Retail review: Implementing personalisation and customisation into brick and mortar retail strategies

In the latest in a series of articles as part of The Drum's retail review, we speak to agencies operating in the retail marketing space to gain an insight into personalisation in retail strategy.

Personalisation and customised browsing experiences are key considerations for online retail, but how can these be implemented to increase engagement with brick and mortar stores? The Drum caught up with retail marketers to find out how retailers can implement personalisation and customisation as part of a wider multichannel strategy.Adrian Watts, chairman, Live & BreatheThe trend for personalisation in society at large is now making real traction in retail and whilst it lends itself very comfortably to online retailing, there’s much that the bricks and mortar channel could do to up its game.While technology is the big piece in retail this year, you have to admit that much of what it offers the shopper in-store is still pretty generic.Consumers want something that is personal and tailored to them and fits with their busy lifestyles. Technology might be hitting the latter of these demands, but it still has a long way to go on the personalisation front.While many of the big multiples are making important inroads here, Tesco for one, despite holding reams of data on shopper habits, rewards and incentives is still often too generic. Another supermarket rewarded a £70 spend with a ‘£5 off £90 next shop’ voucher. One, it’s not personalised in any way, and two, pushing the consumer to spend so much more money next time when times are tough is almost insulting.Admittedly this level of insight takes time and investment but we are increasingly being told that data makes it possible, child’s play even.Consumers want to feel unique and special, never more than in a recession when every penny counts. Any retailer can stick an iPad on the shop floor and bring online in-store. Yes, it allows engagement on several levels at once and facilitates purchase, but it doesn’t offer a truly personalised experience. And yes, Tesco’s Gatwick virtual reality shop is a good use of time and place, but it isn’t really doing more than you can already do online.Retailers could issue loyal shoppers with a proximity fob (perhaps built into their store card) which holds their name, details of past purchases, likes, and brings this information up onto the cashier’s screen. This would allow the shopper to be welcomed by name. Staff could be trained to ask about satisfaction as and when customer flow permits. They could also use this data to flag relevant new products coming to store.Where bricks and mortar excels is when shoppers have time to enjoy the shopping experience and the opportunity for true human interaction hasn’t been properly mined yet.Overall we’d like to see a much more considered and tailored use of technology in-store leading to meaningful interaction with a store colleague who can deliver what online never can – the human touch and a human brain teasing out what shoppers really want/need. The examples above are not rocket science but they would go a long way to making shoppers feel that retailers and brands really do see them as individuals.Sometimes shoppers just want to get their shopping over and done with as quickly as possible. Take a fusion of GPS indoor positioning technology and a digitised shopping list generated via online meal solutions, and hey presto, you’ve got a personalised tour of the store that takes you to every fixture you need to visit (and with a bit of clever promotional wizardry, plenty of other fixtures you might not have visited) so you can shop on auto pilot and not leave the store without some essential or other that you then have to buy from the corner shop. Not only that, but as you follow your route around the store, position-relevant vouchers could be sent direct to your phone so the impulse factor is not lost.Ben Hatton, managing director, RippleffectRecent research has shown that many retailers are slow in coming to terms with multichannel marketing, let alone embracing cross-channel formats. While Debenhams, for example, leads the field in in connecting sales channels, it seems that department stores as a sector tend to under-perform. They need to train floor staff to better understand the worth of their retail website and to increase awareness of in-store events. By making better, smarter use of information fed back by multichannel engagement with consumers, retailers can sharpen the way they guide consumers towards complementary purchases – both in-store and online. So – follow-up emails and texts after a visit to the website or an in-store purchase; push alerts to offers, personalised offers like to appeal to the consumer and their family and friends; engagement via social media, and – at every stage – reinforcement of the offer. Ensure that consumers feel valued, understood and appreciated and they’re more likely to return, either online or in-store. Make the whole process seamless, welcoming and satisfying, and you’ll convert consumers to brand ambassadors, which in turn, makes further retail engagement far more likely. Phil Marshall, director, Shoot the MoonLocalisation and personalisation should also be key focuses of offline strategy. Implementation can be assisted through online mechanics but there are clear applications face-to-face at store level. With the ever increasing volume of messaging consumers are receiving, personalisation, and ultimately relevance, are absolutely key to achieve cut through. Understanding local variances and building brand affinity at branch level is crucial for this to have any sustained impact. A personalised, multichannel approach across online and offline sales, services, advice, CSR/charity and general brand engagement are all characteristics of successful retail brands.Ricky Neault, Chapter head, ChapterPersonalisation and customised browsing are key considerations for retail if brands are to continue to build customer engagement and loyalty. It's about using the data you already have. Target Facebook and Twitter users, but ensure your input is relevant to the conversation. If you intend to newsjack a conversation, remember the @KennethCole example during the Arab Spring. The American fashion chain used a trending hashtag to disastrous effect: 'Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor has it they heard our new spring collection is now available online at...' It didn't go down well.

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