The battle between brick-and-mortar retail and ecommerce comes down to brands' abilities to cater to their customers on a personal level. Largely as a result of the digital era, consumers say they would prefer to receive messages and promotional offers that are tailored to their individual interests and addressed to them personally, while a significant portion of individuals say they will deliberately ignore emails and letters that seem to employ the "spray-and-pray" marketing method.
A recent article for Retail Customer Experience by Chris Petersen, CEO of Integrated Marketing Solutions, explains that customers come to web-based store fronts and physical shops with different questions. Internet buyers are usually asking "What?" he writes, while face-to-face shoppers are often asking "How?" That is, internet shoppers turn to the internet when they know which items they are looking for, but do not necessarily know which items are the best options or know the stores that offer the best deals. When consumers visit brick-and-mortar shops, however, they are still considering those intangibles - employees' knowledge about how to use the products they have with those on the market to achieve a specific goal. Or perhaps, patrons are looking for something, but don't quite know what it is yet. The internet doesn't hone search results this way.
Online companies seem to pull ahead
So far, consumers' online buying experiences have been more easily personalized than shopping trips in stores, according to ClickZ. Websites like Amazon and Netflix have gathered enough data about their customers that they seem to understand what their customers want even before the individuals know themselves. This is not the result of physics - it's the result of stockpiles of data, discernible patterns and finely tuned algorithms.
For instance, one of those sites might indicate that 9 times out of 10, people who watched Gilligan's Island, Save the Last Dance and Untamed Heart and gave them all a four out of five rating will likely also enjoy Saved By the Bell. However, companies must be confident in their data to make these kinds of leaps. Customers today are fickle, and may not return to a site that repeatedly gives them inaccurate recommendations.
Prepare for an era of personalization with better data
Personalization is just gaining steam, according to Fast Company. Brands that can simplify the shopping experience by providing relevant information sooner will earn their consumers' trust and favor.
To ensure big data efforts are a hit and not a miss, companies must cleanse their data thoroughly. Employing the necessary data quality tools is an important first step toward better information, but it must also be coupled with governance and persistence to be a success.