Consumers today have more power than ever before. Every minute of every day they engage with numerous brands across multiple channels, demanding highly relevant experiences along their journey. Sounds like marketers need some powerful new capabilities to make this possible. Maybe, but consumers are becoming more and more willing to guide retailers along the path to personalization.
How, you ask?
More consumers say they’re willing to provide personal details with trusted businesses in exchange for more relevant experiences. But are retailers ready? As we near the fourth quarter and some of the busiest shopping days of the year, one area retailers cannot afford to overlook is their ability to understand the wants and needs of customers.
According to a study from IBM and Econsultancy, there’s a significant gap between what consumers expect and what retailers can deliver. In fact, four out of every five consumers said that brands do not recognize them as individuals, nor do they take the time needed to tailor their communications to each person. At a time when brand loyalty is tenuous, a lack of personalized engagements can drive customers to the competition. According to the IBM study, nearly half of consumers said they changed service providers in the last 12 months with experience-related factors playing a prominent role.
So what can retail marketers do to mend this customer experience gap? Here are three points to consider:
1. Appeal to their hearts ... by making customer experience your top priority. We’re seeing a shift where consumers value their experience with a retailer or brand even more than the price of an item itself. According to Gartner, brands that offer personalization will outsell those that don’t by more than 15 percent by 2018. As a result, providing an exceptional customer experience has become imperative for retailers to remain competitive. To do this, brands must intentionally “design” the experience that they want their customers to have. They also need to make sure they have the right technology in place to gather customer insight and execute engagement that connects with customers on a highly personal level.
2. Use your head. It’s time for retailers to leverage their marketing brains, otherwise known as analytics. From predictive to cognitive to behavioral, analytics enable teams to take a dive deep into the customer pool and answer critical questions such as the following:
- How is your customer feeling today?
- How do they feel about the latest product you launched and the service you delivered on their last purchase?
- What are they saying about your brand in their social circles?
If collected and analyzed, the answers to these questions give marketers a key to unlock the personalization door.
3. Trust is the key to greater insight. The IBM/Econsultancy study found that 61 percent of consumers would be willing to share highly sensitive personal information with a brand they trust. For retailers, earning your customers’ trust is like hitting the jackpot. By delivering highly personalized experiences, you're not just connecting customers with the products they want, you're building invaluable relationships in ways that only a few years ago would have been unimaginable. And with that comes more trust, which you can use to further fine-tune campaigns and ultimately deliver a more positive – and lucrative – experience.
With the upcoming holiday shopping season expected to be bigger than ever before – according to the IBM Holiday Readiness Report, growth in e-commerce sales on U.S. retail websites has exceeded 10 percent each quarter over the past year – it’s clear retailers need to leverage all of the tools at their disposal in order to provide engaging experiences across all channels. Through analytics, retailers are able to better understand their customers and design a relevant experience for each and every customer. That's what customers demand, and the time to deliver is now.
Jay Henderson is the Director of IBM Marketing Cloud.