By Sarah Curran-Usher MBE, MD True Fit
Customers are taking control of their digital life and expect a level of personalisation from brands that few are yet able to deliver.
Consumers’ devices manage their digital lives as they can choose from a range of landscapes to play in. Facebook, YouTube and Instagram are already looking like ancient history in the face of TikTok, which puts self-curation and the lure of instant fame in the hands of anyone, regardless of age, wealth or location. And in Asia, livestreaming through WeChat mini programmes puts the consumer and the brand on an equal footing with a Nike experience created just for you.
How personal they choose to be online is also in their hands – front and centre as make-up, fashion or fitness influencers or out of shot as interior or garden designers. And for the millions of people who are helping total strangers to go from complete anonymity to being the top star in a TikTok house and working with major luxury brands, these new digital landscapes are a central part of their everyday lives.
This is far cry from the many brands and retailers that think they will earn their customers’ undying loyalty simply by pushing content and rewards, a one-way conversation where the only way the customer can participate is by leaving a review afterwards or texting their friends to say what a great/bad experience they just had.
In this traditional context, many of the facilities that brands put in place to make the customer experience as good as possible cannot deliver. Chat bots, for instance, simply become a conduit to enable customers to complain about a problem that perhaps did not need to arise in the first place if they had been given a personalised service with a feedback loop in the first place.
This personalised service needs to be supported with tools managed by the customer and which will enable them to find exactly what they are looking for. These tools include fit technology, livestreaming, in-app texting, showrooming with a direct connection to a sales person, and personalised payment and fulfilment options.
For brands, this should be a learning, iterative process so that they can make improvements progressively. The personalisation platform should act as a discovery engine that leverages data from both the customer and across the industry. This enables retailers to enhance every shopping experience by driving engagement, conversion and loyalty.
For instance, acting on known fit information, brands can offer relevant and individualised style recommendations that show the customer they are understood and valued by the retailer. This in turn fits in with the customer’s desire for an experience that they can participate as much or as little as they wish.
They can then use this broad view of a customer’s fashion shopping persona to drive a much higher return from campaigns, and determine which influencers and channels are going to deliver the highest returns.
Personalisation has unintended but valuable longer term consequences. Because the customer operates as an equal inside the partnership, they are more willing to share information about themselves in order to make the collaboration even more rewarding for them. Indeed, the latest data from dotdigital shows that 41% of shoppers wouldn’t mind giving their data to brands if it was used to improve their online shopping experience, and a further 40% said they wouldn’t mind giving up data if it made the online experience more personal, showing the demand for this value exchange among consumers.
An integrated platform then starts to give the brand visibility into customers beyond the brand – retailers can gain actionable insights into shoppers both on their own site and beyond, across the retail ecosystem – where else they are shopping, what for, at what price point.
This then gives insights to make longer term strategic changes around design, merchandising, channel allocation and assortment and pricing. Informing these big decisions will be critical as brands are pulled in every direction in terms of the burgeoning number of acquisition channels where they must be present. As some brands have already found, the rewards for sponsoring a TikTok campaign can be enormous, but they can also be risky in the new wild west of social commerce.
In short, brands that know their customers and vice versa are both committed to sharing information to make the experience for both partiers so much more rewarding.