The big trend in retail over the past few years has been towards personalisation: using consumer purchase data to create notifications and offers tailored to the individual customer.

It’s happening online — in the form of personalised homepages or targeted e-receipts, on mobile — think loyalty apps or push notifications — and offline. In-store personalisation can range from beacon technology to personalised bilboards or even facial recognition.

Wherever you look in retail, it seems everything’s going in the same direction.

But there are two problems with this particular style of personalisation:

It’s creepy

Particularly the in-store stuff. Most people would find the thought of cameras recognising them in a shop and monitoring their behaviour unsettling. It’s no wonder we’re getting more anxious about how companies use our data and intrude on our privacy.

As for the personalised billboards — it’s not exactly comforting to find out that the company behind them was inspired by this dystopian vision of personalised advertising in the film Minority Report:

At any rate, with the GDPR coming in next year, companies are going to have to be way more transparent about the way they use customer data. This might have an impact on what sort of personalisation techniques retail companies can employ.

It’s only part of the answer

Secondly, current personalisation methods ignore two major drivers of purchase behaviour:

a) What other people are buying. Don’t underestimate the influence that “keeping up with the Joneses” can have on customer decisions. Personalisation can be about “people like me” just as much as it can be about an algorithm.

b) What’s new and different. Customers still want to be surprised and inspired by new ideas. Retail is driven by novelty and changing tastes. People don’t want to be defined by what they’ve bought in the past.

Personalisation can be about "people like me" just as much as it can be about an algorithm.

Peer-to-peer advocacy

What if there was a way of showing potential customers what ‘people like them’ were buying, and how those products fit into their lives?

Good news – it already exists. It’s called peer-to-peer advocacy, and one way to achieve it is via user-generated content (UGC) like customer reviews and Q&A.

Reviews are great – we all know that. They boost conversion, reduce returns and build trust at the point of purchase.

But there’s one more step retailers can be taking with their personalisation strategy.

Experiences is a UGC collection engine that generates a different kind of content – more inspiring UGC from real customers. Think photos, stories, tips and videos. We proactively get in touch with existing customers and ask them to talk about specific uses or features of what they bought that they wouldn’t cover in an ordinary review.

And the stuff we get back is incredible. Here’s a small selection of it.

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This kind of content is powerful because it delivers the social proof that glossy ads or personalised suggestions can’t achieve. It shows people what’s new and trendy, but in an authentic context – vouched for by a real person.

So while personalisation clearly has potential to drive sales, we think there’s a better way to do it.

For more information on Reevoo Experiences, click here.

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The problem with personalisation in retail