Retail - walk the line

Personalisation – Walking the Line

“I walk the line” sang Johnny Cash, laying out his pledge of devotion to his new bride. He was singing about the fine line you need to tread sometimes, something that shouldn’t be lost on retailers as they push ever deeper into personalisation. I’ve since found out that was just the point made by Experian in some research in 2015.

This all came to mind after I recently bought everything you need for a new bathroom – a bath, a shower, shower screen, basin, you get the picture. After a fair bit of research, I created my list and went to three different online retailers to buy what I needed. Now, during the research phase I had noticed that everywhere I visited online was showing me banners for the retailer I’d just visited – with the specific shower (or whatever it was) I’d been looking at. It’s now been two months since I bought everything I needed and I’m still being followed by adverts for the items I bought – from the retailer I bought it from!

Gartner have reported they expect customer experience will be the key ground for competition in 2017, and they’re not alone. Customer expectations have increased dramatically this millennium, customers have become more discerning and are prepared to switch. So creating the right experience is incredibly important and the ultimate experience is one that plays to the individual. A “one size fits all” strategy no longer works, it’s time to personalise.

79.3% of retail marketers in the Experian study said they thought personalising interactions was important, 51.7% very important and no one said it wasn’t important. But what about the consumers themselves? Well the study was pretty conclusive: if it is relevant and offers value, then they’re in. But over 67% found it intrusive when brands they hadn’t talked to used their information for personalisation. Even worse – get anything wrong by using incorrect details and 61% are put off completely.

So there are two questions retailers should be asking themselves: Could I? Should I? Much of the debate is focused on what they could do and what technology can make possible, but I think they need to balance that with what should be done to keep their customers on side.

They need to walk the Line.