Skip to main content

Your Mass Marketing Campaigns Aren’t Enough: 5 Ways for Marketers to Take Personalization in Retail to the Next Level

Comparison shopping while in-store -- Using personalization in marketing to drive sales

We define personalization as one-to-one marketing in the truest sense — one brand speaking directly to one specific customer. For digital marketing, this is increasingly becoming the norm, as today’s savvy consumers grow impervious to mass marketing techniques and expect personalization at each and every touchpoint.

The demand for more personalized marketing was recently confirmed by Salesforce’s State of the Connected Customer report, which found that “51% of consumers expect that by 2020, companies will anticipate their needs and make relevant suggestions before they make contact.” That’s a high expectation for brands to meet and a challenge that requires marketers to create a unique, personalized experience for every customer in a world where mass, impersonalized marketing runs rampant. It’s imperative that retail brands adapt to consumer expectations now, or fall by the wayside next to industry disruptors like Amazon.

In 2018, online retailers need to enhance their marketing strategies through innovative techniques and take personalization to the next level to meet growing consumer demands. Here are five personalization strategies that retail marketers should look to adopt this year.

1. Personalize before making formal contact.

Personalization in retail cannot be an afterthought. In order to stand out with consumers, companies have to put the work in upfront to create hyper-personalized outreach at the first point of contact. This means that retailers need to first learn about the consumer: Who are they? What are their shopping preferences? Who else do they shop for? Advanced behavioral data analytic tools, including adaptive artificial intelligence technology, can help brands capture data. But capturing all the data in the world won’t matter — it is what can be done with the data that matters. Retail marketers can extract the most important information, analyze it, and put it to work. This is extremely beneficial for marketers, as they can then send out targeted email promotions tailored specifically to one customer’s particular interests. Without this level of personalization, retailers will fall into the pile of generic marketing promos that hit the trash bin with the click of a button.

2. Seek information to improve the experience.

In recent years, retailers have prompted customers to create a login or online profile when shopping online. For customers, this step can sometimes be seen as a nuisance that prevents them from quickly checking out, and generates unwanted spam mail. What can be done to correct this? Should retailers lessen the hurdle and stop asking? The answer is no.

A report from Deloitte found that consumers are willing to give companies their personal information, as long as they see the value in it for them. This means retailers should continue to ask for information that will be used to enhance the customer experience, and must demonstrate that they’ve listened once that information is collected. Instead of asking for a detailed profile sign-up, questions about product preferences or notifications preferences if/when items go on sale are more valuable to understand your customers’ wants and needs. This also signals to your customer that you are invested in improving their experiences with your brand.

3. Implement real-time personalization.

Real-time personalization is defined as “data-driven personalization completed in less than 1 second” and has shown to increase engagement and retention rates among customers. This strategy, implemented via social media, could be where a potential customer is led from a branded Twitter page, to the brand homepage where they are greeted by name, offered opportunities for future notifications based on Twitter searches, and notified about an in-store sale nearby as well. This level of personalization can influence and, in some cases, accelerate the timeline of a sale, as well as valuable, longer-term outcomes, such as stronger brand loyalty.

Yet for marketers, implementing a real-time retail personalization strategy is not as easy as it sounds. Adobe’s joint Real-Time Marketing Insights Study with the DMA found that “60% of marketers struggle to personalize content in real-time, though 77% believe real-time personalization is crucial.” However, two-thirds of respondents said that they are planning to implement real-time technologies in the future.

In order for marketers to make real-time personalization a reality, they must ensure ample planning and technical resources to analyze the data and automate the process. Luckily, savvy business intelligence tools can help marketers put the data to work, allowing them to elevate their marketing strategy and make real-time personalization a reality.

4. Use custom promotions to help overcome purchasing hurdles.

A few years ago, a customized greeting such as “Welcome Back, James” when a customer returns to a homepage would have been considered a marketing win. This is not the case anymore. Personalization now expands into every single correspondence, including the content of each marketing promotion, how it looks visually, when it is distributed, and how often.  And the truth is, retail personalization works. Hubspot found that “calls-to-action targeted to the user had a 42% higher view-to-submission rate than calls-to-action that were the same for all visitors.”

Personalization now expands into every single correspondence, including the content of each marketing promotion, how it looks visually, when it is distributed, and how often.

Retailers now need to customize what they say to each customer depending on where he or she is in the buying lifecycle. Customers, prospective shoppers, or even one-time visitors should all get different messages that vary in complexity and offering depending on their desires and reasons for shopping. If a customer has a full shopping cart but has yet to check out, personalized email reminders of the pending purchases or suggesting other similar products can help get the sale across the finish line.

5. Incorporate multichannel personalization practices.

The E-Tailing Group’s ebook on Consumer Centric Marketing shows that “increasing engagement through personalization in more channels can increase overall consumer spending up to 500%.” While most brands today engage in some form of marketing across multiple channels, 2018 will require brands to hone their strategy across the board. In particular, each component of a multichannel marketing campaign should be consistent and synchronized across all mediums. This means marketers should carefully map out the buyer journey and engage customers on the right channels through a personalized approach of direct marketing, paid search, referrals/social sharing, and more.  Taking the time to speak to each customer independently at every touch point can significantly improve the effectiveness of multichannel marketing campaigns.

Taking the time to speak to each customer independently at every touch point can significantly improve the effectiveness of multichannel marketing campaigns.

In 2018, personalization in retail will continue to be a competitive advantage for leading brands. It is becoming so important to consumers that almost half (41%) ditched a company due to “poor personalization and lack of trust,” as found in a recent Accenture survey. The direct financial hit from those missed opportunities? A massive $756 billion in lost retail and brand sales this past year in the U.S. alone.

While the insertion of personalization within retail marketing campaigns may require more effort on the front end, it will create a stronger and more cohesive shopping experience for customers in the long run. Challenges with onboarding and complexities of data and technology needs still exist, but online retailers must jump on board and perfect their personalization strategies or lose out to competitors. If done right, those marketers will effectively engage customers throughout the shopping journey, build stronger brand loyalty, and ultimately capitalize on greater ROI.

Ready to learn more? Contact us to join today’s leading brands capitalizing on the hyper-personalization movement.

This post was originally published February 6, 2018.