Key trends for retail technology in 2015: the rise of hyper-personalisation

Today's online shopping experience is a disjointed one

This year, customer experience management will be mostly focused on customer personas, rather than portfolios. It is increasingly critical for retailers to innovate in terms of customer experience to keep shoppers engaged.

Only by serving the changing needs, preferences and behaviour of the customer, will retailers and brands be able to meet today's hyper-connected consumers on their terms, across all channels of interaction.

The rise of hyper-personalisation

Over the course of last year, we saw a spike in customer expectations for bespoke personalisation across all brand interactions. Sephora's Beauty Insider loyalty programme allows shoppers to save "loves" and purchases (both online and in-store) in a Beauty Bag, and also leverages a shopper's profile to link specific customer attributes (such as skin tone) with products for sale within the store. Information is accessible across devices – even on iPads at store counters. By providing relevant, accurate services in exchange for customer data, Sephora is paving the way in persona-driven customer innovations.

Real-time interaction with customers across omni-channel platforms signified another key milestone last year. Retailers can use information from online buying behaviour to serve customers at the point of sale based on the relevant input he or she needs. This closes the gap between online and physical shopping experiences that previously created headaches for a lot of retail brands.

Customers want this, too, because they can get better offers and more tailored recommendations to what they want, when they want it. We currently partner with retailers to deliver what we call "Relevance in Store." By combining customer data gathered online and in-store, retailers can deliver a customer experience centred on value and convenience in exchange for customer information, and enabled by new apps and mobile technologies such as iBeacon.

How personalisation is influencing brands and retailers

The concept of data science as a skillset within a retail environment has become more significant. Data scientists understand customer data and can leverage open source technologies to rapidly develop scalable ways to synchronise in-store data with online intelligence for better services and recommendations. This can be very disruptive at first, but if it's executed well, it is a very rewarding experience that can generate a lot more value for the business, and for the customer too.

Gartner has predicted that by 2017, 89% of marketing leaders expect customer experience to be their primary basis for competitive differentiation. To align the organisation's investment in people, processes and technologies for this initiative, Gartner further recommends that businesses should hire a chief customer officer if they haven't done so already.

In spite of intentions to create consistent cross-channel experiences, today's shopper experience is a highly disjointed one, driven largely by the fact that retailers rely on legacy systems, disparate databases and applications that cannot speak to one another. As a cross-functional leader, the chief customer officer can help unify these disparate experiences and drive a truly seamless experience that bridges all customer touch points.

Data science will add the extra layer of customer intelligence to help retailers deliver more personalised, more relevant, and more meaningful campaigns that suit individual shoppers' needs.

Mobile and iBeacon technologies will be another key trend that will shake up the customer experience management in 2015. Some retailers have already started experimenting with some degree of success.

As consumers upgrade their smartphones with new apps and location-based functionalities, retailers will have more accurate, geo-based data to pinpoint specific promotional offers and concierge services for shoppers as they walk across the shop floor.