Personalisation in Retail


A modern take on personalisation for today’s retail landscape .

The term ‘personalisation’ has been a buzzword in the marketing world for some time. In fact, according to Widen’s 2018 connectivity research, personalisation was the most important marketing, technology, and business trend that organisations and brands were focused on, even back then! 

Fast forward to today – a year on from the first national lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic – and we want to know, is delivering a customer experience tailored to an individual still really the most critical priority?

The retail landscape

In February 2021, once again in the UK, e-commerce took a record proportion of retail sales, according to official figures from the Office of National Statistics. With nonessential shops closed for lockdown, it’s reported that 48% of these online sales were made by retailers that don’t have bricks-and-mortar shops.

With this competitive retail landscape in mind, and with the knowledge that we’re (hopefully) all approaching the end of lockdown, and non-essential shops will be able to keep  their doors open indefinitely, what is the role of personalisation today? 

Personalisation is still crucial. For many brands it has been a deal-breaker; at critical moments personalisation is used to effectively grab buyers’ attention and give them that extra push they need to take action. 

But, before brands spend time or money to segment audience data and custom tailor communications, recommendations, or advertisements, they must ensure they are meeting a fundamental consumer demand: brands must be helpful.

How to be helpful

If a brand establishes itself as a partner to its customers, showing that it is there to support them regardless of what’s happening around them, this will have a positive impact on the ultimate sales conversions. In this way, we have seen many retailers and brands diversify their offerings and marketing strategies to reach today’s consumer. Take this past year. Brands have launched branded face masks, and used channels like social media to reach their device-hungry target audience. 

One vital way a brand can fulfil the role of a ‘helpful partner’, is by ensuring shoppers have accurate product information so they can make informed and confident purchasing decisions. For example, if you’re looking to purchase a desk to ease your working-from-home experience, you will need to know the exact product specifications (height, width, length, drawer depth, surface area, etc). You may also want to know, depending on the material, how the desk is put together, and what you need to do to keep it clean and in good working order. It would also be helpful, if in addition to the product information, the supplier recommended other items of furniture or products to complement the desk, such as a chair or a desk lamp.

Product information impacts personalisation in more ways than you might think

Product information is a critical factor in strong search engine optimisation (SEO), both on search engines like Google and across marketplace websites like Amazon. Strong SEO results also have the added benefit of connecting brands with new customers. Outbound personalisation efforts typically rely on data about an existing pool of contacts and therefore don’t afford brands with the same opportunity for lead generation as an SEO-driven strategy.  

But the best part is the by-product of product information and SEO is personalisation. When a shopper types their specific query into an online search box, they are instantly connected with the personalised results that best align with their request. And this in turn gives retailers or organisations a plethora of search terms which, like other forms of customer data or information, can be used along with product information to serve up the right customer experiences.

Modern retail

At the start, we asked a question: is delivering a customer experience tailored to an individual really the most critical priority? The truth is, ultimately a brand doesn’t need to have a personalisation strategy in terms of recommendations to succeed, and some don’t even offer an e-commerce option. Fast fashion retailer Primark, for example, has said it has no plans to sell clothes online – despite lockdown store closures costing it more than £1 billion in lost sales.

However, by using marketing technology solutions like digital asset management (DAM) and product information management (PIM) software, marketers can use product data, marketing content, and rich media to serve up the meaningful experiences customers crave. Meaning their interactions are then not only likely to be relevant, but also helpful! Which in our opinion, is the order of the day in today’s retail landscape.

By Nate Holmes, Product Marketing Manager, Widen.