23 May 2024 21:39

Mobile & Digital

Digital Seeps into the Physical World

Most online shoppers are accustomed to the “you might also like x, y, z” approach to product recommendation popularized by sites like Amazon.com. But cross-sells and upsells have become so ubiquitous in ecommerce that even relevant suggestions can blend in with the visual noise on a page.

Though it’s not likely this algorithmic-based tactic will disappear any time soon, new ways of suggesting products are gaining in popularity and are being driven by two opposite forces: advances in collecting and analyzing consumer data, and a desire to bring a feeling of serendipity to online shopping, according to a new eMarketer report, “Next-Generation Product Recommendations: The Balance Between Data and Discovery.”

The push for omnichannel retailing is driving personalization in the real world. And in turn, once online-only stores, like eyewear retailer Warby Parker, menswear merchant Bonobos and Piperlime, are opening brick-and-mortar locations that are able to provide in-store data.

Mobile is often the bridge between online and in-store. Mobile-based personalization applications can be as simple as sales associates using handheld devices to access loyalty members’ past purchases to make new recommendations, or as complex as beacons pushing product suggestions to consumers’ devices based on location and physical browsing behavior. Those two extremes were at play among the US omnichannel retailers surveyed by the e-tailing group in April 2014. Tablets were already being used by 60% to enhance the customer experience, while 14% employed Bluetooth technology to do so, a figure that’s certain to rise.

David Selinger, CEO and co-founder of retail personalization firm RichRelevance, sees location-based apps as the future of personalization, and with a focus on convenience and time-saving rather than price. “Where you gain the big heart of the American consumer—and the Western consumer generally—is where you start saving her 5 to 10 minutes,” he said. “I mean very specifically: I am going to prevent you from having to wait in line.”

Consumer sentiment, however, suggests that many people are not yet ready for this kind of retail experience. According to engagement platform PunchTab, just over one-quarter (28%) of US smartphone owners polled by the company in April 2014 considered personalized recommendations to be an “acceptable” use of in-store location tracking.

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