Retail’s Personalization Problem: Too Much Data, Not Enough Innovation (But That’s About to Change)

We just got back from New York City, where both major fashion labels and brick-and-mortar stores came together to talk about the future of retail at the Fashion Digital Conference. Between beacons and data, mobile and always on-the-go consumers, the main point of conversation always found its way back to personalization.

Keynote speaker Ron Offir, SVP of Global eCommerce at Michael Kors, set the stage for the conference, stating that there is a retail disconnect between data, mobile and the consumer. Worse, brand marketers are drowning in data and no one has the time nor financial resources to hire an army of analysts that can dig through 1s and 0s full-time to find seriously useful and actionable insights. 

The solution for the industry, then, is in a technology – but which one? Big data platforms are plentiful and most aim to serve marketing departments outside of retail, specifically for ad tech purposes. Sure, you can get the people to your site, but you still need them to go down a funnel and convert. Page views are important metrics for digital retailers, but engagement and conversion mean a whole lot more

“Page views are important metrics for digital retailers, but engagement and conversion mean a whole lot more.”

This idea rings true over at Zappos, where Will Young, Director, believes retail innovation is about making sure brands know what consumers want. For him, startups are where this innovative disruption occurs and he sees a particular advantage in the startup community when it comes to how they affect how larger companies innovate. 

But, Zappo’s biggest goal is staying on top of behemoth Amazon. To do so, the company set up ZapposLabs, and are working on reinventing the personal shopping experience. 

Over at Gap, Tricia Nichols, Global Lead of Consumer Engagement, agrees. “Don’t overlook people who are contacting you from startups,” she said. “They may have the solutions you’re looking for.”

Overall, almost every session hit on one major industry problem: lack of technological solutions that solve for a lack of retail resources. Whether it is time, cost or talent, retail both on and offline needs innovative ways to bridge disparate data and create personalized shopping experiences for every individual consumer – or else they’ll lose them to the giants of the retail world (ahem, Amazon). 

Dave Gilboa, co-founder of Warby Parker, gave the final words of encouragement for the conference, highlighting the need for serious tech talent within retail organizations. 

Our biggest failure was not understanding the value of technology,” he said. “Now we have a tech team of 60.”

That team is dedicated to creating personalized experiences for customers, from building out a platform that creates custom video responses to user questions coming in from Twitter (i.e., 140 character replies weren’t personal enough – so, they put a face to a digital customer service rep and the strategy won over millions), to building out a dedicated customer showroom in every single brick-and-mortar location, Warby Parker’s strategy is guided by consumer preferences wherever that consumer interacts. 

Over here at Umbel, we help our retail clients do the exact same thing. By ethically collecting, securely storing and providing an actionable layer over the data, Umbel’s Digital Genome treats each customer as an individual, gives a brand the ability to talk to them as such, and ultimately focuses on building customer lifetime value, rather than small vitality wins. 

Because our new short-attention-span world, engagement matters most. Contact us for a demo to see exactly how we can help.