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Preparing for the future today

Over the past two or three years, personalisation has been a recurring theme within retail. It’s easy to see why. Connected to the mobile internet and checking their smartphones several times a day, we have all become so used to being able to get what we want, when we want it that we’ve grown intolerant of delays. Any retailer that can meet this impatience by guiding shoppers towards the items they want to buy is more likely to succeed.

To do this, retailers need to understand what their customers want. In recent years, the sheer amount of new customer data available has held out the promise of being able to build retail offerings around individual customers by drawing on data sets that range from customers’ purchase histories through to social media interactions.

Simple. Except that working with such data is anything but simple. For a start, there’s the staggering volume of information, all of which needs to be organised in ways the retailer can actually use. If that wasn’t complex enough, as we explore in our Looking Ahead feature, new GDPR regulations give consumers much more control over their personal data.

This is important because it may be that consumers will start to exercise this control and become fussier about what kinds of information they will share. Current personalisation techniques may not work if consumers begin to withhold the information on which these techniques rely.

But this needn’t be the end of personalisation. All the evidence suggests that consumers are happy to share information, as long as they think there’s a genuine benefit to them. It may be, though, that consumers will become more demanding and will ask retailers to prove they are worthy of trust before they will share information – or even to continue to share information. After all, one facet of the GDPR legislation is that it enshrines the right of customers to be forgotten if they withdraw consent or data relating to them isn’t needed any longer.

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