In Rapidly Evolving Digital Age, Retailer Success Stems From Personalization
As retailers scramble to keep up with an ever-changing media landscape and constant technological advancement, the need to adapt and embrace new models has become abundantly clear. In order to stay ahead of the curve — and possibly to stay in business — retailers must not only listen to evolving consumer demands and habits, but respond to and anticipate them. Today’s consumers are perpetually omnichannel and “always on” with digital media, so the key to thriving in this challenging retail environment is adaptive personalization within your omnichannel customer experiences.
What Personalization Means
Every retail business is different and has unique needs. Whether it’s relative to their business model, CRM, website(s), apps or talent, there’s a lot of variables. When you’re looking for technology to help personalize the customer experience, I highly recommend working with a partner that can create flexible and customized strategies. Also, avoid “off the shelf” technology that's designed for scale or single platforms/mediums.
Similarly, from the retailer’s standpoint, each customer is different and must be treated as such. That is, all communications and offerings must also be tailored to suit customers’ unique desires and preferences. With an omnichannel approach, this personalization is achieved through leveraging insights and data to target audiences one-to-one across multiple devices with relevant and engaging content.
Connecting the Dots
A strategic, real-time, first-party data structure is essential. Successful brands understand this, and are working with agencies to create anonymized identity graphs to foster a more personal experience by connecting the dots between devices that customers are using and the content they’re consuming. In doing so, they're able to build on each person’s likes and dislikes in order to better serve them relevant content — content they will later act on, leading to an in-store visit or eventual purchase. Tying back purchase-level data to the events that preceded it is also critical to building data-driven multitouch attribution models, which work to improve return on investment for paid media.
In addition to, or in lieu of, an identity graph, retailers are also using geo-pulse measurement to track physical store visits as a result of media exposure. With this technology, they can serve ads across platforms and track user habits to determine, for example, whether people exposed to a certain ad walk into a particular geofence, in turn being able to say with a high degree of certainty that an in-store visit resulted from an online interaction with paid media.
Companies that have chosen to focus on more than one core platform are in a unique position to benefit from the opportunities our technological landscape presents. As a result, they're able to build customized solutions that are right for the business and stay agile in a crowded space. It's a major asset for retailers to work with agencies that can provide efficient optimizations across disparate platforms — no matter where advertisements are running.
Anticipating the future is crucial for brands that wish to remain relevant in the years to come. First, retailers shouldn't underestimate the significance of Connected TV; it will play a major role in the media landscape as more streaming options come into play. What wasn’t possible with traditional TV ad buying will now be possible — allowing brands to serve an incredibly relevant ad to one household, while the next household watching the same show, at the same time, on the same device will receive an entirely different personally relevant ad. This trend will be game changing in terms of what brands can achieve by providing a compelling, emotionally driven video message on the largest screen in the house.
Looking further ahead, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) will lead to fundamental shifts, not only in how people explore how to use a product, but also in how that product is advertised. Some companies are already experimenting with this. For example, people can now see what they look like in a garment without physically trying it on, or can see what a piece of furniture would look like in their home. Going the AR or VR route may not be for everyone, but many brands that take advantage of the technologies will prosper. These technologies are currently on the fringe of widespread adoption, and soon they'll be mainstream.
In the age of disruption, new shopping models and technologies spring up every day, and consumers are increasingly shopping online and conducting research before visiting a store. As we live through the “Amazonification” of our digital world, the rise of e-commerce is an inevitable reality. However, that's not to say customers don't still value the in-store experience. In the future, successful retailers will be those that are nimble to adapt, but pragmatic enough to know that they cannot be everywhere at once. There are numerous opportunities for retailers of all sizes and categories within the modern landscape, if only they work with the technology that makes sense for their brand and focus on catering to the individual in a meaningful, personal way.
Brian Kroll is the regional vice president of sales and strategic accounts at Adtaxi, a full-scale digital marketing agency.