view_from_the_topI’ve talked a lot about personalization in the past. The good news is that because it’s considered  the holy grail for retailers, many are working very aggressively to get it right. The bad news is that very few have gotten there – yet.

According to  a recent survey from Boston Retail Partners, personalized content – or content pushed to shoppers that’s unique to their shopping experience and history, like product recommendations based on previous purchases — is being used by retailers to foster stronger customer relationships and drive sales.

The problem for retailers is how to reach out to existing and potential customers in a way that engages and encourages them to make a purchase without crossing the line into a an invasive experience for consumers..

For consumers, personalization often seems like an violation of privacy and sometimes borders on creepy. – especially since many communications are taking place on mobile devices, which are valued as highly personal to users The flipside of that is the consumers actually want personalization and want to be addressed and interacted with in a more individual  way  Sixty percent of US consumers want to receive real-time promotions and offers, according to Accenture.

For online retailers, this comprises a variety of tactics including sending shopping cart reminders via email when a purchase is not completed, offering additional items based on what a shopper is currently browsing, sending coupons for  repeatedly purchased items, etc.

However, many retailers in North America believe that personalization tactics need improvement. Just 4 percent of North American retailers are currently employing suggested selling based on previous purchases and believe that it works well according to a study conducted by the research firm Vanson Bourne for Mindtree.

An additional 18 percent have implemented it and believe it needs improvement. And 60 percent  have plans to implement this personalization tool within three years, the study noted.

But mobile is driving the needed for getting personalization right as  retailers say twice as many consumers, growing from 6 percent to 15 percent, will be using mobile device apps to make purchases in the next few years.

Delivering a highly relevant messaging at just the right shopping moment is seen as the ticket to get shoppers to spend more.Consumers say they do spend more based on personalization and here’s some of what they want, according to the study:

  • 78 percent want to look at products they have purchased before.
  • 74 percent want to see products they had not purchased before
  • 65 percent want to see recommendations from peers

Plus, the digital experience lends itself more to personalization.  The study found that one in five (20 percent) consumers expect a more personalized customer experience buying online rather than in a physical store.

I expect the push for personalization to escalate and while there will be bumps along the way, retailers must adapt to shifting consumer shopping behaviors to succeed.