LAS VEGAS—Personalization is the holy grail—in data and how it translates to molding your business to better serve customers.}

That was the message at Sunday’s education session, “Prioritizing the Customer Experience,” where Tony Sparks, head of customer wow for Curby’s Market, and Peter Rasmussen, CEO and founder of Convenience and Energy Advisors, tag-teamed a presentation that included a look at data harvesting and how to parlay it into a meaningful and relevant customer experience.

Elevating the customer experience always begins with data, Rasmussen said. Although marketers and operations have plenty of data, they struggle to mine it, surface their most important customer segments and respond to their customer needs in real time. In fact, 95% of data within organizations remains untapped.

“In a world with too much data, find the points that matter,” he said. “Customers are going to lean toward brands that do that well.”

Data not only can tell you what your customers want right now, but combining it with machine learning can add a predictive element that can tell you what they’ll want tomorrow or next week. In fact, predictive analysis is the future of data, said Sparks.

“Data is the science, but it’s really only half the story,” he said. “There is an art to taking it and actually doing something with it. Data is just things that have happened in the past that reveal customer behavior.”

Apps are a good way for companies to collect data while providing a customer experience, but the world is “over-apped” these days, said Rasmussen. It is difficult to get people to use your app, much less add a payment to it.

“Ninety percent of consumers use loyalty apps but are less likely to do so for c-stores,” he said, which is why a multichannel approach can help you connect with your customers. Third-party apps like Upside can help you fill in the gaps during your non-peak hours and bring first-time customers to your c-store.

“I have a lot of respect for Upside and how they have caused a disruption,” Rasmussen said. “They have 30 million users and could ultimately lead them to our stores.”

Nearly 50% of consumers reported using an alternative shopping method (delivery or curbside pickup) to make a purchase from a convenience store in summer 2022. These alternative shopping methods are poised to become even more common in the near future, said Sparks, as we look toward Web3, which is all about taking the internet from two-dimensional to three-dimensional with digital stores offering extreme personalization.

“It’s called customer experience,” he said. “It’s all about the touchpoints you have for engaging your audience before they even know your brand … It’s about getting them to love you and understand that you love them.”

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