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    January 8, 2024

    Michael Klein of Klein4Retail Consulting: Harnessing Data To Create a Seamless Shopping Experience

    Written by: Nicole D'Angelo
    "Underneath all of this is data, the 360 view of the customer, which is the holy grail for everybody."                                     — Michael Klein, Founder, Klein4Retail Consulting

    "Omnichannel commerce" can be a somewhat clunky, imperfect term. It describes commerce from the perspective of brands and retailers managing different shopping channels, but consumers aren’t thinking in terms of channels. They’re thinking in terms of whether or not their shopping experience is seamless.

    Michael Klein, founder of Klein4Retail Consulting and former global director of industry strategy and marketing for retail, travel, and consumer goods at Adobe, understands the importance of a seamless shopping experience.

    He recently discussed how shopping can be made more seamless on the "Unpacking the Digital Shelf" podcast episode, "The People, Process, and Tech for Seamless Shopping."

    Klein discussed how creative in-store strategies and improved data sharing can help break down silos and enable a truly seamless shopping experience for the consumer. 

    Breaking Down Silos With a 360 View

    For many brands and retailers, some of the biggest barriers to enabling seamless commerce are siloed processes.

    Klein discussed how these silos formed in the earliest days of ecommerce when online shopping was a novel approach that needed a dedicated team.

    "Because you had teams that were responsible for specific channels, they weren't thinking about the customer and their experience as a whole," he says.

    Now, organizations need to take a different approach that prioritizes function, not channel.

    This is especially true for areas like marketing or merchandising, where seamless experiences are most achievable, and for teams focused on developing strategies for growth.

    "I'd like to think that as we continue to move forward, brands are going to really take that to heart and not create silos within the organization," Klein says.

    Though according to Klein, successfully breaking down silos means harnessing and sharing robust, high-quality data.

    "Underneath all of this is data, the 360 view of the customer, which is the holy grail for everybody," Klein says.

    When brands achieve this 360 view, they can build seamless and engaging shopping experiences that merge digital and physical commerce.

    Examples of Seamless Shopping Experiences

    Most retail is still taking place in physical stores, but robust consumer data helps brands incorporate digital elements into the in-person shopping experience.

    Easily accessible product data is also a critical component of this. One example of this physical-digital merging, Klein says, is buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS), the omnichannel trend that merges online and in-person shopping into one seamless action.

    Klein also shared how some forward-thinking brands are using data and digital technologies to empower in-store sales associates.

    For example, Restoration Hardware has elevated its sales associates to interior decorators who can provide individualized recommendations and, with the help of in-store screens, order highly specific products for shoppers.

    This technology-driven approach is making an impact in fashion, too. Hugo Boss, for example, is putting screens throughout its store so shoppers can browse product information, mix and match outfits, see features from runway shows, and more.

    Meanwhile, Express is piloting an interactive digital kiosk where shoppers can explore more outfit options. In the grocery space, retailers like Kroger are using cooler screens to serve consumers real-time data about their products.

    "There's a lot of pipes that need to be connected, that's for sure, in order to make this become a reality," Klein says.

    But if a brand is willing to invest, a seamless interaction can delight shoppers and help boost sales.

    "If I can do my research online, and then walk into that physical store and have an experience, then it's more likely that I might be able to buy that product and also have a great experience while I'm doing it," he says. 

    The Growing Importance of Data Sharing

    Several factors contribute to realizing these seamless, digitally-powered shopping experiences, but one that Klein highlighted as increasingly important is data sharing.

    As third-party cookie data gradually goes away, Klein said, the first-party data that brands gather from their consumers will become more important.

    Another concept is second-party data. This is where two entities, typically a retailer and a brand, are sharing their data in a “clean room” that anonymizes the data.

    According to Klein, with second-party data, brands and retailers can share traits and behaviors that can drive a better experience in personalization.

    This cooperation will become particularly important for brands because the retailer holds the keys to the castle and is the one with the data, according to Klein. It’s consumer brands looking to get more data because they have always been "first-party data poor."

    That doesn’t mean retailers find data sharing valueless, though.

    One way Klein believes brands and retailers can support each other is by helping each other deliver better, more targeted ads to consumers. Klein used grocery advertising as an example if he hypothetically had dietary restrictions.

    "[If] I'm getting generic advertising, it’s highly likely a product is going to be put in front of me that I will never ever consume. [But] if we can enrich data from every source through some of these partnerships to really understand who that consumer is, then the products we put in front of consumers are going to just be that much more relevant."                           — Michael Klein, Founder, Klein4Retail Consulting

    By working together to provide these more relevant offerings, brands and retailers can mutually support each other's journeys to more seamless shopping.

    Achieving Seamless Shopping Success

    The factors that help create a seamless shopping experience range from creative in-store engagement to behind-the-scenes data sharing.

    It’s a multi-faceted need that can pose a challenge to many brands and retailers, but leaders in the space are already beginning to succeed in breaking down silos, harnessing their data, and enabling exciting consumer experiences.

    Their successes demonstrate how seamless shopping experiences are not only sought-after but achievable.

    Listen to the full episode to hear more of Klein’s advice on creating seamless shopping experiences.