The future of retail – personal shoppers for all?

Andrew Saville

Sophisticated email marketing techniques are leading only one way

Everyone who works in retail knows that the landscape is always changing, driven by evolving customer behaviour and technology.

There’s plenty of comment out there on all the techniques and tactics being deployed and the sophisticated ways retail marketers are interacting with their customers (I even wrote something on the subject a few weeks back) but I can’t help but ask myself, what’s the end goal here?

By this I don’t mean ‘what are marketers working towards?’ – That’s a question that’s already been answered elsewhere (clue – it’s fully integrated cross-channel marketing). Rather, I want to know what is the consumer experience going to be like when we get there? Not from the inside looking out, but from the outside looking in. What are our customers going to see and experience?

The marketer’s role will be to ensure the customer journey is as smooth and useful as possible. We’ll do this by making it more and more personalised to each individual based on the information we know about them (whether that’s from a loyalty card, geo tagging or browsing history is, at this level, a moot point), without ever being seen as invasive.

The point of personalisation is to tailor the customer journey to suit that individual, to keep them happy and to ensure they are only offered and see things relevant to them.

Marketers’ jobs will be to look out for the interests of their customers. To make sure they get the best offers on the products they’re most interested in, when they’re interested in them.

From a shopper’s perspective? That’s right.  It’s almost like having a personal shopper. Someone who’s there to cut out the noise, pick out the things you’re interested in and make sure you get a good price.

Okay, so let’s dig a little deeper…

Personal shopping experience

Currently retailers up and down the country (and around the world) are working towards joining up the online and offline experience, with mobile technology combined with loyalty cards, in-store data capture (think e-receipts for example)and geo location tagging. That’s a trend that’s only going to increase and with more integration and flexibility will come more insights and an even greater ability to provide that truly personalised experience – whether you’re walking into a store or landing on a website.

We may see mobile apps transforming into concierges when shoppers enter a store with in-store beacons automatically sending and receiving personalised information. These apps will be linked to the store in real time and will highlight where particular products are, flag relevant deals, and indicate availability.

All this information will be communicated to the shopper in the way they prefer – perhaps via any wearable tech the individual is using. It could even be that the tech in the store engages with the individual’s app to offer a digital showroom, price comparison options and neutral reviews.

What can marketers take from this?

This is all very interesting conjecture, but what does it mean for marketers right now and their attempts to create integrated cross-channel campaigns?

For me it means we have to remember where we’re heading and why. We have to keep our customers front of mind as it’s their experience and their journey that matters most. We are our customers’ personal shoppers and we are here to ensure they get the best service and the best deals. To do that we need to have a good understanding of the types of people they are and how they like to be treated.

It’s that knowledge and understanding that will form the foundation of all the great marketing in the years ahead. Most of all we have to put our customers first as we continue to tackle today’s real technological challenges. I think most people would agree we’re not quite there yet.

Experian Marketing Services is the leading global provider of consumer insights, data quality and cross-channel marketing. We help organisations intelligently interact with today’s empowered and hyper-connected consumers.

By helping marketers identify best customers, find more, and then coordinate seamless and intelligent interactions across the most appropriate channels, Experian Marketing Services can deepen customer loyalty, strengthen brand advocacy and maximise profits.