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Mind the Gap: The Real Retail Personalization Story

By Sharon Shapiro | January 29, 2018

Retailers know personalization matters, it’s getting the right technology to execute on a personalization strategy that’s the problem

Do you remember the last day that went by that you didn’t hear, read or talk about personalization?

If you’re anything like me, the answer is a flat-out no. But I’d argue that most of these conversations miss the most important piece of the retail personalization story.

The Retail Personalization Story As We Know It Today

Personalization has come to dominate nearly every conversation in the retail world for a very good reason — because consumers now demand and respond positively to personalized experiences.

Most often, these conversations center around topics like:

These findings and advice are no doubt interesting and valuable in the right context, but for most retail marketers, they’ve passed their prime. They focus on personalization 101, and most marketers are ready for the more advanced course.

Why It’s Time For A New Retail Personalization Story

There’s a reason that conversations about personalization are everywhere. It’s because retailers, and especially frontline marketers who handle channels like email, know personalization is important. In fact, more than 90% of US retailers rate personalization as at least somewhat important to their business goals.

And not only do retail marketers know personalization is important, but they also have a good idea of what that personalization should look like. So the problem isn’t the why or the what. It’s also not selling the pitch up the ranks internally, as personalization is on every retail executive’s radar too.

So why haven’t we realized the personalization nirvana we’re so desperately seeking? The problem is executing on the personalization imperative due to technology limitations.

The Real Story Is The Retail Personalization Gap

As it turns out, the real retail personalization story no longer centers on the why or even the abstract how, but rather on the nitty gritty of moving from a strategic vision to reality. We need to tell this story — and more importantly, solve this problem — now because we’ve hit a personalization gap.

Specifically, RIS News reports that despite the fact that over 90% of retailers recognize the importance of personalization, 69% lack the advanced technologies they need to improve their personalization capabilities. The same data reveals that most personalization efforts to date focus on email communications.

We’ve arrived at this retail personalization gap because the technology that most commonly comprises retail marketing stacks, especially when it comes to email, aren’t designed to meet the more sophisticated and nuanced needs of today’s marketers. Plain and simple, retail marketers are often held back by their technology (or really, a lack thereof).

More specifically, a 2017 survey of retail leaders conducted by Worldwide Business Research and Bluecore found that some of the top technology-related challenges that retailers face include the length of time required to derive insights, the ability to enable activity across multiple channels and the ability to access a single view of all customer data.

Given these limitations, what are you as a frontline marketer supposed to do? If you have a vision for an amazing personalized experience to create for your customers but can’t execute on it because you don’t have the right solution in your marketing stack, you’re not alone.

To meet your personalization goals, you need a solution designed specifically to optimize retail performance that also marries product and customer data, since that combination is essential for deep personalization. Instead, what you likely have are solutions that were built to satisfy needs across many industries and focus on volume over performance. And your product and customer data likely live in their own distinct silos.

Let’s Stop Ignoring the Personalization Gap and Start Solving It

Conversations about how to personalize the retail experience aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. But in order for these conversations to provide the most value for marketers, they need to shift away from the why and the what and instead dive deep into the how.

It’s clear that the one of the most pressing problems to solve when it comes to retail personalization is the technology piece of the equation, so let’s start talking about how to make that happen and bridge the personalization gap once and for all.

And hopefully when all is said and done, your marketing team will have the proper ammunition and clear course of action that you need in order to say to your stack: It’s not me, it’s you.

What exactly does it take to bridge the personalization gap? Click here to check out our take on why pairing a deep knowledge of your products with insights on customer behavior is key to success, plus how a handful of retailers are using technology to put this approach to work.

Sharon Shapiro

Sharon Shapiro

Sharon leads Bluecore's content marketing program, collaborating with top retailers and strategists to highlight the latest trends in retail marketing, spotlight industry leaders and share advice on how marketers can stay ahead of the curve. She has spent her career building content marketing programs for B2B SaaS companies. Sharon graduated from Emory University with a B.A. in journalism.