Is leveraging customer DNA a step too far for retail personalisation?

Personalisation has become the buzzword of the retail industry in the last 12 months, with many brands looking to maximise the use of big data for their digital marketing campaigns. Yet, this spotlight on digital marketing has meant that we have failed to discuss some of the impressive steps being taken in in-store retail personalisation.

Where retailers and brands have looked for new ways to entice customers, many have chosen to invest in communication and marketing strategies. This has proven to be successful as consumers have become more comfortable with sharing personal data, but ultimately it only provides short-term benefits. Many people have quickly become disillusioned with spam like marketing emails promoting products they have no interest in, and unsubscribe.

To address this, companies are increasingly looking for ways to make their retail experience more unique and relevant to their clientele, and this is where in-store personalisation really comes into its own. Rather than simply getting a customer to fill in an endless amount of surveys, brands are introducing training and technology to their staff to help them get a better understanding of their customer. Within the health and wellness industry, this has led to companies utilising client’s DNA to offer a bespoke service – but is this a good thing or another short-term fad?

Back in 2013, Boots rolled out a revolutionary colour matching system that saw No7 advisors use handheld X-Rite Spectro colourimeters to measure customer’s skin and match it to the 17 colours available in their foundation. While initially it was perceived as a gimmick, it quickly became clear that this new offering was based on research and a real demand, as Boots had found that 78 percent of women in the UK would change their foundation if they could find a better match. By combining this new technology with staff training the retailer was able to ensure that each customer was getting the exact product they were looking for, and by noting it down for them online, they made the process of repurchasing quicker and more streamlined.

Rather than losing momentum, this use of more detailed customer data to offer tailored advice has only grown. Fast forward to 2016, and Lancôme took the idea one step further by scanning your skin and making a foundation to match your shade while you wait. Taking only a few seconds to mix, the foundation was placed into a Lancôme bottle that had the customer’s name and complexion ID to make it easy to refill. By creating an experience which could only be replicated by returning to the same counters at either Selfridges or Harrods, Lancôme has created a captive audience that is certain to return.

So, where can we go from here?

Since the tailored foundation offerings, technology has advanced substantially, with DNA testing kits and smart mirrors being able to offer tailored skin care routines and nutritional information.

In-store counters can be equipped with smart gadgets for customers to use. Products such as the HiMirror Enterprise can scan a customer’s face through a simple photograph and then provide an analysis of their problem areas with tailored recommendations. Augmented Reality (AR) features can also be used by make-up brands who have limited staff available to offer make-up trials. Customers can take a quick picture and use that as a base to try different colours and textures via the mirror.

Brands themselves have developed their own solutions, such as Clinique’s ‘Clinical Reality’ which is linked specifically to their products, but retailers can also utilise this technology and simply upload their stock, which would be great for companies such as Boots or Superdrug.

While leveraging DNA to provide a better retail experience was first viewed as a fad, the adoption by mainstream brands show that it is here to stay, and people are looking for more bespoke options at an affordable price point. By utilising this technology, customers are no longer forced to pay a high price for made to match moisturiser or foundation, and the luxury treatment can be achieved by all, not only enhancing the retail experience, but driving high street retail forward.

Cin-Yee is director of sales & marketing EMEA for HiMirror