Customer Engagement Gone Wrong: When Bad Things Happen to Good Brands–West Elm

I love West Elm. I aspire for my apartment to even slightly resemble a West Elm showroom floor. And so it is with a heavy heart that I tell you the tale of West Elm’s customer engagement gone wrong. This is a cautionary story that begs the question, “Why do bad things happen to good brands (and customers)?” And attempts to answer it.

I bought my couch from the decor lover’s paradise and couldn’t be happier with it. Before pulling the trigger on the purchase I spent a considerable amount of time researching various options on the West Elm website, frequently returning to the product page of the Henry Sectional I decided to buy. My customer journey continued into the physical West Elm store where I worked with a helpful employee to select the fabric and color I wanted; place the order; and choose a delivery date. It was a seamless process…at least it was until the interaction that followed.

Days after placing my order, I opened an email from West Elm. See below:

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I didn’t mind receiving an email from one of my favorite brands — and was excited there might be a delivery update or even a few items to check out that might complement my new beauty, Henry. But upon opening the email, I was disappointed to find that they were treating me like an indecisive browser when in fact, I had become a satisfied customer just days earlier.  It even made me question if the order had been properly placed in-store.

I want brands I shop with to acknowledge my patronage and treat me like the special snowflake that I am. (This desire has little to do with the fact that I am both an only child and a millennial.) 53% of consumers want a totally personalized experience based on their browsing and shopping experiences. Our A Look Ahead 2017: Mobile Marketing + Loyalty Trends report uncovered that 53% of consumers also feel that it’s important for retailers to recognize them as the same person across all channels and devices used to shop. And in-store is no exception.

To make matters worse, a few days later I received the same email; albeit, without the smiley face in the subject line.
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The email also includes a post-script section of items that I will supposedly love. See this below too:

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The emails were not the only faux pas in this customer engagement story.

After delivery, while perusing Facebook, I also got hit with a sponsored post retargeting me for the same exact Henry sectional I was sitting on.

retargeting.pngThis series of misfortunate customer engagements makes me think that West Elm is struggling with the same issues that lead so many other retailers to work with SessionM.

Here’s the diagnosis and the remedy:

There’s a disconnect between the online and offline customer experiences. I created an account while still researching and weighing my options. When I placed my order in-store, the consultant helping me had to take all my contact information, including the email address I used to create my online account. Whatever systems were in place did not recognize that the person placing the order in-store was the same person that had previously been browsing online and as a result, was not able to pass the info back that I was no longer just thinking about buying the Henry Sectional; I had actually bought it. With the right technological resources in place, West Elm would have a single view of the customer that would enable them to stream data from in-store POS systems, customer relationship management system, my online browsing history, purchase data, and more.

Now, with that single view of the customer, West Elm could still have sent me an email. But this email would be to thank me for my recent purchase and inquire about my experience. They could send me a brief survey asking me to rate my experience as “Great!” “Just ok” or “Worse than expected.” Then, if I said “Great!” (which I would have) they could ask me to refer a friend using a customized code. If I had said “Just ok” or “Worse than expected” they could send an apology and a discount on my next purchase.

Having a single view of the customer would also have enabled West Elm to algorithmically determine other items I might be inclined to purchase based on the couch I just bought in order to show me the “next best offer,” as opposed to the seemingly random items they suggested.

Instead, I found my next best offer (pillows and a new rug) elsewhere.

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