Office Depot Puts Customer Experience at the Center of Its Marketing

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Customer experience as a marketing asset
Customer experience as a marketing asset

“Few marketers would say that their website experiences are perfect,” Kevin Moffitt, VP of eCommerce strategy, Office Depot, suggested during his keynote at eTail. He added that in many cases there are opportunities for improvement in, for example, site search or checkout.

“I certainly don't feel special on most of the sites I visit,” Moffitt said of his customer experiences. “It's certainly not for a lack of tools, and not for a lack of data. We have access to more data than any other retailers who came before us. Then what's holding us back?”

The answer, he said, is a lack of customer centricity.

“Customers want us to care about them as individuals,” Moffitt said, pointing out that if a brand is focused on customer centricity then its customer experience would show it. “Everyone is unique, and…everyone is trying to interact with you for a different purpose. So start there. Be easy to use and intuitive to start.” Moffitt reminded attendees that what marketers and designers think is simple isn't necessarily aligned with what customers think is simple. So, he said, involve customers in the usability process, which is one way Office Depot ensures that it delivers a stellar customer experience. Be creative about it. In one case, Moffitt took gift certificates to an Office Depot location and offered them to shoppers to participate in a virtual shopping experience. He got a 90% take rate.

That was one small part of an ongoing effort to ensure that the retailer's customer experience is satisfactory. “You have to integrate customer feedback into everything you do, not collect it once or twice a year,” Moffitt said. “We start every morning by reading customer feedback from the day before.”

One way customer feedback and customer satisfaction studies comes to life is in how Office Depot builds and manages its online customer experience. Over the past 18 months the retailer has updated its website, leading to significant increases in satisfaction and conversions. “We made small changes, iterative, over that time,” Moffitt said, noting that it took six months to move from the site's old navigation style to current one, which includes a more visual and simple design that works better on mobile. “If you introduce a large change at one time customers have to reorient themselves.” Small adjustments are less interruptive, he added. Another benefit of taking a more deliberate approach was the ability to use A/B testing to ensure that the changes didn't negatively impact the business. “If we found issues from testing or feedback it was easy to make adjustments since the changes were small.”

Other aspects of Office Depot's online customer experience that are a hit with customers is its 24/7 chat and social sign-in. But these aren't just customer conveniences. The data allows Office Depot to deliver a more relevant experience. “Once a customer creates an account and gives us more detail, we want to ensure that we make their experience as relevant as possible,” Moffitt said. The retailer currently does this through personalized product recommendation, and is planning to launch personalized promotions “We've been experimenting,” Moffitt said, adding that personalization leads to double and triple percentage increases in click-through rates. In fact, Office Depot has seen a 700% increase in email performance when its emails are personalized. “We need to focus on optimizing segmentation to maximize this,” he said.

Of course, customers today are multichannel, so the customer experience is, as well. For marketers, that means ensuring that it's easy for customers to interact with you in their preferred channel at any given moment. “When you're a multichannel retailer, it's hard to know where conversion is happening,” Moffitt said. “But most sales are still happening in-store.” So Office Depot makes it easy for online and mobile customers to locate a nearby store, know what's in stock, and find in-store promotions, he said. “We make online purchase to in-store pickup easy, and arm store associates with customer information so they can deliver a relevant experience to customers picking up their orders.”

Office Depot is using mobile as part of its customer experience to empower associates and customers alike. Mobile in-store gives associates access to the same information that customers have, so they can better assist customers. And in the in the past year the retailer updated its mobile app significantly to make the mobile customer experience as simple as, if not easier than, it is on the desktop, Moffitt said. “We focused on small real estate and specific behaviors.”

The retailer is succeeding with its multichannel customer experience for several reasons, Moffitt suggested, including a willingness to take risks, testing, and a dedicated omnichannel team. But most of all, Office Depot considers its experience from the individual customer's point of view. “We treat different customers differently,” he said. “All marketers need to think about customers not as an ID number, but as individuals.”

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