Personalisation trend to focus on personal service.

Posted by Deborah Hall on the 22nd June, 2018
In order for personalisation to work it must solve a problem for shoppers or make a task easier for them.

The trend for personalisation is often talked about in the marketing press although it is mostly in a digital context and tends to primarily relate to media targeting. This makes sense because there is so much data available about our online behaviour within a website. However, multichannel retailers need to be offering similar levels of personalisation across all their channels; shoppers see them as one brand so they need to have consistent offerings, but what does personalisation mean in a retail context and do shoppers want it?


Ultimately shoppers will want a more personalised offering & service if it helps them in some way. In fact, they are starting to expect it. However, they won’t want it if it appears creepy and weird or if its incorrect (and based on poor analysis). Obviously what defines ‘creepy’ will differ, with some shoppers appreciating being sent something relevant to their location for example, and others feeling they’re being spied upon.

In order for personalisation to work it must solve a problem for shoppers or make a task easier for them. This will also help convince them to give the retailer more personal information so that their profile is accurate. Examples are

  • Lack of time to find or buy something
  • Suggest a suitable item to co-ordinate with an existing purchase
  • Advise on styles/colours/trends
  • Give advice based on your profile ie lifestyle, likes, dislikes etc
  • Source unusual items
  • Stop you buying something similar to an item you previously disliked
  • Advice on the latest tech and how it could benefit you
  • Send relevant offers

Currently this is much easier to do online. Retailers can collect all this data about shoppers on their own site and they are increasingly using it to help customers and improve the experience. For example, Enclothed, an online clothing retailer, has built a very personalised service based on a detailed customer profile which is continuously updated. It starts based on fashion preference and size but then uses information from customer orders and returns to enable it to understand which styles fit best etc. The stylists suggest new items to customers based on this information and aim to have no returns by the fifth order thereby reducing costs and creating additional sales.


However, most retailers do not have access to this data for competing sites & apps. This is where market research comes in. Insight can help you identify the full customer journey & follow up with them to understand their attitudes and behaviour. This will help develop strategies to further improve and personalise the customer experience.


When personalisation moves across to bricks & mortar there needs to be a way to identify customers and their needs. Beacons are the best way to do this currently. They are small wireless sensors which use Bluetooth technology to locate customers within the store via their smartphones. They can then be used to push messages to shoppers. The objective of these could be similar to the examples above although most of the case studies I’ve found relate to coupons and deals rather than helping customers with a better shopping experience to encourage loyalty.

In addition, the store staff will really need to know their products and services well. This will mean many retailers needing to invest in additional training to make this work.


Personalisation could work well in a number of most areas of retail. I’ve looked at two here.

Home Retailers

  • You will have a personal interior designer when you visit the website or enter a store
  • Your profile will be used to make suggestions based upon styles & colours they like, which room they are updating, budget etc
  • This could also be used to keep shoppers inspired with new ideas
  • Instore it could help locate something looked at online
  • It could encourage purchase with a deal if a shopper seems to be hesitating
  • An experienced member of staff could be told if a shopper needs advice

Food Retailers

  • Similarly with food, a profile showing allergies, preferences, lifestyle etc would be created
  • Recipes and meal ideas could be pushed to the shopper in any channel alongside drink recommendations
  • In a store the location of each item could be provided
  • When a product is selected reminders could be sent for typical accompanying items eg lemon or a sauce when fish is puchased

None of this it too far away from what is currently possible but it does mean that many retailers will need to invest in their instore technology infrastructure. Trials seem the best route to understand the impact of this investment upon customer behaviour, and ultimately, ROI. Again, market research will be the best way to measure the impact on opinions and experience and will be needed for the business case required for a project of this scale.

Alongside this, retailers need to have really strong understanding of what motivates and interests their customers and why in order to interpret the data correctly and make the right developments.

Meet the Author: Deborah Hall
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