Do consumers want to be recognized across channels?

Photo: RetailWire
Jul 24, 2017

MarketingCharts staff

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from MarketingCharts, a Watershed Publishing publication providing up-to-the-minute data and research to marketers.

According to CMO Council’s “The Customer in Context” report, only 15 percent of consumers expect companies “to be everywhere.”

Produced in association with SAP Hybris, the survey asked 2,000 adults in North America and Europe to identify their top attributes of an exceptional experience.

The most important attribute of a great experience identified in the survey was a fast response time to the customer’s needs and issues (52 percent identifying it as being critical). That’s more important than even a knowledgeable staff that’s always at the ready (47 percent) and rewards for loyalty (42 percent).

Only 10 percent selected multiple touch points that add value to their experience as being a critical attribute and only 12 percent felt it was critical to recognize their history with the brand at every touchpoint. Only seven percent cared that it feels like they are doing business with one brand online and a different brand offline.

Intriguingly, a similar response also ranked low on the totem pole in a similar survey conducted a couple of years ago by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). Of 13 elements identified, “company representatives recognize me as a regular customer across all channels” was second from the bottom.

While consistency across channels seems like a logical goal for brands, perhaps customers don’t have as high of an expectation on that front. Alternatively, it may be that they simply don’t feel the need to be recognized all the time.

As the CMO Council’s authors put it, “We want great service in critical channels, and we want value – but we don’t need it all the time and everywhere we turn.”

Oddly enough, while respondents don’t want their history with the brand recognized across all touch points, 38 percent said that they’re angry about not being treated like the loyal customers they are. This presents somewhat of a puzzling conflict.

Still, with many also saying that a “top peeve” of the customer experience is the feeling that they are being followed online, brands will need to walk a fine line.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Does it make sense that consumers are less enthralled about being recognized across devices, channels and touchpoints than many marketers would hope? Is it because of online stalking, privacy concerns, subpar personalization efforts or some other reason?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
"As the results show, consumers do want interactions with brands — but on their terms and for their benefit."
"I don't want to be tracked and recognized by merchants if I don't understand what is in it for me."
"No one should be surprised that consumers do NOT like it when companies turn around the idea and start tracking and harassing them across channels."

Join the Discussion!

31 Comments on "Do consumers want to be recognized across channels?"

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Dr. Stephen Needel

Our industry believes that shoppers want to be touched all along the path to purchase. This is another example of that being a false belief. Just because we can do something doesn’t mean shoppers want us to.

Sterling Hawkins

Simply doing something because it’s possible is not the objective here. It has to become part of a value exchange that works. Shoppers want added value, recognition and support and as retailers are able to actually do that along the path to purchase, shoppers will welcome the interaction. As more retailers get cross-touchpoint interactions right, the more it will become expected.

Mark Ryski

It should come as no surprise that consumers are becoming fatigued by the endless stream of messages and communications from brands/retailers wanting to stay connected and build relationships with them. While this is fine and even meaningful for those brands/retailers the consumer really cares about, it becomes annoying and even creepy when brands/retailers become onerous and overly cloying in their communication efforts.

Gib Bassett

I think it makes complete sense. This question reads like an “inside/out” approach. Consumers/shoppers don’t care about cross-channel anything. However, it’s clear that they do care about: “fast response time to the customer’s needs and issues (52 percent identifying it as being critical). That’s more important than even a knowledgeable staff that’s always at the ready (47 percent) and rewards for loyalty (42 percent).” Those statements represent the consumer’s perspective, an “outside/in” approach that is supported through cross-channel recognition.

Max Goldberg

Perhaps this is an issue of privacy and creepiness rather than a desire to receive quality customer service across channels. Consumers don’t like being followed yet they expect good customer service. This topic would benefit from further exploration.

Will Kesling

I agree, this is the classic chicken or the egg. We have a belief that the more we know about the customer the more we can help them. I guess the question is, is it more important to know about customers’ immediate goals while in the store than long-term data on history, etc?

Charles Dimov

One good point in the article is that customers want to be followed and recognized at important places in the journey. When making an order, for example, consumers do expect that placing an online order will result in being recognized at the store when picking up the item.

In retail we will need to choose our battles. Be more cautious when advertising to consumers (where they don’t feel it is important) and be more attentive to them when they are in-store and in the purchasing cycle. That’s where it counts on both sides of the equation.

Nir Manor

There is an obvious inconsistency with the answers. Shoppers don’t want to be recognized across markets and don’t want the merchant to track their purchase history but they are interested in better and consistent service, rewards for loyalty and readily available information. It is possible that the answers about less desired attributes came from the wording of the questions that put them in a negative light without explaining the benefits. Obviously when it comes to me as a shopper, I don’t want to be tracked and recognized by merchants if I don’t understand what is in it for me.

Lyle Bunn (Ph.D. Hon)

Shouldn’t consumers be acknowledged as path to purchase patrons? Recognition is a key element of this, but the bias must be on value-based communications that lead to their positive outcome. This is too often forgotten, leading to over-promotion versus informing and encouraging. Shopping experiences similar to the experience of the character John Anderson in the film Minority Report can get creepy fast, while “People also liked” and “since you bought” suggestive selling and promotions that put products in the context of holiday and life pattern events are more relevant. Relevance is everything in marketing. I am looking forward to the release of Blade Runner 2049 on October 4th to see how the future of marketing is portrayed.

Will Kesling

Bonus points for the Minority Report reference. I would hate to walk into a store and have the digital billboard say “Welcome back Mr Kesling, did your diarrhea clear up?” Embarrassing. The world doesn’t need nor want my purchase history.

Brandon Rael

The right balance has to be achieved to provide the personalized and customized experience today’s digital native consumer expects. Consumers most certainly want to be recognized by the brands across all their various shopping channels, however the data is perhaps indicative of the overwhelming amounts of communications, pop-ups, notifications and emails that are being sent out to the consumers.

Just as brick-and-mortar retailers are challenged to provide curated, personalized assortments in-store, it’s the appropriate time for retailers to reexamine their cross-channel communications strategies, including the social network channels. Curated pop-up notifications and more strategic email promotions are the right way to go.

There is a fine line between personalization and being overwhelming. It will take some experimentation, trial and error to get this right.

Steve Montgomery

The clerks at retail locations always seem amazed when they if they can have my cell phone number and or/email address and I say no. I don’t want them to invade my life. When I want you I know where to find you. I am sure I am not alone in this approach.

I will admit there are some sites that I frequent to make purchases, but I use a third-party password app rather than having my information on their site.

The best way for retailers to have a customer want to have a relationship with them is to have the relationship the customer wants.

Celeste C. Giampetro

Consumers have a reasonable expectation of privacy. Do most know they’re being tracked across devices? Yes. Do they care? Certainly but only when it’s intrusive, disruptive and disrespectful. Is it useful to see the exact pair of shorts I just viewed on a site everywhere I go? No. Does that make me want to buy that brand if they start appearing in my email, mobile web, desktop web and even on TV? Absolutely not. As the results show, consumers do want interactions with brands — but on their terms and for their benefit. A marketer screaming “buy now buy now buy now” across every touchpoint available is not a question of privacy as much a question of what is respectful or annoying.

Brandon Boston

These statistics reveal two things. The first, customers do not want to be “sold” to all of the time. The second, customers want to purchase product when they need it and have it in their hands right away. Establishing a brand voice that speaks to customers within the appropriate touchpoints rather than ALL touchpoints will be paramount.

Ralph Jacobson

We have GOT to remember that shoppers who do not work in the retail industry do not think about shopping touchpoints, channels or any other aspects of our world in the retail biz. So conducting a survey driven to find answers with self-serving questions asked in our vernacular will inevitably generate conflicting findings.

Virtually every shopper will be pleased to be recognized as a loyal shopper by brands and be rewarded in special ways as they continue to shop at a retailer. That’s the bottom line.

James Tenser

Very important observation, Ralph. It behooves us “experts” to remember that our target market does not think as we do. This thought process should go even further, too. Just because retailers collect data on shopper interactions does not mean that they “own” the relationship. That’s the property of the shopper, not the store, and it has considerable value.

Some years ago I floated the proposition that shoppers should own and control their personal shopping profiles and expose all or part of that data to retailers as their preferences dictate. That would be a technically difficult trick, since the data has to reside in some virtual place. Now I’m learning a little about blockchain technology and virtual currencies and I wonder, is my personal shopping behavioral history a little like a Bitcoin account?

Dave Wendland

Like anything, finding the right balance is critical. I don’t think consumers can have it both ways: desiring localized/personalized service without “engaging” with the retailer. Relevant and responsible communication with shoppers will be welcomed. Perhaps Marshall McLuhan would have changed his views given today’s reach to consumers and declared, “It’s not about the media or device, rather it is ALL about the message.”

Doug Garnett
Doug Garnett
President, Protonik
5 years 17 days ago
Consumers love what we call omnichannel because it is convenient and puts control in their hands. No one should be surprised that consumer do NOT like it when companies turn around the idea and start tracking and harassing them across channels. This is not unusual in cross-channel efforts. Serving “relevant” ads has turned around and means serving ads to consumers who are relevant to the advertiser. Digital was supposed to be elegant and simplify, instead it’s an incredible cacophony of ad noise and click bait. “Content Marketing” and “Native” were suppose to be benign methods but mostly are insidious ways to bait and switch — draw in the reader then hit them with offers and tracking. Retailers needs a marketing BS meter — solidly anchored in a sense of the human and the consumer. And in everything we do we must ask: Does this fit with how a consumer wants to be treated? And if we must interrupt the consumers (which we must at times), what can we offer them about our stores/products that’s of… Read more »
Lee Kent

Consumers know what it takes for them to be recognized across channels. Giving up information about themselves. So they weigh it much more carefully. The consumer wants control and that is the long and the short of it.

For my 2 cents.

Harley Feldman

I think many consumers still think of distinct channels as being different. Going into a store feels different than ordering online. This will continue to change in the future as Millennials expect there to be no difference in approach to the retailer. Also their better understanding of current technology leads them to expect recognition to be the same at all retailer touchpoints. People will trade privacy for convenience and service easily so fear of online stalking or privacy concerns will not slow this progression.

Dave Bruno

Despite what the analysts at Marketing Charts might say, I think the ancient Greeks had it right when they said “meden agan” (nothing in excess). Of course consumers want us to recognize them and their history when it helps deliver seamless experiences as they cross touchpoints in their journeys. Of course they want us to recognize their online orders when returning in the store. Of course they want salespeople to be able to make informed recommendations and offers based on their past history with the brand. And of course they expect us to be able to merge activities across channels to deliver better, more empowered and efficient experiences. What they don’t want — and often won’t tolerate — is invasive and overly-personalized marketing that serves only our objectives. As always, the burden is upon us to find the balance and to deliver clear value to the customer when we get personal.

Adam Silverman

While the data in this survey is meaningful, it requires more context to understand the insight. In my experience, customers who take these surveys often express that creating convenience is their top priority. But when you ask them if they want their history “recognized” as a separate question, consumers typically don’t see value in that because it’s not tied to a benefit. Customers will give up personal data if it helps them. And when retailers act on personal data, being more covert than overt can often be the difference between being helpful and creepy.

Mohamed Amer, PhD
Mohamed Amer, PhD
Independent Board Member, Investor and Startup Advisor
5 years 17 days ago

The conflicting survey results tell me that the core question here is not about consumers being recognized at every touchpoint. I don’t believe that consumers are necessarily asking for that. As consumers, I see higher prioritization around having frictionless and relevant experiences in the stores, online, and with the brands. As a result, if “knowing me” as a customer can assist/enhance the experience, it makes sense.

And for an experience to be relevant, it requires some continuity such as across devices and tools such as emails, and based on my preferences that are context aware and maintained. When I want to have an issue or a service solved via call center, online, or in-store, that continuity and awareness become invaluable.

Bottom line, focus on the value you deliver to consumers through frictionless and relevant experiences across devices, tools, and situations. Apply insights to solve problems and elevate the conversation. With today’s shrinking consumer attention spans, data can help create or destroy bonds of trust with your customers.

gordon arnold

Security is the unspoken issue in this discussion and what consumers are most concerned with today. Retailers, banks, insurance companies and even the governments — federal, state and local — are losing data to Cyber thieves at a rate that has exhausted consumer confidence perhaps for the rest of the century. Brick & mortar local retail might wish to explore this dilemma for several opportunities to exploit consumer perceived security weaknesses owned by the e-commerce and big box trade.

Michael La Kier

Understanding what shoppers want is a complex game. In fact, many times they can’t realistically answer what they want when presented by a survey asking them to deconstruct their own shopping behavior. It’s like the famous Steve Jobs quote, “A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” Asking “Do you want an ‘omnichannel experience’?” is speaking a different language to shoppers. Ask them if they want the best customer service and to be recognized in interactions with brands and they understand.

Lastly, omnichannel is somewhat irrelevant to shoppers. They simply want “their touch points” to work for them, whether that is a single channel or 3-5 channels.