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Retail Industry Opinion

Will technology turn us into clones?

As consumers demand greater personalisation from online retailers and service providers, are we heading towards a world where we buy what retailers want us to rather than the things we really want?

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Will technology turn us into clones?

"Effective, genuine personalisation is like having a personal shopper with you all the time, helping you choose, providing the right choice not reducing it, saving time and effort."
Gareth James, Intilery CEO

Could personalisation create a world of shoppers without individuality?

Today’s customers expect retailers and service providers to know a lot about them, enough to help them navigate the wealth of choice on the internet by recommending products and services which they are most likely to be interested in.

But are personalisation techniques applied to individual shoppers truly unique? Or are personal recommendations used by some online retailers just a smokescreen for poor data use - simply to keep up with the Joneses? If personalisation isn’t truly individual, will we all start looking, thinking and buying the same? Or do we just do that anyway?

The growth of social channels like Twitter and Facebook are evidence enough of our increasing need for validation by others, and the growing importance for society to share much more personal information. Surely the acceptance and (indirect) approval by consumers to allow personalisation is just further validation of our need to blend in?

Does it appear we are really willing to surrender individualism for convenience?

Imagine a clothes shopper visits a retailers online store having previously purchased. She is greeted by name on screen so she feels that the site understands her preferences. There are recommended items displayed on screen, that ‘others like her have purchased’ or products that are ‘trending’ right now. Does this strategy work because none of us like to stand out from the crowd, celebrate individualism or have we just become very lazy?

According to a study conducted by MyBuys, the conversion rate for recommended products is 915% higher than average site-wide conversions. So it’s clearly good for business whatever the reason.

Gareth James, CEO of Intilery, thinks the answer is quite simple.

“Shoppers are not lazy, nor do they lack individualism,” he said. “Society is just busier, people work longer hours and look for any way to reduce unnecessary effort around shopping.

“Effective, genuine personalisation is like having a personal shopper with you all the time, helping you choose, providing the right choice not reducing it, saving time and effort.”

However as consumers become more savvy, with Millennials particularly demanding and fast paced, rather than accepting poor recommendations consumers are happy to dump retailers who get personalisation wrong.

Research by Order Dynamics claims 75% of online retailers miss out on sales by promoting irrelevant items to shoppers and there are still plenty of sites whose personalisation is just traditionally segmented, delivering generic recommendations based on basic personal information.

With the amount of Big Data organisations have at their fingertips there is no reason communication should not be personal. At Intilery we believe that customer interaction should be geared for each individual, and we have the technology to deliver precisely that.

Far from creating a global tribe of people who lack imagination, seeking to look and think alike; we have created the tools to make personalisation so individual that segmentation transforms into bespoke service.

Rather than trying to clone individuals by only recommending products that every other person purchases, combinations are presented specifically based on the preferences of individuals.

This is achieved through effective use of powerful tracking tools that gather ‘markers’ from across all channels that the shopper has interacted with and all products. We call it journey contextualisation.

The result is that shoppers are presented with products that they love, are likely to buy and get access to quickly. Personalisation endorses individualism.

This ongoing commitment to building relationships with customers – and continually gathering data by the second – means as time goes by, the potential to provide a great customer experience every time is realistic, so long as you have the right technology.

Today’s consumer is happy to provide access to their social media accounts and offer up masses of personal data through apps and online profiles in return for a seamless omni-channel customer experience

And if we can correctly use that data, we can zero in on each individual consumer and provide the exact product recommendations.

With so much choice online, evidence suggests that reducing a customer’s options increases the likelihood of greater spend.

However, if they are not satisfied with their purchase, they will not return to purchase again.

The Intilery system collects and analyse data from a customer’s online and offline behavior in a single customer view.

By not overwhelming customers, and providing them with items in tune with their own preferences, sales could increase by up to 600%, as demonstrated in a study into the psychology of choice by Sheena Iyengar  (https://faculty.washington.edu/jdb/345/345%20Articles/Iyengar%20%26%20Lepper%20(2000).pdf).

But more than that, by reducing the choices to the one or two things that an individual customer will prize over any other customer as unique to them, you will gain valuable customer loyalty, and brand advocates.

To learn more about Intilery visit www.Intilery.com.