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Is There a Danger for Retail Brands of Getting Over-Personal?

Blog
3rd January 2017

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I was pleased to see that Deloitte listed personalisation as one of their top six trends for retail brands in 2016. Their report states:

“People-centric retail models are emerging, specifically online-based services that are designed carefully around a particular individual. This idea of building an experience around a shopper’s tastes is moving into the store environment.”

This is an interesting point, because they are indicating that personalisation with online retail is far ahead of the in-store experience. Some shoppers have expressed their preference for online shopping specifically because it feels like the retailer knows the customer better. But this is changing with efforts to boost the in-store experience, especially where retailers use apps that can improve the in-store journey – such as avoiding queues of people waiting to pay.

But some marketing experts are warning about the possibility that some brands might over-personalise their offering and go too far in efforts to create deals that are just relevant to each individual shopper. This feature in MarTech Today magazine warns that there are several areas where brands might go too far:

  • Psychological profiling: Cambridge Analytica, the data firm that polled the USA for Donald Trump, claims to have psychologically profiled every single adult in the USA. They claim to be able to group people better than ever before, based on behaviour.
  • Internet of Things: the IoT will allow our devices to contact their manufacturers or retailers without needing to ask permission of the owner, sharing vast amounts of diagnostic data. Ostensibly this is about fixing problems before they occur, but it can also ensure that customer movement and activity is tracked.
  • Voice activated devices: Google Home and Amazon Echo are bringing voice control to our homes. That’s great if you want to change the music or get a weather report just by asking the computer, but some customers are wary of having listening devices at home recording every word and sound from inside the house.

Creating a highly personalised retail offering requires that customers give up information about their likes, dislikes, and shopping preferences. Data analytics can then spot trends and suggest ideas for products the customer might like; but when things go wrong, customers can ask difficult questions about how much data they are offering.

A famous story repeated in the MarTech Today article features a father shopping with his teenage daughter in Target in the USA. Target offers them several discounts for baby and infant-related products. The father asks why, only to find out that Target knew his daughter was pregnant before he did.

When mistakes like this happen, a brand can cross the line. That tale presents Target as logically offering discounts that might have been appreciated, but it also demonstrates that the analytic system can see more of our behaviour than our own family sometimes. Will some customers want to stop sharing their shopping habits? And would this even be possible in the shopping environment we have created?

What do you think about the need for customers to be comfortable about sharing their data? Leave a comment below or get in touch on LinkedIn and let me know.


Helen Murray
Article by: Helen Murray

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