​The changing art of personalisation

Retailers urgently need to reconnect on an individual level with their customers if they want to survive the current maelstrom on the high street.

Knowledge is power, and in the retail sector, knowledge of your customers’ personal details and purchasing patterns increasingly gives you the power to convert sales.

In fact, a recent report from Accenture, revealed that 75% of consumers are more likely to buy from a retailer that knows their name, recommends options based on past purchases or knows their personal preferences.

The message is clear, consumers are fed up of being treated like a stranger when they walk into a store. In many ways they want to return to a past age when local shopkeepers knew their customers by name, and were able to guide them on their shopping journey.

Personal connection

The problem is that retail has grown exponentially and retailers have lost this personal connection, leaving customers feeling alienated and frustrated by the modern shopping experience both on and offline.

In recent years, however, the increasingly sophisticated and data-reliant science of personalisation has come to the rescue, harnessing technology to help retailers plug the knowledge gap and re-connect with their customers efficiently at scale across social, online, digital and in-store.

Further evidence of this trend can be found in a recent eMarketer study that predicted social ad spend will outstrip TV ad spend in just two years.

In physical stores this personal approach is often known as clienteling and generally involves sales associates accessing customer data on the shop floor during a customer interaction using an app on a tablet or smartphone. The kind of data accessed includes shoppers’ wish lists, purchase histories, clothing sizes and typical transaction values. Whatever the data, however, the aim is the same – to drive engagement between associate and customer, and enable the associate to offer personalised recommendations in an attempt to convert sales, as well as cross and upselling.

Embracing clienteling

UK bricks-and-mortar bed retailer, Dreams, is just one example of a company that has embraced personalisation through clienteling, in order to ride out the high street storm.

Their app, Dreams 360, not only gives store associates sight of a customer’s wish list and transaction history, it also links both the on and offline shopping experience, enabling customers to start their customer journey online at home using Dreams’ website, before booking an appointment with a store associate to discuss their wish list.

Other high street retailers waking up to the power of personalisation through clienteling include Monsoon Accessorize, Currys PC World and Carphone Warehouse.

Burberry isn’t a high street brand, but it does offer a great example of market-leading personalisation in practice. The luxury brand has equipped associates with iPads so they can see if a customer has opted in, their shopping behaviour, what branches from around the world they purchase from, what they’ve said to friends about the brand on social media and their wish list. Soon after introducing clienteling, Burberry reported a 17% increase in revenue with sales up 13%.

Luxury shoe retailer Roger Vivier also uses customer data and email to increase personalisation and build brand loyalty to let a select few know about their invisible sales.

Building brand loyalty

These customers then receive a personalised card inviting them to the secret sale several days before the launch. It notes that for a short time, small dotted stickers will appear on the soles of certain pairs of shoes denoting a 30 or 40% discount. Only those in the club will know what these dots mean, and attentive members of the public who pick up on their appearance are fed little white lies as to what they mean.

While in-store clienteling can be powerful on a one-to-one basis, sensitively handled GDPR-compliant online personalisation can be even more powerful thanks to the ability to finely segment customer groups, automate marketing tasks and send personalised messaging at scale.

For example, it's no longer enough to periodically send a random email informing your customers of a sale. This approach feels intrusive, cheap and spammy.

Instead retailers and brands are finding other ways to connect online. For example, using their native apps to auto-recommend personally selected products using an in-app message based on a customer’s past purchases.

Connecting at scale

When a customer opens the message, the recommended product is available to be bought immediately with minimal clicks, speeding up the customer journey.

Social is another key channel in the drive for personalisation with huge amount of data available enabling retailers to make personalised content based on audience, where they live, how and when they consume content and what devices they consume content on.

The key to social selling success is identifying and understanding target customers with retailers creating customer personas and avatars to understand their demands and how best to address them using digital marketing.

Social selling

With social media platforms becoming increasingly segmented it’s also important to know which one best fits your target audience and demographic.

Above all else, social selling must also be conversational. Retailers and brands need to enter into an on-going direct dialogue with individual customers to find out what they want and how best to deliver it at scale.

With 47% of European and US consumers abandoning brands if they repeatedly provide a poor, impersonal or frustrating customer service, the ability to use finely tuned personalised messaging will prove to be a real differentiator among retailers in the months ahead marking out the retail winners and losers.

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