Jeff Bezos predicted what personalization would look like for retailers nearly 23 years ago when, in an interview with PC World, he shared the following sentiment: “If we have 4.5 million customers, we shouldn’t have one store. We should have 4.5 million stores.” Love him or hate him, he was literally right on the money. The foundation of the statement is rooted in understanding your customer journey and the technology available so well that you’re able to provide a completely personalized experience tailored to each and every customer’s experience with your brand and shopping experience.
This is both easy to say and difficult to execute. Most retail organizations are focused on reacting versus being proactive when it comes to customer engagement. While understanding a customer’s current needs is a critical step to being able to get to an ideal state that converts faster and improves overall customer lifetime value, better online shopping experiences start with a strong strategy that is forward looking and customer-first.
Create a single, holistic view of the customer journey to maximize engagement
Retail organizations are already examining ways to maximize digital interactions, blend online and offline shopping, create personalized and live experiences, and collect and leverage data at every point along the journey.
But all of those great ideas depend on having a source for all of that first-party data. Fragmented data doesn’t work. Siloed data doesn’t work. The data your organization needs has to be trusted, timely, and accurate. It needs to reflect a complete view of the customer across their engagement.
But turning data into real-life customer engagement requires a technology solutions that allow retailers to:
Break down data silos
There are too many systems with too much data collected across your organizational ecosystem. From websites, mobile apps, marketing platforms, contact center platforms, digital ads, in order to ensure a meaningful look at the data you have available to you, combining, and analyzing the data from different sources and systems is the only way to create a complete picture of the customer journey. Define the system of truth for your organization and drive all of the data sources to it to ensure every department in your organization has the context it needs to serve the customer better.
Keep your data clean and compliant
With the volume of data that retailers collect, it can easily fall into disrepair. Safeguard the business from old, incomplete, or inaccurate data by reducing manual entry and validate and transform the data being collected to ensure its value. Retail organizations need to be able to trust that the data used to make decisions is clean and accurate so they are able to turn those ones and zeros into insights that serve the business.
Turn customer data into intelligent engagement
Once you have good, clean, non-siloed data, it’s time to put it to use. When the data is synthesized by effective technology, retailers are able to deliver personalized messages at the right time and frequency for each customer. They’ll identify the best channel for any conversation or notification, and allow the business to invest where it makes the most sense.
What’s more, it will offer the context needed for the whole organization to delight customers by anticipating their needs and building on earlier interactions. When done effectively, it will also allow organizations to create customer profiles and audiences, highlight which shoppers spend the most money, and which ones are the most likely to repurchase.
When all of this is said and done, it’s time to activate campaigns and organizational efforts that reflect the preferences of the customer. This brings us one step closer to the ideal state of personalization Bezos refers to: one customer, one store.
Deliver the next level of personalized experiences
Understanding the customer journey is a critical step to ensuring that personalization is possible. With truly personalized approaches, you can go from reacting to the customer experience to proactively crafting a higher converting customer journey. This holds vast new opportunities for engagement and growth when leveraged effectively.
Differentiate by prioritizing the customer
Retailers are fighting for eyeballs online. If a customer searches for a sweater online, what is going to draw them specifically to your store? Moreover, since building loyalty is such an integral part of customer interaction, retailers need to find ways to reinforce the brand value for shoppers at brick-and-mortar locations. Whether you’re focusing on the online experience, in-store, or both, it’s all about creating personalized interactions that not only retains customers, but reinforce their loyalty to your brand.
Go beyond just personalized advertisements
A personalized experience doesn’t just mean that customers are getting ads for products they’re more likely to buy, it means offering the best start-to-finish journey for each unique person who enters your store or visits your site. Good personalization is submersion into the preferences of the customer through the filter of the brand. Whether it’s real-time personalization, where recent actions act as a trigger for relevant offers, pricing, and products, or it’s 1:1 personalization, where a person’s experience is customized from product to price to UX, personalization can make an impact on your business. In fact, according to our State of Customer Engagement Report, consumers say their spending will increase on average by 18% when businesses personalize their engagement, but companies report the average increase is actually more like 46%.
Think about personalization after the sale
True personalization doesn’t stop with the pre-sales experience. The post-sales experience has an opportunity to offer more chances to use cross-departmental data to inform the support side of the customer experience as well. Addressing questions and providing insights to customers via their preferred channels is a great starting point. Being able to address the same issue across multiple platforms and devices is where omnichannel personalization really starts to offer the value that the customer expects.
Whether you’re staffing up for the holiday rush or just ensuring your agents have what they need to help reduce the complexity of their job, having context on the customer’s experience so far is going to ensure that customers are processed quickly and to their satisfaction.
By providing prospective and current customers with the personalization they crave, retailers are able to improve both the customer acquisition costs as well as the customer lifetime value their business leadership demands.
Retail personalization in action
What does true retail personalization look like when companies take the necessary steps to get a holistic view of the customer journey and then put that to work via personalization? Well, let’s find out!
Online interactions improved in-store purchases
Bonobos, an ecommerce-driven apparel company that sells men’s attire, opened its first in-person location in 2007. Now with over 60 locations, personalization is their focus. “Guides” or experts that helped men find the right items with the right fit, ship their choices right to the customer’s home or offices. New appointments were driven by Facebook ads. The company wanted to know if those digital experiences were translating to sales. Twilio Segment enabled Bonobos to identify whether purchases were made online or during an in-store visit. Then, the Bonobos team could analyze the in-store sales to learn how many were a result of people seeing the Facebook campaign. The results? They doubled return on ad spend and tripled their purchases (online and offline). Read the whole case study here.
Centralized data for seamless customer experience
Retailer Marks & Spencer is a 130-year, company that sells clothing, home goods, and food products in the UK. They needed to centralize their customer information and seamlessly connect customers across its stores and contact centers throughout the UK. The goal was to improve accuracy, efficiency, and scalability to customer call routing. Using Twilio’s Programmable Voice and Twilio Speech Recognition APIs on a day where they fielded over 20,000 calls, and it was a success. The results? They experienced 90% call router accuracy, 98% caller response and engagement, while saving 10 seconds on contact center calls. Read the whole case study here.
Personalization in a nutshell
Beyond the buzzwords and the internal jargon, customers just want a good experience. The best way to do that is to make sure that your systems are connected so that your teams have the information they need to help them. Whether they are your technology teams bringing 1:1 personalization to life, they are your in-store experts providing relevant information, or the agents helping resolve customer issues: it all boils down to being able to provide a useful, tailored experience.
Maureen Jann is a Senior Content Marketing Manager at Twilio. She has over two decades of experience as a marketer and has helped organizations level up their marketing strategies. Maureen has a Bachelor's of Art from San Jose State, and an MBA from the School of Failed Startups. She is a frequent speaker and guest writer for popular marketing industry organizations and lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, daughter and dogs.