eCommerce & Merchandising

AI, Content, and Mobile: 3 Learnings for Personalisation from Drapers Digital Festival

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Mobile’s fit in the customer journey is transforming.

At the recent Drapers Digital Festival, I took part in a lively panel discussion featuring experts from a variety of retailers, including Jack Wills, Zalando, and Joseph, where we discussed the pursuit of the coveted personalisation goal, and explored the potential of artificial intelligence (AI) to enhance the mobile customer journey.

Drapers panel

It was argued that mobile is now so significant that it is no longer sufficient to consider it a channel at all. It must be integrated – in context – into each facet of the customer journey to foster engagement across every touchpoint.

Key learnings

Three key learnings emerged:

#1. AI and data for personalisation

As always with personalisation, a prevailing theme at Drapers Digital, it’s all about the data. I mentioned during the panel that retailers are falling behind other sectors such as banking and travel in their use of customer data. Retailers need to consider different types of data at different points in the customer journey. And there are a whole host of techniques that can help to drive a personalised relationship with mobile customers, shifting the journey from transactional to relationship-based. For those craving the in-store familiarity of a sales assistant without its physical proximity, retailers such as The North Face are using natural language processing capabilities to make intelligent product recommendations based on web enquiries.

Similarly, banks are using data to improve mobile engagement. Consumers can conduct their entire relationship with a bank via mobile. I’m not for a moment suggesting this transition will translate to retail, where the bricks-and-mortar model is still hugely important – especially in fashion where the physical element is so influential. But there are innovative and exciting ways of building mobile into the store experience to foster a higher level of engagement. Data from last year’s holiday peak trading period showed a significant level of device-jumping, revealing the important role of smartphones in the customer journey – and, more importantly, demonstrating that this should fit into the wider ecosystem of communications.

Mobile is also an important platform for gathering data and using elements such as browsing behaviour, purchasing behaviour, wish lists, and social media to make inferences about preferred brands, content, and offers across platforms. Since the average purchase decision happens on at least two connected devices, it’s important for personalisation to focus on providing continuity for a single user across all devices to truly adapt to the way that mobile is changing the way that consumers interact with brands.

See how YOOX NET-A-PORTER GROUP uses the AI in IBM Watson technology to:

  • Create a single customer view to better understand mobile customer demands
  • Establish a single control point for global distribution, so it can get products to them faster

#2. Content – Engagement vs brand sales messages

Whether through an app or mobile-optimised site or across social media and content sites, retail audiences are influenced by what they see and hear from their peers and influencers on an almost minute-by-minute basis. Retailers and brands have always worked with a focus on being more inspirational, to delight customers and build relationships beyond an initial or even repeat transaction. Emotionally engaging, contextual content is critical here, both in influencing consumers, but also in allowing retailers to “earn the right” to bridge from relationship messaging to brand messaging. For example, the ability to analyse prevailing trends across social media coupled with an understanding of consumer movement across a web platform provides retailers with the ability to alter their landmark offerings or target pages in real time. This is something that Wimbledon focused on during the 2016 tournament. And there is a lot that retailers can learn from their approach.

There are seemingly obvious things to bear in mind for mobile content. For example, developing a library of images are portrait rather than landscape oriented – a bit of a transition if you’ve been used to billboards!

#3. Mobile apps – to be or not to be?

The big debate among the panel was: Do we really need an app full stop? The panel featured a diverse range of retailers able to address the prevailing point that for brands, an app needs to serve a different, more relationship-oriented function, as opposed to purely a translation of the website and/or transaction engine.

Transaction frequency per customer plays heavily into this notion, with brands handling different volumes of transactions compared to retailers. Mark Wright of Jack Wills mentioned that the typical Jack Wills customer makes 1.2 to 1.4 purchases per year. And as of today, with little incentive for shoppers to revisit the app, they have decided that, for the time being at least, efforts are better spent improving the mobile web experience, as this is a high-growth area for conversion. In contrast, retailers such as Zalando, with potentially over 1,500 brands on sale, see much more scope for re-engagement via an effective mobile app.

If you’re wondering if your organisation is ready to deliver an omnichannel customer experience, check out our handy self-assessment tool.

European Retail Solutions Executive

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