Personalization – the buzzword you probably encounter the most often in retail – remains to be important. It is part of almost every retail strategy. Retailers big and small are looking for a way to build a strong relationship with each and every customer. They want to be able to offer their customers a unique, tailored and unforgettable shopping experience. Whether that is online or in a brick-and-mortar shop. However, a truly frictionless personal shopping experience is difficult to achieve.
On the one hand, you have digital giants like Amazon. They know everything about your online shopping habits and know what you bought. They know what is still in your cart and even suggest similar products to the ones you already bought. However, a human touch is completely absent and algorithms dominate.
On the other hand, you can find retailers like Nordstrom. Whenever you enter one of their stores, they greet you by name and help you find your way. However, it’s improbable that the employee knows your shopping history or which items are still in your online cart.
The ideal approach to personalization in retail is when you merge the approach of Amazon and Nordstrom. Together, the customer would experience a frictionless, personal and unique experience. However, for some retailers it remains difficult to take this route. They for instance have no idea how to use customer data. Or, they prefer focusing all their action on their brick-and-mortar stores. In order for you to take on a unique approach to personalization, we’ll provide you with some easy how-to steps and some successful examples.
Contextualize products and services
Personalization in retail is not always about a customer’s online shopping behaviour. As a retailer, you can also use your customer’s contextual information to give them a unique and tailored customer experience. There are certain brands out there that perfectly implement a customer’s contextual information in their personalized message.
A good example is very.co.uk. The retailer offers its customers clothes, electricals, jewellery, beauty products and sports equipment. Very incorporates real-time weather updates on their homepage. When you live in the United Kingdom and it’s the month of November, the weather is dull and it’s cold outside. When you then open the retailer’s website, they immediately suggest you winter coats, scarfs, and other clothing items that match perfectly with the weather.
(Source: Smart Insights)
However, the clothing industry is not the only one that can benefit from contextual personalization. Customers that visit a website of a home improvement store while experiencing a heavy storm, might see a message like the next example: “Windy out there, huh? Prepare for the next storm – shop our generators, flashlights and other supplies today!”.
Both examples perfectly incorporate their customers’ contextual information and can offer their clients a personal and unique promotion. This could be a perfect fit with your brand but you can also decide on taking it a step further. You can even change your website’s outlook based on the weather and location of your customer. For instance, if your customer is experiencing heavy snowfall, the colors and images of your website design change to perfectly fit the client’s weather and location. So, in short, incorporating your customers’ data is ideal if you want to offer perfectly-timed products or services.
Adapt emails based on behaviour
Email marketing is still immensely important for many retailers. They send a message containing their latest promotions or alert their customers that a big sale is coming up. There are, however, other routes that you can take with your email marketing strategy.
One way to do so, is by emailing your customers an offer similar to their previous purchases or by sending an offer that they already viewed on your website or in your webshop. The example we like to cite is from Birchbox. The beauty box provider is continuously looking for ways to disrupt the retail industry. With this email marketing technique, Birchbox explicitly tells its customers that they implement learning technologies to offer their clients more personal and exclusive promotions.
(Source: Smart Insights)
Another retailer that does a great job with this personalized email marketing technique is Amazon. The technology giant is known for sending follow-up emails to its customers to remind them of an exclusive offer. They send personalized newsletters to alert customers of expiring promotions. Both Birchbox and Amazon are doing a great job: they send their customers personal emails. Within these emails, their customer can find offers they’ve already seen on the retailer’s website or offers that match perfectly with previous purchases.
A last way to utilize email marketing is by sending personal emails to customers when they have left something in their online shopping basket. Basket abandonment emails are an easy and quick win for retailers. These personal emails trigger their customers to think about the offer once again, shortly after they have visited the website. The customer rethinks their decision and the emails prompts them to buy the product they left in their online shopping basket. A must-have automation if you ask us!
Personalization of in-store experience
The in-store experience has changed drastically over the years. Customers no longer shop exclusively in a brick-and-mortar store and more and more clients shop online only. However, there are techniques that merge the online and the physical retail world. A must-have technique that is ideal for tailored and unique promotions? iBeacons.
iBeacons are devices that are installed in your store: on walls, ceilings or counters. They interact with your customers’ smartphones and tablets by sending them a personal message. For instance, your customer has been browsing your website for sneakers for quite some time now. Whenever they’re near your brick-and-mortar store, the iBeacon sends them a special promotion for sneakers. Result? Your customer receives a personal offer and gets a discount on their new pair of shoes. Win-win!
Alter the channel
For decades, it was the most normal case in the world to receive information via direct mail and printed catalogs. Now, customers use multiple online channels to search for information and maybe even at the same time. They might contact the company via their social media or might send an email. Some customers however might combine both digital and traditional channels to communicate with the company or brand. The options are endless.
This leaves some retailers undecided. They are still unsure whether they should go full digital or whether they should keep the digital and the traditional media separated. Others swear by an omnichannel experience: these retailers come into contact with their customers via multiple channels while maintaining the same voice and tone. Our suggestion for a different but still very personal experience? Communicate via the channels that your customer prefers.
Do they often frequent your website and are they a follower of yours on Instagram? Choose for the digital channels. Send them a personal pop-up message when they open your app again on their smartphone. Or, give them a personal promotion when they mention your brand in one of their Instagram posts. Do your customers always open your catalogs and bring your printed coupons with them in store? Then, you need to communicate with them via the more traditional media. Send them tailored newsletters and surprise them with a personalized birthday card.
When you choose to communicate through the channels your customers prefer, your customers will have a stronger and more profound relationship with your brand. They will trust your brand and, because of their trust, will spend more on your products or services.
Let’s get personal!
Personalization is very broad. On one end of the spectrum, there are brands that are of the opinion that addressing customers with their first name in emails should suffice. On the other far end, retailers think that they should perfectly know their customer and implement behavioral and descriptive data. It’s up to you where you fall on this spectrum. You can choose the minimal or the maximal approach.
We provided you with steps that are easy to implement. Firstly, you can use your customer’s location and send them perfectly-timed offers. Or, you can send them emails that prompt them to continue their shopping session online. Thirdly, you can further personalize your customer’s shopping experience via iBeacons. And finally, to optimize the level of personalization in your retail company, you can choose your customer’s preferred channel to communicate.
Which personalization steps have you already implemented in your retail company? And which steps are you planning on taking? Don’t forget to share your retail adventure with us and your retail colleagues!