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Using personalisation to overcome the challenges of COVID-19

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Personalisation will be a key aspect of a compelling online shopping experience as shoppers settle into their new post-COVID-19 habits. Therefore, retailers should consider incorporating personalisation into their online and offline strategies as a matter of priority.

 As highlighted in a recent Forrester report, personalisation is particularly important for ‘delivering the right experience to the right customer at the right time’. 69% of buyers now expect an ‘Amazon-style’ buying experience that includes personalised recommendations. Tailored experiences will be critical for responding to the growing demands and customer expectations amidst the “New Normal”.  
As a leader in personalised eCommerce technology, Amazon has already developed advanced learning algorithms that use customer data such as purchases, searches, and reviews and seller data. The retail giant’s advanced recommendations engine collects and analyses all browsing activity and transaction data to create a feedback loop, in which the platform gets smarter, more people use the service and the process starts again. We can only expect that other retailers will aim to follow suit – but where should they start? 

Start by collecting your customer’s data 

The first step is to begin ethically collecting data from your customers to create a personalised experience that can automatically generate purchasing suggestions and appropriate offers. Online shoppers will become frustrated if a website’s content is irrelevant to their interests. However, 90% of customers have stated they are willing to share personal data with their favourite brands if it results in a better and more customised shopping experience. 

We suggest collecting any personal details as early in the customer journey as possible or, at the very least, allowing consumers to checkout as a guest by submitting their email address before purchase. This way, you can avoid customers dropping off your site without first securing the opportunity to follow up with them by email. This can help to reduce the probability of cart abandonment and prevent lost sales. 

It must be emphasised that retailers carry the responsibility to use any information collected from customers in an open and honest manner and to also ensure this information remains secure. It is also crucial to avoid inundating your customers’ inboxes with marketing and overloading their browsing sessions with annoying pop-ups.

 A good way to think about this is to create the type of satisfying shopping experience that you would expect in a physical store. This includes respecting personal space and giving your customers the choice to opt-in or out of any promotional messages.

Personalising the Customer Experience (CX)

According to a recent Forrester report, 78% of consumers are likely to utilise coupons or other offers only when those promotions are directly related to the consumers’ previous interactions with the brand. Personalised preferences should be based on customer interactions such as what consumers with similar shopping habits and interests have purchased. Suggesting offers and promotions that are relevant can really help to increase sales and improve customer satisfaction levels.  

The collection of email information early in the customer journey can help the sales process by reducing cart abandonment. IMRG, the UK’s Online Retail Association, has also stressed the importance of moving further upstream in the shopping lifecycle. This can be done by creating personalised campaigns that can react to browsing behaviour with messages before an item has been added to a basket. 

Retailers can leverage this browsing data to re-engage with visitors and suggest personalised email newsletters that can increase the success of shopping sessions while also minimising cart abandonment. 

In terms of recommendations, we partner with certain technologies and extend their services as a 1-click integration to our own clients. For example, we brought Italian fashion retailer Camomilla onto our omnichannel solution with personalised suggested items. This resulted in a 59% online sales Increase from 2018 – 2019.

Personalising the in-store experience

Personalising in-store experiences can be better managed through the use of an omnichannel solution that allows customers to maintain a continuous flow between online and offline. By syncing information gathered online with the central Point of Sale (POS) system in-store, shop assistants can track orders, recreate them, and even make suggestions based on previous purchasing history.

For example, a customer of a wine shop may inquire about a bottle they recently purchased so they can buy it again. Using the unified system, the shop assistant can see the name of this purchase and quickly check to see if it’s in stock. If it is out of stock, the system will allow them to check its availability in another nearby branch. Alternatively, they can make an accurate suggestion of wine with similar characteristics. 

This drastically minimises the risk of losing a repeat purchase. 

Approximately, 40% of consumers state that they expect staff in a brand’s physical store to know their online purchase history. Thus, retailers should remember that personalisation does not only apply to online shoppers. Retailers should equip all staff with the know-how to their system and knowledge of your products so they are able to provide the best possible customer service and in-store experience. 

Using Bluetooth beacon technology can also be valuable for improving the in-store experience. It can be used to create heat maps that reveal hot spots and deliver real-time promotional content which helps improve the personalisation of store offerings. As restrictions ease and retailers begin opening their doors, we may also see this technology being deployed to create socially distanced shopping that supports safe in-store browsing.

Conclusion

Retailers who can provide a personalised experience in a secure and ethical way and who can strike a careful balance between helpful and annoying communications both online and in-store will be successful. The bottom line is that consumers have come to expect personalisation. Therefore, you may lose customers to your competitors if you don’t have the right strategy and technologies in place to achieve this.

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