Building connections with customers by tailoring their experience is not new. It’s always been at the heart of physical retail experiences and a top ambition for digital as the industry shifted online. CMO’s cite it a top priority – to engage customers, engender brand loyalty and drive commercial outcomes. Customers want it, need it and increasingly expect it. To reduce information overload and decision paralysis of too many seemingly similar options and guide them through a purchase. Yet in our recent research, the gap between the business intent, customer needs and actual customer experience is stark.
Our recent research into shopping behaviours and attitudes identified only 50% of consumers were confident purchasing online items previously purchased in store. Unsurprising, given the accelerated and, in some markets, forced shift to purchasing online. However, a return to stores and increased interaction with sales staff did not come out strongly as the solution. Instead, customers are demanding a more personalised online experience to mirror that delivered in-store, tailored to their unique needs. With almost every purchase now influenced by websites, optimising the online experience for different shopper mindsets and needs is crucial.
The tension that exists between the customer desire for extensive product options and the ability to navigate and select is well documented. With the continued growth of online retailers and the seemingly endless options to choose from, extensive choice is well and truly catered for. Curation of the product offer or ways to refine the endless aisle to meet a customer’s unique, individual needs lags behind. This creates a paralysis of choice, an unwelcome information overload. Customers value ways to shortcut choice, particularly now in a period of more considered, conscious purchasing. 1 in 4 in our research said that tailored product recommendations would help them to have more confidence to buy. Only 38% however had noticed retailers recommending products that might like to buy and 60% had received recommendations that didn’t meet their needs.
Forge a deeper emotional bond
Demonstrating you know and understand your customers’ needs can have a deep psychological effect. It demonstrates understanding of their context, empathy with their needs and creates individual attention. It can forge a deeper emotional bond, making customers feel supported, guided and valued. And that you are the brand to help them. In the short term, inertia to purchase can be resolved but the opportunity to build your brand for the future creates a far greater opportunity.
Poorly executed personalisation on the other hand, can have the exact opposite impact of the connection it aims to create. A poor product recommendation can instantly make a customer feel a retailer isn’t listening or simply doesn’t care about their needs. Particularly when it is expected that a retailer has information about them and should know them better. It can cast a negative shadow on the retailer’s relevance both in that specific purchasing moment and far beyond.
Done well, personalisation is a win-win. It drives value for the customer first and foremost and in turn, value for the retailer. More than ever, customers want to feel listened to, understood and treated with empathy and this can be hard to achieve using data and technology alone. Harnessing the in moment mindset and specific needs of a customer can create more compelling and relevant recommendations than prior behaviour alone. Used effectively, this can not only guide the customers through a purchase decision but also connect with their needs on a deeper level.