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The road to personalisation

Where to start final web

There is little doubt that personalisation is one of the buzzwords du jour in the world of fashion retail. What is less clear is the right way to approach personalisation, what the objectives should be and what those goals should be measured against. In Drapers’ first personalisation report, we aim to shed some light on these areas.


Personalisation is the buzzword of the moment in retail. However, most in the sector are taking their first steps into the unknown in this field. Drapers looks at how you should start developing your strategy.

With talk swirling of one-to-one homepage experiences and individual product recommendations, it can be daunting for those without specialist knowledge and hefty budgets to know where to begin.

“You can easily start and dip your toe in the water,” insists Mike Harris, vice-president of Europe, Middle East and Africa at personalisation and experience marketing platform Monetate. “You don’t have to jump straight into one-to-one personalisation – look at segmenting your customer database and keep it simple.”

country attire

country attire

The Country Attire website personalised for sunny (top) and rainy weather (bottom)

Designer flash Sale site SecretSales started by sending different marketing emails to its male and female customers.

Meanwhile, heritage fashion etailer Country Attire, which sells brands including Barbour and Hunter, began its personalisation journey by focusing on the location of its customers around the world. “We wanted to give our customers in Europe a very different experience from those in the UK,” says co-founder and marketing director Jenny Parker. The etailer began by displaying appropriate delivery, payment detail and currency details for international customers.

By producing individual promotions and creative for different countries, Country Attire boosted revenue by session by 32% and increased conversion rates by 28%, in the year to May 2015.

Developing your strategy

Retailers do not need to make a strategic decision when adopting personalisation, says Harris: “Run it for a month, gather clear metrics of the uplift and use the results to build a business case internally.”

He recommends moving from segmentation to building “online personas”, such as high-value buyers or discount shoppers.

Hobbs focused on creating different experiences depending on customer loyalty. “People who shopped for the first time last week were getting the same comms as loyal customers of 15 years,” says Hobbs strategy director Mairi Fairley.

Harris says many retailers are opting to give their high-value customers a “VIP experience”. “It’s easy to identify who they are and they are very high value to you – you have to get the message right,” he says.

SecretSales chief executive Nish Kukadia developed its personalisation journey by identifying types of shopper – or “communities”, as he calls them – such as the 30-to-45-year-old housewife. The etailer targets these communities with emails promoting categories popular with that shopper type.

Harris recommends building a roadmap for those who want to make personalisation a strategic priority.

“Start with an overarching goal and plan how you’re going to get there. It’s important to have three to six months of ideas to move you in the right direction,” he says.

For Hobbs, making the experience better and slicker for its time-poor customer was central, according to Fairley.

“They work and have a family so it makes sense to give them an experience and communication as relevant to them as possible. If they’re not interested in jumpsuits, why show them?” she says.

With its central goal in place, Hobbs’ personalisation strategy has moved at pace since it began putting its plan into action 12 months ago. The retailer has introduced product recommendations, personalised direct mail and has tailored the homepage of its website for customers. 

Fairley says the next step for Hobbs will be to bring personalisation into its stores. The retailer plans to use in-store tablets, on which sales assistants will access customer and loyalty card data to look up relevant products and suggest them to the customer.

Investment and process changes

Embracing personalisation brought about changes to the way Hobbs operates, says Fairley: “’One size fits all’ is efficient – you put together one mail per day. The personalised route does increase your workload,” she admits.

The retailer has also changed the way it manages its database, bringing it in-house, while Secret Sales created its own data warehouse to compare, control and access data at all times.

However, Harris says vendors can take the hassle away from retailers. “The tech community has made it easy. We can do the data collection and segmentation. All you really need is somebody whose role involves thinking about how they would change the customer experience,” he says.

Parker, who worked with Monetate to introduce personalisation to the Country Attire site, says her company experienced very little change. “There was no additional investment other than the technology platform. We were quite techy anyway, so it didn’t really change how we worked either,” she says.

While personalisation may be synonymous with tech giants such as Amazon, Google and Netflix, a monster budget and game-changing plans are not a necessity to enter the fray – companies large and small across retail are introducing simple changes to improve their customer’s experience and, crucially, boost sales.

Readers' comments (1)

  • One to one personalisation, along with accurate inventory control, are the two most important investment areas for fashion retail.

    I've been working on the former since 2008. The correct in store personalisation will deliver amazing results. Both immediately through the till, and strategically through the use of the data. Shopper wise, it wins loyalty - without even talking discounts.

    It's how bricks will compete with pure clicks... and why etailers will develop physical presence.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

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