Past experiences of “personalisation” have left consumers wary. We’re now quite commonly aware that companies track our behaviour, drowning in the sea of data that we leak from actions across their sites and the rest of the web.

Personalisation is seen as something shifty done in the background through tracking cookies and contextual data then sold to third parties who pester you with ads across the web. In fact, Forrester found that ad-blocking tools, which prevent companies from collecting user data, became the most popular browser plugin of 2014. If brands are to regain customers’ trust, things have to change.

Fortunately for retailers, the natural dynamic for using customers’ data in offline retail is a quite different and more direct proposition. i.e. tell me about yourself and what you’re interested in so we can immediately deliver a great added value experience in store. This starts the relationship on the right foot and gives the customer a reason to deliver you useful details in their own words.

There needs to be a shift in the way retailers approach personalisation. Personalisation should be a two way conversation between organisation and individual in which both parties benefit. Consumers need to realise that by giving a retailer information about their lives they'll immediately benefit from the personalised experience they will receive in return. It should be about a fair exchange of data in which both the customer and retailer receive benefits.

Personalisation: Cool not creepy

Over the coming year it will be down to the industry to prove to consumers that providing personalised experiences will make everyone’s lives easier and retail more enjoyable. It can be cool not creepy for a retailer to understand who you are as soon as you walk into a store.

Like a landlord in a local pub knows your usual tipple of choice or your hairdresser knows what style you’re after. Retailers need to demonstrate to their customers the value that personalisation can bring. They need to find non-invasive ways to express the value of customers’ data directly back to them and improve their shopping experience.

This year will be a tipping point for personalisation. Either consumers close up completely and big retailers go back to being blind, or more retailers start getting personalisation right and consumers realise the benefits that it can bring. Imagine walking into a supermarket, receiving a notification triggered by a smart beacon and instantly knowing which of your usual purchases are on sale.

If retailers gather data purely to increase customer satisfaction then customers are likely to receive a better shopping experience and will be more likely to make return visits.

Keeping it clean

As with every good omnichannel strategy, retailers should be using personalisation to deliver a consistent and personal customer experience across every channel. Brands should be using what they’ve learnt about users to find out ways to serve them better online and in-store.

They key is to do it with integrity and rebuild your customer’s trust. Help them feel safe in the knowledge their data won’t be resold to third parties and is confidential between you and them.

I think we all dream of a day where shopping stops feeling like a minefield of attention grabbing adverts and irrelevant offers and instead becomes an experience which a retailer is helping, not hindering, me from making a decision in their favour.

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