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GUEST COMMENT Personalisation in retail: top 5 solutions your business must adopt right now

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If you still consider your customers to be “tickets,” “issues,” “transactions” or “orders,” get ready to close your business by the end of 2018: personalisation in retail has already gone far beyond being just a buzzword. Today, people have got tired of transactional relationships.

Commerce doesn’t exist anymore; you have to substitute it with the word “communication” instead. The reason is that market is overloaded, and the only way for retailers to stand out from the rest is to establish connections with customers.

The Virtual Incentives recent report shows that 56% of surveyed consumers are ready to improve their consideration of a brand if it offers personalised incentives. It means that people wait for money-can’t-buy offers and trusting relations with retailers. Consumers expect to receive customised solutions, seamless omni-experience and transparent “face-to-face” interaction with retailers.

Thus, we want to introduce you five must-have approaches to get closer to your audience and succeed in your personalisation strategy.

1. Know who I am

Everyone knows the campaign Share a Coke with various names tagged on the Coca-Cola bottles – a perfect personalisation move, which extends far beyond including customer’s name into a brand-promoting email. What made it so excessively popular worldwide?

The trick is that shoppers love being recognized, and Coca-Cola knew it. The “Share a Coke” campaign stands out among the others because it lets consumers do their favorite things while interacting with the brand: self-express and share it with friends on social media platforms.

The message is clear: retailers have to understand consumers’ behavior, know modern trends and recognize personalities in the masses of data. Shoppers now want a refreshed and up-to-date model of how it was 15 years ago when the owner of a local shop knew names and preferences of every visitor from a neighbourhood, helped them choose and offered a discount for their loyalty.

However, in 2017 we talk about digital consumers (like Generation Z or Millennials), and such a personalised approach to customers is still possible, but mostly with the help of social media and such technologies as Data Science, Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence.

By this time, technology evolved into the dominant source of ideas for retailers and the instrument to create valuable touchpoints with shoppers either online or in a brick-and-mortar store. Customer identification is now possible through retailer mobile apps or in-store Wi-Fi logins.

The Retail Technology Survey conducted by the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) proves that audience is very responsive to such personalisation apps. According to their statement, 71% of consumers have retailer apps on their phones, and 74% of them access these apps at least once a week. Moreover, 80% of those who have such apps installed are willing to receive notifications about sales regularly and while shopping. The report also defined that 43% of customers will positively react on the personalised pricing based on their shopping patterns and demographics.

Customers are already in the habit of sharing personal information if it results in specific benefits. People want to feel important as individuals to retailers and choose brands that can give such a feeling.

2. Customized goods for better personalization in retail

People adore being not-like-the-others and standing out from the pack, so they usually fall for what’s unique. Give them such an opportunity and let create one-of-a-kind goods with personalised price tags of your company.

For example, Topshop allows shoppers to customize clothes and print them directly in-store, using touchscreens with a bundle of various prints or backgrounds and large-scale digital printers with special ink. As a result, customers receive both excellent shopping experience and totally personalised apparel with their favorite brand tag. Another retailer succeeding in personalisation is Nike. Their custom modeling of sneakers is a super-personalised move towards brand devotees. Users can choose a design, color, and material to construct a perfect pair of sneakers on the web, and then Nike makes it to these exact specifications. However, the latest Nike innovation goes even further and offers the HyperAdapt 1.0 sneakers. The footwear has adaptive lacing which reacts on a hill while stepping in: there are two buttons to loosen and tighten laces, when necessary.

Not only do clothing and footwear retailers use this solution, but McDonald’s also encourages visitors to create exclusive burgers within the Create Your Taste campaign. But all-in-all, the aim is the same – providing customers with a chance to bring their ideas or creativeness to their favorite brand and get a 100% personal result.

3. Gimme more

Another way technology can help retailers boost sales and increase the number of return visits is by giving more personalized recommendations, based on customers’ previous purchases and preferences. The possibilities are endless here: users may receive recommends on the items they couldn’t find, as well as get a recommended choice of similar products when browsing a website for the next time.

Moreover, services powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI) can even work as a customer’s personal stylist, offering exceptionally suitable products for each user. The algorithm works pretty well for apparel, footwear and cosmetics companies.

A good example is Findmine, which helps customers complete their looks by recommending items that match the products previously added to a shopping cart. They consider now implementing this technology in-store – it will work on employees’ tablets and assist in making better recommendations for shoppers. True Fit is another AI-powered recommender, which collects data from thousands of top brands and buyers worldwide. The aim is to find out and then offer consumers the best-matching goods based on similar size and style preferences. Volumental even uses 3D foot scanning technology to define the best-fitting shoes.

Another variant of personalization in retail is the system developed within the ELEKS Retail Centre of Excellence – Virtual Glasses Try On. This service uses Augmented Reality to help customers find perfect sunglasses based on the size fit and individual facial proportions.

Do intelligent recommenders work for retailers outside the fashion industry? Sure! Naked Wines found the way to attract and engage customers by offering to rate every wine they try. Then, based on these ratings and specific tastes, recommends similar sorts of wine.

4. Check me in

Sharing location data is a common thing for Internet users nowadays. In terms of modern retail, especially, people do not mind revealing their location info in exchange for more relevant offerings.

Retailers use IoT sensors, in-store beacons, and cross-channel analytics to reach the right audience at the right moment. These methods have the power to define how much time shoppers spend in different areas of an offline shop, track their digital behavior and geolocation info. Checking such factors provides more understanding about customers’ needs or demands: if they leave without purchasing anything, you can always analyze their in-store behavior data and follow them up with a personalized message online.

Geo-targeting ­­allows pinpointing customer’s location and triggering targeted deals. When you do not spam consumers with irrelevant content or offers, they are more likely to return to you.

5. Special offers for special customers

The last but surely not the least is to keep existing customers loyal and encourage them to come back to your business now and again. The best way to retain consumers is to offer exceptional deals and loyalty programs – people fall for VIP discounts, coupons, and customized rewards.

With the help of all the previously-mentioned points, retailers can offer competitive deals and rewards for returning shoppers. Having data about customer preferences and spending behavior, you may beat competitors with personalized and reasonable proposals.

Total success is the Starbucks reward program, for example. Every time customers purchase coffee in Starbucks, they earn stars and reach various levels of the loyalty program. Different levels presume different rewards, but the highest one presents the most valuable gift – the Gold Card, which makes its owner feel exclusive.

Driven by this feeling of exclusiveness people tend to think they are important for brands and retailers.

Just do it!

Only if you know or can predict the needs and wishes of your audience, you will succeed in creating shopping experience they would love. Collect the data, use it wisely, and try to offer customer-first services – these are the key points to engage shoppers and increase conversion rates.

Once you start implementing the ideas offered in this article, your customers will surely appreciate it. Turn shopping into a truly personalised journey for your consumers, not just a destination of a purchased item.

Pavlo Khliust is head of the retail centre of excellence at ELEKS.

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