At no time in history was retail forced to evolve more rapidly than in the crucible of 2020. Those brands reliant on face-to-face personalisation suddenly found themselves without foot traffic to drive sales.
And those brands just getting a handle on personalisation in a digital environment found themselves having to scale almost overnight to compete with huge direct to consumer (DTC) outlets for little business.
Add to this the cessation of one of marketers’ most valuable personalisation tools, the cookie, and you can see why many are looking to 2021 with no small amount of trepidation.
In this hypercompetitive and dynamic retail environment, personalisation has never been more important, and while the methods of achieving it have had to change, this evolution will lead to better personalisation and a happier customer in the long run.
Why? Personalisation leads to consumer-centric experiences, loyal customers, and the ability to charge a premium for products and services. According to statistics, around 40 per cent of consumers say they’ve purchased something more expensive because their customer experience was personalised. Infosys also reports 86 per cent of consumers said personalisation has an impact on what they purchase.
Personal, social and real-time experiences
Experience is the product now, more so than the product itself. Key to personalisation and experience is offering products on the right channel at the right time.
Social commerce is a good way to personalise offerings, and is becoming increasingly popular, particularly with the younger generation of shoppers. Social shopping involves allowing the consumer to shop on social channels such as Instagram, TikTok and Facebook. Consumers can simply click and purchase while scrolling through their feeds.
Social commerce enhances the omnichannel experience, provides the kind of instant gratification the consumer now desires, and reduces clicks and barriers to purchase for brands, as consumers no longer have to leave social media to purchase.
Augmented reality is here to stay
Online and offline personalisation is benefiting from easily implemented AR. Online, AR can be used to try on outfits or place a piece of furniture in a home without leaving home. Cosmetics can be applied virtually in store, or from home, and AR-powered mirrors can show a customer what an outfit might look like in store, based on previous purchase preferences, and without them having to undress.
As an example, Magnolia Market is a destination shopping location in the US, and a great example of AR use. In 2015 Magnolia Market opened at the Silos in Waco, which has become as much a tourist destination as point of transaction.
The company partnered with Shopify’s AR team to create an app to revolutionise the Magnolia Market shopping experience. Select products would be rendered using the highest-possible 3D photo-realism through Apple’s ARKit. Users of the app could visit a product page, then hold up their phone to watch the item appear in the customers’ own homes.
They knew well that not everyone could visit Waco, nor could they handle Magnolia Market’s goods in their hands before buying. But augmented reality helped bridge that gap, to simulate the personal experience of the Silos as if shoppers were really there. Purchases, whether online or not flowed from the experience.
Appease the ‘instant’ consumer
Consumers are clear – when they want something, they want something now. Not in a week or two, but same day, if not faster. This expectation has been driven – like many things – by Amazon. This ‘Amazon Effect’ places considerable pressure on retailers to offer delivery beyond the traditional postal channels, which are arguably too slow for the new instant consumer.
To this end, many retailers now offer click and collect delivery from ordering online to pick up at a physical store that same day. Many retailers are also using their physical stores as micro-fulfillment centres, with products being collected and delivered from these decentralised stores, with the added boon of making physical stores serve a purpose in the age of decreased foot traffic.
This offers loyal customers the opportunity for a delivery option which suits them, and also facilitates the increased desire for subscription retail options.
The exclusive experience
Bricks and mortar will continue to be a significant part of the consumer journey. However, these types of physical stores, once re-opened, will absolutely be expected to offer just as personal an experience as digital channels.
How? Clever retailers are already leading the way. For example, online purchasing behaviour can now be funneled to in-store sales people in real time as soon as a customer walks in, thanks to facial recognition and AR.
However, stores don’t need to be that tech-heavy about it. In the age of COVID, many consumers are loving the opportunity to be offered private appointments in store and being offered curated outfits based on past purchases, this is something Australian fashion brand Aje is doing very well. Renowned for its stunning physical stores across Australia and two in New Zealand, Aje wanted its retail presence better reflected on its website, locally and internationally. It turned to Shopify Plus to bring its in-store experience online, and offer the same luxurious feel enjoyed by customers offline across its digital channels. This offers loyal customers an opportunity to shop in safety, and a feeling of exclusivity, making them more inclined to spend a premium.
Personalisation at scale
The next 12 months will open both challenges and opportunities for retailers wanting to engage and connect with customers across today’s complex offline and online ecosystem. For retailers serious about getting ahead of the curve, partnering with the right innovative solutions has never been more important to help drive personalised experiences seamlessly and at scale.
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