After years of using customer data to fine-tune their marketing efforts to smaller and smaller groups, retailers are now making a massive and expensive effort to tailor their Web sites and promotions for an even narrower target: an audience of one. Retailers and experts say the industry is in the early stages of a push toward personalization, in which individual shoppers have different experiences on retailers’ websites and receive highly customized e-mails, coupons and special offers. The technology retailers are using now is much more sophisticated: They are studying a wider range of activities — not just the last Web sites you visited — but also whether you opened or clicked on their emails, read a company blog post or previously redeemed a certain kind of coupon.
Why It’s Hot
In March, Barneys rolled out a new website in which nearly every page —the homepage, category pages and individual product pages — feature personalized content that is served up based on data from both a shopper’s in-store purchasing and online browsing behavior. “For one million users, we want to have one million different site experiences,” said Matthew Woolsey, Barneys’s executive vice president for digital.
This combined analysis of in-store and online patterns is particularly leading edge, industry experts said, as many retailers are still struggling to funnel these data sets together. The unified data can have powerful results. For example, Barneys has learned that many of the women who buy fine jewelry in its stores have previously browsed for it online. If Barneys purely looked at these shoppers’ web browsing history, Woolsey said they might deduce, “She’s never buying anything, so let’s try something else.” In fact, by looking at this shopper’s behavior across channels, Barneys learns it is indeed valuable to keep showing her digital jewelry lookbooks: She’s interested in the products, she’s just closing the deal in person.
Some retailers, such as CVS, are also paying attention to what you’re not buying at their stores. CVS’s personalization efforts are centered around its ExtraCare program, which was used by more than 90.8 million households in the last year. Even if you haven’t bought vitamins or toothpaste at their store, their data might still determine you’re a good candidate for a coupon for those products.
Retailers are now experimenting with this personalized, digital experience and discovering the potential of this technology.