In retail, it’s important to remember that you are building relationships first and selling products second. And in any relationship, personal or business, the only way to strengthen it is to make people feel like they are your priority. Who doesn’t want to come out of an interaction feeling like they matter?

In a generation when people are already engulfed with content, offers and notifications, personalisation is not only about delivering targeted product content, but also about being personal. Retailers should be striving to be present where their customers are, listening intently, and anticipating how to respond appropriately to their needs.

So, how does this translate into action? If you start with these four foundation strategies, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a business that builds great customer relationships, and by extension of that, wins on conversion. 

  1. Unify your data

    At risk of sounding like a broken record, data is your best friend when it comes to customer engagement. One of the biggest issues organisations face today is not collecting data (most companies have droves of it); it’s knowing how to leverage it. So much data remains ‘dark data’, a term coined by Gartner which means “the information assets organisations collect, process, and store during regular business activities, but generally fail to use for other purposes (for example, analytics, business relationships, and direct monetising).”

    Accessing and connecting all your data sources in one place is at the core of personalisation. Through this, your team can begin to understand the nuances and complexities of every customer’s relationship to your brand in real-time. These “unified customer profiles” allow your business to understand every user’s complete journey, so you can send them targeted offers, messaging, content, and more. This is the only way to truly understand your customers’ behaviour, giving you the ability to use those insights to develop ways to make them feel seen.

    2. Introduce customer-aware AI

    To be responsive in your customer relationships, you’ll need to make the switch from reactive to proactive data usage. With real-time customer profiles in place, your business can then unlock the power of AI to predict which user groups will be more likely to convert, allowing you to send them the right message at the right time and push them further down the funnel.

    It can also be used to introduce individualised engagement experiences based on a customer’s profile. The beauty of AI is that it can help your team generate campaigns in a fraction of the time it takes a human, as well as create more precise, predictive audiences out of the box, trigger timely journeys, and provide tailored one-on-one interactions. With the right data plugged into the right AI tools, the possibilities are endless.

    3. Offer ‘channel-less’ real-time communication

    When customer-facing teams are equipped with clear context in real-time and the ability to interact with customers across any of their preferred channels, your business will always be ready to respond appropriately. Rather than multi-channel, real-time communication should now be channel agnostic, enabling brands to listen and be present with customers on their preferred channel.

    Global company 1800-Flowers realised a 4 x return rate among customers who can modify orders in real-time. For an anxiety-ridden significant other trying to impress on special occasions like anniversaries or Valentine’s Day, they want to know the order went through—and to be able to track its progress—especially given the product is perishable and time-sensitive.

    1800-Flowers sends rich order confirmations and delivery updates, and with integrations across Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, customers are not only able to see their order went through and is being processed; they can also respond to those notifications to make modifications to their order in a conversational, delightful way—a new feature that has been incredibly powerful for the company and its customers. By delivering precise, personalised, one-on-one interactions at every touchpoint, they are giving people the sense that they are present in their original shopfront.

    4. Make the little things count

    The strongest relationships are built not on infrequent big gestures but on many small moments of delight. As you build real-time profiles, you will be empowered to come up with new and creative ways to surprise each individual. It might be personal offers, or just showing a customer new product features they didn’t know about, but are relevant to their needs. Think about the ways you’d like to be noticed or recognised each day in your relationships, and translate that into new interactions with your customers.

    Delivering personalised retail experiences can feel daunting – sometimes it’s hard to know where to start. When we view personalisation through a lens of connection, and simply making your customers feel seen and important, it’s much easier to know where to begin.

    Nicholas Kontopoulos is vice president of marketing for APAC and Japan at Twilio.