Visualsoft & Klarna: Why deploying a personalisation strategy is critical in a competitive retail environment

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In a capitalist world, where you can buy everything you need at the push of a button, everyone wants to be different: experience something different, eat something different, wear something different, and even share something different on their social media page.

We all strive to be different and express our individuality, so-much-so that there is a reason many would cringe at the thought of turning up at a party to see someone else wearing the same outfit – this remains the ultimate fashion faux pas.

Meanwhile, in this month of Pride, standing out and celebrating our differences is even more important, as is welcoming and being accepting of other people’s individualities. And if retailers truly understand the importance of this, it provides them with an opportunity to extend personalisation further into creating a more inclusive environment.

With more competition for online spend, retailers know implementing effective targeted offers and promotions is a critical area of investment. According to our research for the report ‘Get Set. Grow’, only 10% of retailers have not yet implemented any form of personalisation strategy, but many are lacking the technology to make tracking customer preferences and behaviours a truly seamless and automated process. In fact, 27% of omnichannel operators named personalisation as one of the main gaps in their technology toolkit.

Personalisation in retail means providing customers with a bespoke experience, whether it’s having your initials monogrammed onto your Cambridge Satchel as a free perk when you buy the much-coveted bag, or taking a selfie to share on Instagram in front of a very fashionable living wall in store. But personalisation can also be as simple – and effective – as being greeted by your name when you enter your favourite retail store, or being recognised as a valued customer presented with a targeted offer when you browse their website.

It's one thing to address your email marketing campaign to a customer by name and another entirely to recommend the perfect product to your consumer at the exact right moment in their shopping journey. That’s when personalisation becomes really powerful – it’s the difference between knowing someone’s name at a party and handing them their favourite tipple as they walk through the door.

Out of those retailers who have implemented a personalisation strategy, 44% are already recommending products based on a customer profile, and over a third are personalising the product search functionality on their websites. Meanwhile, data-driven dynamic content is being used by 37% of retailers to actively target and influence browsers as they shop online.

Jake Jarvis, co-owner and co-founder of Hot Futures says: “Millennial customers are looking for something different that isn’t readily available elsewhere. Our mission is to encourage new customers to take that first step into buying a better product that’s handmade and longer-lasting. We take time to answer their questions and build a good experience, which helps when selling highly personal items like sunglasses.”

Without effectively capturing customer data, personalisation becomes an impossible task – you need to ensure you understand your customer through and through and can identify which channels they are shopping and connect those touchpoints to improve your marketing messages.

Because when you know about your customer in-depth you can really begin to create brand affinity and – if you get personalisation right – life-long loyalty.

It’s clear technology is critical to enable any of these personalised experiences, especially collecting the correct data on your customers and using it at the crucial moment of the shopper journey. This is where artificial intelligence can really come into its own and 35% of retailers are already using AI to help identify preferences, trends and marketing automation flows, while 31% are using the technology to turn insight into effective communications and campaigns.

This all helps to obtain the holy grail of multichannel retail – the single view of the customer – but only just over a third (34%) of retailers are realising that technology is the way to truly get the 360-view which is central to delivering personal experiences seamlessly across channels.

The key thing to remember about personalisation is to be as customer focused as possible. Retailers should strive to get more value out of their investment by ensuring customer-facing options are more closely aligned to audiences, their behaviours and needs. eCommerce platforms that offer 360-degree marketing and creative support can help plug gaps and ensure AI, marketing automation and personalisation work in harmony.