Bridging the Online-Offline Personalization Gap - Multichannel Merchant

Bridging the Online-Offline Personalization Gap - Multichannel Merchant

Consumers are so keyed in about personalization that a recent study found 40% of online shoppers expect that multichannel merchants know about their offline purchases and factor those into their marketing emails. Let me repeat, we’re talking about offline purchases!

Retailers recognize this as a challenge, and are eager to solve it. But realistically, too many retailers struggle to connect their consumer profile data, purchase data, and email data — much less bridge the gap between the online and offline world. Consumers are coming to expect something most retailers are not yet poised to provide.

Retailers today need to use the options available to bridge the online-offline personalization gap.

Geotargeting is sometimes thought of as exclusively a brick and mortar tool – but it shouldn’t be thought of that way. Location-based options exist that can provide a customized and relevant user experience for the online shopper. For example, if a user visits an online clothing retailer’s website in December, the content should be tailored based on their location. Buffalo-dwelling Kyle should have a different online experience than Miami-based Kevin.

What if you only sell warm-weather clothing? User location can help you guide a user not only to a purchase, but also to a higher order total. For example, if Kyle in Buffalo is visiting the site, it may be an indication that he is planning a trip to escape the cold. Your product recommendations may be tailored to upsell complete outfits, or frequently forgotten vacation items, such as sunglasses, waterproof camera cases, or beach bags.

These same principles can apply to marketing emails. Detecting not only an email reader’s location, but also the device they are on, allows you to serve up user-specific content. For example, if they are an avid runner and rain is forecast three days out, you can display content and/or product recommendations showcasing top-rated gear for running in the rain. You might even combine this with an upgraded shipping offer to speed the product to their door – and secure the deal. If they are on a mobile device, you can change the content to be more streamlined, and maybe more interactive such offering a video or user-generated content.

The consequences of not doing this can put off customers. Outdoor furniture company RST Brands learned that when it sent out a “Dreaming of Summer” email during the winter and heard back from a Miami customer who pointed out that this is the time of year when people in his area enjoy the outdoors. RST responded with a geotargeting strategy that avoids those kinds of miscues.

If done right, geotargeting can be a great way to provide a better in-person experience. Let’s say I abandon my shopping cart. Instead of just sending me the general abandoned cart message, I receive a note about the abandoned products, and information about a nearby store where I can try on the items I abandoned. That is a great way to create a terrific in-person experience. But retailers need to understand how to provide actual value to nearby consumers to make this work.

Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case. Recently, Yelp announced the acquisition of Wi-Fi marketing company TurnStyle Analytics. At a high level, TurnStyle allows retailers to require login to access a company’s free Wi-Fi. This allows consumers to opt-in to receiving emails, SMS or social messages from that retailer in exchange for Wi-Fi access. The consumer gets free Wi-Fi and, perhaps, some location-based promotions. The retailer gets to grow their subscriber list. This method offers a lot of benefits for both retailers and consumers, but it also has challenges.

The biggest challenge is that consumers have come expect free Wi-Fi in public establishments. I know I certainly do! It can be a point of friction for consumers to turn over info just to use Wi-Fi for a brief period. I know if offered the choice, I often opt to use cellular data than go through the hassle of inputting my data and deleting messages I don’t want. Consumers have shown they will provide access to their data, but the immediate and long-term value needs to be there.

While this type of geo-targeting can be beneficial, it may lose its long-term effectiveness. Retailers may choose to take the Starbucks method, and ensure their Wi-Fi is accessible to everyone, and instead focus on providing excellent customer value through every other stage of customer interaction.

Ultimate adoption and tolerance will be determined by value. If a retailer is not rewarding consumers for providing info, then the on-going marketing messages, and potentially their entire view of the retailer, may lose their luster.

So, while there is value in each example mentioned above, these connection points need to work together to provide a more cohesive consumer experience. Connecting the data is the critical part. Otherwise, your marketing efforts will continue to be fragmented, less valuable, and will leave consumers where they are today…wanting and, more importantly, expecting more.