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Chris Devlin, left, poses a question to Eric Schongalla and Roger Starkweather. Photo by Matt Tilburry.

Interactive media can provide a company a lot of data about their customers, but the data’s real value is in how the business makes use of it. A panel during the Interactive Customer Experience Summit in Dallas tackled this challenge in a session titled: “Data Analytics & Personalization: Those Who Know Me Win My Business.”

Eric Schongalla, manager of retail systems at Carhartt, an apparel retailer, gave an overview of how his company expanded beyond its traditional use of printed signs and catalogs to interactive signage and kiosks, a change that yielded critical customer data.

Schongalla said we are now living in the “Communication Economy,” in which the way we do business has fundamentally changed.

Joining Schongalla on the panel were Chris Devlin, director of sales at Omnivex Corporation, a provider of digital signage and kiosks, and Roger Starkweather, senior vice president of sales and experiences at OpenEye Global, a consultancy.

The company embraces technology

Carhartt traditionally relied on print signage and catalogs in its stores, Schongalla said. The company wanted to showcase its products more dynamically than what the stores, with their limited space, would allow.

Carhartt wanted to leverage the power of “crowdsourced” images in showcasing its products, but was uncertain how to do this.

The Internet provided an obvious tool, he said, but company websites can drain a company’s Wi-Fi bandwidth, are subject to PCI exposure and do not offer a true “in store” customer experience.

Kiosks and digital signage offered a more viable option, Schongalla said. They offered centralized content control, they can schedule content across the company enterprise, and they offered the ability to tailor content by location.

Carhartt partnered with Omnivex Corporation to provide customers product information. The digital software allowed the company to track information about customers and what product information they were looking at.

Kiosks change customer behavior

Customers at first were slow to use the kiosks, Schongalla said. In order to encourage them to use the kiosks, prompts were added to entice them. The company also trained its associates to use the kiosks.

Once the kiosks were installed, they provided valuable data about customer behavior that allowed the company to tailor its product offerings and in-store displays to customer preferences.

By being able to examine the analytics of customers’ digital interactions, the company was able to see the most common searches and page views. The analytics revealed top product searches and top key words, and gave insight into content targeting, content timing and sales opportunities.

Based on these insights, one change was to move the women’s products to the front of the store for Mother’s Day. While the customer response to this change was not immediate, there was a delayed response, and sales of women’s products did increase.

The analytics also indicated the company should not change its core products.

Measure customer response

The kiosks also allowed the company to measure response to advertising, and to test the effectiveness of a variety of advertisements. Customer testimonials were found to be the most effective product advertising, Schongalla said.

Asked how the company decided what content to put on the kiosks, Schongalla said they started with their website content, but changed it to be more conversational. The company also told store associates to be conversational.

Where to begin

Given the large amount of data that digital technology can provide, companies often have a hard time knowing where to start.

The first step, said Starkweather, is to establish the base line objectives.

“What is it you’re trying to be relevant about?” Starkweather asked.

The second step is to define what success looks like while having buy-in from key stakeholders.

The third step is to understand how actions will be measured. Starkweather said it helps to be able to define goals in business units and to have data to take to the company’s “brand ambassadors.”

A successful project

He then reviewed a project he worked on with Westfield Mall Retail to provide travelers an information kiosk at Boston’s Logan Airport. The goal was to establish a higher level of personalized digital services for travelers.

The kiosk gave the travelers more information options. One key performance indicator was to find which “end points” travelers most commonly chose, such as finding a gate or finding stores. Another KPI was overall kiosk usage at departure times.

Over a six-month period, the research found that boarding pass scans increased 30 percent, 50 percent more travelers focused on dining versus shopping, and mood surveys helped travelers search 30 percent faster.

During the question and answer period, the presenters were asked how to get customers to identify themselves. Starkweather said it depends on how creative the team wants to be. He said it helps to ask questions in a non-threatening way.

Asked how to get store associates to interact with customers, the panelists cited the importance of having a company culture that encourages employees to believe in its goals. Starkweather said this often requires deconstructing the organization.

Companies that want to take advantage of today’s interactive technology need to have a game plan in order to gain the benefits.

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