• Laura Wrigley

Forget personalisation - retailers should be striving for relevance instead

Personalisation has been a major buzz word for several years now, but there’s a difference between industry hype and retail reality. When’s the last time you went into a store and felt like you were being delivered a truly personal experience?


The digital footprint created by online shoppers makes tailored ecommerce an everyday occurrence, but those same customers become anonymous when they step onto the shop floor. Getting to know them individually involves a huge amount of data capture – which most people aren’t willing to give.


With this in mind, perhaps it’s time we stopped striving for the far away land of in-store personalisation, and looked to make in-store experiences more relevant to customers instead. It would certainly be a step in the right direction – and create a gateway to fully personalised encounters further down the line…


Don’t put responsibility on the customer’s shoulders


The major advantage that ecommerce has over physical retail is the amount of data generated by the customer with no extraneous effort. Every interaction builds a picture of who that shopper is and, in a virtual world, retailers can easily tailor purchasing journeys in response.


In a bricks-and-mortar context however, getting to know a customer takes a huge amount of data capture, and a lot of that effort is on the customer’s part. This is effort they are not always willing to give; Deloitte research shows that 81% of consumers feel they have lost control over the way their personal data is collected and used, and this makes them wary of sharing information.


Rather than trying to lead the reluctant horse to water, it would be more logical for retailers to focus on ways they can make in-store experiences feel more personal without having to gather customer information – or at least waiting until the point they are willing to share it.


Understand what influences store-level buying behaviour


For retailers struggling to connect with in-store shoppers, it’s easier to aim for contextual commerce, rather than full personalisation. There are sophisticated technologies on the market that make the consumer feel valued, without them having to relinquish reams of personal data.


One of the most powerful ways to drive more relevant bricks-and-mortar experiences is through digital signage and interactive kiosks. These aren’t just tools for circulating a selection of branded content; they are platforms for showing the customer that you understand what’s happening in their surroundings at that moment in time.


There are so many local factors that influence what people shop for. Synchronising this knowledge with responsive technology platforms enables retailers to tailor content at store level, in order to make more relevant product suggestions.


One example of this is the weather; a particularly cold, wet or sunny day can change purchasing priorities. It’s fairly common for retailers to blame unseasonal weather for poor results; a one degree change in temperature has a 1% impact on sales, according to The Weather Channel data. What if stores turned these fluctuations into opportunities?


Another powerful influence on buying behaviour is local events. If there’s a festival happening down the road, sales of tents, sleeping bags, wellingtons, bum bags, glitter face paint and dry shampoo are likely to go up, for example. An event might not be large enough to register on a national radar, but it can still have a massive impact at regional level.


Use the knowledge right in front of you


The challenge retailers face is how to identify which influences matter most. And there are two useful information streams to explore here.


The first data source is simple: ask your store managers. They know the community better than anyone, and which local goings-on will affect in-store purchases. So much anecdotal evidence is accumulated by store personnel; retailers just need digital experience technology to monetise that knowledge.


The second information source is passive data collection. Many retailers are already gathering and correlating footfall and sales data, and this level of understanding can be further enhanced without requiring customer to volunteer personal information. For example, qualitative research using in-store cameras can anonymously collect information such as shopper gender and approximate age. Digital content can then be varied to target these audiences, and even split tested to see which messages and recommendations drive better results among particular demographics.


If you’re going to get personal, get your timing right


Most of this discussion has been focussed on the initial part of the store journey, where the customer is largely unknown to the retailer. However, it’s important to note that there’s a prime opportunity to start to personalise the customer experience – and that’s at the point of sale.


Whether someone is purchasing something or picking up a click & collect order (or both), there’s a moment where their identity becomes unmasked to the retailer. Here, store personnel can draw on a combination of technology and data insights to show they understand who that person is, and tailor interactions to increase customer value.

For instance, if a regular online shopper walks into the store for the first time in a while, noticing this fact and offering them an impromptu 5% off will show your appreciation for their loyalty. In addition to giving them a great feeling, the random act of kindness may prompt passive customers into brand ambassadors, as they share their experience with family, friends and on social media.


It’s also valuable to link what customers are doing online with their in-store activities, for example when they visit a store for Click & Collect purposes.

If the customer has a ‘wishlist’ or items sitting unpurchased in their online basket, store colleagues can notify them which items are available right there and then in their size – encouraging impulse purchases.


Find the right technology for a ‘contextual to personal’ approach


A few digital-first flagships aside, most retailers are at the foot of the personalisation mountain. That’s not to say they won’t reach the summit, but they’ve got a long way to go.


Contextual commerce is a valuable milestone on this journey, enabling retailers to know their bricks-and-mortar customers in greater detail, before delivering interactions that are more relevant to who they are and where they’re shopping.


Deploying digital technologies with dynamic content capabilities empowers retailers to deliver experiences that work at store level. A ‘contextual to personal’ approach is much more in-tune with the customer’s frame of mind, and it will create much better chemistry than pumping shoppers for sensitive information the minute they walk through the door.


And if retailers need evidence to prove how this approach is working, just look at the impact it’s having on customer reviews and NPS scores in regions where you’re experimenting with regionally relevant customer experiences.


One iota enables retailers to display dynamic store content through our digital experience platforms. Talk to an expert to find out more about how we can help you achieve relevant and personalised customer interactions across your store network.

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