Personalisation has got a lot of bad press over the last year. Adidas was forced to pull a social media campaign that allowed Twitter users to create a customised Arsenal shirt, after trolls used the tool to create digital shirts with misinformation and offensive messages.
Walkers fell victim too with its #WalkersWave campaign, in which the brand asked people to upload a selfie to potentially win tickets to the Champions League final. However, instead of uploading selfies, some users instead shared pictures of notorious criminals. Walkers quickly pulled the campaign and apologised.
But these infamous incidents shouldn’t be viewed by brands and retailers as evidence against personalisation. Personalisation is more than a PR buzz builder; it is a powerful tool for brands – and particularly retailers – to build strong relationships with customers.
These examples illustrate how we need to fundamentally shift our mindsets around what consumers actually want when it comes to the experiences that they’re given by retailers, and what ‘personalisation’ as a word means in practice.
For retailers, personalisation means genuinely understanding the customer and making sure every communication is relevant and as non-interruptive as possible. But most importantly it needs to achieve one critical goal: saving the customer time.
Personalisation is the art of connecting consumers to what they want without overwhelming them with unnecessary information or creeping them out. Ometria’s annual ‘consumer consensus’ report found that 74% of respondents expressed annoyance at being emailed too often by retailers – with 70% admitting to feeling overwhelmed every time they open their email inbox.
These figures don’t tell us that consumers don’t want to be contacted – they tell us that we are often contacting them in the wrong way. Over four in five (82%) of all respondents said they want to receive personalised offers and rewards for being a loyal customer, but over half (53%) say that retailers do not understand their personal tastes and interests.
In fact, two thirds (66%) claim to be actively annoyed when retailers promote products to them that they are not interested in, reflecting the importance of product recommendations that are tailored to the things they like.
This is all inextricably linked to the ongoing digital transformation of society – and the ever-increasing avalanche of messages consumers are bombarded with. More messages, more channels, more notifications. Ofcom has found that UK consumers now spend an average of 24 hours a week online – that’s an entire day of their lives receiving notifications. Easy to see why consumers can feel overwhelmed.
For retailers, having a clear appreciation of this inbox fatigue is crucial. Each time you send an irrelevant message to a customer, they build an association of a “bad” or “irrelevant” experience with your brand. People are precious about what they pay attention to – so every piece of communication needs to highlight the value you offer.
Artificial intelligence (AI) naturally presents itself as an attractive solution for retailers looking to achieve personalisation at scale. AI systems are capable of transforming cross-channel customer data into personalised products and communications. At CES, L’Oreal unveiled its latest smart product – Perso – which is described as “an AI-powered at-home system that represents the ultimate in beauty personalisation”.
Perso is able to deliver on-the-spot skincare and cosmetic formulas based on the users unique skin and personal needs – and over time it grows its understanding of the users personal preferences the more data it gathers.
Personalisation has got a lot of bad press over the last year – but not nearly as much bad press as the retailers who have failed to embrace it. Retailers are faced with a choice: continue contributing to the mass of generic, undifferentiated marketing messages that overwhelm consumers every day, or focus on creating personalised content which delivers the experience consumers want and helps save them time.
Djalal Lougouev, CPO and co-founder of AI-based marketing platform, Ometria