With personalised technology such as Amazon Go making waves across the Atlantic, Britain is being primed for the arrival of a new ‘checkout-free’ shopping experience.
This will eventually enable consumers to pick up the items they want and simply walk out of the store, no need to queue or pay at the checkout.
With a population that is becoming increasingly time-poor, UK shoppers are demanding more for less, stellar customer service and faster delivery speeds.
The media has led us to believe that e-commerce is sounding the death knell for the UK high street and it would seem that retailers face an uphill struggle to simply survive, thrive and ensure continued customer loyalty whether in store or online.
However, research confirms that 90% of sales are still carried out in bricks and mortar stores, so whilst customers are excited by speedy transactions and online discounts, they do still value the consultation of in-store advisors.
>See also: Using AI to transform e-commerce
The challenge now faced by brands is to ensure that their physical stores can embrace the digital revolution and continue to offer bespoke personalised services, thereby ensuring repeat customers, by making the retail experience seamless, efficient and more enjoyable.
The personalisation conundrum
A recent study by Mindtree revealed that 75% of shoppers believe personalised promotions would encourage them to invest in relevant products that they have never purchased before.
Further findings revealed that 19% of respondents expect a more personalised customer experience online versus in-store shopping. This shows that at least shoppers and companies both agree that personalisation works.
But if customers aren’t asking for personalisation, and if companies aren’t investing in it, how can we expect the retail sector to stay ahead of the game and retain customers in this modern business world?
Companies look set to reap the benefits from investing in personalisation, an asset that is not only fruitful for the consumer, but also for the brand itself.
58% of organisations agree saying that they have improved their online sales over the past 12 months with targeted ad services.
Personalisation makes perfect sense for both the customer when it comes to a seamless in store experience, and the retailer in terms of driving growth and improving sales.
The solution seems to be obvious, so why are we not experiencing more of this new phenomenon?
The power of smart analytics
The key to more widespread diffusion of this technology is for retailers to understand how it works in practice. How do the nuts and bolts drive the mechanics of personalisation behind the scenes?
As with most things in today’s technology driven world, data is the Holy Grail, and it is something that retailers have in abundance. Data from multiple sources is fed into smart algorithms which gives retailers the tools to target the right customers, tailoring the content so it is appropriate for the relevant device.
This consequently creates a seamless commercial experience and inspires in the customer a feeling of importance that will convert them in to a repeat buyer.
This is made possible by a plethora of marketing, analytics and personalisation solutions available on the market today.
Several fashion brands are already excelling at this, including Very.co.uk and Zalando where algorithms are used to predict the products that will appeal to individual shoppers.
However, organisations under time pressure can be forced to use a mesh of disparate systems that are cost heavy and cause friction when it comes to driving a personalised customer experience across various channels.
A standard and robust digital infrastructure is required to fully optimise and streamline the personalisation process that will ensure customer satisfaction.
This will also facilitate the adoption of analytical models which are capable of sorting customers according to their delivery flexibility and shopping lists, simply by using the power of behaviour analytics.
It’s all in the delivery
There remains a school of thought that questions whether personalisation actually solves a problem or is it just a gimmick?
Retailers also have to urge on the side of caution when walking the fine line between making customers feel special and encroaching on their privacy.
Brands such as Marks & Spencer and Boots have taken the more subtle approach to personalisation via their loyalty schemes, enabling their customers to select and tailor the offers that they receive on their cards, simultaneously garnering valuable data about the individual.
>See also: Retail: the next big industry impacted by AI
To build on this, using the wealth of data at their fingertips, businesses can create unique customer personas and apply analytical models to segment individuals.
This will then establish an activation layer that engages customers with the appropriate information and offers that are relevant to them.
In order to mitigate privacy concerns, a ‘code of honour’ should be put in place to encourage customers to feel safe providing their data to receive personalised offers and services.
The current market is tough for high street retailers, NEXT is the latest to report falling sales and warned 2017 would be “challenging”.
Brands that nurture a superlative personalised shopping experience, both in-store and online, will harness the ultimate staying power.
The future of UK retail is bright, but only if retailers fully embrace the potential of smart, personalised technology.
Sourced by Anil Gandharve, associate vice president, Mindtree