Key Strategies Successful Retailers use to Personalize the Customer Experience both Online and In-Store

Matt Bushell
Matt Bushell
Sr. Director, Product Marketing
July 1, 2021|6 min read

More companies are turning to data to improve the customer experience, but the problem is that many of them aren’t collecting the right data in the right way – and that means they fall short of offering the kind of personalized shopping that consumers desire.

For example, many retailers collect demographic data on a consumer, such as age and gender. But that doesn’t really reveal the kind of “fit” a consumer favors in clothes or whether she is a bargain shopper or likes to make purchases on certain days of the week. Without collecting, understanding and implementing data that’s focused on an individual, not only is the experience unsatisfactory to that consumer, but companies miss the opportunity to effectively market other products or experiences.“

Today’s digitally savvy consumers expect brands to understand them and their needs,” says Brendan Witcher, vice president, principal analyst at Forrester. “

The mindset of today’s consumer is: ‘Why should I buy from you?’”

Witcher made his comments at a recent Aerospike webinar with Lenley Hensarling, chief strategy officer for Aerospike.Witcher says consumers are willing to give brands access to more personal information if they believe the retailer will offer value in return. (A recent Accenture survey finds that 50 percent of consumers cite they are disappointed by brands not providing enough support and understanding during challenging times.) By gaining such data, companies are able to provide personalization – not just product recommendations.

For example, personal clothing styler Stitch Fix asks customers to complete a 20-minute survey in order to deliver clothes that fit and suit a consumer’s style. “Eighty percent of the people finish that sign-up because they know there’s value at the end of it,” Witcher says. “We love talking about ourselves as long as we feel we’re going to get something out of it.”Still, collecting data from various customer touchpoints, analyzing it and using it in a meaningful way is a challenge: this CMS Wire article cites the strong need to eliminate data silos in order to execute an omnichannel strategy.

Hensarling says that companies like online furniture retailer Wayfair have been able to meet that challenge by using Aerospike. Wayfair uses data from the edge, real-time data and contextual data to provide a much better picture of the consumer and personalize the shopping experience, which has led to 30 percent larger cart sizes.

Wayfair also leverages Aerospike for customer scoring and segmentation, tracking events online and “listening” to customer activity for marketing decisions and recommendation engines. A critical component for Wayfair is the reliability, strong consistency, ability to scale quickly, faster response times and less complexity in supporting their Aerospike real-time data platform. These abilities have given Wayfair a keen insight into customers, something other brands may be missing.“

You know, when we talk about a perceptive person, we think that they’re someone who can recognize what’s going on in the moment with you – but also have known you for some time so they can put everything into context,” Hensarling says. “

That’s what Wayfair does. They turn on historical data that may not have been relevant to the last time you visited the site, but it’s relevant now and they use that to put a better recommendation before you.”

Hensarling says companies need to understand that a complete picture of the consumer relies on thousands and thousands of data points and hundreds of streams of data that are captured and held sometimes for a short time, and sometimes for much longer. Such capabilities have given Wayfair the ability to say that “it knows what you want before you do,” Hensarling says.

A better digital experience

Witcher says companies like Netflix, Amazon and Marriott, which have “customer-obsessed” strategies, are putting competitive pressures on all businesses today, no matter the industry.“

Every time a consumer is exposed to a better digital experience, their expectations for all digital experiences are reset to a new, higher level,” he says. “And, each consumer has a different definition of ‘satisfactory’ in a customer experience. It’s very unique, and companies are not really armed to align the right tools with the right customers.”Witcher says that if companies want to drive better results from their data, then they need to:

  1. Create rich customer profiles. By understanding whether the customer looks for complete outfits to purchase each time or wants to be served by a certain associate when in a store, the business is able to create a much more realistic picture of that consumer. “Forget personas,” he says. “If I buy yoga pants, it doesn’t make me a soccer mom.” Instead, the customer can be attracted to emails telling her when new styles are being offered, when a salesperson will be working or if a certain fit or brand of clothing favored by the customer is on sale.

  2. Collect better data. “Data and information about customers and their experiences are what drives their behavior and their trigger points. It is the gasoline that drives your experience engines. If you put mud in a car, it’s going to run like garbage. Same thing with your experiences,” Witcher says. “If you put low quality data in, you’re not going to get a 10 percent or 30 percent lift.”

  3. Assess customer data in real time. To retain a customer, it’s important to understand what he or she wants right now. “If I bought a toaster in January, I don’t want to talk about toasters when I go into a store in May because what I really want is a blender. But our digital tools do that all the time. You have to listen in real time along with understanding the context of what they’ve done in the past,” he says. “You must know their intent in that moment.”

  4. Align experiences. “By listening, capturing, measuring, assessing and addressing intent across every enterprise touchpoint,” Witcher says companies can make sure data is consistently flowing whether the customer is on a desktop computer, shopping via mobile device or visiting a brick-and-mortar store.

The bottom line is that companies need to rely on collecting and using data that is relevant to the consumer – and that means investing in data collection efforts that can deliver results now and in the future as individual consumer demands grow and change.

Notes Hensarling: “One of the things that we see a lot is that people have lots and lots of data and massive amounts of information about their customers. But the question is: ‘Can you apply that in the moment of the customer experience?’

”With Aerospike, the answer is a resounding “yes.”

Watch the complete webinar, 5 Things Successful Retailers do to Weaponize their Data to learn more real-time data strategies successful retailers like Wayfair and others are leveraging to increase revenues both online and in store.