Last week, Cassandra Stevens, Global Commerce Director at Zenith, attended Shoptalk in Las Vegas, the preeminent conference and expo where the entire retail ecosystem comes together to create the future of retail based on the latest trends, technologies and business models, including changes in consumer expectations.

Customers expect their experiences to be seamless and relevant. Managing customer expectations should be an achievable output – since retailers have data on shoppers and manufacturers are category experts, we can use technologies to integrate these inputs. The word personalisation is used a lot in our industry, but it means different things for different people. Here are a few themes I found from Shoptalk:

Customers want variety and they’re on a mission:

When it comes down to it, a customer’s preference and loyalty is tied to the quality of the product. By giving customers a choice, brands enable them to create their own personalised experience – whether a variety of colours, a range of sizes or customisable gifting solutions – and if brands can delight a customer once, they are likely to come back. Dave Kimbell, Chief Merchandising and Marketing Officer at Ulta Beauty said, “beauty means different things to different people,” so they aim to deliver on that regardless of the customer’s shopping mission.

The past is the past, the future is relevant:

One panellist said “while personalisation is the goal, relevancy is the reality.” Rather than looking backwards to analyse data, AI offers brands the ability to predict and deliver against consumer preferences. It’s hard to move forward you’re continuously reverting to historical data to define personalisation segments, but using predictive segmentation puts brands and retailers in the position to stay relevant and lead the category.

The person in personalisation matters:

My favourite trend through most of the sessions around this topic was that in order to be truly ‘personalised’, we need to put the personal back into personalisation. For most retailers, the majority of sales happen in-store and that is the biggest opportunity to deliver personalised experiences and services. Enabling the store employees and customer service teams to be key sources of customer insight will ensure that future product development is tailored to customers feedback.

Avoid personalisation for the sake of it:

It’s important for brands to be thoughtful about where they personalise and to select high-value use cases to action rather than trying to integrate personalisation end-to-end. There will be limited value in delivering personalised experiences if it’s done without a clear goal to prove success in a controlled environment. It’s easy to get distracted by shiny new tech and trends, but it was clear at Shoptalk that organisational structure and finding the right tech to fit your company’s culture is most important.

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