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Personalisation: still the key theme for IRX2017

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Next week sees Internet Retailing Expo kick off at the NEC in Birmingham. This time last year at the show, the key thing theme I latched on to was the drive towards personalisation of experience. Well, a year later, and personalisation seems to still be the thrust du jour – and the message that no one is getting it right comes through loud and clear.

According to our top story this week, on 38% of marketers actually bother to use personalisation, even with things such as email. This is crazy. A year down the line – a year that has been dominated by the increasing need to engage consumers on a personalised level – and nothing has changed.

Take the high street for example. I have spent most of 2017 talking about how the high street isn’t dead because of the internet, it is dying because it isn’t integrating with the internet. People like to shop online because of the convenience, but they also like it because it appears to be tailored to them. They get recommendations, they get suggestions, they get “hello Paul” when they log on and they get the feeling that they are loved.

You don’t get this in the high street.

This is what is killing shops. The only thing keeping them alive are older people who haven’t changed their habits yet. Millennials are going to swerve the high street in droves unless technology plays a part in their real world experience – and that that experience is personalised.

A new retail report, by mobile technology solutions provider Apadmi, found that 46% now expect stores to offer free WiFi and one in five shoppers want retailers to use technology that will provide a more tailored shopping experience while they browse in-store – like an app that notifies them of nearby offers or provides product recommendations or reviews.

And this is simple stuff: it isn’t cutting edge nor is it difficult to make it work – as anyone visiting IRX2017 can probably quickly glean, there are many vendors who would be able to make this happen for you.

But consumers want more – many actively want to engage with you. The 2017 Mobile Consumer Report from Vibes, a leader in mobile engagement finds that shoppers in the US actually would welcome talking to a chatbot if it would improve their shopping experience. Interestingly, many of these shoppers saw chatbots as a way of making engagement on the move through mobile more useful.

This is more challenging than adding free WiFi to your store, but the fact that consumers actually say they are happy talking to chatbots – in fact, would welcome it – hands this to you on a plate.

Some retailers are trying to get in on the act and make this work. As our case study this week shows, Pets at Home has rolled out the Pet Pad: an in-store iPad system designed to remove friction from the customer’s experience and transform the retail operations of the organisation.

Not only would this remove the need for customers adopting pets to fill out paper forms at the till, it would also allow Pets at Home’s knowledgeable staff to use the technology to provide better pet welfare advice and services.

This is one way to try and bring technology into the store to make the whole thing more appealing and remove friction, but it doesn’t really touch on personalisation. Personalisation is being demanded by consumers, yet retailers are finding it hard to deliver – but deliver it they must. If you haven’t booked already, then I suggest that you get along to IRX2017 next week and talk to the vendors there and make it happen.

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