That old chestnut, ‘retail is detail’, drummed into anyone working in the industry, has never been truer and more important for the way retailers operate in today’s omni-channel world.
Every piece of insight, sales information, browsing history and word-of-mouth feedback is poured back into the operational and marketing heart of today’s best retailers, to enable them to deliver what consumers want. In turn, this can help brands to remain competitive, innovative, agile and financially robust.
Delivering personalised experiences online is not a new concept for marketers but we have been observing a need for something more sophisticated.
The business need
Being given a remit and the capabilities to create personal, one-to-one relationships with customers is the dream scenario for marketers.
As at October 2015, UK online retail sales were generating £114 billion , up 10 per cent on 2014, and whether converting an online sale offline, vice versa or simply facilitating research, marketers are more tuned into what customers want for their purchases and experiences.
But mass communication and templated campaigns still reign, when retailers should be harnessing the vaults of business data to provide customers with relevant, contextualised digital experiences which truly deliver the potential and ethos of the brand.
What is MeCommerce?
To practically respond to this need, we created the term ‘MeCommerce’. MeCommerce has a clear aspiration: to ensure that customers are pampered individually through bespoke and personal one-to-one relationships and experiences, making them both engage in a brand’s values, while feeling a unique part of the brand’s world.
With digital delivery we need innovation in the process of designing apps and websites to provide enjoyment, empathy, simplicity and beauty. Success is making the creative output ‘shine’ seamlessly across all digital platforms.
In some retail sectors, this is more complex and important than in others. In fashion, consumer technology, food and retail travel, the digital shop windows are laden with images and videos and powered by highly complex sets of data. The windows represent the brand to the outside world in the most high-profile way.
Whether a purchase is driven by emotions (fashion), need (food) or dreams (travel), how many retailers design their digital experiences in this context? We would argue that it’s very few and this reveals a wide gap between consumer expectation and thought-processes and the way retailers let them engage with their brand time and again.
As retailers show a clear purpose to move away from and become less reliant on white-label apps because of their inherent lack of options, now is the opportunity to treat customers individually with MeCommerce – it’s the new black.
Expert retailers have been making every customer feel special in-store for generations – they’re not treated like a number - yet online that’s all too often the result. Telling the brand story and enabling the ecommerce experience at the same time is challenging for marketers but vital to future-proof the business.
Keeping it real
In practice, how can you achieve this blend? When it comes to fashion, a customer might be searching for a dress for a special occasion, so why not show them a shawl or coat that works with it? You know what they’ve bought before in terms of style. And why not serve up a blog post about party dressing?
For a food retailer, suggesting a new gluten-free bread to someone you know buys other gluten-free foods is simple. In addition you could bring up an exciting gluten-free recipe and offer to drop all the ingredients in their basket automatically, or email them after they’ve bought the bread with future special offers.
These examples, whether delivered on desktop, mobile, at home or blended with the in-store environment, will give your customers a highly personalised, helpful shopping experience. We think you should pester your insight team for as much intelligence from business data to interpret and understand the customer, their preferences and purchases.
Finding new ways to create a high level of customer engagement online, combined with personalised marketing campaigns, will also improve your chances of having more loyal customers. That means customers who are happy to shout about you and refer you to friends and family, and they’ll likely increase their basket value as well as your overall sales and customer insight.
By Dominic Stinton, partner at Open Reply
Open Reply is a UK digital Customer Experience agency in the Reply group that uses design and technology to create better, more profitable customer journeys for its clients’ brands.
Open Reply has deep expertise in creating smartphone and tablet experiences, as well as desktop, and works with the BBC, Monsoon and Delhaize, amongst other brands.
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