Crossing Boundaries

The why and how of personalising the omnichannel

This is the third and final article in our series on ecommerce personalisation strategies. You can read Part One here and Part Two here

The holy grail of personalisation is the ability to identify and market directly to your customer wherever they are engaging with you. In-store, on your ecommerce site, through social media, or in your call centre: you must be able to talk to your customer with full knowledge of their history with your brand, their preferences, and their potential value. This is foundational to the smooth, quick delivery of relevant and effective content to each customer across all touchpoints. 

If you aspire to make in-store shopping as flexible an experience as online browsing, technologies such as Hero, Mercaux, and Red Ant can leverage your consumer data and empower in-store employees to make recommendations, offer loyalty discounts, and engage with customers in a more meaningful and productive way. In-store point of sale (POS) can provide the opportunity to view and collect customer data with exclusive discounts and promotions in exchange for their information. Red Ant’s Charlotte Tilbury implementation gives in-store beauty consultants detailed information on customer purchasing history with algorithm-driven propensity recommendations for next contact to improve interactions. 

Fellow beauty brand Sephora makes an excellent case study, with a personalisation strategy underpinned by their tiered loyalty program, Beauty Insider. This point-based reward program provides the identifier for a given customer in any channel and gives the business a single view of all their interactions across all channels. Sales associates can access the same profile that is used to drive personalised content for the customer online, and every single communication to the customer displays their loyalty points. Their central profile holds data on everything from the customer’s in-store and online purchases to their browsing patterns and their interactions with store staff. 

In exchange, the customer receives a range of perks depending on their level, including early access to new products, exclusive events, free beauty services, and more. All users—regardless of level—get the benefit of tailored recommendations. 

The results speak for themselves: with around 25 million signed up across all tiers, loyalty program members accounted for 80 percent of Sephora’s total transactions in 2018.

“We are driven by what our customers love and want more of,” says Allegra Stanley, Sephora vice president of loyalty. “So, it’s not about what their loyalty demonstrates to us, but what we can deliver to our clients that creates the most meaningful and connected experience with our brands.” 

73% of customers move across several marketing channels while shopping. Want to make each interaction count?

I want it—so how can I get it? With the cross-channel benefits of personalisation indisputable, what are the barriers to initiating such connections with your customers? From the practical to the emotional, there inevitably will be challenges all organisations must overcome. 

According to management consulting firm BCG, “Retailers must ensure that they have high-quality integrated customer data, advanced analytics, and automation technologies to deliver personalised experiences across the various stages of the shopping journey.” 

Can we have everything? Now? The simple answer is . . . no. Unless you have most of the essential building blocks in place, full realisation of your personalisation vision will take time. You’ll need time to establish your view of the customer, time to generate volumes of user-generated content, and time to plan, execute, and measure the effectiveness of personalised email campaigns. The good news: you can still get going immediately.  Some elements of personalisation—such as email—may be available to you already, and planning a roadmap of deliverables aligned to your technical and organisational change plan will allow you to start reaping the benefits of personalisation in short order.

We aren’t ready, are we? As part of your planning, you will carry out an assessment of your current operation and readiness to implement your personalisation vision. By overlaying your current abilities with the capabilities required to execute and run an ongoing personalisation programme, you will be able to identify any gaps. The technology you select will play a major role in determining how to plug those gaps. Some sophisticated, automated platforms may require less operational overhead or a more specialised skill set to manage and run. Equally, you may choose personalisation technologies based on a desire to minimise organisational change as much as possible.  

Choosing the right technologies. From pureplay engines (such as Dynamic Yield, Nosto, and Kameleoon) to “searchandising” specialists (including Bloomreach and Syte) and customer data platforms (such as Exponea, Synerise, and Insider) to CRM tools (like Emarsys or Sailthru), there are a vast array of technologies to consider. The proper choice is contingent on a variety of factors: among them are the maturity of your CRM approach, your legacy platform, the appetite for transformation across your business, and budgets and time constraints. By working with experienced technical leads and confirming a complete picture of the commerce landscape, you will be able to match your needs and competencies with the most suitable tools.  

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Do we have a single view of the customer? To provide a complete and successful personalised omnichannel experience, you need a seamless means of identifying your customers across all touchpoints. Points-based loyalty programmes are potentially expensive but often highly lucrative and must be considered the prime option. With an ongoing incentive to identify themselves at every touchpoint, your customers are owning their identities across channels with little to no intervention from you. 

But if the cost of a loyalty program is prohibitive in the short term, there are plenty of other ways to identify your customer. Using unique identifiers, such as email addresses, you can track much of a customer’s behaviour across channels—albeit with the necessity of soliciting additional information at POS. 

Feel the fear but do it anyway. Embarking on a personalisation strategy for the first time can be daunting. But any long-term commitment to a new capability that may take time to pay off naturally engenders some fear. Our response: you can start small. If you have done the groundwork and established the drivers behind your strategy—evaluating where the biggest benefits for your organisation lie—then you will be able to select the features that are likely to bring you the best value in the timeframe that suits you. You can choose to release features one channel at a time, to test with small groups of customers, or even to work on the operational and technical building blocks in the background while you test personalisation features using application programming interfaces (APIs) and third-party tools.  

Why Astound? 

At Astound Commerce, we live and breathe the customer experience. We design interactions that forge lifelong brand loyalty, and our team of highly experienced industry consultants and creatives will work tirelessly to ensure your commercial and customer experience goals are met. 

In addition, Astound Commerce partners with best-in-class technology providers in digital commerce, with a global partner program that optimises the value from our combined skill sets, experience, and expertise.  

With more than 20 years’ experience in ecommerce and more than 1,400 Astound professionals actively focused on digital commerce, Astound Commerce is ideally placed to partner with you on your personalisation strategy journey. 

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Sophie Wilson

Sophie Wilson is a digital consultant for Astound Commerce UK who has more than eight years of ecommerce experience across a spectrum of retail clients. She has worked with a wide range of global brands including Jimmy Choo, Cath Kidston, Arcadia, and most recently Saloni, where she headed digital commerce and was responsible for end-to-end customer experience and a new site redesign project. Both data-driven and customer-centric, she has deep hands-on experience in driving onsite optimisation and strategic growth. Core competencies include deep-dive analysis of trade and customer behaviour, strong communication in presenting solutions to senior stakeholders, and putting the customer at the core of all projects.