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4 ways to turn ecommerce personalisation into individualisation

By Paul Fennemore

Personalisation is no longer something shoppers are surprised by – it's something they expect. In a world where shoppers think they're seeing a lot more adverts than ever before, it's important that what they do is timely and relevant. This hasn't gone unnoticed by brands. In fact, according to research, 66% of marketing decision makers in the UK cite personalisation as a high priority for them.

But there’s further you can go.

Read on to find out four ways to turn ecommerce personalisation into individualisation.

From personalisation to individualisation

In a recent contextual insights study  conducted with Vanson Bourne, we found that up to 86% of customers see personalisation as a critical fact when they are making a purchase, yet a third of brands admit they lack the tolls and skills needed to properly provide the experience customers desire.

Further analysis by Forrester suggests that this could be down to 89% of digital businesses investigating personalisation – businesses are still trying to deliver personalised experiences based on age-old methods of segmentation, putting their customers into buckets based on presumed and static personas. 

Woman with shopping bags

Customers expect relevant and valuable interactions from the businesses they spend their money with. And the good news is, they are willing to share information about themselves in order for brands to personalise their experience. In short, they're giving you permission to extend your offerings into their lifestyle – if you get it right.

Sloppy, impersonal marketing is a recipe for failure. So, businesses need to ensure they are using the data correctly. This is where businesses can move beyond personalisation, and onto individualisation. 

Personalisation should not be confused with individualisation. To sum it up, personalisation is the process where you tailor a communication so it is personal to an individual. This is everything from a name or address to a hobby or past purchase.

Individualisation, on the other hand, is the ability to create communications driven entirely by an individual's preference. It utilises specific customer data points to provide a holistic, 360-degree view of each customer. This allows you to target them as individuals, as opposed to broad persona types.

This is key to providing a great customer experience.

The four steps

Woman with shopping bags and smart phone

1. Recognise your customers

The first step is to recognise your customers as individuals. Each experience needs to be specifically tailored to the customer– segmenting them into broad personas is just not enough anymore. You can do this by collecting in-depth information about them.

Which means you should be trying to collect everything beyond personal details: attitudes, sentiments, context, affinities, and many more. As this data sits across multiple platforms – such as CRMs and social media – and is gathered from various places – such as instore and online – it’s best to collate this data and store it in a single place so the information isn’t siloed.

2. Avoid the ‘creep factor’

Next, given the depth of knowledge needed, you need to be overt and open with your customers about why you need the data, and how you’re going to use it.

With the amount of companies and brands constantly asking shoppers for data, it is your duty to make sure the data they provide will deliver and add to the customer experience.

For example, if a clothing brand asks a customer for their sizes and/or measurements, they need to be explicit that the data will be used to suggest and recommend clothes that will suit and flatter their personal style. Just remember transparency is key: there’s a fine line between collecting sensitive data and being intrusive.

3. Be consistent

After doing this, you need to simplify how you identify your customers to ensure consistency. For example, if you identify customers using something as simple as an email address, you can align the instore and online experience.

In-store customers can give store associates their email address, try on the clothes in store, and then have them added to their online basket alongside other recommendations. What’s more, you can build up a customer profile overtime. Eventually, by understanding their behaviour, you can predict what they might want before they realise it themselves! This results in the right communication across all the relevant channels to suit the customer’s individual experience.

4. Break down the barriers

Finally, everyone in the organisation must get involved if individualisation is to succeed. It should be a business-wide strategy, and not a short-term tactic. Each team must contribute: everyone from marketing, IT, customer experience, store managers, and beyond.

From a back-office perspective, the CIO and CMO must align their priorities and work together to deliver an individualisation strategy. The MarTech stack must be useful to the marketing team. It must also be accessible, as data must be shared across the company so you can engage with customers on every channel.

Putting customers into boxes provides them with little to no value. Addressing them by name or wishing them a happy birthday is basic, and has become something which is expected. Customers expect ‘something extra’ for their continued loyalty when they know it’s their birthday.  In an age where shoppers are being marketed to on every front, you need to go further. Being different and memorable always leads to positive word-of-mouth reinforcement. 

Advertising a specific jumper to a customer who has looked at it online, and subsequently purchased it instore, comes across as annoying, and therefore not a good experience. But by combining multiple data sets from every channel, you can move from using information about a customer’s past, to marketing to them based on their current wants or needs.

This is true individualisation, and a great customer experience. Again, you need to be at a stage where you are showing a customer what they want, as or before they want it.

 

In the past, you only needed to convert shoppers into buyers with online catalogues, shipping promotions, and tailored ads.

We are now at a time when you must provide an individualised experience to nurture each customer, from acquisition, to transaction and retention. Most brands invest heavily during the pre-purchase stages, but fail to continue the conversation during the valuable post-transaction phase. To succeed beyond this point, building and maintaining an omnichannel strategy becomes imperative. 

Welcome to Personalisation 2.0!

By Paul Fennemore, EMEA Digital Transformation Consultant at Sitecore

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