5 Steps to Help You Take Retail Personalisation to the Next Level

As a brick-and-mortar retailer, it’s easy to dismiss customer experience personalisation as a strategy reserved for e-commerce businesses.

But if you want to succeed as an offline retailer, you need to start implementing personalisation within your customer experience right now. Fifty-two percent of consumers are likely to switch brands if a company doesn’t make an effort to personalise communications to them. That’s a number you can’t ignore!

And here’s the thing: the best brick-and-mortar retailers are already implementing personalisation, and it has led them to not only survive – but thrive. This post will cover these examples matched with steps that you can take to emulate personalisation success at your own store.

Collect as much data as you can

Before diving into personalisation, you first need to collect the right data. An easy way to do that is through your loyalty program.

Loyalty programs are not a new thing — frequent flyer points, membership cards and coupons have been around for a while. But the reason they’ve been around for so long is that they work! 74% of consumers choose to shop at stores with strong loyalty or discount programs.

The end goal of personalisation in retail is to create high-value customers who will return to your store again and again. Repeat customers are a valuable asset to your store. Not only are they 9 times more likely to convert than a new customer, but your top 10% of customers will spend 3 times more than the other 90%. So it’s well worth the effort to ensure that your customers stick around.

Loyalty programs are a great way to increase customer lifetime value by encouraging customers to come back to you, but your main goal with your loyalty program should be to match offline purchases with a customer profile. Repeat purchases are valuable but the data you mine each and every transaction is what will drive your success.

3 effective types of loyalty programs you can implement for your store are:

  • Point system: Customers earn points for each dollar they spend at your store, which can be redeemed for rewards, such as discounts on future purchases or free items. Don’t make it too difficult for customers, though — 57% of shoppers will abandon your loyalty program if it takes too long to earn points.
  • Tier system: The more the customer spends, the better the rewards they receive. This encourages your big spenders to keep buying your products, and keeps them coming back because they’re treated like royalty.
  • Membership programs: Customers pay to access perks that are unavailable to other customers. The prime example is… well, Amazon Prime. But plenty of other companies have similar membership programs, such as Sephora and Asos.

However, there are some things you should keep in mind when setting up your loyalty program.

Make sure your program is easy for customers to engage with

Keep the premise of the program simple, and without any unnecessary details that might confuse customers who might want to participate. Whether your program is based on an ‘earn points for every dollar you spend’ system or a ‘members receive free shipping’ model, making your loyalty program too complicated might push away potential sign-ups. Thirty-seven percent of U.S. shoppers sign up to loyalty programs that are easy to understand, and 53% join programs that are easy to use.    

Encourage continual participation

In order to make a loyalty program successful, it has to entice customers to keep participating. Offer rewards that your customers will appreciate and want to sign up for, whether that be free shipping, discounts on products, or free perks. Don’t think of it as giving away freebies – think of it as paying for valuable purchase data.

Create an omnichannel experience

Last year Australian department store Myer poured over $100 million into an omnichannel overhaul and the results were astounding. Sales growth doubled year-over-year due to a 183% jump in click and collect sales and a 117% increase in sales processed on iPads in-store. With their loyalty program also linked to an email, customers are able to earn points online and in-store – while Myer was able to collect valuable data for product recommendations.

While an omnichannel experience isn’t a necessarily a personalised experience, it’s a mandatory building block on the steps towards customer experience personalisation. After all, you can’t create a personalised experience if the way you treat customers online and offline is vastly different.

Omnichannel is the integration of all of your store’s channels in creating a seamless and consistent experience for your customers across different devices both online and offline. Omnichannel isn’t the same as multi-channel which simply means being online and offline, or on Amazon and eBay. They key to omnichannel is providing a consistent and personalised experience to each of your customer regardless of where they’re interacting with your business.

It’s extremely important given that 40% of online transactions involve the use of multiple devices — and on average, digital consumers own 3.64 connected devices. An omnichannel approach is necessary to ensure that customers are able to transition easily across different devices and that you’re collecting data at every possible touch point

Armed with a consistent omni channel experience and loads of data, you’re ready to start implementing your personalisation.

Email personalised product recommendations

When it comes to utilizing your data towards personalisation, the first step is personalising your marketing. And there’s no better place to start than email. Personalised email, that is.

In this Sydney Morning Herald article, the author explains how Australian supermarket competitor Woolworths has used personalised email marketing to boost their sales by 4.9% last quarter compared to Coles’ abysmal 0.3% growth.

At first glance you’d think all these two similar retailers need to compete on is price. Their products aren’t very differentiated and they both have similar loyalty programs. However, it’s not the data collection that differs — it’s the actions taken on it.

Coles is emailing dog owners offers on cat food, and potential shoppers are disregarding their emails as spam. Woolworths, on the other hand, sends personalised recommendations based on purchase data from their loyalty cards. That effort has paid off, and their customers have taken notice with 24% more engagement and hundreds of millions of extra dollars spent.

The personalisation battle might seem irrelevant if you’re not making billions like the two supermarket giants mentioned above, but the truth is new technologies have made it more affordable and accessible than ever for any retailer to collect more data and put it to work.

Once you’ve gotten out of Excel spreadsheets and integrated your inventory, POS and e-commerce platforms with a solution like Vend, you can let your data go to work by integrating with the latest email marketing technologies. I’m biased towards SmartrMail, but depending on your budget and platform there are other options that will work for you. Your goal here is to find a solution that enables you to email the right customer the right products at the right time.

Once you’ve figured that out, you can explore personalisation across other digital channels such as social and display.

Add human curation both online and offline

You’re now at a good starting point with personalised marketing, but ultimately personalisation is more than a marketing challenge. For offline retailers to thrive, they need to have personalisation at their core, merging online and offline experiences to deepen their customer connections. The most basic customer connection to merge is the human one. It’s why Amazon and other e-commerce retailers like Bonobos and Indochino are creating offline outposts for their brands.

While machines can produce laser targeted recommendations, they are still unable to replicate the communication and curatorial ability of real human beings. A study done by retail tech firm Salesfloor found that over half of online shoppers felt that online shopping lacked the same level of service found within a brick-and-mortar store. They also found that shoppers were 87% more likely to purchase recommendations from a sales associate compared to those from a website.

Luxury retailers like Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus have taken notice of the trend and used technology to merge together online and offline shopping experiences for their high value buyers.

Neiman Marcus has equipped all their sales associates with tablets so that they can easily make personal recommendations based on data about a shopper’s concrete purchasing patterns. Shoppers can even select items online and have them arranged to be tried on in-store.

While Saks Fifth Avenue offers a similar experience in-store, they bring the human element online by making sales associates available 24/7 to recommend shoppers their next purchase.

All retailers regardless of size or budget can offer similar experiences. For example, you could customize your e-commerce site to allow in-store associates to add favourites to a customer account. You could implement click and collect so customers can try on items in-store where they can experience your brand and also give your sales staff the chance to cross-sell by curating other items based on the click and collect purchase. Even a simple website chat allows you to communicate with your customers, understand their needs and provide an unmatched personalised experience.

Harness Technology Within Your Store

Now that you’ve gotten added a human element to your personalisation efforts it’s time to double down on technology. As said previously, personalisation needs to go further than just your marketing and sales – it has to truly be at your core, influencing everything and even including traditionally non personalised aspects like logistics and product development.

Incumbent brands like Nike, Bathing Ape, and Levis have been experimenting with product personalisation through popups where customers can create their own branded merchandise from selection of designs. It’s starting to catch on with customers too as 36% have said they are interested in personalised products or services.

Other than using technology for product personalisation, brick-and-mortar retailers can implement technology such as:

  • Adding kiosks with digital screens that display personalised content to shoppers based on popular products
  • Sending coupons and other sales information directly to customers’ smartphones
  • Bluetooth enabled beacons that guide customers to products they saved online or other recommended products.

It’s important to note that even with the right message, overdone technology and in-store messaging can be just as annoying as a sales associate asking “Do you need help?” every 2 minutes. Ensure you’re sending messages at the right time and not distracting from the rest of your store experience.


Retail personalisation technology is a new frontier and it’ll be up to retailers like you push the boundaries and innovate. While it might be an investment, you can never go wrong when creating a better experience with your customers’ needs in mind. When you get an opportunity to create a unique and personalised experience, go all in. Retailers that don’t personalise soon will find their best customers taking up a relationship with someone else.

About the author

Josh is the Marketing Coordinator and Content Lead at SmartrMail, a personalised e-commerce email marketing app that helps stores get more sales by sending the right products to the right customers at the right time. For more e-commerce and email marketing tips follow SmartrMail on Twitter – @smartrmail

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