Personalization Doesn’t Mean What Retailers Think it Means Anymore
Picture this: It’s Cyber Monday and each member of the Smith family has decided to buy a new pair of sneakers to wear on the family’s upcoming vacation. Mom knows the exact brand, style and color she wants, and she needs her shoes delivered in two days or less. She pulls out her tablet and checks Amazon.com, then searches two other online marketplaces before finding a site that checks all her boxes. At the same time, dad types “men’s running sneakers” into Google on his desktop. He quickly scans the list of ads at the top of the search returns, looking for the lowest-priced pair from a popular brand before purchasing. Meanwhile, their son scrolls through TikTok on his phone, sees an influencer he follows wearing a cool pair of kicks and immediately clicks to buy from the link in the bio.
The Smiths are all shopping for the same product, but their customer journeys are markedly different — and that’s today’s retail reality. Very few consumers head straight to a brand’s website to find what they’re looking for anymore. Therefore, it’s no longer enough for a brand to curate a personalized customer experience that’s primarily focused on its e-commerce site. Delivering “personalization at scale” has been a big strategic priority for retail companies in recent years, but it’s now imperative that brands also incorporate a multichannel strategy that delivers a curated experience across every channel their customers are shopping.
Brands Have to Be Everywhere Their Customers Are Today
Meeting customers where they are is proving a major challenge for most brands. Their customers may be shopping in a physical store or on a desktop, tablet or mobile phone — an increasingly popular channel that was used by 45.7 million consumers on Cyber Monday, according to the National Retail Federation, up from 39.8 million last year. A brand’s customers may be on a social media platform like Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, or Pinterest — each of which caters to a different audience profile — or on an online marketplace like Amazon, Walmart.com, or eBay. Some online shoppers might prefer to visit a brand’s site, while others might head to a department store’s site instead. And let’s not forget about gaming platforms, virtual and physical pop-up shops, TV shopping channels, and livestream shopping.
The point is that brands need to be able to sell everywhere all the time. However, winning the buy button on each different channel means optimizing all the elements of the product positioning for each channel’s algorithms, models, interfaces and target users. Gathering and managing all the data needed to optimally configure price, assortment, inventory positioning, delivery speed, discounts, promotions, return policy and more — by channel — can be overwhelming.
Optimizing Each Element of the Customer Experience — for Each Channel — is Key
That’s why many retailers and brands are now implementing software solutions that help them create and manage a multichannel strategy. These solutions enable brands to thrive by helping them optimally configure each aspect of their brand experience and product positioning for each channel.
Take a sneaker brand that’s vying for the Smith family’s attention. The brand has worked hard to provide a personalized customer experience on its e-commerce site and mistakenly thinks that will be enough to attract each of the Smiths when it’s time for them to shop for new shoes. The brand also thinks that each Smith will be so delighted by the curated shopping journey the brand provides on its site that he/she will instantly become a lifetime customer.
In reality, it doesn’t matter how personal the journey is because the Smiths are all out shopping across other ends of the internet and this sneaker brand hasn’t bothered to position its products well on the multiple other channels the Smith family is shopping.
Multichannel management software would empower the sneaker brand with the data intelligence it needs to win in any given channel. For example, the brand would know that on a particular marketplace, it could outplay competitors by offering the fast shipping that Mrs. Smith is looking for, while on another platform it would need to price its sneakers slightly lower than competitors in order to win the sale with Mr. Smith.
A multichannel management solution would also enable the sneaker brand to optimize its inventory by channel, customizing which SKUs, sizes, styles and colors a consumer sees depending on how and where the person is shopping. The software would help ensure that styles that are popular with Gen Z, for example, would be featured heavily on TikTok, while those more popular with Gen X would pop up on Facebook. An effective multichannel strategy would also ensure the brand could provide its large and growing base of mobile-first customers with an excellent experience that includes mobile-optimized images, video and promotions.
Ensuring the customer journey is highly personalized in just one or two channels isn’t enough anymore as consumers are shopping across multiple devices, platforms and channels. To compete, brands need to execute an effective multichannel strategy that enables them to gather and syndicate data across all their selling channels to optimally position their brand and product on each one. With the help of a multichannel management solution, brands can meet their customers wherever they are and provide a delightful, personalized shopping experience that boosts conversion and builds loyalty.
Gary Specter is the president, go-to-market of Cart.com, a provider of comprehensive e-commerce solutions that enable brands of any size to sell and fulfill everywhere.
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