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Personalisation done right

Sarah Todd
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Personalisation continues to be a top priority for retailers, with brands large and small using data and technology to earn their customers’ loyalty. Personalisation has many forms, ranging from the simple to the complex; from having a customer’s name at the top of a webpage, to enabling them to move seamlessly between channels without losing track of information on the journey. Delivered well, personalisation can be great for the consumer who stands to benefit from this increased level of recognition. It can also be a significant competitive differentiator and highly profitable for the brands that do it best.

Personalisation is becoming more widely recognised and appreciated by today's customers. The Aberdeen Group discovered that more than 90% of consumers like it when brands personalise messaging and offers. On the flipside, the penalty for poor targeting is becoming harsher. Customers are increasingly vocal when they are the recipient of some type of irrelevant communication -- like being served with offers for which they don't qualify.

In the online world, some level of personalisation is now the norm. Amazon made affinity analysis famous with its ‘customers who bought this also bought’ recommendations. The feature is said to boost sales by anywhere between 10% and 30% and is proof that personalisation can be powerful, targeted and very effective, when done well.

Personalisation is also a vital part of email marketing. Adestra, a digital marketing agency based in Oxford, found that emails with personalised subject lines are 22% more likely to be opened than those without. 

However, a truly personal experience can be much harder to deliver in physical retail, with its multiple touch points and idiosyncratic customer journeys. I would argue that it’s not the technology itself that makes the difference here as much as the way in which technology can power an overall experience that recognises and rewards the valued customer.

In the Starbucks rewards programme, for example, the app, the stars and the free coffees have less of an impact on me than the free upgrades and the ability to pre-order, walk in, skip the line, be called by name and have my latte handed to me with a smile. It’s a huge step up from the world where recollection of my name and its spelling were a hit-and-miss affair.

Personalisation is on the agenda for major FMCG brands, too. One of the most high-profile campaigns was Coca-Cola’s ‘Share a Coke’ idea. The brand first took 250 names to print on their drinks bottles, encouraging consumers to not only purchase for themselves, but also for their friends and family. They then increased the number of names to 1,000, spreading the campaign message and turned an ordinary bottle of Coca-Cola into a ‘social’ purchase. It was highly effective, resulting in Coca-Cola’s global sales up 4.93% year-on-year and increasing its Facebook followers to 6.8m globally.

Personalisation also translates to specific offers and promotions. When Waitrose launched its Pick Your Own Offers in 2015, it was ground-breaking. By putting the power into the customer’s hands, it allowed myWaitrose loyalty members to select the ten products they wanted to receive a permanent discount on, giving them money off the products they actually buy, while driving greater loyalty at the same time.

And there are some brands out there that really take the concept of personalisation to its extreme. TAM Airlines, a Latin American airline company operating international flights to South America, created personal in-flight magazines for each passenger, based on their personal Facebook pages! While this level of personalisation may not be achievable for all, it certainly grabs the customer's attention. 

So how can physical retailers take advantage of this personalisation trend?

At its simplest, it comes down to the right product, at the right time and place. By making promotions and product information available to customers when they want, through their preferred method (whether that’s in-store or digitally) retailers can encourage purchases and build affinity. Ensuring that the customer’s experience is consistent across all channels and recognising their preferences and behaviours as they travel between them is increasingly important. It is now possible to identify online customers in-store and vice versa, and tailor engagement based on what they’ve bought in the past, or even just what’s in their basket at the time.

The role of immediate customer feedback cannot be overlooked either. At last, store managers with a dashboard and instant customer comments are able to recover lost customers and take corrective action in-store in a timely fashion. And swift and effective remedial action can be an incredibly potent way to create brand advocates.

So, whatever sector you’re in, it’s more important than ever to know and understand customers and their needs. Providing a seamless and individually relevant experience will engage customers, leaving them feeling valued and more likely to purchase again. Brand loyalty, customer satisfaction and superior long-term returns really are the rewards for getting personalisation right.

Targeted offers and messages in-store

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