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Redefining Personalization in Retail.pngSomeday, when we and everything around us is connected to the Internet, retailers will instantly know everything there is to know about any consumer they touch. But for now they are still working on ways to get to know people better and improve the customer experience.

Personalization has always been very important in retail and always will be. That’s because it benefits both the customer and the retailer. The more precisely a retailer knows you, the better chance they have of offering you the product or service you want. Their offers will be more relevant and specific to you, the transaction will be simpler and faster, and you’ll be happier with the experience.

Back in the day, if a retailer wanted to focus on personalization, it truly had to get personal. The storeowner or salesperson had to get to know the people who came into the store. They would strike up conversations and sometimes even keep a journal of what regular customers liked and purchased.

That level of personal service was nice, but it wasn’t exactly easy or scalable. And when people started shopping online that approach didn’t work at all. Stores didn’t have a clue what people were buying online and your online history didn’t include your store purchases. But that is all starting to change as new opportunities for personalization emerge.

Personalization via Omnichannel

Omnichannel commerce systems allow retailers to integrate in-store, online, and mobile sales transactions. That integration gives retailers a 360-degree view of customers across all channels. Customer data silos are removed and the big picture is revealed. This helps improve personalization because retailers can see how each person shops as a whole. They see a person’s buying behavior on each channel and can determine how best to personalize that individual’s overall experience.

Sales associates can utilize the 360-degree customer information in-store to deliver better one-on-one customer service. Marketing can also use it to create online offers and promotions better targeted to the unique consumer’s needs.

Personalization via Big Data

The amount of data retailers have to manage is growing exponentially and there is no end in sight. More and more of our interactions with retailers are digital. Every time we search, browse, and purchase we create data relevant to retailers. Social networks have also exploded onto the scene with an endless amount of consumer information, buying trends, and social sentiment about brands. And on top of all that, the Internet of Things is about to give a whole new meaning to Big Data.

When retailers have to combine all that data with information about current inventory, new product availability, shipping, and any other parts of the business that impact the customer experience, it takes analytics to a new level.

New in-memory databases and advanced analytics tools can turn Big Data into a competitive advantage.  Retailers can sift through vast amounts of data in real time to offer personalized recommendations and promotions to shoppers the minute they walk in the store or get online. And contextual information about things like your location, the time of day, current events, and the weather can be factored in instantly to increase the relevancy of a retailer’s communications and promotions. Real-time analytics also reveal opportunities to optimize logistics, replenishment, and assortment planning on the back end.

Personalization via Mobile Device

Mobile technology opens up many new opportunities to connect with customers in a personal way. Not only are smart phones great for quick browsing, shopping, and sharing online, they are also a great way for retailers to connect with consumers in stores.

By using GPS and near-field communication technologies like Bluetooth, retailers can have a one-on-one exchange with a customer at different physical locations.  For instance, beacons placed throughout the store, or even in storefront windows, can send useful product information and instant promotions to nearby customers using a customer-activated smart phone app.

Beacons can send specific discounts to shoppers based on their individual profile or loyalty level. They can help track where customers physically shop within stores to help with floor layout and display planning. And they can be used to notify staff when top customers arrive at store, pinpointing their exact location so a sales person can greet them.

The need for personalization in retail hasn’t changed, but it has certainly gotten more complicated. Omnichannel sales, Big Data, and mobile technology all offer opportunities for retailers to redefine the old-school handshake.

This article originally appeared on The Customer Edge

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