Personalisation is a technology at the top of most retailers' minds. The ability to provide a bespoke, even boutique-style, service in order to stand out from the competition is clearly a clever move and this starts by simply recommending products online based on a customer's taste.

"If you want to make your customer happy, you have to make them understand they are unique and not part of a customer segment," VP and general manager of RichRelevance EMEA, Matthieu Chouard, tells Essential eCommerce.

From recommendations, bespoke homepages and in-store kiosks providing relevant customer offers, personalisation is a truly omnichannel perspective for retail.

Chouard says the difficulty is recognising that customers shop and behave differently off and online. "You shouldn't provide the same type of personalisation because customers are different when they physically interact compared to sitting in front of a screen," he explains. "Our data allows us to analyse that on a second by second basis on the right personalisation experience."

Data science

Instead of traditionally using cookies to track consumer online behaviour, software-as-a-service (SaaS) RichRelevance technology is based on data science. "It's a much more statistical way, we have an algorithm which is the DNA of the company and all the value we provide is based on science."

"We're working on something at the moment where the goal is to be able to recognise the customer based on behaviour and the way they interact with the website and do things in store to map their online and offline profile in order to provide the right personalisation," says Chouard. "That's a challenge."

Chouard gives the example of a retail customer going online to use a price comparison website, but then visiting the store to purchase the product. "As a retailer you need to understand if these guys have been doing that before getting to your store, in order to give a promotion to avoid them going to a competitor," he says. "Retailers need a different specific sales strategy for this customer, as you don't want to give the promotion to someone who will buy anyway when they get to your store."

He says connecting the online and offline journey is becoming even more prevalent, and the pureplay eCommerce players are realising a need to move into bricks and mortar to complete the omnichannel offering. "Amazon was a pureplayer disrupting the industry, but more and more eCommerce players are trying to get physical stores to provide the full journey – customers want to have the full experience with whatever retailer they have in front of them.

One of RichRelevance's customers is Monsoon Accessorize, where the vendor delivered an integrated technology solution developed with Oracle and YESPay, called Project MAX. This enables the retailer's sales associates to locate and sell products anywhere in the UK supply chain, by scanning or searching product names or descriptions using in-store mobile point of sale tablets and payment devices.

Monsoon's mobile point of sale system can be used to show extended, personalised product range and locate stock from another shop or eCommerce distribution centre.

Also, if a shopper is identified by sales associates at the beginning of the transaction, the customer journey can be modified to deliver further personalised recommendations in order to drive conversion. Following the transaction, Monsoon Accessorize offers eReceipts across its 321 UK stores which enables the retailer to capture omnichannel data from both its in-store and online customers

Creepy or cool?

Another type of futuristic technology being experimented with at the moment is facial recognition, which Chouard says seems like a good idea from a technical perspective, but needs to be used carefully to avoid being intrusive and shocking shoppers.

RichRelevance research revealed 72% of UK consumers find product recommendations from purchasing habits "cool", but 70% believe facial recognition technology with the ability to determine age and gender to display products would be "creepy". Furthermore, 76% of shoppers felt the same about being greeted by their names when walking into a store because the retailer's beacons recognised a customer's mobile phone.

But with all these new technologies, Chouard says consumers need time to adapt. "It would potentially be interesting to see the results of our survey in one or two years to see the new trends, because with the right level of value they will probably change their minds."

"New technology, by default, is a little bit doubtful," he adds. "But at the end of the day, the more value and the more it feels better than before, the more they will accept the change."

And it will take one brave retailer to deploy new technologies, and the rest will watch, take notes, and then potentially follow suit.

"Someone will take some risk and in this industry it is because of the competition," adds Chouard." If they want to take market share they need to take some risk and keep ahead of the competition by testing stuff in order to make sure they are not missing a trend."

While he says facial recognition is the most creepy, retailers could start to introduce digital signs which, for instance, could provide recommendations based on what you are trying on in the changing rooms.

"It's unusual and could shock because it is new, but in two years everybody will cry because this type of thing isn't existing in a given retailer."

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