Every good merchant knows that to get into customers’ wallets, you must get into their minds first.
With so many consumers slipping into its shoes, Aldo Group must be doing an exceptional job of getting into its customers’ heads, so to speak. Founded in 1972, the Montreal company now has 1,800 stores in 93 countries. Arguably one of Canada’s most successful international retailers, Aldo recently gave a rare glimpse of the omnichannel approach that has allowed it to remain competitive in a global retail landscape disrupted by digital technology.
“The company has been going through a transformation that started about four years ago. Some of our key strategies are built around the concept of customercentricity,” Serge Rose, Aldo’s general manager of customer applications, explained during a Salesforce webinar. (Aldo’s new centralized customer data platform is built on Salesforce.)
“The biggest problem,” Rose quickly added, “was that we had no idea who our customer was.”
Aldo realized it was missing a “360 degree view (of the customer). It’s understanding what they bought, what their preferences are, how they’ve interacted with the brand through the different channels we have,” he said. “It made it impossible to deliver a consistent customer experience.”
The company’s first move to tackle the problem? Dealing with its data.
“We had customer data spread throughout multiple transactional systems like ecommerce or in-store POS. But this data wasn’t aggregated anywhere,” he said. “Without centralized data, it wasn’t even possible to think about customer data analytics, understand purchase patterns or develop predictive models.”
Like a sales associate trying to match up single orphaned shoes with their lost pair mates, Aldo sorted through mountains of disparate data. That meant getting rid of duplicate records, matching up related ones and merging others. Once the quality of the records was improved, customer data from sources like POS, ecommerce and social media were automatically matched with the phone number and email address for each shopper.
Access to all that data was then provided (in a searchable, easily viewable format) to staff at Aldo’s call centre, which fields over 1,000 queries a day. Now agents can file customer complaints 50 per cent faster, saving more than 20 hours per month. Since customer data was made more accessible and shareable, Aldo’s average training time for new staff hires has been cut from three weeks to less than two, a 30 per cent improvement.
Another interesting transformation took place at the call centre once the agents had all those customer insights at their fingertips.
“It was a huge opportunity to turn these people from (playing) a service role to being style advisors,” Rose said.
Aldo also harnessed customer data to boost its physical channel. Based on data about its top shoppers, the retailer started inviting them to in-store gatherings called A-List Events to create a buzz and strengthen customer loyalty.
Besides customers, Aldo is targeting other important players at the in-store level: its sales staff. Rose said the chain is just in the process of rolling out iPad apps for sales associates so they can serve shoppers better. Ultimately, he added, Aldo hopes to one day bring its centralized customer data directly into the hands of sales staff, extending the 360 degree view from the C-suite right to the shop floor.
Aldo Group’s emphasis on in-store experience is a savvy one. A Deloitte survey of Canadian retailers released in June showed that 70 per cent still get more than 50 per cent of their sales from bricks-and-mortar stores. When asked what role their sales associates should play, 62 per cent answered “build longterm customer relationships” and 54 per cent said they should “provide personalized services.”
As Deloitte noted, however, less than 40 per cent of the surveyed retailers have given their sales staff access to the mobile technology they need to effectively execute their in-store strategy.
“Their customers increasingly have more technology at their fingertips than their own sales associates do,” the report suggested.
If tapping into data can turn call centre agents into virtual style advisors, just think what it could – and eventually will – do for sales floor staff.