Time to get personal: Smart technology and the future of UK retail

We live in the age of rapid customer demand. Never before have UK shoppers wanted so much for less, and at faster and faster delivery speeds. The level of choice available for customers today means that they will not put up with slow transaction times and indeed, poor customer service.

Couple this with the apparent ‘demise’ of the UK high street and it would seem that retailers have never had such a pressing challenge on their hands, to survive, thrive and ensure continued customer loyalty whether in store or online. The use of E-commerce sites is of course on the rise, but despite the headlines, 90 per cent of sales today do still take place in physical stores. Whilst customers value fast transactions, they do often still value good advice from store advisors.

The key challenge is now for bricks and mortar stores to keep apace of the digital revolution. Both online and physical stores can both offer the same level of bespoke personalised services to ensure that customers keep coming back.

The personalisation revolution

Personalisation in commerce is now imperative for modern businesses. According to recent Mindtree research, 75 per cent of shoppers surveyed in a global study believe that personalised promotions would encourage them to purchase relevant products that they may have never purchased before. 

Moreover, a further key finding was that 58 per cent of organisations surveyed say that they have improved their online sales over the past 12 months with targeted ad services. Further findings revealed that around a fifth of respondents (19 per cent) expect a more personalised customer experience online versus in-store shopping.

Investing in personalisation is not just fruitful for the consumer, but also for the company that deploys it. Half of organisations in Europe said that providing more targeted promotions has contributed to improved sales over the last 12 months. It is abundantly clear that personalisation is the way forward for both the customer in terms of ease of use or a seamless in store experience, and the organisation in terms of driving growth and improving sales. It’s a win/win situation.

Adopting smart analytics

So how does personalisation work in practice? What is the technology beyond this new driving force? Driven by data from multiple sources fed into smart algorithms, personalisation allows retailers to target the right customers, on the right device, with the right content, creating seamless commerce and a community of happy, returning customers who will vouch for a good service. 

There is no shortage of marketing, analytics and personalisation solutions out there on the market today. But, without a standard framework that can help drive a personalised customer experience across channels, organisations are forced to use a patchwork of disparate systems that limit agility and increase costs.

Optimum and streamlined personalisation will only work if companies have the right digital infrastructure at the broadest and deepest levels.

How to truly deliver personalisation

The benefits of personalisation and the smart technology in place to deliver a personalised service is clear, but what are the tangible steps that a business can take to drive forward a personalised shopping experience?

Firstly, a business must look to create unique customer personas using the vast number of digital data streams the company has access to. Secondly, applying analytical models to segment customers is a key activity to create an activation layer that engages customers with the right information and offers suited to them. Finally, such steps can be carried out with a ‘code of honour’ in place- maintaining the customer’s integral trust around using data to personalise offers and services.

Those retailers that survive and thrive today will be those that create the ultimate personalised shopping experience- whether in store or online. The UK high street can flourish once more, retaining loyal customers with bespoke and tailored shopping experiences. Online retailers can enjoy continual growth with targeted ad services. The future of UK retail lies in smart, personalised technology.

Anil Gandharve, associate vice president, Mindtree  

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