Out this week, the John Lewis Retail Report 2015, How We Shop, Live and Look, made for fascinating reading. With 34% of John Lewis sales now online, the brand has declared 2015 the coming of age of the ‘Master shopper’. Meandering down a complex buyer journey towards an eventual purchase (and repurchase), the Master shopper uses the full range of online and offline channels available to get inspired, get information, garner opinions from peers, make a purchase, get it delivered and tell the world about what they think of it. Depending on what they are buying they might move through every channel, or double back, or move directly to purchase, there is no set A+B=C.
— Leapfrogg (@leapfrogg) October 19, 2015
This omnichannel path to purchase is a result of technology weaving its way into our everyday lives. There are, of course, buying patterns, but each of us uses technology in our own way. We have come to expect technology and digital channels to be there to answer questions, and provide solutions. A big part of this is social media, which John Lewis have now declared more influential on buying decisions for their customers than celebrities and models on the catwalk, with inspirational Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest product images driving sales.
The thing about social media is that it’s just more personal. We can curate our own information flow into our feeds, and then share with our friends what we think about the information we have invited to be sent to us. This personalisation of experience is bringing brands closer to its customers, and in part replacing the role that seeing items on a model had in inspiring purchases. As John Lewis put it, “From working out, to planning a showstopping wedding, this was the year that customers were their own stylists, interior designers and wedding planners.”
The premium and luxury retail sectors have historically been slow to adopt digital marketing personalisation, with some major fashion brands only this year launching on Instagram. This is gradually changing, with many high profile brands integrating social media and marketing personalisation into their PR and marketing. This year, Burberry blazed a trail by premiering its SS16 collection on Snapchat the night before its catwalk show, but all major fashion brands now live-stream their shows.
At Luxury Interactive 2015 this October, Stacy Huggins, Vice President of Digital Marketing at Tamara Mellon, said, “Data-driven personalization is today’s handwritten note.” This could take the form of targeted mobile adverting campaigns that use geolocation to deliver real-time product information, or more prosaically, the segmentation of data to access insights into the motivations and behaviours of a brand’s customers. Whether its cutting edge campaigns, or solid bottom line drivers, digital channels offer opportunities to provide the kind of enriched experiences that make premium brands stand out from the crowd.
It’s important, though, to remember that all of this marketing personalisation is about people. While geolocation offers brands the chance give real-time product information in a seamless way, it could be seen by some customers as creepy, rather than cool. Fashion etailer Zalando this summer rolled out Zalon, an online personal stylist service, in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. A team of 150 stylists offer personal telephone consultancies and personal product picks to customers, at once driving sales and building customer profiles through real-life relationship building, not just real-time automation.
Marketing personalisation is not just a way of growing sales, it’s the future. As technology more and more becomes part of our everyday lives and buyer behaviour, personalisation will become expected across every channel. How this will look and how brands will translate the power of omnichannel delivery and data driven personalisation remains to be seen, but the opportunities are there.
Personally, I am looking forward to it.