Boden is a clothing retailer that sells clothing for women, children and men with core markets in the UK, Germany and USA. As part of the RetailX #PO personalisation event, Ian Jindal spoke to Nicola Huet, digital & marketing director at Boden, about her experience delivering personalised customer experiences; including the benefits of AI, insider advice and much more!
For those of you who missed this dazzling discussion, here it is in full...
Tell us a bit about how you’ve been approaching personalisation? How do you define it and where are you taking it from that base of catalogue and now digital?
“The way we look at personalisation is how can we be more relevant and more helpful to our customers. Our typical customer is a time-poor person, either because they are working or because they have a family - or juggling both. So we want to make sure that when we do communicate with them we’re making the experience really relevant, engaging and immersive; but also easy so they eventually convert and become a loyal customer.
“In terms of what we’ve been doing, there’s a certain amount of personalisation you can do with catalogues based on different segments. However, personalisation really comes into its own in the digital arena where you can be much more targeted. We are not doing much one-to-one personalisation apart from the traditional abandon basket and abandon browse. Although we also do things like your birthday, your anniversary of shopping with us where we’ll send you an email.
“Essentially, we’re trying to take a segmented approach to personalisation. This year we launched a pilot where we’ve taken a couple of segments that we call product affinity segments and we are trying to launch a campaign across our marketing channel and so any touch point in which a customer is in touch with us, they will get a consistent experience and that goes through various pay channels, email and onto our site experience. It’s an all-encompassing programme that will ultimately drive our customer data strategy and technology stack so we can deliver this at scale.”
“It can get quite immense when you look at doing things like microsegmentation. Where it’s easy we will do some tests e.g. with children’s wear customers that we know, we might start them off on the children’s wear homepage rather than our typical homepage (which is quite women’s focused). There’s some things like that you can do pretty easily but what we’re trying to test is slightly more complex models for our segmentation.”
Huet explains that with the affinity model, Boden want to look at their customer database and discover:
She adds that this data will allow the retailer to create personalised campaigns that are tailored towards the buying habits of each individual.
“At the stage we’re at, we can pick a couple of segments and test them because of the complexity of orchestrating that journey across channels; and of course the age-old complexity of getting your creative and getting that through on your campaigns to those customers.”
How does the balance between AI and human input work?
“I think we’re still testing both. We do use technology in some situations, so various algorithms run on our site, in various areas of our site and we test those against a more manual version...other areas we do on a manual basis - we make it very visual and we decide.
“I think that’s the way to go to test and learn. It would be great in some ways if machines could do a lot of this because if you want to get to that micro-segmentation level, it’s going to be pretty difficult with armies of people trying to deliver that so I think it is a balance.”
How do you measure success?
“We’re quite specific about the measure of success - we measure engagement, conversion, page visits etc. If we were getting a commercial uplift in our activity, we also then need to understand how much effort went into delivering that and how we can get efficient by using technology. We will also take an incremental approach and say right, what can we add that will make our lives easier so we can deliver something better for our customer.”
On personalisation: a key piece of advice?
“Specifically from my experience, we’ve tried to take a customer journey approach whereas I think many businesses take a channel approach. A lot of people talk about knowing their customer from the first point of contact, right the way through to post-purchase. In reality, due to the way businesses are set up, this doesn’t happen.
“So what we’re trying to do is really take that customer journey perspective which means working across teams; especially with personalisation which likely involves your IT team and your data team, creative etc.
“In order to deliver this successfully, it has got to be a cross-functional thing. It’s challenging but also quite exciting because it opens up a whole new world of engagement.”