Why personalization is key for retail customer experiences
By Jim Dicso, CEO, SundaySky
With technology evolving, giant digital-forward companies taking over in-store shopping, and brick-and-mortar stores slowly closing their doors, it's an understatement to say the retail industry is drastically changing. But, one thing that will always be important? Customers — specifically, loyal customers.
With competition heating up and retailers seeking to break through the clutter to increase their presence in a crowded market, customer retention is crucial. For marketers, this is no surprise. But, the question is how can they keep customers loyal?
Last year, Forrester found "superior CX drives superior revenue growth in industries where customers are free to switch business and competitors deliver a differentiated customer experience." Additionally, the brands that do it best bring in 5.7 times more revenue than their competitors that lag in such efforts. There's a reason why companies such as Amazon and Apple have been doing so well in the past few years — they understand the value of CX. Brands become CX leaders by personalizing engagement in an entertaining, valuable and non-creepy way, of course.
Let's explore some ways retailers can get it right and create superior customer experiences:
1. Think beyond "buy my products," and ask, "how can I achieve your goals?"
Back in the day, it was easy to push your products and services onto customers. Now, they have options and can buy the same product at multiple retailers. Here's the thing: Customers will not be loyal to you if the relationship you convey is just a means to an end. Personalization needs to be beyond just pushing them products related to what they've bought. Your customers' data should tell you what they truly need, want to accomplish and why, which allows you to understand what messaging you should be delivering to each and every individual. This type of communication could begin with delivering a message to a targeted group, but for the best customer experiences, retailers must communicate to their customer on a relevant, one-on-one level. At the end of the day, the more "human" you are with your customer, the better you can showcase your brand's respect for customers as individuals.
2. Use data to understand their needs
This won't be the last time you hear this, but one of the largest elements of successful personalized customer experience is respecting your customer's time — and doing so with data is one of the most powerful ways to accomplish this. Amazon knows this and integrates recommendations across the buying experience: from product searches to one-click ordering . Let's say a customer puts a vinyl record in his cart, Amazon uses their data to decide what he might want to purchase next: a new record player, record player cleaner, speakers, etc. This not only increases sales for Amazon, but showcases how seamless the purchase process is and demonstrates Amazon's understanding of its customers' needs.
3. Tap into their emotions
Connecting with consumers on an emotional level is a crucial part in building a deep and trustworthy relationship with customers. It's not uncommon to see consumers — or even your friends — purchase things like clothing or even items like shampoo from a specific retailer just because of the way their digital advertising message taps into their emotions (for example, reminding your customer that he looked at that paddleboard and evoking memories of sunrise paddling at the beach). Going beyond that is the way in which you deliver your message to tap into these emotions. Video is the most compelling storytelling medium; it combines sight, sound and motion to captivate viewers. So, when you can personalize video, the opportunities are endless. And, it can spark emotions recall positive memories that guide customer behavior and drive purchasing decisions. Neiman Marcus did this by delivering real-time, personalized videos to passive web site browsers and transformed them into active shoppers by making videos relevant to individual shoppers by highlighting particular designers relevant to the customer and the latest seasonal trends.
4. Connect with the audience of one
One of the most important ideas of creating the valuable customer experience is to remember the audience of one. However, this won't simply happen by using technology to analyze the data in real time. For a true experience that keeps customers loyal, it's all about how you deliver the message and (as shared above) how you tap into your customer's emotions.
Although there are many retailers that are still a ways from truly mastering personalization and developing strategies to create the customer experience that drives customer loyalty, it's clear that personalizing engagement in an entertaining and valuable way will always go hand-in-hand in any type of successful CX strategy.