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Customer Engagement

New Retail & Consumer Goods GM Matt Marcotte on Why Loyalty Is Top of Mind Heading into NRF

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Matt Marcotte brings 30 years of experience in consumer retail to his new role at Salesforce as the GM for Retail and Consumer Goods. He was previously the chief operating officer at Bergdorf Goodman, where he led the iconic 120-year-old brand’s digital transformation to establish a digitally enabled customer experience

In this interview, we asked Matt about what attracted him to Salesforce, the retail trends he’s watching heading into the new year, and his thoughts on the launch of Salesforce’s newest product, Loyalty Management

Q. Can you talk about your background and why you’re excited about the work Salesforce is doing with retail and consumer goods companies?

I spent 30 years in the retail industry working at incredible companies across various sectors including department stores, technology and luxury, which allowed me to observe customer experiences from different angles. Building deep, authentic customer experiences and driving loyalty to increase top line sales and bottom line profitability were my main areas of focus. 

I was struggling to find a platform that would give a single source of truth over our customer data. We had too many systems that didn’t speak to each other or that created multiple profiles for one customer, impeding our ability to connect and grow our relationships with them in a personalized way. Limited resources, system, infrastructure and investments made doing breakthrough work more challenging and take a lot longer.

I was excited to join Salesforce because it offers a holistic platform that is built around and focused on the customer and works with companies to unleash their full potential for building strong customer relationships. Companies need a revolution, not an evolution, and I’m looking forward to helping to be a bridge to success for companies in the industries that I love.

Q. 2020 was a tough year for retailers and consumer goods companies. How have relationships between brands and their customers changed?

What we have seen over the past 10 months is a resetting of customer expectations and restating of needs. 

The customer experience has shifted from emotional to functional. People have been reaching for products that they view as functional or essential like toilet paper and even treadmills as they shifted to spending more time at home. With product scarcity, consumers have also become more willing than ever to shop around to get the product that they’re looking for and in new ways.  

We are at an inflection point for customer loyalty. Customers are wanting more control, choices and alignment with brands that give them what they want, when they want it and how they want – and are willing to move to new brands to get it.

We are at an inflection point for customer loyalty. Customers are wanting more control, choices and alignment with brands that give them what they want, when they want it and how they want — and are willing to move to new brands to get it.

Matt Marcotte, GM, Retail & Consumer Goods

Q. This past year really forced brands to accelerate their digital transformation. What innovations stood out to you and how do you see them sticking around in 2021?

It was incredible to watch the industry get creative and adapt. Brands realized the need to get products to consumers so the biggest change was the shift from a pull strategy focused on making consumers seek a company’s products to a push strategy focused on getting products in front of the consumers where they are. “Build it and they will come” turned into “come to me where I am”. 

Companies repurposed stores into mini warehouses and distribution centers for curbside pickup, buy online pickup in-store (BOPIS) and ship from store. They also offered courier services, one-day shipping, virtual appointments, grocery and food deliveries and more. We saw this at every level, from national chain stores to luxury brands. For example, with food delivery and dining, even three-star Michelin restaurants started showing up in your kitchen. The restaurant Eleven Madison Park created incredible box experiences with tablecloths, candles and wine glasses, allowing customers to recreate fine dining experiences at home. 

2020 was a year of figuring out the mechanics of new ways to bring brands to consumers. These processes will be refined in 2021 since much of what was done was expensive and not scalable. There will also need to be a strategy around hybrid models that excites and engages all five senses in the brand experience. Touch is the most powerful of the senses when it comes to emotional connection, but visual and auditory senses are strongest in online settings, so it will be interesting to see how brands leverage digital and physical elements to build holistic experiences.

Q. What are the key challenges that you see retailers and consumer goods companies facing in 2021?

Supply chain stress will continue to be a challenge depending on how quickly we can contain the pandemic with the vaccine. This started early in the pandemic when factories shut down and had to stagger staffing to maintain a safe and socially distanced work environment. Companies will not only have to address that in 2021 but also focus on inventory to ensure that they have what people want and can fulfill demands. Planning will be challenging in 2021 because brands don’t have a usable last year to plan against and 2021 will continue to be unpredictable. 

Big companies will get bigger because they have existing infrastructure and more money to invest in systems, processes and platforms to adapt to the new normal, while smaller brands need to figure out how to compete. 

Companies still trying to operate the way they did pre-pandemic are going to experience more challenges, because the pandemic didn’t necessarily change things, it just accelerated where things were already going. 

Growing customer loyalty has also become challenging because consumers are willing to be loyal to a certain point but they want what they want, when they want it. Learning about your customer, engaging with them and being able to create authentic personalized relationships are going to be critical in order to win back customers who defected to other brands and to attract new customers.

Q. Speaking of loyalty, Salesforce just announced Loyalty Management at NRF today. How do you see this helping Salesforce’s customers?

I think the existing approach to loyalty is being challenged right now through this pandemic. Buying loyalty transactionally through one size fits all programs and earn and burn points promotions are not enough to keep customers loyal to brands. That much has been clear. A recent McKinsey study found that more than a third of U.S. consumers have tried a new brand, and 80 percent of them intend on sticking with it. That means brand loyalty is up for grabs in many areas. 

The companies that can understand customers through connected and unified data collection, create a single source of truth and then use that data to learn what is important to individual customers to create personalized rewards and offerings are the ones that will win. They’re able to create really powerful loyalty strategies that either gain or regain loyalty from consumers. 

Loyalty Management was created to help brands do just that with flexibility and customization built in. It was designed with a guiding principle around personalization. What has been exciting to me is seeing this approach help brands understand what’s important to their customers, what builds their loyalty and how they can personalize a promotion or offer that will be exciting and relevant to each customer. 

Q. How does Loyalty Management fit into Salesforce Customer 360?

Building customer loyalty is not a singular or siloed action, right? It’s a relationship. Loyalty is built over time, and it’s built on trust, knowledge and consistent behavior like it is with relationships in our own lives. It requires you to show the person or customer that you care about them. 

As a brand, you have a way to do that if you ensure that all your brand touchpoints are seamlessly connected. You need to share the same data and build off of every experience through multiple channels to personalize and nurture that relationship. 

That means every interaction — from marketing to commerce to experience — with a customer is an opportunity to invest in the relationship and reinforce to the customer that you care about and know them. You can also use these interactions as opportunities to learn more about each customer and use that data in a future moment to surprise and delight them. 

Having Salesforce Customer 360 means that loyalty doesn’t need to be this siloed endeavor taken on by a single team. You’re able to have it span across your business, integrating it to Marketing Cloud, Service Cloud and other parts of your organization to create that integrated, seamless customer journey. You’re able to turn your loyalty strategy into something that feels personalized and inspiring to each individual customer. 

Q. What’s your biggest piece of advice for retailers and consumer goods companies as we move into the new year?

At my core, I’m fascinated and obsessed with why humans do what they do.  This coming year will be a master class in human behavior and human connection, with each other and with brands.

We’ve been moving from physical to digital connections over the last 10 months, but I think it’s important for brands to remember that consumers are still human and relationships are the basis for choices that are made around which brands to buy from and which brands to stand by. We’re wired to connect. You really have to think about what current behaviors are here to stay as they exist today, which behaviors will revert back to pre-pandemic and what new hybrid behaviors will emerge and how to pivot your customer experience to embrace all three.

Physical experience will continue to be important but now, more than ever, needs to be paired with and enabled by technology. How do brands make sure that they are using technology as a complementary piece to the experience and not a competitive one? How do we enable physical experiences with digital capabilities and connect those dots so they don’t feel like different silos or companies?  

Technology will continue to change the way we think about brands and how we interact with them. Convenience, availability, value and speed to the end user are all things customers demanded more than ever this year. Taking the creative solutions from 2020 and refining them, building on them, making them frictionless, intuitive and scalable will be critical.

At the end of the day, brands and retailers need to come together beyond the silos of channel and individual P&L incentives to once and for all put the customer at the center of every decision and interaction. Now is a time to be bold with investments in digital transformation to build a unified and seamless experience that is authentic, personalized and inspiring.