Liberty is breaking down barriers between publishing and commerce to target customers at an individual level

Luxury retailer Liberty is bringing publishing, product and the shopping journey together in a bid to create content that actually drives sales.

Six to 12 months ago the retailer didn't know much about its customers, according to its customer marketing director Esther Allen. Fast forward to now and its in a better place, having unbundled all the customer data wrapped up in its loyalty card to understand the nuances between its in-store and online customers. It's underpinned by the consolidation of Liberty's back-end systems because while it thought it had a single customer view two years ago, it was in actuality obstructed by outdated processes.

"We're 140 years old and sometimes we have 140 year-old processes," joked Allen yesterday (3 December) at the Content Marketing Association conference.

But it is making progress, getting closer to measuring how the behaviour of its customers changes over time. Consequently, Penelope was born; she's 44, isn't the most vocal on social media and, most importantly, is the internal profile Liberty uses to describe its target customer. It sounds like a blunt insight, and yet by using it as a starting point the retailer is able to detect what Allen said are the "massive changes" in customer types coming into its shop and those checking out the brand online.

"It's not just about getting results within the 24-hour period. We keep going back and measuring over three months or six months or a 12-month period to understand how that [relationship] has changed customers' buying cycles and we focus very much on reengaging lapsed customers."

With that in mind, Liberty is writing content that appeals to lots of different demographics. Any piece of content it develops is rooted in who the audience is, similarly to how an editotorial team works – leading to more and more variations of a particular post based on who the customer is. This personalisation at an almost individual level is how Liberty sees its content strategy developing.

"Personalisation isn't just about putting a customer in buckets like fashion or beauty," said Allen. "It's actually going down to the complete individual level. Obviously, everyone sees lots of product recommendations that are down to the individual level but we're building systems to make sure that content is displayed down to that level. All we do is create a vast amount of content and then it's down to the individual, who then decides how to consume it."

All this means nothing if Liberty can't make sales. It's why Allen's ultimate goal is to find out when to develop personalised content at the right points in the customer journey and in a way that doesn't disrupt the experience – effectively making sure that whatever it produces it gets customers to products.

All too often there's a piece of really engaging content that takes the user away from actually making a purchase, observed Allen. "It's about working really hard bring content, product and the shopping journey together so that it's a seamless entwined piece."

It's a transition not without its challenges, particularly when it comes to maintaining quality control across so many moving parts. To do so in the social space, which is a growing area of investment, people across the retailer are called on to help populate its feeds with its one specialist acting as a curator.

Surprisingly, there's no mobile strategy in place to fuel this transition. And while one is being drawn up now, Allen argued that "it's not just about focusing on mobile".

"It's about having optimised content across all of the platforms and the devices and then the customer consuming them at the point that's most appropriate for them. And that content has to be totally seamless across the whole piece."

For Liberty, this means crafting bite-sized content and faster in order to get people's attention when they're on the move. The retailer is planning to post more videos as a result, albeit in a way that's mindful that people won't necessary watch it with the sound playing.

"I approach it by having a pyramid of content for a long campaign or piece of editorial content that's appropriate for dekstop but that also drills down to small snackable bits of content at the bottom that might be a social brand asset," added Allen.

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