As customers, we expect retailers to know who we are and deal with us as an individual. As yet, these expectations are probably beyond what technology can offer. But very soon it will be possible for retailers to understand me as an individual rather than as part of a group. That will mean I’ll have the same experience whenever I touch the brand, whatever channel I use. This joined-up experience will drive me to buy more products and, most importantly, it’ll drive me to recommend that product to other people.
This will work when retailers know not just what I want to buy but also how I want to buy it. In a world of centralised data, retailers will know that I’m an impulsive buyer who likes to buy shiny new things. So that’s what they’ll show me, along with an offer that will encourage me to buy. Somebody else might need to know the exact measurements of a TV before they buy it to see how it fits in the room and how good it will look. They’ll want to have content such as a real-size template of the TV to print and try against the wall. Recognising individuals therefore becomes about being able to take each customer through a journey that gives them an experience based on the context – because everyone is different.
We’re starting to see machine-learning emerging that can deliver this kind of result. Its success will rely on capturing the right kind of data, on the quality of that data and on getting proper permission to use that data so that the customer understands how it affects their experience. Once a retailer understands me as an individual, the next time I go into the store and show my loyalty card or sign into my app – or however it is they’re going to recognise me – they’ll know that I’m an impulsive purchaser and they can take me to the shiny new thing, offering me a discount or other incentive to buy. The way we learn about people as individuals will enable us to provide this much more rounded experience.
As retailers improve their understanding of the customer and their ability to give an individual, personalised and contextual experience, they’ll have the power to disrupt the industry. That could lie in a subscription model. Porsche is doing that in the car industry right now, it’s trialling a subscription service for shared cars. In a similar way, a brand advocate for a high-street retailer could order a certain amount of products each month. This model is happening through enhanced customer experience and engagement, providing an opportunity to create real disruption.
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