Why personalisation isn’t going away
Personalisation. It’s a buzzword that’s being doing the rounds in retail marketing circles for a while. Personally, I’m never sure whether it needs an “s” or a “z”, but I guess that comes down to personal choice. Now that’s ironic. As I’m a Brit I’m going to persevere with an “s”.
I’m going to pass on the opportunity to go right round the consumer behavioural changes roundabout again. If you haven’t worked out that a few things have changed, some of them probably for good, then you’ve likely been asleep at the wheel for the last 20 months or so. Suffice to say plenty of consumers have found out that the internet is, after all, here to stay and can sometimes have quite a positive impact on the way they shop. Field marketing agencies like us tend to label that shopping experience as their “journey” although I don’t know too many “real” people who actually talk about it in that way. For most it’s just about finding what they want in the easiest and most convenient way possible. If it’s a pleasurable experience, then that’s a bonus.
When it comes to making that “journey” one that ticks the convenience and experience boxes (in a positive way) personalisation has a key role to play. Perhaps we can use an analogy to bring this to life. Imagine a world where you walk into a store and are greeted, smilingly, and by name, by a real person, a concierge if you like. They not only know your name but that you bought from this exact store 127 days ago, that you wavered a little when you’d put a few things in your basket, swapped one for a similar, cheaper version and then returned one 6 days later as it didn’t quite match your expectations. Creepy right? Well, a little, maybe. But, at the same time, that sort of knowledge, that personal inside track could save you a whole load of time and effort.
Here’s another personal example to help illustrate how it doesn’t always quite work. I got a nice email earlier today with my very own personal invitation to a VIP lunch in December. I like a lunch (especially a dessert or two). I like most meals to be fair, but a VIP lunch, even better. At this particular lunch not only do I get to meet some important people but also to take part in the industry’s most powerful private lunch. What’s not to like? Well outside of the fact I need to go to Philadelphia for a 90-minute schmoozing session, nothing. Ah, Philadelphia. And it was all going so well. I thought you knew me……..
It’s clear that consumers now demand a level of personalisation that has grown significantly as they’ve adopted a more digitally focused set of behaviours. Recent McKinsey research suggests that over 70 percent of consumers expect personalisation.
It’s not a “want” it’s a basic expectation. What’s more, the same research suggests that more than three-quarters of consumers get frustrated if that personalised experience does not materialise. Given we know that many consumers actively switched to new brands, new products, and new channels over the last 18 months it doesn’t seem unreasonable to imagine a connection between the lack of a positive, personal experience and the desire to go elsewhere.
Taking the time to dig a little deeper into the research and the way consumers now feel about personalisation, something interesting begins to come through. Many of the things consumers associate with a positive personalised interaction can be delivered by a real human. Remember those, they used to talk to you in a retail store? It’s interesting because often the assumption is that smart targeting and deep data analysis lead to clever digital tactics, and those equal the cherished level of personalised communication. Undoubtedly there is much truth to be found in that assertion, but maybe we can deliver an even greater level of personalisation when we couple that knowledge with the human touch.
Put yourself in the shoes of the consumer for a few moments. What is it they really want when they begin that search for a product? Ultimately, of course, they want the right product. If you want them to come back to you, become a repeat purchaser, demonstrate some loyalty, maybe even become that highly treasured brand advocate, then you need to make them feel special. Something about the experience you deliver must delight them. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself unceremoniously dumped when one of your rivals turns their head. The great thing here is this isn’t rocket science. It’s not hard to come up with a list of things you can do to make that consumer putty in your hands, and even more reassuring, it’s highly likely many of your competitors haven’t cracked this either.
Clearly improvements to D2C websites need to factor in all the desired outcomes for the consumer. Who is going to return to a site that’s a pain to navigate, never provides the information you need or appears to treat you as if you’re just one of the masses? There are hygiene elements that must be addressed and will at least get your site on a par with some of your competitors. But who wants parity when we know that ecommerce is the key battleground when it comes to generating growth?
One way to give yourself a better chance of winning this battle is to combine highly trained representatives with technology like Storey so that your customers receive the ultimate in personalised experiences when they visit your website or discover your products on 3rd party sites. In this way you unlock the route to that special service that creates advocates and leads to greater conversion of visits. The ability to qualify a customer need based on their direct feedback, to address their queries in real-time and to show them over video how a product works or is perfect for them is more powerful than any communication you send them.
In many ways this offers organisations the best of both worlds. Whilst our field marketing service provides skilled in-store ambassadors to represent the brand to walk-in customers so equally adept digital ambassadors can deliver a human connection as part of the online journey. In both examples, when done well, the customer benefits from a tailored experience built around the knowledge and understanding that humans can acquire.
Give us a call at RMG, we’re more than just a field marketing agency, and we can help you deliver new levels of personalisation that will make a difference.
I’m off for lunch. Now where’s my boarding pass…..?