The age of personalisation

For retailers, this is truly the age of personalisation but what are the challenges and opportunities to getting closer to your customers? Paul Fennemore, C-Suite Level digital marketing and customer experience consultant for Sitecore, explains

While all the focus is on millennials, it's easy to forget the role Generation X really played in developing personalisation as a key marketing trait for organisations looking to foster brand loyalty. 
Anyone born in this generation (the demographic cohort following the baby boomers and preceding the Millennials - roughly 1961-1981), will remember personalisation in retail is nothing new. 
Here's why. When the world wasn't completely driven by digital devices and data platforms, part of the appeal of local shops was the greengrocer remembering your favourite staple items, the butcher knowing your preference of beef to pork, or the newsagent knowing your paper and milk preferences. 
Touchpoints 
That was personalisation then. As we are all too familiar the landscape of retail has changed, but personalised retail experiences remain and are more tailored to us than ever. This is leading retailer to a tipping point. 
With the abundance of technology and data now at our fingertips, it's no longer if you can personalise, but how you personalise across all your touchpoints in order to maximise the lifetime value of existing customers, and gain new ones. This centres on delivering an experience, rather than a transaction. 
The best consumer experiences are delivered to a person who is not expecting anything and without strings attached. This requires a marketer to identify a person's interests and preferences and ensure that the feature, promotion, or item that's provided tilts in favour of the customer without landing in the creepy zone. 
The focus shouldn't be on the company; it must be on the customer. Successful organisations are tapping digital technology to take the concept to an entirely different level. They're tying in social media, legacy data, and even beacons to create a digital framework that would have been unimaginable in the past. 
Opportunities 
We recently polled 50 brand managers in the UK and 500 customers on the challenges with personalisation and the challenges and opportunities it brings. One of the highlight findings revealed that 45% of consumers are willing to provide data to brands to an increasing extent, in order for brands to personalise their experience. In short, they're giving you permission to extend your offerings into their lifestyle - if you get it right. 
We've worked with retailers across the world to help take them to the next level, one of which is L'Oréal. Their challenge wasn't unique to anyone in retail - L'Oréal wanted to show it truly understands its customers, at every interaction they have with the brand, whether that's in physical or digital form. 
For L'Oréal, much of the initial consultation on makeup is either done online or in the retail store. Given the small window of opportunity presented to them when customers are going through the purchasing process, they wanted to quickly build and deliver unique, yet connected, digital beauty experiences, scaling across all regions and languages. 
They can now leverage customer insights in real-time to deliver dynamic, compelling content through all marketing channels. This allows the organisation to build a better profile of its customers - skin tone, favourite colours, skin care regime, age, future events (wedding, holiday, trip). 
Relationships
And whether physically or digitally, they continue that conversation and advance it; showing they truly understand the customer. Emotionally it goes beyond that, it says they care about building a relationship. 
An experience is never about one or the other channel; they must continuously build on the other, developing trust (as we gather more data) and take you to each new stage of a developing relationship. And sometimes you sell more, by not selling/marketing more. 
The key is, this level of personalisation across all your channels doesn't happen in silos. A typical marketing department is made up of fragmented teams with on average 12 systems that cover; email, web, mobile, social, commerce. meaning no real-time data, no single view of the customer, nothing that would allow you to easily deliver a unified customer experience across your consumer touchpoints, much less find ways to offer NEW customer touchpoints when new channels and platforms emerge.