Technology in retail is becoming more of a necessity, rather than just an added bonus. Isabelle Ohnemus, CEO at EyeFitU looks at the importance of a personal and human touch to win over today’s tech-savvy shoppers.
Recent technological advancements has driven a huge change within the fashion retail space, affecting both retailers and consumers on a primarily positive note. The customer journey is considered to be of utmost importance in order to maintain and grow loyalty, trust and spending. Retailers are investing heavily in the digital advancements which offer creativity, inspiration and perhaps most importantly, a personal and human touch to today’s tech-savvy shoppers.
It’s clear that technology in the retail space is becoming more of a necessity, rather than just an added bonus, to the customer’s shopping experience. There are a number of ways in which retailers can take advantage of this current situation; from offering the shopper ‘preferences’ based on past purchases through to more creative means and channels, such as engaging shopper’s ‘virtually’ on branded catwalk runways. The possibilities are vast and research has shown that consumers are not only embracing them, but are hungry for more.
Chainstore Age reported on the results of the *ICSC Retail Technology Survey, conducted in February this year, revealing that personalisation in fashion retail is a key focus for the modern-day shopper;
- “80% of those who have mall/shopping centre apps choose to receive notifications about sales/promotions and/or special events while shopping.”
- “43% of consumers are receptive to the idea of retailers personalising prices based on their shopping patterns and demographics.”
What is ‘Personalisation’ in the retail space?
Consumer data collected by retailers either instore, online or through iBeacons (an advanced location Bluetooth tool). The information is gathered so that that each customer experience can be tailored according to their habits, preferences and previous purchases, ensuring a highly-personalised and targeted experience, both offline and online. This ‘single view’ of the customer between brick-and-mortar stores and eCommerce is achieved through cognitive technology, powered by Artificial intelligence (AI). Cognitive technology systems have the ability to analyse huge amounts of data about shoppers, offering each one a seamlessly streamlined personal service. This creates further engagement and is therefore highly effective.
A recent blog by IBM on ‘How cognitive computing will revolutionize the retail industry’ refers to a report by the IBM Institute for Business Value’s ‘Thinking Like a Customer’ which states that the retailer’s value and belief in the power of personalisation through cognitive technology is huge;
“91 percent of retail executives familiar with cognitive computing believe it will play a disruptive role in their organization. Even more significant: 94 percent intend to invest in it.”
It works for both sides; the retailer reaches, converts and maintains a healthier connection with the consumer (new and old), whilst access to data (customer-specific promotions, for example) allows the consumer to have the best shopping experience possible.
Bridging the gap between the brand and consumer
What can a retailer do to ensure their customers return and ultimately keep on spending with them? The answer is simple: to make them feel individually cared and catered for. Today’s modern shopper is fully aware of how technology can help them achieve the best shopping experience possible, whether it’s through receiving alerts on their phone about exclusive promotions or being informed of whether an item of clothing is in stock in their size, at a specific store. This level of personal ‘care’ for the customer helps to fill the brand-consumer void, which has always plagued the fashion retail industry. Thanks to advancing tech in this space retailers are cleverly taking full advantage and are resolving the issue.
The ‘Personalisation Maturity Chart’, as documented on page 7 of Kibo’s ‘The Ultimate Guide to Personalisation’ eBook, plots the four stages (basic recommendations, segmentation and targeting, machine learning and individualisation) of a personalisation strategy against the impact each phase has on the customer.
Basic recommendations are the bare minimum that a retailer can offer as a personalised service to their shoppers, and according to the chart, has limited effect. However, phase two – segmentation and targeting – appears to get get the ground running, in terms of results. Shoppers are segmented into categories such as; age, gender, location and even where they’ve historically clicked or what purchases they’ve previously made.
The Kibo eBook goes on to say that “when segmentation is combined with recommendations to create targeted offers, retailers and manufacturers will experience an increased business impact of their personalization strategies.”
The next two phases of machine learning and then individualisation are where the positive results visibly kick in. Once the customers have been segmented, the clever machine learning algorithms can start to predict what the customer will be looking to buy in the future: they are essentially thinking on behalf of the shopper. And finally, taking it one step further individualisation, or ‘Personalisation 2.0’, builds on all previous learnings to create truly personal experiences.
Encouraging consumer loyalty and retention
“Targeting customers at exactly the right time with targeted communications and content will ensure fashion retailers and brands stand out from the competition by offering an experience that feels tailored and personal.” said James Knowles – Head of Commercial Projects – in a Draper’s Guide in association with Sailthru.
What with the steady rise of eCommerce (and consequently mCommerce), shoppers are inundated with choice and competitive pricing from brands and retailers on an international scale; the competition has never been higher and naturally as a result, customer loyalty has suffered. Brands and retailers that offer a personalised experience to their target audience will undoubtedly see their customers returning over and over again.
Summing it up perfectly, a report from Smart Insights quotes that; “The customer has to be at the center of personalisation in retail.” For personalisation to have the most positive impact on both the retailer and the customer, this statement is absolutely true. Brands and retailers must maintain and update the technology they’re using in order to ensure their outreach is at it’s most impactful and impressive to the customer to create further engagement, interest and eventually loyalty.
Back in 2013, Amazon was crowned as the pioneer of personalisation when it began to use collated consumer data to curate its customer’s shopping experiences. The impact of this early-stage personalisation had an impressive impact on sales: it was reported on EConsultancy that “the ‘response to buying suggestions’ that Amazon offers its customers is said to generate an additional 10% to 30% in revenue for the business.”
Fast forward to present day and this personal touch offered by brands and retailers is now absolutely paramount to the shopper. As a tech-savvy society who enjoy and embrace change and choice, personalisation can offer the shopper even more, including; reliability, efficiency and, perhaps most significantly, a humanised approach to shopping.
By Isabelle Ohnemus