Personalization IRL: The rise of tailored physical experiences
Learn how organizations can merge online and offline interactions to elevate the customer experience in real life (IRL).
This article was originally published on Toolbox Marketing.
As retailers prepare to return to brick-and-mortar spaces, consumers will increasingly expect the personalization they have become accustomed to online to be matched in-store. In this article, we’ll discuss how organizations can merge online and offline interactions to elevate the customer experience ‘IRL’.
After the pandemic moved much of life and commerce online, consumers have grown increasingly accustomed to a high level of personalization. This personalization helps them find the right products to purchase, the next meal to order, the best ebook or podcast to read or listen to, and the most compelling content to stream.
While these tailored experiences are shaping consumer behavior online, they are also set to transform physical engagements as businesses across industries vie to meet mounting consumer demands for relevant, bespoke experiences offline.
Seeking to merge the two worlds effectively, businesses from brick-and-mortar retail to financial services will turn to a range of emerging technologies to enhance the customer experience, provide convenience, and foster long-term relationships. Consider this a high-tech analog to the days when a customer would walk into the neighborhood store or restaurant, and the owners knew just how to help her.
Call it Personalization in real life (IRL).
Personalizing Physical Spaces
What does personalization look like in real life? Physical stores will evolve into smart showrooms, allowing customers to interact with brands and products in a customizable way.
Let us start with what happens once a customer enters a store.
The customer identifies herself by checking in on the store’s mobile app. She then receives a set of personalized offers and recommendations based on her previous purchases and browsing activity, both online and offline. Upon discovering a product, she can scan its barcode to learn more details via the mobile app. As she continues moving through the store, Near Field Communication (NFC) technology, radio-frequency identification, proximity sensors, and Bluetooth beacons make it possible for her to receive alerts about nearby products that may be of particular interest. Even unidentified customers can enjoy more relevant experiences, with digital displays tailored according to the time of day or year, weather, restaurant or store traffic, trending items, and so on.
The same kind of experience can be provided at a restaurant drive-through, a fast-food counter, or even a sports stadium.
Voice-powered personalization can also play an important role in making for more convenient and meaningful interactions, with assistants like Alexa employed to recommend products and enable purchases in a way that is consistent with a brand’s identity.
To collect the data required to merge online and offline identities and create individual experiences without intruding on consumer privacy, obtaining user consent and providing full transparency on data collection is vital. Not only will this power personalization, but it will also, by directly involving the consumer, mitigate the “creep factor” that makes consumers suspicious of many data collection practices.
To make this possible, businesses will need to encourage customers to identify themselves (e.g., via a mobile app or kiosk) upon entering a physical store. The good news is that customers crave targeted and meaningful interactions both online and offline, making this a much easier sell.
While many of the most obvious use cases can be found in the retail sector, taking digital personalization to the physical world is not limited to this one industry.
Sports stadiums can curate the fan experience by giving visitors access to a remote app. This app can allow them to store digital tickets, order refreshments to their seats, view content pertinent to their interests, retrieve player information and game developments, select promotions on fan merchandise, and more. In tandem, event organizers can use their own apps to manage traffic through the stadium, directing users to the nearest restrooms or concession stands with the shortest lines, for example.
In financial services, where no two individuals’ needs and preferences are alike, institutions can use legacy technology such as ATMs for personalization. Each time a customer visits an ATM, the screen can be tailored according to the individual’s transaction history or financial goals, providing easy access to relevant options and offers from the bank.
It Is Only the Beginning
For many consumers, their trips to the grocery store, retail outlet, sports stadium, or banking branch have reduced significantly. But as they re-enter a world that has heavily shifted online, it will become more critical than ever for businesses to develop a strong omnichannel personalization strategy.
Those who manage to bring more value to physical experiences, inspired by customers’ online journeys and driven by a commitment to the kind of individualized service that our parents and grandparents could expect at their local Mom & Pop, will be poised to tackle this new normal.
And thankfully, through several exciting new innovations and activations, effectively delivering on personalization IRL is more than within reach.