deployment! For more concrete examples of speedy executions of new digital apps have a look at our Built with Occtoo page.
It is easy access to data that empowers digital teams to build these experiences with speed! Having the necessary data and content instantly available in an easy “pick and choose” format means it’s only creativity that sets the boundaries, not data access and setup, of what can be built.
4. Equip customer-facing staff with better information/tools to provide better service
It’s not only in a digital self-service experience that you can use an Experience Data Platform to build a better omnichannel experience. The digital tools you create for your sales staff and customer service team members to help them give better service present equally interesting opportunities. E-tailer Nordic Nest has developed a customer service app for their customer service team. In this new app, they combine data from approx. 10 different sources so that they can service customers both better and faster.
When interviewed, Jacob Rastad, COO says that “I estimate it was 4x faster to build the app using Occtoo than if we would have done it the traditional way building many point-to-point integrations. I don’t know if the app ever would have been built without an Experience Data Platform, because too many other things had a bigger priority in our backlog. We would have lost the benefits in improved customer experience and employee satisfaction.”
The mobile app from Cartier equips sales associates with instant access to product data so they can move freely around the store and answer the customers' questions without being tied to a desk searching an old system that took ages to load. Remember that all data from an Experience Data Platform loads in real-time, making it a seamless experience for both customers and team members.
5. Experiment and adapt your omnichannel experience as the world changes
Let’s face it, the world has been tough for everyone in the last 24 months, but retailers have been taking an extra punch. It has never been more vital to be able to execute opportunistic experimentation but also just to be able to adapt fast enough to survive when the world throws you an unexpected punch.
Having instant access to data makes digital teams data autonomous and able to act quickly to test new concepts and adapt to changes in the market. This is a massive game-changer in terms of how fast they can go from idea to deployment. MQ Marqet has invested in Occtoo’s Experience Platform and managed to deploy many digital initiatives over the last 18 months. In an article their CEO Ingvar Larsson says that “Because we can execute faster and at a lower cost, this means we also have higher confidence to experiment with more initiatives because the risk has lowered.”
The best news is, it can be implemented without ripping and replacing your existing stack! Investing in an Experience Data Platform actually makes your previous investments in data enhancing systems such as PIM and CRM even more valuable because you can finally activate the data, combine it, and put it to its best use in the omnichannel experience! And if you want to modernize your backend systems, having the data in an Experience Data Platform also means that you can execute that work without it affecting your customer-facing applications during the transition period.
Would you like to learn how you could enhance your omnichannel experience by using Occtoo’s Experience Data Platform? Book a demo today! Maybe you are working at an agency interested in reinventing how you build omnichannel experiences for clients? Look into becoming a partner!
Occtoo is an Experience Data Platform that supports retailers and brands to build relevant digital experiences and applications at rapid speed. Occtoo’s Cloud-Native platform makes it easy to access and unify enterprise data from backend systems such as CRM, ERP, PIM, etc. and combine it with behavioral and contextual data to create relevant digital experiences that can be deployed in any channel or frontend in real-time at a global scale. Occtoo was founded in 2019 and are certified by the MACH Alliance.