The challenge of scale.
Let’s start by looking at reasons why delivering at scale is a hurdle for personalization in retail. Some are technological, others organizational. Certain things inherent to retail increase the difficulty, as do consumers’ evolving behaviors and rising expectations. These challenges shouldn’t deter retailers, since the measurable rewards of personalization at scale can be great. But they do have to be addressed.
So many touchpoints and moving pieces.
To personalize at scale, retailers have to take into account all the ways customers interact with their brand — as opportunities for personalization and as sources for data. Easier said than done. Every industry faces an explosion in customer touchpoints, but none more than retail. The retail experience is often both physical and digital, extending across owned, earned, and paid channels. And it can include everything from co-branded content to geofence-enabled mobile apps.
Plus the retail customer journey isn’t linear. It can start anywhere from a social influencer touting a brand to a long-tail search for product details. And context adds in yet another dimension that’s critical for retailers. Where is the customer right now — in a store or trying to find one? Do they want to buy, find product information, comparison shop, or get service? Even three years ago, 82 percent of smartphone users said they consulted their phones on purchases about to be made in a store, according to Google. Now it’s just the air we breathe.
Abundant data, but in silos.
Retailers can be data-rich — first-party data ranging from back-end ERP to point-of-sale systems, second-party data from partners and publishers, and third-party data from a myriad of sources. But even when all that data is available, silos limit its ability to inform personalized experiences. That can be a technology problem, the consequence of disparate data sets and models, or the result of very human organizational divides. It’s often all three.
Very demanding on content creation.
Personalization at scale requires content production at much greater volume and velocity. Big teams are costly, but until recently that’s the first option many retailers turned to for creating personalized experiences at scale. Even then, brute headcount can only take you so far.