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GUEST COMMENT Creating a winning personalisation strategy can be a brand-building game changer

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Back in the days before the internet, high profile shoppers entering a retail store engaged the help of a store’s personal shopper in order to find the right products in the most efficient way possible. But now, in the age of eTail, ALL customers, not just the VIPs, expect this same calibre of personalised service— online, instantaneously, and seamlessly. How does the innovative retailer meet this challenge, especially on a global scale? With the right software tools, it’s easier than you might think.

Grow globally, merchandise locally

Language is key to international markets. Even if international websites are maintained by different groups, it’s critical for etailers to provide the same brand experience to customers wherever they are so as to offer a truly global customer experience. The first key to an effective global growth strategy is to centralise the web content through a common template that can be broadly machine translated, but then modified at the local level. This way, your brand identity will look consistent without having to sacrifice deployment speed.

But that’s just the basics. Cultural awareness is critical too, both in terms of language and visual merchandising. Knowing the local slang (‘sneakers’ for Americans, ‘trainers’ for Brits and ‘tennis shoes’ for Australians) means that keywords can be tailored to regional preferences, delivering a far more personalised shopping experience than base language alone. Culture also greatly impacts merchandising. In Chinese clothing markets, shoppers often pay close attention to the quality of fabric and stitching.

A global clothing etailer with a website in China can leverage this knowledge by including a zoom feature, thus creating a similar experience to shopping in-store. In turn, Chinese shoppers visiting this site can feel reassured that the fabric quality is to their standards, and consequently will be more likely to buy. On the other hand, the zooming feature may be an unnecessary (or unwelcome) distraction to a British shopper, whose behaviour is more apt to quickly identify an article of clothing by colour and size, and then immediately check out from the virtual shopping cart.

Let’s get personal

The majority of consumers prefer to do business with brands who use personal information to make their experience more relevant. Now let’s go into some more detail about how to engage a customer segment of one with a real-time, personalised internet retailing experience.

Here are four practical steps to delivering a personalised online experience that converts:

  1. Aggregate your ‘big data’ Leveraging the data available from an investment in customer insights enables the prediction of what channels and information will drive loyalty, revenue and retention. The effective use of data analytics will not only drive customer engagement, but enable a better customer experience. Brands using customer analytics can unlock opportunities by gauging the customer experience throughout the journey; including browsing and purchase history, and demographics. With social listening tools, you can also understand how customers discuss your brand and the products you sell, what reviews they post and read, and the size of the social networks they frequent. Taken together, you will have a fuller picture of who your customers are (and aren’t).

  2. Leverage that data to create and rank profiles. Not every customer is going to be profitable—use your data to pick out the most appealing segments and tailor your offers to them, rather than offering blanket discounts across the board. Customer analyticsnot only provide good insights into what specific offers to provide, and to whom, but also how quickly the reaction time is between the insight and the execution.

  3. Predict what your customers want. The more predictive ecommerce recommendations are, the more attractive products will be to customers, and the more they will buy. Create rules in your merchandising tool or customer experience management system to determine what products get recommended, and to whom. For example, “recommend Y product to customers that buy X product.” Personalised offers of this sort build trust and foster consumer engagement. Plus, they can boost average order value up to 50%. And don’t forget to keep testing your assumptions so you can react in real time to changes in customer profiles or demands.

  4. Combine content, commerce and community. Brand-building is not transactional, it’s a relationship. Harmonise content and commerce to enable more brand-driven shopping by blending brand experiences together with shopping experiences so that it’s seamless and connected.

Make your site a destination hub that goes beyond selling by offering enriching ecommerce and blending content and shopping into one experience. Offer interesting, relevant and interactive multimedia content that draws traffic, engages visitors and inspires shopping.

Personalisation enables etailers to move from transactions to providing inspiration and from static shelf pages to a more agile digital aisle tailored to the individual customer. Offering them intelligent recommendations and relevant in-context messaging that create engagement opportunities and increase revenue opportunities. It may seem like a daunting task, but with a winning personalisation strategy, it will be more than worthwhile—it can be a brand-building game changer.

Paige O’Neill is CMO at SDL

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