A report on personalisation from Drapers and Retail Week says that 79% of customers are increasingly demanding a personalised approach from retailers.
Only 79%? I would have thought we all want to be respected as individuals by the retailers we buy from. For me, that's the bottom line of personalisation: treating people like people.
It's one of the cornerstones of any loyalty strategy. The more retailers can understand their customers, the better the service they can provide, and the more willing customers will be to buy regularly.
Coincidentally, Zebra's own research (EMEA Shoppers Survey, 2015) shows that 79% of customers – the same 79%? – are happy to share at least some personal data with retailers.
As consumers, we're becoming more marketing-savvy. We understand that if we give information to retailers about our tastes and preferences, we're more likely to be offered choices that are relevant and valuable.
The danger is that personalisation turns into intrusion. Building a loyalty strategy is a masterclass in tightrope walking. How can you let customers know you care?
It's about balancing attentive, personalised service against the risk of becoming a pestering nuisance.
Zebra is working with a number of retailers on the ways they gather data from digital sources. They're using Zebra in-store wireless, card printers and scanners to learn as much as they can about their customers' tastes, preferences and shopping habits.
RFID solutions from Zebra also feed into the data pool, giving real-time information about which items are moving off the shelves faster. RFID data can also show patterns of sale, such as the time of day when certain lines sell more than others, or the effect of a special offer on sales volumes.
This wealth of information can feed directly into an analytics ecosystem that can interpret the data in infinite variations. In the process, the patterns and profiles emerge that enable retailers to walk the tightrope of loyalty and personalisation with surefooted success.
As a consumer, I have my favourite retailers, but I don't want them to behave like needy friends. You know the kind; they always seem to call at the most inconvenient time, or persuade you to borrow DVDs you have no intention of watching.
What I want is a trusted advisor – there when I need them, and perhaps occasionally inviting me to try something new. Their timing will always be perfect, and the new things they offer will be based on a genuine understanding of what I like.
The Zebra One Store solution enables this kind of personalised experience. The name One Store was conceived to flip the idea of 'omnichannel retail' round and view the shopping experience from the consumer's perspective.
One Store allows retailers to capture data from multiple channels and gain a full understanding of how each individual customer interacts with them.
I envisage a scenario in which I download an app that makes it easier to browse a retailer's online store and see the products I want. I can also use it to check that stock is available at my local branch.
When I arrive, I connect to the guest Wi-Fi and the app guides me through the shop to the items I'm looking for.
Then, as I pass down a particular aisle, I get a message offering a price reduction on the lines I'm about to see – products that may not have been on my list for the day, but are certainly relevant and interesting, based on my past purchases and browsing habits.
Perhaps the ultimate personalised experience would be for a member of staff to be there in the aisle and welcome me by name, inviting me to take up the offer. It would have to be handled with care, but a good retail sales specialist should be well-practised at putting people at their ease.
It's the ideal balance of digital services with the classic retail experience.
And it's the great paradox of technology. Amid all the concerns about the digital barriers between us, it's actually allowing us to be more human, with sensitive personalised shopping experiences that engender lasting loyalty.