In a competitive market, with key shoppers (think Millennials and Generation Z) craving authenticity and unique experiences, offering customers a personal touch is key. Sailthru, a personalization platform, just released its first annual retail personalization index to analyze how 100 top retailers are managing personalized experiences for their customers, and to find relevant gaps.
The results reveal that while some leading retailers are paving the way for top-notch customized experiences, the industry still has a long way to go.
The scores — focused on quantifying what retailers are doing personalization-wise, which methods have been most effective, and the relationship between personalized experience, customer satisfaction and customer retention — were based on the combination of Sailthru’s scoring and on a survey of how customers felt about their brand experiences. The research was administered between April and August 2017.
Leading the way was Sephora, ranked as the retailer with the highest Personalization Index score (79 out of a possible 100). The beauty retailer scored well across every category (mobile, e-mail, web site, etc.) — following in its footsteps were JustFab (at 72) and Wal-Mart (at 69).
What sets retailers like Sephora and JustFab apart, noted Jason Grunberg, vice president of marketing at Sailthru is that they do not see personalization as a simple marketing tactic — instead, he explained, these retailers incorporate it as a core tenet of their business strategies.
Wal-Mart, he pointed out, has come up to speed on providing premium digital shopping experiences, with a nod to working out how to best blend online and offline channels. Sephora too, he added, excels in providing a personal touch throughout a cross-channel approach, which results in a cohesive experience that all retailers can glean inspiration from.
The consequence of this attention to personalization is that many brands are giving traditional online behemoths like Amazon, some major competition (the company came in with a PI of 55). Still, Grunberg said the fact that there are only two retailers whose PI scores reached the 70-range speaks an amplitude about the extent to which the industry is lagging behind. “It should be a signal of how much room for growth and evolution there is to create that connected, personalized experience,” he said.
Grunberg acknowledged that other retailers should look to the leading ones on this index, especially in regard to emphasizing personalization as a crucial strategy pillar in a business plan rather than just an added bonus within an overarching plan. “When you think of things as a strategy, things change,” said Grunberg.
His team observed where most brands were falling short was in the mobile experience. “People are still working to figure it out,” he explained. “E-mail and web site are channels, but mobile is more of an omnichannel hub.” It is where a customer has access to their e-mail, access to the web and access to applications — that interplay with the in-store experience is key. For that reason, Grunberg urged retailers to continuously leverage improving their mobile experience offerings.
“You want to think of personalization in the context of what it is that makes your brand — and your buyer — unique,” said Grunberg. “A personalized experience brings brands and consumers closer together.”
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