Getting Up Close And Personal With Omnichannel Retail


Say hello to the ‘want it now’ generation – consumers with an insatiable appetite for instant retail gratification. These consumers are easily identified – flitting from device to device, browsing their favourite brands on their mobile devices or desktops, complaining about customer service on social media and running to the closest physical store to collect goods they bought on a retailer’s website.

It can be hard to sate the ‘want it now’ consumer’s appetite; wherever they choose to interact with a brand, they have high standards of service. They expect retailers to know exactly what they want, sometimes even before they know it themselves. Every interaction needs to be tailored to them, seamless and consistent across all channels.

While a challenge, it’s not impossible to meet these high expectations. Personalisation certainly isn’t a new concept, but as we enter a world of multichannel shopping, the ability to create a consistent experience becomes that much more complex. In an age of infinite choice, the only way retailers can remain competitive and retain customers is through genuine, in-the-moment personalisation that is engaging and relevant, delivered at scale, with the individual in mind. Here are three top tips for retailers looking to nail omnichannel personalisation in today’s competitive retail environment:

Data Is A Retailer’s Best Friend

Let’s start with the bread and butter of personalisation – data. E-commerce is a data-rich industry by nature, so it’s a given that all brands have access to a wealth of customer information. The question now is how are retailers using that information to create personalised experiences? Data is the currency of the digital age. According to research from Deloitte, 22% of consumers are happy to share data in return for a more personalised service or product. In the consumer’s mind, if retailers have their personal, sensitive data, then they should get something in return for the privilege.

Consumer information has the potential to provide brands with deeper insights into their shoppers’ spending habits, product affinities and preferences, but it is useless unless analysed and used at an individual shopper level. Incorrect use of data can do more harm than good, and a disjointed experience from one channel to the next leads to frustration that can prompt a shopper to go elsewhere.

Brands looking to deliver a genuinely targeted and personalised shopping experience should collect data from as many sources as possible, including in-store purchases, social media posts, product reviews and historical web/mobile browsing activity. Each interaction helps a retailer understand more about potential shoppers; integrating all of these data sources provides a holistic view and robust profile of each individual shopper enabling retailers to present the most relevant experience possible increasing engagement and conversion.

Get Real (Time) With Personalisation

Collecting historical information on browsing behaviour, shopping cart activity, search history, social media and reviews is important for personalisation, but it’s only really scratching the surface of what’s possible. Imagine a shopper has browsed a pair of running shoes online. They spent five minutes scrolling through the product page and eventually settled on a blue pair of trainers. After lingering on that specific product page for 3 minutes, they then leave the website and haven’t been back in a week. In this instance, many retailers would serve the shopper a display ad for that exact same pair of shoes, hoping to nudge them back to the site to make a purchase. This often works, but, wouldn’t it be far more powerful to have nudged them there and then, in that moment when they were first looking at the shoes?

Not all ‘personalisation’ offered by retailers today gives a complete look at customers. Those basing all of their marketing actions on historical data alone ignore real-time shopping behaviours essential to the equation. Historical data – previous purchases, reviews, browsing history – adds to a shopper’s profile. Demographics and preferences build on this foundation. Past behaviour is an excellent indicator of future actions, but shoppers aren’t always shopping for the same item. They may be shopping for multiple items or just browsing on any given visit.

E-commerce moves quickly and historical data may not remain an accurate representation of a shopper’s needs. If retailers only use historical data to influence recommendations, then those recommendations may not be relevant to a shopper’s current interests. Using data gathered in real time makes a more complete profile of the shopper. Real-time data consists of information drawn from the current browsing session, like site behaviour and the referring site. It also takes into account the shopper’s location and the time of day there. With historical data as a foundation, real-time data can present current and relevant recommendations to the shopper as he or she shops, much in the way a good sales associate observes customer behaviours before making suggestions to them.

Using Algorithms To Your Advantage

According to Gartner in 2016, “retailers must use algorithms for competitive advantage”. Algorithms were once the territory of computer scientists but, with developments in retail and marketing technology today, brands can now harness them to better collect and decipher data to create more meaningful shopping experiences seamlessly across all channels and touchpoints.

There are a variety of different algorithms for a variety of different purposes, such as real-time profiling of anonymous and individual shoppers across different digital retail channels. Within 3-4 clicks on a site, the algorithms can accurately predict the next best action for the shopper and deliver the most relevant, in-the-moment shopping experience. This could be anything from dynamic product recommendations, tailored content according to the shopper’s location or even upselling or cross-selling complementary items according to data the retailer’s merchandisers can glean on items usually bought in tandem.

Ultimately, the power to harness data to influence and nudge certain behaviours in an active browsing session is far more powerful for retailers, and leads to significant improvements in customer engagement, conversions and sales.

 

Omnichannel is not just a buzzword or a fad, it’s real, and it presents a lucrative opportunity for savvy brands and retailers who capitalise on their assets to take advantage of it. A recent study by New 1WorldSync uncovered that almost 50% of global merchants and suppliers have lost at least $1m in revenue due to the challenges that multi-channel commerce can provide. That’s $1 million lost to competitors that know how to engage with shoppers at the right time, over the right channel, with the right message.

As the author Roy T. Bennett once said: “Consistency is the true foundation of trust.” Omnichannel can help to achieve the consistency that builds trust and loyalty in an age of time-poor and brand-promiscuous consumers. Neglect it at your peril!