A personalised online shopping experience powered by simple data collection is rapidly becoming a must-have for retailers.

In the past year alone, there was a spike in customer expectations for personalisation across all shopping channels and it became critical for retailers to innovate in terms of customer experience in order to keep those shoppers engaged.

Recommended products and wish lists have become commonplace online, but can this model of personalisation transfer to bricks-and-mortar?

Clearly, the application of personalisation to the physical world has the potential to be powerful. In fact, a report by Econsultancy and Monetate last year found that 94% of companies agreed that personalisation is “critical to current and future success.”

Retailers already have huge databases of customer data that are used to offer shoppers digital deals and services, but the application of this approach offline has been complex.

Particularly problematic has been the ability to match an offline shopper to a digital profile.

That said, the combination of online data with the experiential richness offered in-store could lead to highly engaging marketing and shopping experiences. So, how can this be achieved?

Beacons

The use of beacons to identify shoppers would be the starting point for in-store personalisation. With customer opt-in it would be possible to link a customer’s mobile ID to their online data profile, creating the vital bridge between the physical and digital worlds.

For instance, if a customer had been browsing online before their visit to a high street store, beacon technology could be used to send them personalised information or offers for similar products to be used during their time in-store.

In-store television

In-store TV has already attempted a degree of personalisation, for example using facial recognition to identify age and gender.

Burberry’s flagship store on Regent Street features the world’s tallest retail screen, with other smaller screens located throughout the store displaying images of products on the catwalk, activated by RFID tags.

If this type of personalisation was based on online data it could become a powerful marketing channel. Of course, there would be significant privacy concerns if this was done clumsily, but it could become acceptable with appropriate transparency and open value exchange. 

Digital price labels

Digital price labels are becoming standard in many stores and, with the appropriate technology, these could move from being basic information displays to additional marketing channels.

Using these changeable labels to highlight personalised offers to customers in real-time could help guide the in-store experience in a new way.

Electronic point of sale (EPOS) 

A truly personalised point of sale could revolutionise customer service. Providing live customer information to staff allowing them to personalise interactions could enhance brand relationships and loyalty while creating upsell opportunities.

Identifying customer preferences, personalising discount offers, or even enabling assistants to address customers by first name, could add a new level of customisation and relevance to the shopping experience.

The Internet of Things

The much-hyped Internet of Things market could provide a massive opportunity for in-store personalisation and retailers are already pricking up their ears.

The Internet of Things could empower retailers to make decisions that improve customer loyalty while offering great in-store experiences.  

For example, a shopping trolley that could display the contents of a shopper’s internet-connected fridge would enable customers to build better shopping lists on the move.

With much debate about data privacy at present, clearly customer buy-in will be essential for all of these approaches. The degree of personalisation implied treads perilously close to the boundary between personalised and creepy, something retailers need to keep closely in mind.  

However, if the data exchange is transparent and the benefits clearly communicated, it may just be possible for retailers to create a new paradigm for in-store experience. 

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Published 29 January, 2015 by Darryl Adie

Darryl Adie is Managing Director at Ampersand Commerce and a contributor to Econsultancy. You can follow Darryl on Twitter, LinkedIn and Google Plus

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Pete Austin

Pete Austin, Founder and GDPR Geek at Fresh Relevance

I'm the biggest fan of real-time personalization online (e.g. web and email)
http://www.triggeredmessaging.com/blog/personalization-increases-sales-by-14

But I'm a total sceptic about these offline efforts - simply because I've never seen any evidence that they work. For example my home town of Eastleigh rolled out a beacon trial last year and (a) I saw nothing at the time and (b) I have seen no published results. The two combined suggest it flopped.
http://www.retail-week.com/technology/eastleigh-shopping-centre-rolls-out-beacon-technology/5058232.article

Does anyone have any robust data showing that offline personalization has positive ROI when all the costs are factored in? If so, I'd *really* like to see it

over 3 years ago

Kris Hunt

Kris Hunt, Digital & CRM Manager at Capital & Regional

I'd agree with Pete. I manage the digital marketing for shopping centre portfolio, and many of my peers are looking at these technologies and a few have trialled them like Eastleigh, but the ROI and the customer acceptance of the tools simply isn't there yet.
There are plenty of great stories to be hand by tech writers and many big budgets to be won by agencies with the promise of shiny bit of tech but often the choice of tool is coming before the strategy. I've yet to see an iBeacon trial with good results, or certainly one with results that would be sustainable.

over 3 years ago

Zsofia Kerekes

Zsofia Kerekes, Content Marketing at Whisbi

Great article and great comments - I agree with Pete and Kris. We at Whisbi are also advocates of real-time personalization online (in a sense that means personal, real-time interactions that steers away from one-size-fits-all self-service solutions) but in our case it is closely tied to brick-and-mortar: http://venturebeat.com/2015/01/29/spain-based-whisbi-rolls-out-point-of-view-video-to-take-website-visitors-to-real-stores/#

Anyway, we're curious to see how the in-store personalization trend will evolve. 'Guided selling' may be a better way to achieve a personal experience at the stores than all the automatic mechanisms - in my opinion, humans still understand humans the best.

over 3 years ago

Martin Wallace

Martin Wallace, Marketing Manager at Innometrics

Great article and interesting comments. I certainly agree that it is still early stages for offline personalisation. It represents a different, more evolved challenge - personalising an environment where only one person is involved (a mobile phone screen, for instance) is far more straightforward than personalising a public space (like a shop floor). For that reason, I think digital price labels and EPOS are more realistic channels for success than something like in-store TVs.

Online and offline can still be integrated, like Whisbi has suggested. At Innometrics, some of our clients are using online personalisation to drive offline traffic (e.g. in-store coupons delivered by email). This is easily achievable in the current landscape.

http://www.innometrics.com/presentation-integrating-online-and-offline/

over 3 years ago

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Erdogan Karahan, Acount at Ozhat Ic Ve Dis Tic Tlt Sti

Great article! Fantastic example of personalisation and data being using intelligently and for a purpose, rather than ‘just because we can’. I hope the campaign delivers for them and nice to see a charity out-doing many other big commercial organisations

http://malaysia.mocasell.com

over 3 years ago

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Andy Walker, MD UK at Innometrics

I think the major issue for in store is that digital experiences (TV, Beacons, app notifications etc) actually interrupt the shopping experience which brands have spent years developing. Its essential that any digital messaging in store is personalised and adds MORE value than simply providing a different way to interact with product information. An in-store digital experience needs to provide value to me personally that is different to the next person.

about 3 years ago

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