The Hyper-Personalized Approach To Retail

Retail innovation. Transforming retail. Changing the way retail is done.

Those are the buzzwords you’ll hear in the market today as innovation is today’s retail’s status quo. The days of traditional retail are long gone, and for the majority of retailers, only those willing and able to innovate, transform, change and reshape retail are going to be the players who make it out on the other side.

It used to be the retailers themselves changing the way retail was done — with deals and promotions, coupons and email blasts. Now, it’s the retail marketing companies transforming how those retailers retail. Innovation, however, often comes in pockets, and you often have to throw a test against the wall to see what sticks. That means testing with beacons, sending targeted email promotions, and engaging with customers both online and off in a similar manner.

One retail marketing company, Listrak, believes they have the solutions in place to help retailers get over the abandoned cart hump and help guide those customers through the path to purchase. From the moment they walk in the store or log on to shop online, the team at Listrak believes they’ve got the necessary tools to help retailers connect with consumers in ways that are personalized without being overly intrusive.

One Player’s Attempt At Disrupting Retail

PYMNTS caught up with Ryan Hofmann, the Chief Brand Strategist at Listrak, at IRCE last week to learn just why he thinks his company is, in fact, “transforming retail.”

“We are really helping retailers listen for behavior, purchase intent, and take action on that — send the next best communication that’s going to help walk that customer down the path to purchase,” Hofmann said. 

Instead of applying the one-size-fits-all solution to retail, Listrak employs a number of channels that help form deeper relationships between a customer and a retailer’s brand. This means using those messages to connect with consumers via triggered and targeted promotional email campaigns, but it also means doing that via SMS, on display channels and through display targeting. It also means using those methods to help the retailer better understand why a customer may have abandoned their cart or how they can engage with a customer post purchase.

“All these communications and all the ways you want to talk to the customer — the channel is just a means of communicating that message. The channel just becomes the medium with which you are communicating it,” Hofmann said. “When people say ‘transforming retail,’ it sounds like a big concept — and it really is — there are a lot of different companies here that are transforming retail and doing it in a really cool way, but we’re trying to transform the customer experience. …It’s all about the experience. There are a lot of retailers that are kind of doing a poor job of delivering a customer experience today.”

Listrak serves around 1,000 customers, and focuses strictly on the retail market. But like most retailers have probably realized, the batch-and-blast emails often go unopened, in the trash and unclicked. Consumers are bombarded with countless email promotions a day and they want a streamlined experience that allows them to connect with their favorite retailers. For Listrak, it’s about putting a personal touch on that communication.

“Our approach is that you actually need to personalize that communication with the right products, the right content, the right cadence (from a timing perspective), and in the right channel — so it’s not just about email. It’s about ‘how do I reach the right customer in whatever channel they want to engage me in?'” Hofmann explained. 

The Impact Of Customer Engagement

So many retailers are bogged down with the bottom line and revenue that they forget about what drives the bottom line: customers and customer experience. Retailers must go that extra mile to reach customers, otherwise another brand will likely step in to snatch up the attention. That’s where Listrak’s solutions come into play.

Citing one example Listrak has helped transform, Giggle — a store dedicated to all things babies —Hofmann was able to share that his company has been able to drive 22 percent of their revenue through the email channel. And almost half of that engagement is coming from triggered, personalized touch points, he said. The company is also driving 24 percent of list growth for Giggle. Overall, this has helped the retailer acquire, engage and retain customers.

recent survey backs up the point that Listrak is trying to make about authentic customer experiences. Customers are getting savvier and they know when retailers actually are connecting and when they are simply promoting a brand. That survey, which echoes the results of many before it, showed that 54 percent of consumers expect brands to understand them as people, and for their communications to be tailored to their values and preferences.

Interestingly enough, it showed that a majority (55 percent) of consumers know that retailers are tracking their behavior without their permission, but not all seem to be bothered by that fact. That survey concluded that consumers are willing to share information and connect with retailers as long as they are able to reciprocate with tailored deals and rewards that the customer actually cares about.

“It’s not just about getting them for that first purchase, it’s about how do we retain them for the second, third and fourth purchase. And if they disengage — how do we get them back in the fold? How do we re-engage them and get them purchasing for the long haul,” Hofmann said.

That last part is key: customer retention. If a retailer engages a customer once, but fails to bring them back in store, or back online, then that customer is no customer at all. And that’s another lost potential, and another lost consumer connection.

Beacons: The Hot Topic In Retail

And then there’s the subject of beacons — the little tracking method that no retailer has really figured out how to master. It’s a tricky concept, of course, as it’s a little Big Brother-ish and not every consumer wants their shopping behavior tracked. But, as the survey pointed out above shows, some consumers are OK with sharing as long as they get a benefit from sharing — and targeted engagement could be that benefit.

When it comes to mobile engagement, though, there’s a sensitivity that needs to be considered by those who are communicating with consumers.

“Mobile needs to be hyper-personalized. It’s one thing for you to send me a non-personalized email every day. It’s another to send me a batch and blast push notification. It’s on my lock screen on my smartphone. It’s in my pocket — it’s super personal and it needs to be all the more personalized when it comes to the mobile messaging experience,” Hofmann said. 

Beacons, at least for Listrak, are about connecting the offline to online experience. Perhaps a customer walks by an item, looks at it, but doesn’t buy. With Listrak, the store can later send them an email about their shopping trip and remind them of items they passed over. Beacons also “listen” in on customer behavior, similar to how search engines are used to track browsing history and provide targeted online ads.

Beacons give retailers the ability to collect data — something they are missing out on with their brick-and-mortar customers but are able to gather online. By engaging customers digitally in store, they can later use that data to re-engage them online — where more and more shoppers’ eyes and dollars are going these days.

“It’s about being able to deliver that message in real-time, based on the context of where you are at. …It’s all about bringing that data into a single platform where you can act on it,” Hofmann said, later noting that it’s all about the differentiated and value-added experience.

For innovators, that’s the other key buzzword everyone in retail is talking about: value-added. According to Hofmann, that’s the only way retailers can differentiate themselves today: by adding value to the offline experience by connecting with consumers back online, and vice versa.

That’s the status quo for today’s retail world.