Your customers demand it, your marketing team wants to do it — so how do you actually make it happen?
The fact of the matter is: Retail has a personalization problem.
We often hear about consumers’ desire for more personalized experiences and marketers’ efforts to deliver, but just as often we hear about how those efforts fall short.
Consider the following headlines that have surfaced this past year: “Personalization Helps Retailers; Too Bad They’re Terrible At It” (Bloomberg) and “Study: Retailers Failing to Meet Consumer Expectations” (WWD) are just two of many in this vein.
While there are numerous factors that impact this disconnect, it’s not that retailers aren’t trying. It’s that personalization is hard.
But it doesn’t have to be.
One of the most common challenges we see to getting personalized marketing right is the lack of a clear definition of what personalization entails. And that’s a problem, because without a clear definition, you can’t develop a strategy or get the buy-in you need to move forward.
So what does effective personalized marketing look like?
Working with the definition that personalization in retail is about matching customers to the products that excite them, there are three key angles to delivering a personalized experience:
Essentially, you need to deliver targeted product recommendations to a specific customer at the optimal time. Now that’s a lot to get right, especially at scale — hence why personalization can be so challenging. So how do you do it?
While there’s no one way to get personalized marketing right, we recommend the following tips to master the three angles of personalized marketing at scale:
1. Get Detailed About Your Products to Deliver Targeted Recommendations
First comes a part of the personalization equation that it’s easy to overlook: Product data.
However, tracking product data can make or break your personalization efforts. That’s because a deep understanding of product data can help you create truly relevant experiences for customers by making Netflix-like recommendations. For example, when you tie very detailed attributes to each of your products, you can go beyond “Shopper A likes sweaters” and instead think in terms of “Shopper A likes blue, v-neck, cashmere products” — and that level of detail changes the game.
Tracking product data can also help you identify new opportunities to engage customers, for instance by notifying customers when products in which they’re interested drop in price, are running low in inventory or come back in stock.
2. Define a Specific Audience By Marrying Behavior, Customer and Product Data
Second, you need to tie your product data to website behavior and customer data.
A deep understanding of your products will only get you so far — you also have to tie that knowledge to information about your customers in order to deliver the optimal product recommendations to each shopper.
Specifically, this includes tracking customers’ behaviors onsite and their engagement with your marketing communications, such as email. To take this one step further, you can even evaluate customer data based on predictive measures, like a shopper’s predicted affinity for certain product categories. Together, this data will help you determine the best audience with whom to share various product recommendations.
3. React in Real Time with Dynamic Content
Lastly, you need to weave in timing to allow for true real-time personalization.
After all, there’s nothing worse than sending a message only for it to be outdated when customers view it. Along the same lines, you don’t want to miss an opportunity to engage with shoppers at the optimal time in their buying journey.
By bringing real-time personalization into your emails through dynamic content, you can ensure that every email you send will be just as relevant tomorrow as it is today. Furthermore, by combining native open-time data with live business-context data, you can ensure that all of the information in your emails is always up to date and that you reach customers in their time of need.
Once you master the three angles of personalized marketing, you’re ready to put your efforts into action. What exactly does that look like?
Picture this: Your brand is running a sale on jeans this week. You want to get the word out and decide to promote the sale specifically to customers who have an interest in jeans (based on past browse and purchase behavior) and have a predicted affinity for discounts.
You start emailing customers on Monday morning at the start of the sale and include a countdown timer in the email to create a heightened sense of urgency. This timer also ensures that no matter when people open the email, it will always remain relevant — even if they open it on Friday when there are hours left in the sale that was promoted as a week-long event.
And even when the clock runs out, if you’ve included “live images” the content can automatically change so that instead of the sale/promotion image, viewers see a message that reads “Sorry this offer expired, but visit the website to check out today’s amazing deals instead.”
Switching gears, let’s say you’re using some user generated content (UGC) to nurture customers who have shown an interest in certain products but are not quite ready to buy yet. What better way to do so and keep things fresh than to pull in a live social feed to your emails so that recipients can always see the latest chatter about your brand and the products they’re most interested in?
Personalization has proven difficult for retailers in the past, but if you can piece together product recommendations and targeted audiences with real-time information, you’ll be well on your way to delivering truly personalized experiences at scale.
To learn more about how retailers are already putting this advice into action, click here for the inside scoop on how Liveclicker helped Torrid to the highest revenue hour in company history. For Liveclicker’s take on triggered personalization, check out our guest blog, Email at the Speed of Time: Triggers, Open-Time Data, and Beyond.
Evan Britten-Bozzone is Director of Strategy & Partnerships at Bluecore with a successful history creating and growing leading SaaS Marketing Technology products. Prior to Bluecore, Evan founded a consumer services company, worked as a private equity analyst at The Blackstone Group and worked as an investment banking analyst at Lazard.