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When Faisal Masud joined office supply chain store giant Staples as chief digital officer three and a half years ago, the mandate was clear: follow shoppers moving online and meet the demands of their core B2B customers by doubling down on digital.

Staples has had a digital presence since 1998 — long before many other retailers, Masud explains, but they’re on the hunt for the next big whale marketers need to land: a seamless omnichannel funnel.

“The goal for Staples has been to be a unified view for the customer,” says Masud, “where we are completely agnostic to where customers shop, offline or in the stores, on their phone or on their desktop, or through any other means, and really making sure that we personalize that experience to them.”

It’s how they’re tackling one of the biggest challenges of omnichannel — the major, deal-breaking frustration customers experience when they are forced to deal separately with the online and offline pieces of the same business, for everything from deals and offers to returns.

“The biggest challenge retail faces is not Amazon — it’s actually the structure within,” says Masud — that setup where the store location and the online business are not just completely siloed, but essentially combating each other. “And that just doesn’t scale,” he continues. “And it doesn’t work for the customer. Because the customer is looking at the retailer with one lens: Can I shop with them any which way I want?”

But that’s just a small corner of the larger puzzle: how to tackle fingerprinting across channels, to allow retailers to stitch together all the valuable customer data they have to provide a cohesive, personalized experience.

Masud points out that even retail powerhouse Nordstrom is a victim of this too-common shortcoming. Despite Masud’s own loyal purchasing habits both online and off, the company isn’t able to keep his customer data straight. “I continue to see random emails from them about products that I don’t really buy or ever plan to buy–although they know my size, they know the brands I buy, what I buy, and how much I buy,” he says.

It’s another source of frustration and friction for consumers, and the challenge that all retailers should be racing to find a solution to. Masud points out that pure play folks don’t have that challenge — they have all the data at their fingertips. But for companies with retail locations, there are major barriers to tackle. Fingerprinting a store customer requires attaching an identity to every shopper who walks through the door, and no one’s nailed the formula yet.

“We have to know who you are,” says Masud. “Otherwise we don’t know that you’ve entered the store. The only way we can know is if you’ve actually transacted — and that’s not good enough, frankly, because that’s output rather than input.”

“I do not know of a retailer that is doing that today — not a single one. Including us,” Masud continues. “We’re getting there. We’re heavily investing in fingerprinting all of our customers’ activity, so we can provide them with the best possible experience across all channels — we’re getting close, but we’re not there today.”

To learn more about tackling the fingerprinting challenge, what metrics matter, and how to keep customers happy in every channel at every stage of the funnel, sign up for our free VB Live event!


Don’t miss out!

Register here for free.


In this VB Live event, you’ll learn how to: 

  • Understand omnichannel engagement and personalization strategies
  • Create a segment of one approach to marketing
  • Enable collaborative filtering
  • Build custom email campaigns that increase customer engagement

Speakers:

  • Faisal Masud, Chief Digital Officer, Staples
  • Carol Wentworth, SVP, Performance Bicycle
  • Stewart Rogers, Director of Marketing Technology, VentureBeat

Moderator:

  • Wendy Schuchart, Analyst, VentureBeat

This VB Live event is sponsored by Blueshift.

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