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In-store personalisation: creepy or cool?

This is a contributed piece by Diane Kegley, Chief Marketing Officer, RichRelevance

Our love of technology has opened up new opportunities for retailers. The battle is on for brand owners to capture our attention – whether it’s online, on mobile, or on digital displays in store. The question is: how do we create a more interactive, enticing experience for consumers, without crossing the line of being too “creepy”.

Personalisation is a big trend this year. According to a recent Forrester report, seven in ten shoppers use a mobile device while in store, making it easier than ever before for retailers to deliver customised promotions to shoppers. But how do you find the balance between “creepy” and “cool”? How do you engage with customers without turning them off?

We’ve recently conducted a survey of 1,000 UK consumers to find out how shoppers respond to personalisation in store. What we found was a stark contrast in attitudes, depending on their age and where they live.

On a scale of creepy to cool we found that more than half (63%) of consumers welcome retailers’ help in store, whether it’s being alerted to and discovering relevant products, finding vouchers or navigating the store. However, shoppers would draw the line at technology that has the ability to identify, target and track them using demographics or facial recognition.

Personalisation in the changing room is definitely out of bounds with nearly half (45%) of shoppers finding this level of intrusion creepy. It’s the one area where personalised product information and dynamic recommendations were well and truly in the creepy zone.

The power of me

Customers are most impressed by features that deliver value (convenience and shorter waiting time) and remain customer-centric. Shoppers don’t want to be bombarded with offers that are irrelevant. They certainly don’t want to see deals that they feel retailers are only implementing to capitalise on their spending.

Retailers who give customers complete control score high on the cool scale. In our survey, seven in ten (72%) Brits find mobile product scanning with recommendations cool, and two-thirds (63%) of shoppers welcome the assistance of interactive maps on their smartphones to help navigate around the store.

By developing smart mobile features focused on making the shopping experience more enjoyable – and demonstrating a genuine interest in customers’ needs – retailers are able to create a recipe for success and everyone is happy.

Regional bias

Interestingly, statistics from our survey shows that there are strong regional differences in attitudes towards in-store personalisation. The study finds that consumers in Yorkshire and The Humber region are the most creeped out by personalisation, whilst Londoners are nearly even-keeled when it comes to using in-store technologies. 

The study also finds an age disparity when it comes to protecting personal space. While half of under-30s find personalised product recommendations in the dressing room a cool concept, only a quarter of over 45s would welcome this capability.

Clearly, consumers are becoming accustomed to trying new technology in store. And this is why brick and mortar shops will remain the most valuable asset for retailers; they have a unique edge over online shopping when it comes to customer experience.

To create a secure environment that is not too creepy for consumers, retailers must focus on technologies that deliver the right products and content at the right time. They also need to ensure that the communication channel is convenient, valuable, and transparent, in order to engage effectively with the customer.

Timing is the key to success

Give shoppers digital personalisation, but only when they’re ready to engage. They may not be receptive to being greeted by their first name the moment they walk into a shop or when they use the changing room, but our survey suggests they appreciate relevant information and promotions delivered directly to them when making a purchase decision.

Ultimately, the key to perfecting personalisation strategies is to respect the shopper. It is one thing tailoring the customer experience from behind a computer screen but when this moves into real life the correct approach must be adopted so the customers aren’t scared away.

Without transparency, accountability and value, it is irrelevant whether a technology is creepy or cool. Win your customers over by placing their needs at the forefront, then meet and exceed them, regardless of the shopping channel or stage of the shopping journey.

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