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Retail brands reaping rewards of personalisation

Sephora has claimed top spot in Sailthru’s 3rd annual Retail Personalization Index for the third year in a row, with Nordstrom earning second place.

The overall trend in the Index is for high scoring brands showing signs of true multi-channel personalization that is orchestrated to suit the customer.

The Retail Personalization Index is derived from a survey of 1,500 consumers; it compares feedback about cross-channel customer experiences against data such as net promoter score and repeat purchase rate.

Sailthru says it’s clear that consumers report higher satisfaction and are more likely to report purchasing again from brands with engaging, personalized experiences that make shopping easy and enjoyable across all channels.

Jason Grunberg, VP of Marketing at Sailthru, said: “Customers are highly engaged on mobile and email, not just on site and in store. The brands that performed best in the Retail Personalization Index do two things right. They deliver deep personalization on individual channels. And they deliver experiences between channels that keep customers coming back. Today, the customer controls their shopping experience, and that’s why their feedback drives this research.”

Large big box brands received high customer scores for likelihood to buy, but so did other brands such as Nike, Adidas, and Etsy. The data shows customers embrace a variety of online, bricks and mortar, big and small brands, as long as the shopping experience is rewarding.

Across the brands evaluated, some clear trends in capabilities separated the best performers from the rest.

When comparing the top 25 to those that did not make the top 100 Sailthru found:

  • On site, 88% of the top 25 brands had personalized recommendations vs. only 21% of brands that did not rank in the index
  • On email, 96% of the top 25 brands provided personalized product recommendations compared to 23% of unranked brands.
  • On mobile, 84% of the top 25 brands use push notifications vs. 10% of brands not in the top 100

Many leading scorers such as Sephora, The Home Depot, and Urban Outfitters performed particularly well on mobile and email channels, where Amazon scored poorly. Many online brands such as Thrive Market and Boxed also showed multichannel sophistication that beat Amazon. In particular, retailers with good mobile personalization climbed the rankings, which reflects changing consumer habits, with global m-commerce transactions set to overtake e-commerce transactions this year.

Other key findings:

  • Sephora, the beauty retailer, secured the top rank for the third year in a row
  • Nordstrom jumped to second place with an improvement in mobile score
  • Walmart placed 25, with a strong website score, but average scores on other channels despite recent technology investments
  • Amazon placed 57, with a strong website score, but lower scores on other channels

“The retailers that stood out this year and those that truly understand their customers’ behaviors and preferences and invest in personalization that reflects that understanding,” said Cassie Young, Chief Customer Officer at CM Group. “Consumers have made the move to mobile, and the retailers that have made that transition alongside them successfully lead the pack.”

To explore the Retail Personalization Index Top 100 go to

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

How is retail using personalisation to regain offline market appeal?

Shopping habits have changed, and many customers have abandoned the historic weekend saunter down the high street in favour of convenient, online alternatives.

These days, brands must go above and beyond to ensure footfall in their physical stores. Modern marketing strategies must tailor their approach and face the challenge of how to regain offline market appeal. But, just how are they achieving this? Let’s take a look in our guide below…

Personalisation can enhance the buying experience

A recent study found that 75% of consumers said they would be more likely to buy from a brand which recognizes them by name, or that recommends them products based on previous purchases. Analytics can provide customer information which assists with personalisation, and this is key to building brand loyalty.

The iconic jeweler Tiffany and Co. brought a breath of fresh air to the opening of their Covent Garden store, creating a ‘Style Studio’ where they sell more than just their luxury jewels. Homeware and accessories have been added to the range, to give the brand a better positioning in the everyday life of their customers, found within the exquisite on brand studio, finished in the company’s classic duck egg blue.

Further features such as a personalisation station called #MakeItTiffany where customers can get jewellery items engraved. The aesthetic of the store also targets the Instagram generation of younger shoppers, and the store is an experience within itself. 

Back to basics to capture the offline audience

The travel retail industry has taken a notable hit in recent years, as the age-old tradition of visiting a high street agent has become a thing of the past. With companies such as Airbnb and a plethora of agents taking their businesses online, physical travel agents have had to think of innovative ways to retain the holiday booking experience as an offline task.

Virgin Holidays have taken this on board and created a string of concept stores to revitalise the booking experience. The stores include mocked up airplane cabins and virtual reality technologies to take customers on a simulated tour of a destination. By playing on sensory features, Virgin are capitalising on the ‘real’ elements which are far harder for digital to replicate. They have essentially gone back to basics, providing a friendly, visual experience in order to help trigger conversions.

This exemplifies the fact that certain personalisation methods in retail are exclusive to the offline space, and  22%of younger and older families still book their holiday in store which proves the value. 

Striking a balance between offline and online

Shops may all be flocking to digital platforms, but some are choosing to buck the trend and take their personalised services back to where it all began. Before the age of department stores and supermarkets, stores were small and independent, which made for strong rapports with customers.

However, the emergence of large, modern stores made shopping a far less sociable activity. When online furniture and homeware retailer decided to take a leap of faith and open a physical store, they kept this concept at the heart of their plans.

The recently relaunched Soho London showroom captured the best of both worlds, from QR codes to assist in locating products to staff lead workshops for customers to attend. By doing so, they struck the perfect balance between the offline and online world.

Knowing your customers and help encourage sales

Much personalisation comes from purely knowing your customers, and companies such as Joules offer targeted discounts to coincide with sales and shopping events, including Black Friday. By providing the relevant discounts, customers are more likely to feel drawn towards a purchase as the offer is based on their previous buying habits with the brand.

Urban Outfitters use their reward scheme to dish out points to shoppers, even just by paying a visit to the store. Incentives like these can provide the fuel for a conversion, as well as a trip to the shops. Many stores offer memberships or points cards, which offer regular treats or an annual vouchers provide the motivation for a purchase, as simple as it might sound!

Overall, retailers are rejuvenating their approaches to retail, with a new degree of personalisation. Human elements are the most difficult to replicate online, therefore retail is effectively playing to its own advantage by boosting the presence of personalisation by creating a shopping experience which is tailored to the customer. 

Article produced by Where The Trade Buys, UK based suppliers of personalised travel mugswith a high quality finish.

Customer Experience

Personalisation & User Experience top issues for eCommerce sites

A survey of leading ecommerce professionals has revealed the key areas of interest for online retailers in 2018.

Personalisation and User Experience top the poll, closely followed by CRM, Conversion Rate Optimisation, Mobile Optimisation and Customer Retention & Loyalty.

The findings come from a survey of the senior ecommerce professionals attending this summer’s eTailing Summit, which takes place on July 10th at the London Hilton Canary Wharf.

These professionals include representatives from the likes of Superdrug, Ted Baker, Charlotte Tilbury, L’Oreal, Games Workshop, The Body Shop, Smiggle, bareMinerals, Nuffield Health, Clarins and many more.

“Personalisation and User Experience have been key issues for ecommerce businesses for the past year or so, so it’s no surprise to see that these are the areas that are seeing the biggest investment,” said Chris Cannon, Portfolio Manager for the eTailing Summit.

% of the eTailing Summit sourcing specific solutions for 2018 and beyond:

Personalisation – 69%

User Experience – 69%

CRM – 66%

Conversion Rate Optimisation – 59%

Mobile Optimisation – 55%

Customer Retention & Loyalty – 52%

A/B Testing Platforms – 48%

Affiliate Marketing – 45%

Customer Engagement Solutions – 45%

Ratings & Reviews – 45%

PPC – 45%

Strategy & Planning – 45%

Web Analytics & Reporting – 45%

Cross Channel Solutions – 38%

Shopping Cart Solutions – 38%

Google Shopping – 38%

Site Performance – 38%

Site Usability – 38%

SEO – 41%

Shipping – 41%

In-store Integration/POS – 34%

Digital Content Delivery – 34%

The eTailing Summit is free to attend for eCommerce professionals. To find out more about registering your place, contact Katie Bullot on 01992 374049 or email

If you provide solutions to the eCommerce sector and would like to meet with 65 senior professionals, contact Craig Ross on 01992 666726 or email


GUEST BLOG: How the personalisation trend in retail will continue to grow in 2018, enabled by the latest technology

Retailers can better connect with shoppers by using technology to create a more personalised experience. Gareth James, Prosper’s Business Manager looks at the key methods gaining ground and highlights some of the best examples of retail tech…

Personalisation is a key strategy that is rapidly developing across the retail sector in varied forms, to enhance product offerings, shop fit outs, marketing and customer service.

Personalised shopping experiences show consumers that retailers are paying attention and understand what they want and need at the right time too, so they feel valued. In today’s society filled with choice, personalisation also adds relevance and focus.

This growth in personalisation has been facilitated by advances in technology but also the collection and use of big data. Retailers can better track customers’ omni-channel activity then harness that data to better understand their preferences and tailor offerings accordingly.

So we’ve rounded up some leading methods and examples of retail-tech that are enabling a more personal shopping experience.

Smart mirrors and virtual changing rooms

In clothing retail, the changing room is where a customer sees what fits them individually so is a natural place for personalisation via interactive smart mirrors.

Pepe Jeans new flagship on London’s Regent Street London has changing rooms that use RFID (radio frequency identification) tags to automatically detect what a customer brings in. Smart screens inside allow customers to request different sizes and colours plus suggestions for similar styles or complementary items.

Virtual changing rooms have also been trialled by retailers such as Topshop and Superdry, to try items without the hassle of changing. This helps retailers connect in-store behaviour with a customer’s digital profile and learn preferences to personalise future recommendations.

In-store beacons

Now powerful mini computers – smartphones – are in many shoppers pockets, they provide more opportunities to track behaviour and influence it. Beacon technology and NFC (Near Field Communication) is one way to personalise the in-store experience.

Retailers including House of Fraser, Asda and Ted Baker have trialled beacons that send push notifications and offers directly to shoppers’ smartphones when browsing in store.

There are still various barriers to overcome though before there’s widespread adoption – such as having the app installed, bluetooth and location services enabled and accepting requests to receive notifications.

Personalised billboards

Beacon tech has also been used to develop personalised billboards. Aided by an app that compiles social media and demographic data, these billboards display the shopper’s social media profile, while listing relevant products and offers.

Shoppers that spend more than 10 seconds next to the display are sent a time sensitive

offer to their smartphone. This technology, which also scan what an individual is wearing to offer similar brands, has been trialled by the likes of Debenhams and New Look.

If these uses of beacon tech go mainstream, they could quickly become a nuisance, so offering relevant and useful content the customer values will be key to future success.

Conversational chatbots

Now usage of ‘private’ messaging apps has surpassed ‘public’ social media, the likes of WhatsApp, Messenger and Kik have become part of a consumer’s digital journey. So brands are offering convenient, personalised assistance in this conversational online space by using chatbots.

Built into a retailer’s website or app, or via open platform messaging apps, these programmed robots interact with customers and simulate human conversation through artificial intelligence (AI). As well as quickly responding to commonplace queries when staff may not be available, chatbots can provide decision support and enhance customer service.

A great example is H&M’s Kik chatbot which acts as a personal stylist. Shoppers are shown different outfits and asked to choose their favourites. The bot then figures out their preferences to suggest outfits which can be shopped, shared or saved.

Voice recognition tech

This tech is still in its infancy but people are getting more comfortable with talking into devices, so retailers are paying attention to this new voice-controlled frontier, where you say what you want to a Google Home or Amazon Echo device.

Right now, the biggest benefit is convenience for ordering regular, repeat purchases so food and drink brands have been natural first adopters. Domino’s Pizza has its own virtual ordering assistant named Dom, while Starbucks has introduced My Starbuck Barista.

Powered by bots that learn your preferences, it’s easy to see how personalisation will develop along with voice activated tech. It could be a complete game changer if widely adopted but won’t be right for every context.

Facial recognition and CCTV

Scanning images of people is another tool being explored for personalisation… to identify customer demographics to serve more relevant ads or recognise an important customer that requires attention.

Tesco uses CCTV in its petrol stations to determine shopper demographics and market relevant on-screen ads. Elsewhere, car brand Bentley uses facial recognition technology in its innovative London Westfield store to help create a bespoke Bentley.

Potential buyers are shown lifestyle films and images while a camera scans their expressions to judge emotional reactions. Software then builds a picture of likes and dislikes to create a car that Bentley thinks will suit the customer’s personality.

Tech equipping staff to better serve customers in-store

It’s not all about automation and bots – tech tools are empowering the human element of retail too. After all, interaction with real people is one of the benefits of physical retail, but to keep their job, many retail workers need to up their game.

That’s why Monsoon Accessorize is transforming its staff into helpful personal assistants, by arming them with iPads. By having access to live stock information, plus customer data with insights on buying habits and preferences, in-store assistants can better recommend alternative or complementary items. Monsoon Accessorize says this has increased average order values by 133%.

What’s next?

These last two examples show how a fine line must be tread in the quest for personalisation. The aim is to enhance the best parts of the retail experience without allowing things to become too automated, dehumanised or invasive.

Technology is a great tool for capturing data and building intelligence, but can it ever deliver the same service, value and empathy as a real person? Human behaviour is complex and not always formulaic – people have strong routines but can also be unpredictable and impulsive.

What’s more, the arrival of the EU’s GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) in 2018 will impact developments. Consumers are going to become more mindful of how their data is used. For customers to feel comfortable providing more information about themselves, retailers must offer them more valuable reasons to do so.

If you would like to find out how we can help you personalise your retail experience, please get in touch. Email

Waitrose wins strongest Christmas email campaign title…

The email service provider Mailjet has revealed that Waitrose is ahead of its competitor supermarkets in the email campaign stakes, analysing key metrics including the chain’s subject lines, automation, cross-channel marketing and personalisation.

Reaching a total score of 21.3 points out of an available 29.0, this marks the second consecutive victory for Waitrose in the study and represents a significant improvement on the supermarket’s performance from last year, rising 10 per cent overall.

Mid-market brands Tesco and Asda closely followed Waitrose’s success, hitting 20.0 and 19.9 respectively, however, Marks & Spencer struggled to compete scoring just 17.4 in total.

With regards to emails prospecting new consumer audiences, the research places Morrisons and Sainsbury’s joint last as both failed to send any communications to consumers who haven’t yet purchased through their online shopping platforms.

Josie Scotchmer, UK marketing manager at Mailjet said: “Consumers buy from the brands they build emotional connections with, particularly during the Christmas season. With low scores in critical areas for digital marketing like personalisation and automation, many supermarkets are not making the most of their emails to engage consumers with powerful storytelling.

As Mailjet suggests there has been much discussion on the importance of campaign personalisation this year, just two of the total eight supermarkets surveyed registered a score above 0.0. Specifically, Asda fell short on the top spot for its lack of personalisation, losing five points by omitting any room to add personal messaging to the email in favour of a singularly product-focused, visual structure.

Scotchmer added: “Winning greater share of the market in run up to Christmas holiday relies on having an online and offline campaign that fires on all cylinders. There are opportunities for all of these brands to learn from one another and broaden their use of digital strategies to engage and build loyalty with consumers at this critical period in the retail calendar.”

BWP Group: It’s as easy as X, Y, millennial…

So over the last few years, marketing has become more challenging as retailers struggle to reach the ‘golden egg’ that has become the millennial. This is interesting, because surely it’s easier to reach a vast audience that all think and feel the same.

‘Generation Me’ or the ‘Entitlement Generation’, as anyone born in the 80s and 90s have also been dubbed, tend to only be interested in themselves; they’re over-confident, fame-obsessed and selfish, shaped by a narcissistic digital age – a marketer’s demographic dream.

Or… and this is where it gets complicated, they are entrepreneurial, socially aware, generous and hardworking, shaped by an age of austerity and an intrinsic unfairness they observe via their ultra-connected world.

There are certain facts that are undeniable when looking at generational segments. Millennials are certainly the world’s first digital natives. Born into a world with connectivity at their fingertips, they are more aware of technology, and how they can use it to make their lives easier or more fun. And there are a lot of them – about 16 million in the UK.

These are two of the reasons why retailers and marketers have been duped into seeing millennials as the pot at the end of the rainbow. We know where they spend their time, how they shop, how they socialise and there are lots of them eagerly looking spend their disposable income. But to simplify our marketing communications to target a single homogenous group is not just a bit lazy; it’s an expensive mistake that loses sight of the bigger picture.

Firstly, as demonstrated above, this group is no different to the many generations before it. There are different behaviours, mind-sets, groups, fans and tribes. To treat them all the same, loses sight of the fact that people are generally looking for greater personalisation and relevance in the way we communicate with them – that’s the data exchange that’s been implicitly agreed.

Secondly, it ignores the fact that many segments of the generations before the Millennials have more disposable income, greater wealth and are also increasingly switched on to the advantages technology holds.

In order to make communications more relevant, and therefore more efficient, it’s important retailers become far less ‘age’ focused in how they segment their audiences. Examining the customer journey and customer mind-set at each stage of that journey is a far more valuable way of building proper segmentation and creating far more valuable and bespoke audience personas. A 25-year-old who researches purchase through bloggers and peers and then goes to a store to purchase, is going to have more in common with a 40-year-old who does the same, than another 25-year-old who prefers to go to a physical store for comparison research, before finding the best online deal to purchase.

This approach also offers useful future-proofing for activity; undoubtedly millennials will soon fall from marketers’ favour as the next fresh-faced generational segment (Generation Q) appears over the horizon with bulging wallets. The switched-on retailer will already have a segment for that, with no need to start ripping up their marketing plans in a clamour to engage with a group of people who are not really that different to the people that came before.


Words by Kieron Weedon, director of Strategy at the BWP Group

Guest Blog, Annabel Daly: Personalisation – the next step in modern-day eCommerce…

Ask any eCommerce retailer how they strive to get ahead of their competitors and they will invariably tell you the same things. Some may focus on organic SEO, aiming to rank higher than the opposition for what they consider to be key customer search terms, whilst others may plough more time and monetary investment into pay-per-click advertising or email marketing.

It’s so easy, however, to think of our customers as one large populous of people rather than considering them as individuals. Technology is evolving, and today, more than ever, personalisation is coming to the fore.

According to Adobe’s Real-Time Marketing Study, 77 per cent of marketers consider “dynamic, personalised content” to be very important for successful eCommerce websites. So what exactly does this involve?

eCommerce personalisation can be broken down into three core categories: site search, product recommendations and automated email marketing.

Site search should be commonplace in all eCommerce sites, but a personalised solution enables you to quickly react to customers’ ever-increasing demands in seconds. For example, your Autocomplete feature should be more than just relevant search terms or products; it should have the ability to correct spellings, add synonym rules and allow content search, rather than just products. One step further, to avoid the dreaded “no results” page, is to show product recommendations and therefore encourage conversions.

Sometimes known as “personalised merchandising”, product recommendations allow you to personalise content areas for your website, such as the homepage banner or “you may also like” recommendations. These should be responsive, supportive of multiple content types (e.g. images or HTML) and varied – for example, based on your basket or previous purchases. The team at PureNet have recently released new software, PureClarity, to enable these systems to run themselves and determine the best content for the aforementioned content areas.

Finally, as mentioned previously, email marketing can be instrumental in driving conversions, but you can get one step ahead with personalised, automated email marketing. What differentiates  personalised email marketing from traditional email marketing is the ability to upload bespoke templates. Whereas automated emails may be sent to those who have abandoned their basket for example, personalised emails give you the freedom to insert product recommenders or personalised content.

The benefits of personalising your eCommerce site are virtually limitless. As a site owner, you should be wary of personalising not only your product recommendations, but also your content in general, ensuring you are targeting relevant customers and appealing to their interests.

Of course, the statistics speak for themselves: 75 per cent of us admit we prefer to use a retailer with a personalised experience. Moreover, from an email perspective, personalised emails improve click through rates by 14 per cent and conversion rates by 10 per cent – a true testament to the ROI of this marketing technique.

In the increasingly competitive world of e-Commerce, a business owner who makes his or her customers feel special is far more likely to succeed. Optimising your website for personalisation can be time-consuming, but ultimately will achieve a huge return on investment in terms of time and money. 


Annabel Daly is group marketing manager for Magento eCommerce and portal agency, PureNet. Annabel has worked within the eCommerce industry for many years across internal and client marketing, with portfolios including Krispy Kreme, The Royal British Legion and Illamasqua. Annabel has a particular interest in innovation including personalisation and conversion-focused design. 

Forum Insight: Tactics to improve your email marketing campaigns…

Although many in the marketing profession have publicly declared the platform of email to be a thing of yesteryear, it’s still evident that a majority brands and sales departments are keen to adopt an effective strategy that will connect an audience and spread the intended message.

Taking a standard template, filling in the blanks and hitting send is easy for anyone to do; but that’s not how you grow a business. It’s crucial to put some thought into developing a solid strategy, or even better, replicate an effective process that has gained a substantial amount of traction, and make solid improvements over time.

Every email campaign should have one goal in mind: don’t overwhelm your audience with too much information. You want to create a campaign that is easy for everyone to read and navigate; as well as ensuring all the appropriate information and links are included.

The day you choose to send out a campaign can also greatly impact the amount of traction gained. According to marketers, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays tend to be the best days to send emails.

Although a template will more than likely be replicated for every campaign, emails should still look personal to the individual. Avoid decorative HTML designs; make sure emails appear to be written and sent by a real person to increase loyalty.


Subject line tips:

The subject line you decide to go with will undoubtedly be the most important part of your email. It’s just a few words; but you should dedicate as much attention and care to your subject line as you do to the email body. If it doesn’t attract interest, it won’t get opened.

  • If appropriate, use a reader’s name.
  • Make the subject line as inviting and personal as possible. The more personal the subject line, the higher the open rate.
  • Experiment with attention-grabbing questions as subject lines.
  • Always deliver in your email what you promise in your subject line.

Guest Blog, Sanjeev Sularia: The online, offline dance with future retail goals…

One of the most followed tech visionaries in the market, US venture capitalist Mary Meeker, has just posted her annual State of the Internet report – and in it, she states unequivocally that, “brick-and-mortar retail is on its deathbed.” Yet, the leader of online retail, Amazon, has just opened an experimental physical book store in Seattle and plans to open 400 more, suggesting there’s still plenty of life left in the traditional model. So, what’s going on? Can both of these contradictory facts be true? Sanjeev Sularia, co-founder and chief executive at Intelligence Node, discusses the most important trend affecting the potential profitability of retailers – the legitimate way to make online work with offline

After all, we are used to traditional offline retailers moving some of their operations online and the majority of consumers have realised the change in their shopping habits, where online sales increased by approximately 15 per cent in the first quarter year-on-year in the UK. However, with this said, we have not just Amazon but other pure-online players, such as the US-based fashion site, Bonobos and makeup subscription service, Birchbox, making a similar move into ‘real-world’ retailing.

It’s a puzzling set of consumer trends – initially at least. So what’s the dynamic here, and what is its bigger significance for the retailer? The moving online trend we understand, but what about when it’s the other way around?

Clever personalisation

It seems that there is a coming together of two separate domains: retail offline and online. Online-to-offline is partly about setting up mini warehouses for home delivery and showrooming (allowing customers to browse goods but make purchases online) plus managing returns, which can prove difficult and expensive online.

It’s also, however, about valuing the physical shopping experience for its own sake. Let’s look at what Amazon is doing to see why: the world’s biggest ecommerce firm reportedly only stocks 5,000 books at any one time at its trial store. But it can stock so low with full confidence, as it uses analytical intelligence garnered from website sales to decide on what stock to feature – giving customers exactly what they want, even before they get through the doors.

We shouldn’t be surprised; after all, great online intelligence and clever personalisation are what make an Amazon website visit the success it is, and so the same technologies are shaping the Amazon ‘physical’ experience too. What Amazon and other online retailers venturing into brick- and-mortar are doing right is recognising that these are not separate – let alone competitive – businesses. Rather, they are fused into one coherent omnichannel shopping experience.

The best of both worlds?

The way these retailers are doing this is through smart use of retail analytics. Analytics can tell you what the competition is doing, and enable a rapid turn round in pricing strategies with product lines. It can also pinpoint trends and allows ordering to keep in line with demand and target promotions and customer preferences. Advanced features include offering sophisticated and highly personalised at-the-till ‘smart cart’ discounts to customers or using multilingual pricing to help firms gain merchandising intelligence no matter the geography: increasingly important as country boundaries disappear.

And as Amazon is showing, all this is what you need to inform a logical online-offline proposition – something we can expect more and more of, going forward.


Sanjeev Sularia is CEO and co-founder of Intelligence Node, where he focuses on client acquisition and delivering on the vision behind the company, as well as becoming a global partner for leading retail brands. Sanjeev has worked as part of the founding team at fashion brands and, where he was the CFO.