Today’s consumer is as savvy as they are demanding, and retailers need to exceed expectations if they are to thrive in an increasingly competitive marketplace. Danielle Auerbach, Senior Director Customer Success, EMEA at Wunderkind, urges retailers to do more to personalise their customer communications.
Over the last 18 months, retailers have been compelled to embrace a digital-first approach. These companies deserve huge praise for managing to trade through the pandemic, something achieved in large part by successfully shifting to eCommerce.
An ecommerce revolution has long been predicted. And whilst the coronavirus pandemic undoubtedly pushed consumers to adopt new online shopping habits at an accelerated rate, a by-product of this has been increased levels of online competition – and correspondingly elevated expectations from consumers, particularly around personalisation.
The personalisation gap
Consumers are becoming increasingly demanding, and there’s growing evidence to suggest that accelerated growth in ecommerce over the course of the pandemic has widened the ‘personalisation gap’ between customer expectations and retailer capabilities.
Personalisation can range from suggesting products based on previous purchases, to remembering a customer’s personal preferences, to sending timely reminders about abandoned cart items – all of which can be powerful ways of fostering consumer loyalty and increasing revenues.
According to a recent Wunderkind study, a lack of personalisation is a key cause of friction in buying journeys. In a survey of 2,000 UK shoppers in May 2021, more than half (51%) said that, in the preceding 12 months, they experienced an increase in marketing communications that were either impersonal or irrelevant, while 70% said branded communications received from retailers felt ‘batch and blast’ or generic.
This had an impact on conversion, with almost half (49%) saying impersonal interactions would reduce the likelihood of them buying. These findings tally with numerous other consumer surveys; according to research by Infosys, 31% of consumers wish their shopping experiences were more personalised than they currently are, while 59% of shoppers who have experienced personalisation state that it has a noticeable influence on purchasing.
Making personalisation a priority
Increasing the quality of customer experience and communication through personalisation is something that ambitious brands need to address ASAP, but it’s a challenge fraught with complexity. GDPR has made the process of obtaining and utilising consumer data trickier, while the impending phasing out of third-party cookies, which will require retailers to re-evaluate how they segment and target their customers, is going to cause major headaches for businesses that don’t adequately prepare.
Without having a robust plan in place that will allow retailers to attract, retain and subsequently reach key consumers, many will fall out of the ‘loyalty loop’, and will potentially end up taking their custom elsewhere. Brands will then face an uphill task to reacquire them.
Many retailers have already recognised this issue and are now committed to finding the right solutions. A separate research study carried out by Wunderkind, which assessed the views and opinions of 60 senior UK ecommerce and marketing retail professionals, found that the vast majority (66%) consider personalisation to be a critical initiative in their current operations, while 71% are confident personalisation will become increasingly important over the next five years.
They also, however, admitted to having significant blind spots. Two-fifths of respondents said they are currently only able to identify between 26-50% of site traffic, while almost one in four (23%) say their business can only recognise a quarter. Additionally, 28% have issues identifying shoppers when they come onto a site using different devices, and a further 26% struggle to recognise customers that move across sales channels, such as between an app and a website.
Addressing the challenge
To fill the growing gap between what the customer expects in regard to personalisation, and what retailers are able to deliver, there are a number of key steps that brands can take.
- Identify the customer
It is incredibly difficult – verging on impossible – to send personalised messaging to consumers unless you are able to accurately identify who they are, recognise their purchasing and browsing behaviours, and understand what appeals to them (as well as what doesn’t). Being able to discern a new visitor from a returning customer, regardless of the device or channel they are using, and acknowledging their habits, is a powerful tool in any retailer’s arsenal.
- Capture more first-party data
The next step is implementing infrastructure that will allow you to reach and communicate with these identified customers. Capturing first-party data – in particular, obtaining explicit consent for marketing through email and mobile number opt-ins – is essential to providing a more personalised experience. With real-time customer identification and enhanced opt-in data capture, retailers can dramatically scale the available ‘pool’ of contacts who can receive tailored messaging.
Clarks’ Head of Ecommerce, Marcus Oughton, commented on how the iconic footwear brand is leveraging new personalisation capabilities: “Lots has changed in the last couple of years around GDPR, tracking prevention and, in addition to that, a heightened awareness of data ownership by the consumer. What we can now do is own our first-party data, and to scale the communication to those consumers.”
- Segment your audiences
Once a consumer has been identified and their information captured, the next step is figuring out how to effectively communicate with them, taking into account past browsing habits and purchasing behaviours, down to a category and even SKU level. Getting this type of 360-degree view of the customer is, of course, every marketer’s ambition – and CRM technology vendors, such as Tinyclues which use deep learning to predict buying intent, are well-placed to support with this challenge, ensuring the right products and offers are put in front of the right customers, at the right time.
- Send personalised messaging
The end goal is being able to send personalised, impactful messages that compel consumers to take action. By delivering tailored, one-to-one customer experiences, not only on-site but also in inboxes, retailers can see huge incremental gains in digital revenue, while simultaneously driving long-term brand loyalty and advocacy.
Though the current personalisation gap is wide, brands that take the time to understand where there is room for improvement, and take the necessary steps to address any shortcomings, can effectively (and quickly) close it.