Personalisation has come to dominate nearly every conversation in the retail world for a very good reason — because consumers now demand and respond positively to personalised experiences.
Most often, these conversations centre around topics like: why personalisation is so important (consider Accenture’s finding that retailers lost £2.5 trillion globally due to poor personalisation and a lack of trust).
- Why the time to get started with personalisation is now (BCG found that creating personalised experiences could increase revenue by 6% to 10% — and help deliver those increases faster).
- What an ideal personalised experience should look like (check out McKinsey’s take on what shoppers really want from personalised marketing).
- Which retailers do personalisation best (Amazon regularly tops lists, as do some non-retailers like Spotify).
These findings and advice are no doubt interesting and valuable in the right context, but for most retail marketers, they’ve passed their prime. They focus on personalisation 101 (explanation), and most marketers are ready for the more advanced course.
What is personalisation and how does it work?
Everyone is unique – we learn it when we’re young, and we’re constantly reminded of the little idiosyncrasies that make humanity so varied. Today, retailers are beginning to realise they can leverage the personal elements of each customer to create a truly curated experience.
By definition, personalisation in retail involves tailoring your offerings and marketing materials to suit the need of a specific individual or small segment of like-minded customers. Customers have unique paths to purchase, and personalisation helps retailers guide customers on the right path based on their needs and behaviors.
Personalisation requires analysing a wide range of data, including location, browsing and demographic data, to determine individual consumer preferences. With customers shopping on more channels than ever before, this is no simple task.
Marketers must also match this granular customer data to existing product data. However, many marketers struggle with the arduous task of collecting and analysing customer data, let alone combining that with granular product data. This can result in a sizable missed opportunity, with customers being served subpar products during outreach.
If everything is executed correctly, however, personalisation can provide a boon to retailers. Customers will not only feel known, they will also appreciate the convenience of shopping with a retailer that understands their product needs.
Why it’s time to update your approach
There’s a reason that conversations about personalisation are everywhere. It’s because retailers, and especially frontline marketers who handle channels like email, know personalisation is important. In fact, more than 90% of US retailers rate personalisation as at least somewhat important to their business goals.
And not only do retail marketers know personalisation is important, but they also have a good idea of what that personalisation should look like. So the problem isn’t the why or the what. It’s also not selling the pitch up the ranks internally, as personalisation is on every retail executive’s radar too.
Then why haven’t we realized the personalisation nirvana we’re so desperately seeking? The problem is executing on the personalisation imperative due to technology limitations.
The retail personalisation gap
As it turns out, the real retail personalisation story no longer centers on the why or even the abstract how, but rather on the nitty gritty of moving from a strategic vision to reality. We need to tell this story — and more importantly, solve this problem — now because we’ve hit a personalisation gap.
Specifically, RIS News reports that despite the fact that over 90% of retailers recognize the importance of personalization, 69% lack the advanced technologies they need to improve their personalisation capabilities. The same data reveals that most personalisation efforts to date focus on email communications.
We’ve arrived at this retail personalisation gap because the technology that most commonly comprises retail marketing stacks, especially when it comes to email, aren’t designed to meet the more sophisticated and nuanced needs of today’s marketers. Plain and simple, retail marketers are often held back by their technology (or really, a lack thereof).
More specifically, a survey of retail leaders conducted by Worldwide Business Research found that some of the top technology-related challenges that retailers face include the length of time required to derive insights, the ability to enable activity across multiple channels and the ability to access a single view of all customer data.
Given these limitations, what are you as a frontline marketer supposed to do? If you have a vision for an amazing personalised experience to create for your customers but can’t execute on it because you don’t have the right solution in your marketing stack, you’re not alone.
To meet your personalisation goals, you need a solution designed specifically to optimise performance that also marries product and customer data, since that combination is essential for deep personalisation. Instead, what you likely have are solutions that were built to satisfy needs across many industries and focus on volume over performance. And your product and customer data likely live in their own distinct silos.
What advanced personalisation looks like
Retailers need a personalised marketing solution designed specifically for their industry, instead of using ill-fitting services designed for a vague set of massive enterprises. Retailers don’t sell a small selection of products to certain groups of people – they often offer hundreds, if not thousands, of products to a large swath of consumers. Connecting these products to the shoppers who are most interested in them can be overwhelming without a sophisticated way to associate customer data with product data.
From a customer’s perspective, advanced retail personalisation goes beyond emails with their names in the headers or receiving a coupon in the mail for a product they just bought. These subpar initiatives often fall short and don’t produce the intended results.
Predictive product selection software (PPS) selects items unique to the individual that has been calculated they most likely to buy next. These then populate a stylesheet and get emailed to each consumer at the perfect time. Each and every selection is unique to the individual recipient, and achieves the pinnacle of returns , CLV and AOV from that person as a consequence.
For example, a customer may buy a laptop in person after examining your store’s extensive selection online, causing the personalised marketing solution to indicate they are interested in laptops and technology. As a consequence of being categorised in this way, that customer begins receiving email advertisements for new laptops — even though in all likelihood, the customer only needs one.
This sullies your rapport with the customer and certainly will not help close future sales. To select the one product to offer, that this individual has personally itemised for themselves, at exactly the right time illustrates how much more sophisticated the market has become.
Critically, the only way to create this type of positive, highly personalised customer experience is by marrying product, customer and behavior data across multiple channels and making that information accessible and actionable for your marketing team. Without this type of accessibility and actionability, significant gaps exist in any attempts to create a personalised experience.
Let’s stop ignoring the personalisation gap and start solving it
Conversations about how to personalise the retail experience aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. But in order for these conversations to provide the most value for marketers, they need to shift away from the why and the what and instead dive deep into the how.
It’s clear that the one of the most pressing problems to solve when it comes to retail personalisation is the technology piece of the equation, so let’s start talking about how to make that happen and bridge the personalisation gap once and for all.
And hopefully when all is said and done, your marketing team will have the proper ammunition and clear course of action that you need in order to say to your stack: It’s not me, it’s you.