Talk to anyone in the apparel and footwear retail business and you’re sure to hear the P word several times. Personalisation. Everyone is talking about it and everyone wants to get it. But does everyone really understand what it takes to give every customer what they really want? Lars Rabe, Managing Director for True Fit Europe, provides key insights into the real meaning of personalisation.
Personalisation goes way beyond fit
Personalisation does not mean firing emails and texts at customers saying you bought this, so you may want to buy this. Well, it does mean that to lots of companies, but those that are trying to compete in a market crowded with new entrants recognise that personalisation means knowing your customer.
But, knowing your customers’ preferred size, style and colour, how much they spend, where and when is only the start of your journey towards personalisation. This goes way beyond fit.
The biggest challenge on this journey is tackling the mismatch between clothing size, style and colour and the customer’s real preferences. Fashion is cool, sexy and fun, but it’s also random; two people wearing the same style and size garment will almost certainly have totally different preferences so simply surfacing size and style is a zero sum game and just puts you on the same level as all your competitors.
An individual customer may prefer trousers with a slightly more tailored fit, they opt for a size bigger or smaller depending on the brand, they size up certain types of footwear, they love brown footwear but only wear black with formal attire. And so on.
Killing margins through returns
Not knowing your individual customers’ real preferences is killing margins through returns, wasted stock and eroding loyalty among customers who may keep clothing but rarely if ever use.
Now, you can predict what your customers will love and keep. Using a dataset drawn from a global view of retailers and brands and customers’ purchasing, you can start to match millions of detailed garment specs and detailed style attributes to individual customer’s shopping behaviours and transaction data.
Once retailers have an accurate view of the global apparel and footwear market they don’t have to deal in averages, like their competitors. They can deal with the ‘truth’ of customer preferences with genuine product attributes.
Data-led personalised approach
This data-led and personalised approach can ultimately drive the whole retail value chain. For example, retailers currently waste money because they stock items in store that will be bought by online customers, fulfilled from a distribution centre. A data-led view of personal demand will ensure these items are fulfilled from where they are most profitable to source as well swiftly to ensure consumers get their stuff quickly. Personalised data will also cut out the guesswork of what retailers will stock in the first place – inventory will be tailored towards the predicted demand of individual consumers.
The road to true personalisation
Now, we are the road to true personalisation, where retailers can respond to any preferences their customers have beyond the actual item – what device do they prefer, what type of delivery do they like, how is their weekday shopping different from their weekend shopping, do they like to share or do they want to stay private, did they start their journey in store or on line? Customers expect you to know these things; are you prepared to make the investment?
By Lars Rabe