One of the benefits of sponsoring the recent WGSN Trend Summits was getting to attend the seminars. The morning Business Edit sessions were excellent – filled with innovative examples from international brands and overarching themes on where retail and digital is headed.

The retail presentation focused on a few key themes: Mass personlisation, Fast laning and Elevated engagement.

Mass personlisation

Mass personlisation goes beyond just putting a customer’s name in their emails, it’s about making their shopping experience suit their needs; making the online store their store. This can be as simple as sorting brands by those most shopped (as Mr Porter does) or as involved as changing the site layout and menu based on shopping and browsing habits (www.very.co.uk have implemented this with the help of a technology partner). In this age of mobile screens personalisation is more important than ever. With less screen real estate to work with, getting the right content in front of a user with minimum clicks is key.

Mr Porter website

The Mr Porter logo briefly flicks to the account holder’s name on load. A nice little act of recognition.

Customers are also getting fed up (and increasingly savvy to) retargeting, so it’s important to use personlisation for powers of good (surprise and delight, like Nike with customised videos for their Nike+ users) rather than thinly veiled Internet stalking. It’s all about appearing seamless, a customer wouldn’t realise how much an experience is customised for their benefit until they see another person’s view.

Fast laning

Companies attempting to make customer’s lives easier and take the pain points out of the shopping experience is nothing new, but the increasingly innovative ways they are doing so is. Wearables and apps are popular current solutions. Examples include the Apple Watch (Starwood hotels have developed an app where guests with the watch can use it as a room key) and Disney’s custom built Magicband, or apps like the massively successful Starbucks app, which allows customers to order ahead. Brands may already be employing fast lane techniques, but as House of Fraser found, there can still be room for improvement. Although House of Fraser had click and collect as an option, customers were arriving only to find a chaotic line and long wait, essentially making the whole click and collect process redundant. To solve this, they developed an app on which customers can book their collect time in and receive an alert when their order is ready.

Disney's MagicBand

The Disney MagicBand allows guests to unlock their hotel rooms, board rides, receive their park photos and charge food and merchandise to their room.

The fast lane often comes at a price. Literally. Convenience is not for the discount-focused consumer. It will be important for retailers to understand their customer segments to know what experiences will add the most value to their shoppers. There is no point in making the shopping process quick if you’re catering to a browse-happy or discount sensitive market.

Elevated Engagement

Companies are trying to set themselves apart from the crowded retail landscape by adding additional elements to their customers’ in store (and occasionally online) experience. One notable trend here was the hiring of event staff rather than the tradition retail employees to staff shops. By employing the former, retailers hope to create a more personable and welcoming environment that encourages customers to enter (and linger in) their stores. Whether it’s a perfume store set up like a wine bar (Nose Paris) or in store monthly dinners (Kit + Ace), brands are expanding beyond their core offerings in the name of engagement. Topman also managed to successfully take this idea online by using Google Hangouts to facilitate personal shopping appointments.

The Kit  and Ace Supper Club

The Kit and Ace Supper Club

The overarching theme here is customer centricity and alleviating pain points. So how does this relate to a marketing cloud and technology? Cue: our time to shine.

Mass personalisation easily translates into emails (and landing pages). We’ve had clients send out more than 20 different variations of a newsletter due to segmentation (and some high volume retailers would consider that small). Again, this should be seamless, if there is any degree of website personalisation, this should carry through to customer communications (and even if there isn’t, eDMs may be a good place to get this initiative started). One of the key takeaways from this section was “be relevant or be deleted”.

Replenishment reminder SMS/eDMs are a form of fast laning, and if a retailer goes the extra step to make the click through to purchase as painless as possible, all the better. SMS is also a useful tool to link in store and online – customers could be offered the option in store via SMS to receive an email when a new product drops or when their size comes in, alleviating wait times and removing the onus on the customer to check.

When looking at these ideas it’s easy to get overwhelmed and dismiss them to the realm of retailers with large development and marketing budgets, but if you dig deeper there should always be some key, quick win take aways. Drop us an email if you have any ideas you’d like to discuss.