What Retailers Need to Know about Personalization

As the old saying goes, “The customer is always right,” and what the customer wants today is a shopping experience that makes them feel like the most important person in the store (or online). In fact, according to an Infosys study, 86 percent of shoppers surveyed said that the things they buy are influenced by personalization.

Yet, one of the biggest challenges for retailers is making sure each customer gets what he or she wants—when every customer has different needs and preferences.

Thankfully, there’s no shortage of new technology to make personalizing the shopping experience a successful endeavor. By creating a retail strategy that gives customers what they want without having to ask, business owners can make a lasting impression—and increase sales in the process. Here are six things retailers should know about personalization.

First and Foremost, You Need to Understand Your Customers

When it comes to connecting with your customers on a personal level, don’t overlook the power of smartphones. After all, they’re highly personal devices that people have in their hands at all hours of the day. A great first step toward offering a more personal experience is building a mobile app that will allow you to communicate directly with your customers—in real time.

If done well, your mobile app should be able to adapt to the purchasing habits of different types of consumers. This conveys that you understand who shops at your store and what they want most from their time there. For example, Target’s app is dedicated to getting in and out with the things you need and focuses on features like shopping lists and in-store product availability to achieve that goal. Another store, however, might prioritize keeping shoppers around longer to explore different products. In that case, in-app features should look quite different.

Personal Service Equals Competitive Edge

Imagine a shopper is walking through the mall, frustrated and unable to find the products he or she is looking for. Then that shopper sets foot in your store and is greeted by a sales associate armed with the information to make personalized product recommendations, answer questions and instantly check stock availability. Automatic inventory update tools, including eBay’s Retail Associate Platform, are a great resource for retailers, and include features like real-time stock updates from other stores, meaning a sale doesn’t go south if the item isn’t immediately available in store. Another inventory update tool feature worth noting? Personalized product recommendations based on a shopper’s past buys.

Technology is Your Friend

The trick is finding the personalization tools that work best for your budget and your business needs. For example, larger retailers might install beacon technology to deliver real-time recommendations and deals right to shoppers’ phones—sometimes based on their product interests before even setting foot inside a store.

Some retailers take things one step further. Case in point: Chico’s has become the shining example of omnichannel, installing Tech Tables that allow shoppers to interact with a large digital screen as they browse through products alongside other shoppers in the store.

Smaller businesses get in on the personalization game through more budget-friendly tools catered specifically to their needs. Apps like Belly let business owners choose which rewards they’d like to offer shoppers, manage digital marketing channels and track their loyalty program progress, among other features. In the end, deciding on the ideal approach comes back to the first point: Know your customers.

It Can Foster Loyalty

Speaking of loyalty, retailers today have a big opportunity to get creative with the ways they bring shoppers in and keep them coming back. One example of a store that’s customized its way to a memorable experience is Sephora. The company recently unveiled a suite of digital tools like a mobile app that guides users through makeup application and the use of in-store beacons to push relevant information to loyalty members. While there’s no “one-size-fits-all” strategy here, the competition for customer attention is fierce and the most successful brands get creative when it comes to loyalty.

Personalization done well can help convert one-time or occasional visitors into loyal shoppers who choose you over the competition because they know you will cater to their needs. The evidence? Certona, a company specializing in personalization software, found that product recommendations fuel 13 percent of revenue for the company’s customers.

It’s an Ongoing Strategy

While we wouldn’t advocate for upgrading your retail technology every time a new tool enters the market, it’s important to keep a close eye on your strategy to make sure it’s having the desired effect on shoppers. You should always look for areas to improve and make sure you’re staying ahead of the competition. Ultimately, personalization may feel like a daunting task, but it shows customers that delivering the best possible experience is your top priority.

What is your business doing to personalize the shopping experience for your customers? Send us a tweet @Cayan and let us know.

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