Personalization At Scale For Retailers: Meeting Shoppers In The Moment

Retail customers are a fickle bunch. One moment they want to buy with a single click, next they want in-depth assistance. Sometimes they’re shopping in-store but gathering information online, other times vice versa. Something last-minute comes up — the weather changes and they have to buy a raincoat, or a birthday party is in an hour and they need to buy a gift now. Patience isn’t a strong suit of most retail customers, so even a delay of a few seconds can negatively impact a customer experience.

Personalization is all about context and relevance. And that means going beyond fitting the customer’s general characteristics to matching up with what that person is doing and wanting right now. In this constantly changing world, what’s personal one moment isn’t the next. For the most effective personalization at scale possible, retailers must gain this contextual awareness—and then be able to match the moment with the right experience.

Mobile in the moment.

Mobile is at the heart of contextually smart personalization. Your customers turn to their smartphones every day to find their way to stores, discover new products, compare prices on the fly, get reviews and recommendations, and make impulse purchases. And since mobile gives you the ability to track real-world, real-time movement and actions, you can meet your customers where they are, literally.

And that’s often in a physical store, making impulse purchases prompted by a promotion or sale. In fact, 70 percent of U.S. retail customers say they’re most likely to make impulse purchases in a physical store — and 54 percent of those purchases are sparked by promotions and sales. But even inside the store, mobile is critical. According to a survey by Mood Media, around half of U.S. retail customers would like to receive immediately redeemable discounts pushed to their phones. And among 18- to 24-year-olds, that number grows to 67 percent.

So clearly, contextually aware personalization on smartphones can help increase in-store sales. Just as clearly, it can improve customers’ in-store experiences. For example, when customers of the Home Depot enter a location, their mobile app enters an “in-store” mode. Then, after they identify what they’re looking for inside the store, the app directs them to the exact aisles and bays where that product is located. Because no two stores are laid out the same, the mobile app uses location services to identify which store a customer is in and then matches it up with that store’s layout.

Real-time interaction management.

Your customers are constantly crossing channels like this, moving fluidly between physical and digital, mobile apps and social media interactions, inbound and outbound. So meeting them in the moment requires the ability to deliver unified, data-informed personalized experiences across all of those channels and interaction points in real time — which is no simple task.

This is where real-time interaction management comes in. The term, first coined by Forrester, encapsulates what’s needed to pull off highly contextually-relevant personalization across channels. And it takes a lot. Real-time interaction management requires the foundation of data management, cross-channel and cross-organization orchestration, and next-best-action capabilities. Even tech- and data-savvy retailers wrestle with it.

And one of the biggest challenges around real-time interaction management is scale. According to a Forrester survey, many marketing professionals face billions of real-time interactions across their channels.


 

Fortunately for retailers, things are changing quickly. With increasingly sophisticated data management platforms, integrated cross-channel capabilities, automation, and machine learning in play, you’re better able to address the challenges of real-time personalization. And you’re able to do it at scale.

 

“The Forrester Wave™: Real-Time Interaction Management, Q2 2017”

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All of that sophisticated tech and data use can even play a role in person-to-person interactions in the physical store. For example, the innovative fashion retailer Glossier is looking to bring both online and offline customer data to bear on the in-store customer experience. According to their CTO Bryan Mahoney, in their SoHo showroom, “the sales associate will be able to see your history, how often you shop, products you tried before, the last one you bought, the last article you read on Into the Gloss — any information we can give to people on the floor to make the shopping experience better.”

The possibilities of now, moving into the future.

This is just the start. As contextual data gets richer and as machine learning increases the ability to adapt in real time, retailers are finding new ways to differentiate through experiences that matter in that moment, for that individual. That might be considered as cutting-edge as in-store augmented reality or as simple and unassuming as spot-on clothing recommendations based on current weather. But no matter how it manifests, when it comes to personalization at scale for retailers, there’s never been a better time than now.


Dan Tynan, “Personalization Is a Priority for Retailers, but Can Online Vendors Deliver?,” Adweek in partnership with Accenture Interactive, January 28, 2018.
*Note: Bryan Mahoney’s quote can be found here.

Jacqueline Renfrow, “Brands must evaluate impact of impulsive vs. intentional shopping, Avionos’ Scott Webb says,” Fierce Retail, May 23, 2018.

Jacqueline Renfrow, “Promotions spark 54% of impulse buys,” Fierce Retail, June 22, 2017.

“Q1 2017 Global Real-Time Interaction Management Customer Reference Online Survey,” Forrester, 2017.

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