PERSONAL TOUCH Personalisation in retail is much more than a passing trend, argues Mariann Wenckheim, director at retail design consultancy, 20.20. We all shop for different reasons and in different ways. When we enter a store we embark on a personal customer journey. Whatever the reason behind that journey, one thing is certain — we need it to be tailored to meet our needs. Customers aren’t just looking for a book, a dress, a shirt. They’re looking for the book, the dress, the shirt. Shoppers won’t feel like they’ve had a stand-out experience unless they’ve been made to feel special. Increasingly, retailers are realising that it’s their job to make every customer feel like an individual. Making someone believe they’re the only person that matters is no easy task, especially when the ultimate goal in retail is to get an increased number of customers through the door. However, product personalisation is helping to create a new level of immersion in the shopping experience. As with any movement, there are those who execute it to perfection, whilst others fall a little short of the mark. Nike ID was one of the first to market and the sports brand has made it work. I’ve seen younger relatives spending hours engaged in different colour and material options. It came as no surprise this time last year when reports emerged of a 70 per cent increase in online sales, with Nike ID being identified as a primary driver. Some headlines proclaimed that ‘co-creation isn’t just a trend’ and to an extent that’s true as personalisation is becoming engrained in retail. Personalisation’s longevity will be down to the fact that it benefits both customer and retailer. It’s a process that creates brand fanatics, with retailers buying into their customers by giving them the power to add something to the product. They’re listening to their biggest fans and critics and offering a degree of control. Customers are invited to put energy, love and passion into personalisation and, in turn, this creates a deeper brand understanding and commitment. It’s that sense of co-creation — a partnership between brand and customer. The personalisation process also offers valuable market insight. It’s almost a constant research project that shows the current wants and needs of a customer and clearly demonstrates their likes and dislikes. This can be used to influence future product development. Of course, there are some pitfalls to a bespoke approach. I was recently in the shoe department of a high-end fashion retailer. Out of all the shoes on display, two were available for personalisation. A customer wanted to take advantage of this and became irritated when she was told that she would have to wait 60 days for her bespoke pair. This story highlights one of the main problems for personalisation: it doesn’t translate that well to the high street.
Nike ID thrives in its online environment, but one of the major differences between the online and high street shopping experience is that physical stores are meant to provide instant gratification for customers. I’m a firm believer that bricks and mortar stores can offer a different kind of personalisation, creating a unique selling point to stand out against online rivals. It can be achieved by ensuring store teams are efficient listeners, and are empowered and knowledgeable enough to provide a tailored experience. It can be an experience that makes the customer feel in control in a different way. There’s huge value in conversation with advisors and store colleagues who are generally motivated to offer something special for their customers and help them find the dress or the book. As each customer journey is unique, there will be shoppers who actually don’t care about personalisation at all and focus on other factors such as price. However, there will always be customers who want control over the little things. Retailers require a higher degree of understanding as to what their customers want. Personal relationships are very important but remember that it isn’t just about offering increased choice; it’s just as much about putting the customer in control.
Retail design inspiration from around the world.