How to use personalisation to grow your business

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Want to boost both customer loyalty and sales? Here’s how to personalise your business’ customer experience

 

There’s little doubt that we’re living in an era of information overload, in which consumers are constantly bombarded with sales messaging.

 

One way to stand out – and drive more sales – is through personalisation, whether that’s with a customer relationship management (CRM) tool that can track customer activity, segmented email lists, chatbots or even artificial intelligence.

 

“It’s not enough to deliver the right message to the right people at the right time,” says Reload Media senior account manager Jane Magoffin. “In today’s marketing clutter, your message and its delivery need to be as unique as the person reading it.”

In today’s marketing clutter, your message and its delivery need to be as unique as the person reading it.

- Jane Magoffin, Reload Media senior account manager

Ian Hammond, managing director of Hamma.digital, agrees. “The growth of tech within retail and e-commerce has created a level of expectation from users that now means you can’t thrive without personalisation,” he says.

 

In fact, numerous studies have found that failing to personalise customer experience can turn shoppers off. One study showed that 70 per cent of Millennials – who have grown up with the convenience of personalised services such as Spotify and Netflix – are frustrated with brands sending irrelevant emails, for example.

 

Personal experiences have also been shown to drive more impulse purchases and increase the likelihood that shoppers will become repeat customers. 

 

Yet McKinsey Research reveals that most retailers are still working out exactly how to personalise their offering, with just 15 per cent reporting that they’ve  fully implemented personalisation strategies.

How to get started with personalisation

 

Retailers can start by mapping out a plan to better understand their user and identify all the opportunities to improve customer experience with their brand, Hammond says.

 

“We tend to follow a basic formula of diagnosis, strategy and tactics, covering the brand, it’s positioning and its platforms/ channels,” he says.

 

This includes taking the time to sit down and look at a basic customer journey with anecdotal data points in order to measure success. Turning this anecdotal data into something that’s validated and usable will make a big difference to sales, he says.

 

“Meeting customer expectations might keep things ticking over, but exceeding expectations will take your business to the next level.”

Nine ways to help retailers personalise the customer experience:

1. Use CRM software to track customer activity

A retail CRM tool will help business owners gain product insights and build customer loyalty to further develop and grow sales.

 

Features vary, but CRM programs can include inventory management, marketing tools, register integration and support services, so it’s worth doing your homework to find one that works for your business.

 

Australian skincare brand Amperna uses CRM software to keep up-to-date records about customers that the whole team can access in order to personalise the brand experience.

 

Founder Kiri Yanchenko says when a customer signs up to her newsletter, they are automatically sent a discount code for their first purchase. If they don’t make a purchase in 30 days, they are sent another code with a larger discount.

 

“When the customer travels further down the conversion funnel and this relationship is fostered by ongoing marketing and advertising – tracked by our CRM as well as Google analytics – it encourages customers to become brand advocates.

 

“When customers leave a review on our website or provide a Facebook recommendation, we then provide them with a discount code as a ‘thank you’, which has an 80 per cent uptake,” she says.

When customers leave a review on our website or provide a Facebook recommendation, we provide them with a discount code.

- Kiri Yanchenko, founder of Amperna

 

2. Capture customer data with point-of-sale software

Point-of-sale (POS) software is like a digital cash register, allowing business owners to process sales and take payments. It also allows other functionality, such as inventory management, stock control, customer loyalty programs, reporting and employee management.

 

Melbourne gift and homewares store Spoilt has been using Vend POS software since last year, after pivoting to an online store during the pandemic. The customer profile function enables Spoilt to capture customer data each time a purchase is made. This includes spend amounts and product purchasing history, enabling segmentation to target content that is personalised and relevant.

 

3. Segment your email lists

Email marketing remains one of the most popular marketing channels for retailers. Not only does it enable you to promote and sell your products, but it also fosters lasting relationships that build brand loyalty.

 

Regardless of which email platform you use, personalised emails deliver up to six times higher transaction rates, while birthday emails generate a massive 342 per cent more revenue than a standard promo email, according to retail strategist Salena Knight.

 

“Retailers can no longer afford to send out email blasts with generic content to all subscribers. Customers make it clear that they’re more likely to open an email that’s personalised, and more likely to purchase if the products they’re served up are relevant to them,” she says. 

 

4. Offer instant service with chatbots

Chatbots that pop-up on the screen while shoppers are browsing your website can help get sales over the line. Chatbots can answer questions, offer product recommendations and provide support, any time of the day or night.

 

Kayla Mossuto, founder of reusable coffee capsule retailer Crema Joe uses a chatbot on her website that incorporates a quiz directing customers to the most suitable products for their needs. This helps customers assess their requirements and directs them to the most appropriate products, which in turn provides Kayla with a stronger working relationship with her customers.

 

5. Use geo-fencing to target customers

Geo-fencing is a strategy used by retailers to increase footfall in physical stores. The term refers to the use of GPS technology to create a virtual boundary around a particular location, which can trigger a response if a customer enters the area.

 

Grant Arnott of Power Retail likens geo-fencing to the futuristic scenes in the US science fiction blockbuster Minority Report starring Tom Cruise.  “There are scenes where Tom is walking through a futuristic shopping centre. His eyes are scanned [as he is moving] and tailored advertising messages appear to him.

 

“Geo-fencing is the current day version of that experience, allowing retailers to offer consumers rich, personalised experiences and offers via their mobile devices in the context of their shopping experience,” he says.

 

6. Try personalised text messaging

A simple text message can be a great way for retailers to reach their customers. Given that 99 per cent of SMS campaigns are read, this is an extremely effective marketing channel to reach new and existing customers.

 

In fact, 78 per cent of shoppers say SMS is the fastest way to reach them, which is why texting is the perfect medium for sharing time-sensitive promotions and alerts. It’s also a great way to welcome new subscribers.

 

Understanding the law is crucial here, however. Be sure you have consent from recipients, identify yourself as the sender and include an opt-out option at the end of the message to comply with regulatory standards.

 

7. Try artificial intelligence for smart predictions

Artificial intelligence (AI) is reinventing the retail landscape, allowing retailers to connect with their customers and operate more efficiently.

 

Providing retailers with better future predictions about sales, as well as delivering improved inventory management, AI analytics can help retailers create intelligent display ads, develop smart self-checkouts, and enhance inventory control, for example.

 

This information can then help retailers stay ahead of customer demand and improve stock levels, thereby streamlining supply chain management. In turn, this can help drive revenue and boost the bottom line.

 

8. Augmented reality can deliver unique shopping experiences

Increasingly, retailers are also turning to augmented reality (AR) to create personalised shopping experiences.

 

Many beauty brands, for example, now offer virtual ‘try-on’ services that allow shoppers to visualise how make-up will look on their faces. In Australia, The Sheet Society offers a ‘Bed Builder’ tool that allows shoppers to superimpose different bedding combinations on to an image of their own bed.

 

Rug retailer Miss Amara offers a similar ‘Virtual Rug Styler’ for shoppers that enables them to upload a photograph of their living space and visualise how various rugs will look in situ.

 

9. Get to know your customers

For smaller retailers, an old-school approach can work best. Carol Haffke owns The Shoe Garden, a women’s shoe store that exclusively stocks longer-than-average sizes. Pre-Covid, approximately 25 per cent of sales were online; that figure now sits at 60 per cent thanks to the time Haffke took to get to know her customers and their preferences.  

 

“In store, it’s all about mirroring the customer’s behaviour. If they’re chatty, I spend time talking with them. If they’re quiet, I leave them in peace to browse. The focus is always on the customer and their way of communicating. It’s their experience, and everyone has a different interpretation of what that is,” Haffke says.

 

She also watches which shoes customers are drawn to online, creating reports that show which products each customer favours. To her, this is true personalisation. “If someone has a query, I’m the one to respond to their email with honest advice, not an automated bot. I do so out of hours, too.

 

“I also regularly engage with my customers on social media and in-store before I buy a season’s range, asking what they’re looking for so I can try to find something suitable. Nothing can match human connection and interaction.”

 

Nina Hendy is a business journalist who regularly contributes to The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age

 

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