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Personalisation is nothing without a joined up business

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It’s been a good Christmas, on the whole, for UK retailers – except perhaps for Next – and mobile has played an increasing role there in. Amazon has seen sales rocket over the Christmas period and accounted for 38% of all online sales: and nearly three quarters of them were on mobile.

Similarly, M&S , Tesco , Primark and Debenhams all performed well thanks to online sales and again cite mobile as a hugely contributory factor.

While Amazon has invested heavily in its mobile experience and, one could argue, Amazon is actually much better on a handheld device than a computer, the leading UK retailers cited mobile for a different reason: personalisation.

And this is interesting because that is going to be the key battle ground for online and bricks and mortar retailers in 2017. It is even more interesting when you consider that most retailers are currently doing it really badly.

Don’t be thrown off by the headlines however: mobile is central to this personalisation revolution. Retailers need to reach out and touch each customer individually and make them feel special. As the run up to this bumper Christmas in 2016, many of the most successful retailers used amusing and timely marketing to virally market what they were offering for the festivities. Tying it together with traditional advertising campaigns online and on mainstream media channels also helped tie this together.

However, these are the exceptions today rather than the rule. According to research by HSO most retailers are doing the first bit but are failing to be able to realise what they promise in their promotions. While the retailers are pushing out personal and timely offers to mobile users, they are often failing to have the stock in place to service demand. This makes for a woeful and negative customer experience – and one that takes what should be a nice personalised engagement with a loyal customer into the realms of actively alienating the very people who keep your business alive.

Of course, this has nothing directly to do with mobile, but more to do with joining up business process, but it illustrates the true challenge that retailers face in 2017. Personalisation is the trend du jour for 2017, but what retailers really need to get on top of is how to make all elements of their business talk to each other. The business shouldn’t be led by the marketing department, but what the marketing department does has to be aligned with what is going on in warehousing, distribution and purchasing. Marketing needs to be tactical rather than strategic.

This is the only way that personalisation will work for retailers and make Christmas 2017 even better than the one just gone.

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