Recognizing the Customer Is Key to Retail Personalization
Retailers today -- like myriad ones before them -- face the challenge of personalization. Customers want products that satisfy their needs, but they also want some element of serendipity. Creating a shopping experience that caters to the customer is the challenge of every retailer, regardless of whether it’s a brick ad mortar, or an online specialty shop. It’s been the marching orders of every store since bartering for goods: Provide what the buyer wants in both goods and services, and you’ll earn a loyal customer.
Earning those types of customers requires deep and insightful knowledge in order to successfully use personalization as a tool. Online retailers do not have the benefit of engaging customers in casual conversation, making eye contact or reading body language. But they do have reams of data from information keyed in by every customer. The challenge is in designing a Web site that will provide the desired information, and then analyzing that data for accurate results. The websites that generate the most sales are customer-centric and address shoppers’ needs.
Shrewd retailers will use that information and create shopper “personas,” or archetypes of customers, that can be used to personalize the type, amount and even design of site content. But a common trap is that the information gleaned is influenced by the researcher’s own experiences. Andrew McAfee, principal research scientist at the Center for Digital Business at MIT Sloan, wrote in a post that was published on Harvard Business Review that people are not inherently better at making decisions, predictions, judgments, and diagnoses, although people seem to be proficient at telling stories that weave together multiple causes and multiple contexts. “The stories we tell ourselves are very often wrong,” wrote McAfee, “and we have a host of biases and other glitches in our mental wiring that keep us from sizing up a situation correctly.”
[caption id="attachment_662696" align="alignright" width="150"] Trends within customer service sometimes come and go, but one aspect that seems to satisfy consumers significantly is personalized elements during their shopping experiences.[/caption]
Creating those personas is a solid first step, and resources exist to help retailers, such as Oracle’s blog Identifying Buyer Profiles: 5 Ways To Segment Your Marketing Audience. Physical stores with an online presence working to bolster their omnichannel efforts can benefit from understanding their target audiences — and it’s likely that online shoppers may be similar, but different from, those frequenting the mall, for instance. Personalization efforts therefore need to acknowledge and be tailored to each shopping channel.
Last week, RetailPro announced a strategic partnership with 24Seven Commerce, a Silicon-Valley based global provider of integrated e-commerce software and market place solutions for independent retailers. With 24Seven, Retail Pro customers have access to turn-key integrated e-commerce applications that extend and enhance the capabilities of their physical stores. But for online customers, the 24Seven Cart also includes an adaptable responsive design and easy to navigate interface for the quickly growing smartphone shopper segment. Personalizing those types of solutions for customers can go a long way toward positioning a retailer as one that is attending to the way customers want to shop.
It’s critical for retailers to recognize the nuances of who their buyers are: What they don’t want and need is just as important as what they do. Further, understanding their “pain points” and working to relieve them will turn a retailer’s site from one that is reflective of products, to one that is a resource that shoppers see as “just for them.”
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