To a packed room on a Monday morning in Las Vegas, Qubit CTO and Founder, Emre Baran, kicked off the Shoptalk talk track on personalization and AI.
Qubit was founded to transform digital commerce, creating a world where every customer has a personal experience with the brands they love. Achieving this means implementing personalization, and it results in increased customer loyalty and lifetime value.
Judging by the interest, retailers are clearly waking up to the impact personalization can have on customer experiences and revenue. In this blog, Emre shares the key points from his presentation.
The shift in consumer expectations
Customers have come to expect personalized experiences with the brands they love, with leading service providers like Netflix and Spotify driving the digital experience agenda. As a result, people expect brands to know them and show them relevant products and services throughout their journey, no matter the channel.
At the same time, customer expectations have also been shaped by online marketplaces like Amazon. The retail giant has mastered what it’s like to envisage an item you need and have it in your hands within a matter of hours. You might be able to get similar products elsewhere, but you’re unlikely to find them faster, or more conveniently.
Benedict Evans, Partner at Andreessen Horowitz, in his talk “The end of the beginning” describes retail in the Amazon mold “retail as logistics” and contrasts it with “retail as tastemaker”.
Tastemaker brands have a uniqueness that cannot be replicated elsewhere, one which outweighs mere convenience. They have an authenticity and brand experience that makes them unique.
This is the type of retail that can stand up against logistical convenience, these are the brands which will weather Amazon’s marketplace dominance. These are the brands who understand loyalty, not conversion is the new frontier, and harness personalization to get there.
What does successful personalization look like for tastemakers?
Personalization isn’t just inserting a person’s name on a generic email campaign, it goes far beyond that. Personalization is about context and relevance. It is about figuring out who’s going to want what, when and why.
Since 2010, Qubit has worked with many tastemaker brands to scale their personalization programs, driving customer loyalty, and lifetime value through innovative experiences. In this time, we’ve uncovered three key lessons.
1 - Personalization is a strategic business tool
People and brands generally agree that personalization is a “good thing”, but few really explore why. Personalization shouldn’t be done just for the sake of it; personalization is most effective when done with purpose - to solve businesses’ unique challenges.
There are, of course, common challenges. Personalization should create value for the customer and loyalty to the brand - perhaps the biggest challenge for ecommerce teams everywhere.
If you can solve the challenge of loyalty through personalization, the revenue opportunity from increasing customer loyalty is huge. With that in mind, metrics focused on repeat or frequent purchases can give you an indication of how successful you are being.
Based on our research from hundreds of retailers, we know that on average 83.9% of customers will be one-time-only purchasers - a big business problem for tastemakers to solve. But, if brands can make just 1%, of one-time-only purchasers, buy another time the revenue opportunity and lifetime value of customers increase exponentially. For example, if you’re a $65M beauty brand, moving the 1% is a $1 million opportunity.
In essence, brands can tackle this challenge by providing additional insight to customers or by saving them time. This is like putting the soul of a great sales assistant into the online browsing experience. A great sales assistant would ‘read’ the customer and bring together all their knowledge about the customer’s history and the brands’ products to make the sale and leave that shopper feeling good about themselves and their choices, making them more likely to return in future.
2 - Combine personalization with brand experience
The way tastemaker brands differentiate against logistics retailers is through the experiences they create. Whether offline or online, and regardless of channel, the experience has to be compelling and engaging. The way brands do this should be tailored to their mission, values and brand personality: they should be synonymous with the brand itself.
A shop assistant is fantastic for one-to-one, offline, brand-specific interactions. Online and at scale, however, you need technology. Qubit has been working with artificial intelligence and machine learning models to increase the effectiveness of online personalization. Models Qubit has built include customer propensity to purchase, lifetime value predictions, category preferences, demand prediction, product recommendations and many more.
On their own, these personalization models are intuitive, but the real magic happens when you combine them - making experiences more relevant, and more tailored to your brand
An example is what Chemist Direct have been doing for customers looking to replenish previously purchased products. Using Qubit browsing data and the average lifetime of a product, when an individual is on-site and about to run out of an item they are shown a notification reminding them to stock up. The experience is relevant, timely and personalized.
Another example is L’OCCITANE en Provence using Qubit Aura, Qubit’s Instagram-like AI-driven product discovery solution to curate a social-style feed based on an individual's preferences and previous behavior.
3 - Assemble squads of cross-functional teams
The third lesson for tastemakers going on the journey to integrated personalization, is cross-functional collaboration. For an executive, responsible for personalization, to bring together the strategy and ideas to deliver against specific business KPIs, they need to harness expertise from across the business.
While data silos are increasingly being broken down, there’s still a need for a level of expertise around the different data sources available and what it means for the business and the customer journey. Whether product, data science, web development, ecommerce, marketing or merchandising teams, different people bring alternative and relevant perspectives to the table, and have insight on different parts of the customer experience.
By bringing together the right data, it becomes so much easier to segment, predict and add context to experiences.
At Qubit, we pride ourselves on a platform that can bring together these different data sources and enable collaboration between teams to enable tastemaker brands can deliver on their business strategy.
To wrap up
Personalization for tastemaker brands is essential and loyal customers are now expecting it. More than that, personalization is a strategy that can help solve some of their biggest problems. The combination of a consistent strategy, world-leading technology, and squads of people dedicated to personalization across the customer journey is enabling tastemaker brands to differentiate.
Qubit recognizes that not all brands are at a stage where they can implement the most advanced forms of personalization. This is why, at Shoptalk, we announced our tiered approach to personalization, so businesses can progress on the path to advanced personalization, from first starting out through to delivering business transformation.
To find out more about where you are on the journey - click here for the report.