28 Jul 2015

4 Retailers That Own Customer Identification

While we’ve done a comprehensive look at retailer customer identification over the past month, sometimes the easiest way to see how this is approached is to look at the retailers that are currently implementing these today.  For these purposes, companies who are deemed successful are ones who not only are able to gain the data, but they use this information to learn more about what their customers want and create a better shopping experience as a result.  This reflects that a retailer truly understands their customers and tailors the retail experience to their needs.  One should not simply think of customer identification as capturing emails just to send out promotional messaging.  An end goal should be in mind so one knows exactly what data needs to be known.  And then, every choice made should relate back to the customer and what would benefit their experience. The companies highlighted below show creative ways to capture customer data, but they also take what they learned to create an experience that is unique to their brand and reflects how their customers want to shop.


An innovator in the retail space and providing a superior customer experience, Starbucks also helps set a standard for customer identification. While many retailers and restaurants struggle to have customers download their app, Starbucks has had no problem with mobile app usage, where one in five transactions is done via mobile. It is not uncommon to see customers taking out their phone to pay through the app so they can become one step closer to a free pastry.  And if that wasn’t incentive enough, free drinks on users’ birthdays have caused a few downloads via customer loyalty. The app overall provides a significant enough incentive for customers to have it open while they are in the shop which gives a wealth of information about how customers are moving around.

Recently, Starbucks added in the ability for customers to order through their app so they can pick up immediately when they walk in the door. This shows Starbucks is giving customers what they want. If the baristas hadn’t already noticed, the in-store wifi could probably tell corporate that their lines were long, so they provided a way to show that they want to give each person the best experience.


Nordstrom has been talked about for omnichannel, mobile, in-store experiences, social media, and anything that retailers discuss for years. Nordstrom’s efforts show what new things there are and what actually sticks. In terms of customer identification, they have unrolled a lot of unique opportunities for customers to enter in an email or interact with their brand. They can receive a phone number by having a shopper sign up for their text-to-buy program. They will soon be able to see how they can sell through a Pinterest feed with Pinterest’s new buy buttons. And they have always been a big fan of adding digital experiences in their store. The constant that they have is giving shoppers a way to buy or receive their goods that is most convenient for them.

American Signature Furniture

When it comes to mobile applications, low-cost and repeated purchases are when retailers see the most success. However, with high-consideration purchases like furniture, a retailer has to be more creative to implement a tactic for customer identification.  In the case of American Signature Furniture, they used CloudTags to place mobile tablets for customers to use to explore their stores. This helped to blend the offline and online experiences and only ask for a customer’s email if they feel that the wish list they created would be useful to them. They are able to use the information they receive to have customer intent data and to better understand where the purchase journey starts and ends. It is not ok for a retailer to look at offline sales and online sales as separate, and American Signature Furniture is able to efficiently join the two.


Nike is a leader in personalization when it comes to their shoes and apparel. Their customers are known for paying top dollar to have their shoes be unique, and Nike has the resources to do so. Nike is an example of a retailer that has been able to successfully issue an app and provide in-store digital experiences.  One of their apps targeted for women, Nike Training Club, gives workout guides, lets users track progress with friends, workout with celebrity trainers, and buy featured items. Nike not only gave customers a fun way that leads them to a product, they now will have a greater need to wear their stuff if they’re doing the workouts. Additionally, some stores will feature augmented reality, digital mannequins, and iPads throughout the store to make any online purchases. Nike truly sets a standard that’s hard to beat.


There are several other retailers that could be named, but these four show a variety of sectors and techniques. The constants across all four can be summarized as follows:

  1. Make the customer experience the most important goal
  2. Have something creative that will make shopping very unique
  3. Know what information is the most important to be known

What other retailers are leading the charge in customer identification? Let us know on Twitter @cloudtags.


23 Jul 2015

When Mobile Apps Are Not the Answer to Omnichannel Success

Marketers have been talking about the rapid rise of mobile and the fast growth among adoption and usage over the past half a decade. With this movement, the popularity of mobile apps has skyrocketed with retailers vying to get a place on a customers phone, with the home screen being the grand prize. Retailers see mobile apps as a great avenue to drive engagement and lifetime value.

What are omnichannel marketers supposed to focus on in order to achieve success in mobile? Here are the benefits of investing in a mobile web vs. mobile app experience:

Benefits of a Mobile Web Experience

  • Emphasis on search (more focused on intent)
  • Accessibility (no need to download an app)
  • Compatibility across devices

Benefits of a Mobile App

  • Branded Experience for Customers
  • Greater set of customer data to build off
  • Personalized Notifications

Why apps aren’t always the answer to a retailer’s omnichannel issues

While retailers love the idea of a mobile app and the amount of data and engagement that they *believe* will come their way, the usage numbers come to say otherwise. Retailers are romantic about their mobile apps and have much more to lose with mobile apps than the mobile web.

Mobile Web is the Gateway to Getting Consumers In the Store

The biggest opportunity for retailers in mobile outside of the store is in search. Before retailers can consider the opportunities of converting shoppers in the store, they have to make sure their mobile search is optimized correctly and providing relevant information, such as product info and store locations nearby. According to Google, the power of local information, whether it be a store location or checking to see if an item is in stock, is a great way to drive store visits for retailers. This is helpful for retailers because it signals purchase intent from the consumer, and once their questions are validated through discovery, they will be more apt to continue the shopping experience to the store.

Apps are meant for retention

The biggest takeaway from retail mobile apps is that consumers need a legitimate reason to download a retailer’s app and justify not deleting it after one use case. Retailers that have lower cost items tend to perform better since there is more frequency and opportunities to purchase items. Consumers will be much more likely to have a Walgreen’s app on hand because it provides more value day to day vs. a Best Buy app where purchases are more sizable and infrequent.

Retailers love the idea of having a mobile app due to the amount of control they have in tailoring the experience to the customer. However, retailers have to be extremely careful in the value they bring to customers and ensure they are not annoying or creeping them out with the data they are able to collect from app usage.


Invest in a great mobile web experience

The biggest opportunity is in the mobile web experience: Only nine of the top 100 retailers have a responsively designed site, the format recommended by Google. When looking to make a purchase, the retailers that are going to win over time will focus on their mobile web experience with relevant calls-to-action that effectively move consumers down the funnel and convert into customers.

Control the Mobile Experience In the Store

Consumers already feel uncomfortable with downloading retailer apps and giving up personally identifiable information (PII) in order to get value from retailers. When a consumer downloads a mobile app, they are at the mercy of the retailer and subject to promotional messages outside of the store. Consumers like a mobile experience, but there is a level of trust that the retailer must adhere to that doesn’t drive them away from the brand. Brands such as American Signature have implemented their own mobile experience by providing customers with tablets in their stores and have driven substantial results for the furniture retailer.

What are your thoughts on mobile web vs. mobile apps? Let us know on Twitter @cloudtags.

15 Jul 2015

A Primer on Offline Customer Identification Tools

As retailers are struggling to find ways to implement technology that moves the needle on identifying customers in the store, there are many different opportunities for retailers to choose. While each tool will vary in value by retailer, we put together a comprehensive list of customer identification tools for omnichannel retailers to consider.


Identifying the customers who have already purchased from you is extremely important.  On average, a first time customer has a 27% chance of returning to make a second purchase.  After each subsequent purchase, they are more and more likely to return again so that have three visits, there is a 54% chance of the customer buying something.  The potential lifetime value of these customers and the effectiveness of reminder marketing campaigns validates the focus on getting to know these shoppers.

Email Collection

The easiest time to identify customers while they are in a store is during the transaction.  The customer is already locked in, hopefully happy and must stand face-to-face with an associate.  This explains why it has become so common for a shopper to be asked their email address, phone number, and/or zip code while they are standing at the register.  Several retailers don’t even make giving the information seem like an option by phrasing the question as “What is your email address?” instead of “May I have your email address?”  While this isn’t ideal from the point of view of the customer, it certainly is effective for receiving a substantial number of emails.  However, more than 10% of emails collected in this form are invalid due to typing errors or the customer giving false information.  Therefore, it is recommended that the sales associate reads back the email given, asks them to confirm this on a keypad, or sends a ‘Welcome’ email asking the customer to verify their account.  These efforts, especially the last one, also make it clearer that this truly is opt-in which is key for customer trust and perception.

Receipts and Surveys

An extension of this tactic to receive an email address is to give the customer the option to have an electronic receipt.  This gives the appearance that the retailer is putting in effort to save paper and space in someone’s pocket.  From a marketing standpoint, this provides possibly the first interaction with a customer which can lead to re-engagement and future purchases.  However, it is important to not seem like one is “fooling” their customers by saying their email will be used for one thing (i.e. an electronic receipt) and then be used again for other efforts (i.e. email marketing).  It is suggested that the email with the receipt could prompt a response if they want to be subscribed to further emails.

On the other end of the spectrum, paper receipts can offer the ability for a customer to go online to fill out a survey.  Typically they are incentivized for a chance to win a prize or even a small gift card.  The problems with this method is the same that occur when a similar interaction takes place online but with even less participation as less than 1% of customers complete the survey.  The data that is provided from the survey can be thorough and exactly what the retailer is looking for, but it would only represent a small population and possibly only a certain demographic.


Everyday, people walk into and out of a store unidentified.  They may or may not have been in before, and they may or may not have ever been to the website.  A customer could consider a product for an hour in the store, and if they did not buy it immediately, there would be no way to re-engage.  If this happened online, re-engagement would be simple and could help the customer to convert.  This is why in-store customer data is the most coveted not only for re-engagement, but for a number of behavior and identification information.

In-Store WiFi and MAC Addresses

MAC address tracking helps retailers find in-store customers with smartphones whose phones are searching for WiFi signal.  A MAC address is “a unique identifier assigned to network interfaces for communications on the physical network segment.”   This means that in-store movements can be tracked and the addition of cameras can match a demographic profile to the data.  However, true identification remains very low.  In 2014, Apple announced that MAC addresses for their iPhones would be random and scrambled.  Retailers now have trouble identifying the 25% of phone users and cannot match an iPhone user to any data collected when they previously visited a store. What is lost is seeing specific patterns of repeat customers.

What is missing in MAC address tracking is context and an identity.  One solution is for customers who actually end up connecting to the WiFi can do so by providing some information like an email address to “login”.  Then, all known offline and online data can be pulled together to create an accurate and well-rounded picture of this specific shopper.  Logging into the WiFi is generally considered opting-in, but customers may be weary of providing a lot of information for a quick store visit.

Facial Recognition

Facial recognition is up-and-coming and has customers skeptical.  Facebook has been using these tools for a while to identify people to tag in photos.  They released statistics saying that 97.25% of the time their algorithm can determine if two pictures have the same person in them.  There are different levels of facial recognition for different uses.  There are ways to simply detect that there is a face present, and there is software to profile gender, ethnicity, and approximate age of the face.  This is useful for a retailer to identify who is looking at what products and some gender and age-based consumer behaviors.  However, basic observations from store associates can provide most of this data without having to spend a lot of money on cameras and software.  But, to take this to the next level, retailers can use the same software that identifies shoplifters to notify staff when a valued customer comes in.  In order to make this opt-in, customers could create profiles online or possible use a social media profile picture to be associated with their account.

In-store Experiences

Some retailers are trying to blend offline and online experiences in the spirit of omnichannel.  Companies are using their creative sides to make customers feel more engaged while they are shopping in the store and in turn will want to continue the experience online or in the store again. These ideas range from interactive dressing room mirrors to mobile apps that can guide a customer to find the the items they are looking for to beacons providing coupons as the customer walks around.  These are excellent, effective, and show initiative in the importance of the in-store retail experience.  The novelty of the unique experience limits any creepy factor since hopefully the customer is just having fun.  A combination of a few technologies can help to achieve these experiences.  Companies can provide a mobile application that provides functionality in the store.  A BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) beacon can be placed throughout a store which can send information to the apps once they enter the store, move to a certain location, or stay in a location for a period of time.  The solution that CloudTags provides is to provide customers with tablets to bring online information into the store.  Customers view the technology as meaningful which gives more incentive for them to opt-in with their email at the end of the experience.


As of right now, email marketing ROI remains the strongest, so email acquisition should be a top priority.  However, to keep a quality list, customers need to know why they are giving their information.  If they see value, then they will be more responsive.  It is because of this that a unique in-store experience where a customer could continue later or unlock more with their information would be highly effective.  This gives customers something to look forward to from a retailer that can surprise and delight.

13 Jul 2015

4 Steps to Increase In-Store Customer Identification

As the retail industry moves towards the vision of a connected store, one of the biggest challenges for omnichannel marketers is how to understand who is walking into the store and where they are at in the purchase process. Online marketers have had the luxury of being able to identify customers and track them around the Internet to get them to purchase.  With technology and shopping rapidly evolving, retailers are beginning to identify customers in the store and connect the dots between online and offline experiences.  Here are four steps to increase customer identification:

1. Begin With the End In Mind

Every retailer knows that their in-store experience is in need of an update to reflect the ever changing nature of shopper habits in the store. Auditing the in-store experience is the first step towards omnichannel success. Below are some starter questions around creating a connected store experience:

  • What is currently working?
  • What would make our customers lives easier when they are shopping in the store?
  • How can we leverage our existing assets to produce value?
  • How can we provide value to the customer after they walk out of the store and they didn’t make a purchase?

2. Create Immersive Experiences That Highlight Top Brand Attributes

Image by Freshness Mag (http://www.freshnessmag.com/)

 According to JWT, in a survey of American and British adults ages 17-69, 71% of customers desired immersive brand experiences.

In a world where customer loyalty is hard to come by, it has been shown that shoppers want brand experiences that allow them to connect with the brand in the store. Two examples that define immersive brand experiences in the store are Apple and Nike. They create environments that are more likely for the shopper to adapt their state of mind to the brands. When customers feel a part of a brand, whether it be aspirational or innovative, it allows them to be themselves and more receptive to the brand story and products that are in the store. Being able to connect with customers on a personal level establishes trust and more likely to share more information with the retailer over time.

3. Complement Physical Experiences With Digital Touchpoints That Shoppers Expect

In-store shopping is no longer an analog space where most marketers view it as a “black hole of data.” Today, shoppers come into the store well equipped with smartphones filled with a tool set that every retailer fears. From price checks on Amazon to checking availability at a competing local store, the opportunities for retailers to convert shoppers while in the store has gone down due to increased competition. While it might seem daunting, retailers can build off their in-store experience with proven digital strategies. For example, in CloudTags’ connected stores, store associates are equipped with smart badges with them, being able to assist customers with specific products they are considering to purchase in the store. This benefits both the customer and the retailer as the customer gets a personalized experience in the store and the retailer is able to collect more offline with the store associate as the connector.

4. Take the In-Store Shopping Experience Online

When a customer comes into the store with some of her research done online, it is going to take an exceptional in-store experience to push her over the line to purchase. However, if she is not comfortable with making her decision in the store, there is still an opportunity for retailers to make sure that she purchases that item with your company, even if that is online. Going back to creating immersive experiences in the store, it doesn’t end there. If a shopper walks out of a store without making a purchase, the next brand touchpoint will more than likely be online. Are retailers going to be able to connect the dots and provide the same great experience as in the store? Once retailers nail down the offline customer identification process, it will lay the foundation for bigger and better initiatives, such as predictive intelligence and in-store remarketing.