Personalisation and retail loyalty in a post-GDPR world

David Buckingham
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Harnessing the power of personalisation is a vital endeavour for retailers today, helping them elevate their brand and offerings in a highly competitive landscape. By tailoring their communications, offers and promotions, they can appeal to their customers on an individual level. This personalised approach, used in loyalty schemes and increasingly at the point of sale by using real-time data, helps retailers keep existing customers happy, attract new ones and ultimately grow their revenue and/or market share.

Consumers are smarter, savvier and more discerning than ever before, empowered by the wealth of information available to them. With immediate access to online reviews, product review sites and price comparison websites, shoppers today can be far more selective when it comes to where they spend their money.

While we all recognise the value of personalisation, with it comes challenges. Personalisation and effective loyalty schemes are driven by data. And not just any data. We’re talking about quality data. However, getting access to this data is one of the biggest challenges retailers face. In fact, 38% of UK retailers don’t believe they have the right data to make personalisation work – so says our Retail Reality research report published earlier this year. We also conducted research from a consumer point of view and found while 74% of UK consumers say personalised offers keep them loyal, only 64% are actually willing to share their personal data.


Aside from the challenge of getting customers to share this all-important information, there’s another issue that’s made its way onto today’s agenda, GDPR. The Europe-wide regulation has been in force since May 2018 and has changed the way that retailers obtain, store and use data. Make no mistake, GDPR is a good thing and is designed to offer great protection to the way our personal data is used.
But it has caused many industries to rethink their approach. For retail specifically, this is especially true. Many businesses rely on the likes of e-newsletters and loyalty schemes to attract new customers and keep existing customers happy. As a result, retailers need a strategy that is GDPR-compliant yet still yields accurate and effective data.

The two aspects aren’t mutually exclusive. Months on from the compliance deadline, and not much has changed, other than the fact that retailers are now much more aware of their roles and responsibilities when it comes to data. And it’s still possible for retailers to deliver a personalised experience across their marketing and loyalty scheme efforts, but it essentially all comes down to consent – obtaining it and then making sure that data is only used for the purposes intended.

Retailers must get their customers to confirm clearly that they are happy to receive these communications. If they are, retailers can continue using their data for personalisation purposes (providing they are doing so in line with the guidelines). If individuals don’t consent, then their data must be removed from company databases immediately.

There is also an additional element to GDPR – at least for retailers. That is telling customers exactly what their data will be used for and what the benefits are, especially around personalised offers and targeted loyalty rewards. Which is not that far off from what retailers have already been doing.

In this post-GDPR landscape, the tenets of loyalty remain the same – personalisation through the effective use of quality data. What has changed is being more explicit about obtaining consent and educating customers on where and how their information is used. At the end of the day, it’s about protecting customers while still being able to deliver what they want.


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