Retail customers are a fickle bunch. One moment they want to buy with a single click, next they want in-depth assistance. Sometimes they’re shopping in-store but gathering information online, other times vice versa. Something last-minute comes up — the weather changes and they have to buy a raincoat, or a birthday party is in an hour and they need to buy a gift now. Patience isn’t a strong suit of most retail customers, so even a delay of a few seconds can negatively impact a customer experience.
Personalization is all about context and relevance. And that means going beyond fitting the customer’s general characteristics to matching up with what that person is doing and wanting right now. In this constantly changing world, what’s personal one moment isn’t the next. For the most effective personalization at scale possible, retailers must gain this contextual awareness—and then be able to match the moment with the right experience.
Mobile in the moment.
Mobile is at the heart of contextually smart personalization. Your customers turn to their smartphones every day to find their way to stores, discover new products, compare prices on the fly, get reviews and recommendations, and make impulse purchases. And since mobile gives you the ability to track real-world, real-time movement and actions, you can meet your customers where they are, literally.
And that’s often in a physical store, making impulse purchases prompted by a promotion or sale. In fact, 70 percent of U.S. retail customers say they’re most likely to make impulse purchases in a physical store — and 54 percent of those purchases are sparked by promotions and sales. But even inside the store, mobile is critical. According to a survey by Mood Media, around half of U.S. retail customers would like to receive immediately redeemable discounts pushed to their phones. And among 18- to 24-year-olds, that number grows to 67 percent.
So clearly, contextually aware personalization on smartphones can help increase in-store sales. Just as clearly, it can improve customers’ in-store experiences. For example, when customers of the Home Depot enter a location, their mobile app enters an “in-store” mode. Then, after they identify what they’re looking for inside the store, the app directs them to the exact aisles and bays where that product is located. Because no two stores are laid out the same, the mobile app uses location services to identify which store a customer is in and then matches it up with that store’s layout.
Real-time interaction management.
Your customers are constantly crossing channels like this, moving fluidly between physical and digital, mobile apps and social media interactions, inbound and outbound. So meeting them in the moment requires the ability to deliver unified, data-informed personalized experiences across all of those channels and interaction points in real time — which is no simple task.
This is where real-time interaction management comes in. The term, first coined by Forrester, encapsulates what’s needed to pull off highly contextually-relevant personalization across channels. And it takes a lot. Real-time interaction management requires the foundation of data management, cross-channel and cross-organization orchestration, and next-best-action capabilities. Even tech- and data-savvy retailers wrestle with it.
And one of the biggest challenges around real-time interaction management is scale. According to a Forrester survey, many marketing professionals face billions of real-time interactions across their channels.