Commerce reimagined

Commerce reimagined

Why businesses must be more human-centric to find topline growth

Eighty-four per cent of consumers say being treated like a person, not a number, is very important if you want their business. Salesforce 2019

Meanwhile, 85% of marketers think their prospects or consumers expect a personalised experience. Evergage 2019

So, marketers and consumers are aligned. We all treasure our individuality, and value it in others. In order to generate topline growth, brands need to assert their own individuality (distinctiveness) and demonstrate genuine understanding of the needs and wants of their customers as individuals (personalisation).

The two are intrinsically connected. Look at Nordstrom. Ever since it was founded in 1901, the retailer has enjoyed a strong reputation for service and staff who are prepared to ‘go the extra mile’. Sending customers thank you cards, arranging home deliveries and organising personal appointments have always been the norm. Now Nordstrom is using technology to dial things up several notches. By integrating its Personal Book software into point-of-sales systems, employees can access information on individual shoppers in real time. The database contains in-depth data on customer preferences and purchase history. Similarly, its TextStyle app puts a personal stylist in every customer’s pocket, allowing them to chat directly with stylists anytime and anywhere.

While Nordstrom is far from immune to the challenges facing retail, it has grown gross income every year since 2015 and earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) are steady.

Delivering tailored experiences and product offerings to consumers based on their habits and behaviours is tricky. You need the right amount of data, the right quality of data and the ability to process and access it at the right time. Privacy needs to be a golden rule; connection must never cross over into intrusion. You need to factor in significant costs. You probably need to evolve your ways of working. But there’s absolutely no alternative: not doing it will have a hugely negative impact on your business’s future growth potential.

Of course, data is not the be-all and end-all. It’s often meaningless without human intervention and a good dose of intuition. If P&G had solely looked at the data when it researched its new product idea for Lenor Unstoppables – small beads that can be added to a wash in varying proportions to give the user more control over the level of fragrance in the finished laundry – it would never have launched it. The research data suggested that no one would adopt the product. Luckily, people are smarter than data alone and P&G went ahead with Unstoppables anyway. The reward was £30m in sales in the first 18 months.

Businesses with genuinely human-centric strategies are finding breakthrough ways to use technology to improve the lives of individual customers:

  • After several years working together, L’Oréal acquired ModiFace in March 2018. The AR technology allows you to try on beauty products virtually using the camera on your smartphone; very handy in a relatively high cost, high risk category. Great for the consumer, and also great for the company: L’Oréal claims the technology drives a x3 increase in conversion rates.
  • Amazon has filed a patent for using Alexa devices to detect illness from a change in tone of voice, as well as analysing and understanding the user’s emotional state. It can then suggest appropriate action; for example, if Alexa thinks you have a cold, it will recommend you order some medication. 
  • Microsoft is helping retailers transform and provide more personal and human-centric store experiences. It’s working with M&S to embed technology that helps answer real staff and shopper needs. For instance, data is now being used to ensure in-store colleagues are in the right place at the right time to serve customers.
  • In the UK, Boots tapped into data to bring personalised shopping to life with its first ever data-led Christmas campaign. The activity encouraged shoppers to create, curate and share their own ‘Bootique’, a cross between a digital wish list and fully personalisable ecommerce shop. The campaign was highly successful in driving both brand reappraisal and sales during the fiercely competitive Christmas season.
  • Stitch Fix is one of the fastest growing fashion retailers in the UK. It offers personal style advice for men and women that evolves in line with a customer’s changing tastes, needs and lifestyle. An AI stylist engine helps human stylists curate individualised collections for subscribers.

Understanding and delivering what consumers want, and what they don’t yet know they want, is the next stage of human-centric marketing. Companies like Stitch Fix are pioneers in data crunching at a micro level to anticipate and influence future needs.

This is massively exciting for us all. Hyper-personalisation will allow us to move beyond selling. By building a 360° view of individual consumers, we can identify their specific needs in the moment and develop ideas, services and products that treat people like people.

As we dive into the ‘roaring twenties’, we’ll be able to help brands capture topline growth via strategies that are insight-led, data-fuelled, powered by modern commerce technology…and above all, human-centric.

Michelle Whelan

CEO, Geometry UK

published on

19 March 2020



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