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How To Avoid Getting Left Behind in the Personalisation Arms Race

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How To Avoid Getting Left Behind in the Personalisation Arms Race

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When it came to retail, personalisation used to mean that a name was embroidered or stuck onto something. Now it’s different (although of course the aforementioned personalised items are still – and most likely always will be – popular). Now it means that the entire experience from start to finish needs to be as personal as possible for each customer. The stats state that this can mean a big upswing in profits, more sales, and more referrals, all of which add up to a happy, healthy, growing business. 
Personalisation like this seems to be everywhere. Think of those times you have been browsing through Facebook and an ad has popped up for exactly what you had been browsing through Google for just a little while earlier. That’s personalisation. Plus there are companies that constantly ask their customers exactly what it is they want from them, and tailor the customer experience to match their responses; that too is personalisation. Or what about having a personal shopper built in to create the ideal environment for customers to buy in? Even more personalisation. 
So the good news is that there are many ways you can make your online store into something that feels personal for the shopper. What’s the bad news? If you don’t start soon, you’re going to be left behind. Here are some ways to avoid that and make the most of your profit building potential. 
Understand Customer Behaviour
When retailers really do understand customer behaviour it becomes much easier to personalise their shopping experience. Analytical tools can be used to quickly highlight any trends that you need to be looking into and even following yourself, and they can bring up specific correlations between what you do and how people want to buy – you then adjust your sales technique to match the customer expectation. Yet while these tools are extremely important, and although they give you an insight into what exactly is happening, they don’t tell you why what is happening is… well, happening. 
This is where the human element comes in. 
For a retailer to deeply understand why a customer buys in a certain way, they need to have an understanding of human nature, which is not necessarily something that can be found overnight. Even those who seem to have an innate sense of getting to the crux of individuals still need some time to hone these skills until they are as in depth as they need to be. 
There are ways to shortcut this process, of course. If you can look at the data you are able to collect from your marketing, your sales, and your merchandising itself, you can start to get a much better idea of the kinds of people who buy from you. Once you know that, your advertising can be directed at them, speak to them as it were, and engage with them better. Although each customer’s decision to buy will be more complex and individual, this method, combined with the analytical tools mentioned earlier, can help immensely. 
Get Your Algorithms Together
Technology is not something you should try to escape from when you are a retailer. In fact, technology is what can make or break your business, no matter what it is you happen to sell or which service your supply. Using cloud infrastructure to keep everything in one place including all the data you have collected regarding your customers (both in terms of their general behaviour and more specifically regarding the people themselves) means that everything can be a lot more streamlined and of course you will have instant access to every final piece of information you need. 
However, there is a slight danger to this. The danger is that, since these programs are so readily available to everyone, and since they are so useful for business, your personalisation might, in the end, look just like everyone else’s, which defeats the object of doing it in the first place. If customers can’t distinguish between you and your competitors, how will you ensure that you are the one who receives the order and makes the sale? 
You need to stay unique and ensure your company stands out from the rest, even if you do choose to use these cloud based infrastructures – which, actually, is a good idea as it will help you to run your business more efficiently. Not only will your products and services stand out from the crowd when you do this, but you will also be able to better personalise the experience for your customers and potential customers. It might take a little experimentation, but by testing different strategies in order to get just the right element of personalisation that doesn’t make your customer feel uncomfortable (never a good thing to do) you can create the ideal user experience.   
Make It Private
A study by Accenture has shown that 83 percent of customers passively give away their data such as their buying history. On top of that, 74 percent actively give this data away, and this might include their preferences when it comes to buying. Why do they do this? It’s in return for a truly personalised service; they see the act of passing on this information as part of the journey that it takes to create something personal that will work for them, so it makes sense for them to do it. 
Yet there can be problems, and more and more people are less happy to give away too much because of privacy issues. They have noticed that their data is theirs, and shouldn’t necessarily be given away all that easily. Look again at Facebook – many people used to have their profiles open for the world to see, giving away plenty of information without even thinking about it. Now, however, things have changed, and more people have made their profiles private (or closed them down altogether) to prevent this from happening. 
Too much personalisation can feed into the notion that they are being watched at every turn, and this can be off-putting. So there is a fine line to be drawn. 
Netflix is a great example of how to create a personalised service, taking the data that can be collected through usage, and turn it into something that not only isn’t creepy or untrustworthy, but that is actually something that can build trust. If you have a Netflix account, you’ll have noticed how the recommended movies and TV shows become more and more the kind of thing you’ll want to watch as time goes on. That’s because Netflix is able to take the algorithms of what you are watching and create a more personal experience for you. Far from being weird or unwelcome, this is often exactly what the user wants – so much so that they rely on it. Wading through the thousands of possible things to watch without these personalised recommendations could be mind-numbing or mind-blowing (it all depends) and you could end up finding you switch off rather than pick something you know you’ll enjoy. 
Getting left behind in the ‘personalisation arms race’ is a very real problem that many small – and ever larger – businesses have to contend with. As technology advances, it becomes easier than ever to create a personal experience, but this could mean that every ‘personal’ experience is just the same as the next. 
Technology is therefore useful, but it needs to be combined with an understanding of human nature and of your own particular products and services to make it work in the way you want it to. 
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