Leveraging customer data effectively is a key area of interest for retail companies right now, in order to help their brands stand out in a crowded market. IBM has reported that 94% of retail executives intend to invest in ‘cognitive computing’ to provide a more personalised shopping experience to customers. So which brands are already doing this, and how are they making it work?
The North Face: Banking on AI
Last year, The North Face chose to use Watson, an IBM-owned artificial intelligence computer, to power up refreshed version of its mobile app. The smart software, which can also be previewed on The North Face’s website, allows customers to speak to the app (like they would do with Siri or Alexa), stating what kind of piece they have in mind; Watson will then ask the customer questions – factoring in the likes of lifestyle, location and climate as well as basic details like gender – in order to recommend the best products. It’s certainly easier for the customer to find exactly what they’re looking for, which is particularly helpful given The North Face’s expansive product offering. While, of course, a computer can’t (yet) replicate the expertise of sales representatives in physical stores, the more frequently this software is used, the more intelligent it gets.
Neiman Marcus: Personalising the Shopping Experience
It’s become clear that data is king when it comes to creating personalised shopping experiences, but how should that data be gathered? Department store chain Neiman Marcus has adopted a multifaceted approach to using data and clever tech to personalise the customer journey. This April, the company overhauled its Snap.Find.Shop app, which boasts a visual search function that allows customers to find exactly what they want, quickly, with minimal effort (key in today’s time-pressed environment). In addition to this, the company has implemented a range of in-store tech that offers benefits to the customer, but also works in Neiman Marcus’ benefit, subtly gleaning information about the customer behind the scenes. Take its ChargeItSpots, for example, which are now available in all Neiman Marcus stores; they give customers the opportunity to charge up their phones for free, secured in a locker while they browse. The ChargeItSpots require the customer to use their phone number as their unlock code to get their phone back. The department store then stores these numbers, using them to send targeted marketing texts to users within 30 minutes of them removing their phones from the charger.
Farfetch: Using Data to Support its Store of the Future
Although the retail industry is in the midst of a digital revolution, not all sectors are working as successfully online as others. Luxury sales, for example, are still taking place in stores over 90% of the time, according to a report compiled by Bain & Company, with this figure predicted to decrease to 75% by 2025. This proves that there is much value to be found in physical stores when luxury goods are concerned. Farfetch’s Store of the Future concept – which is set to roll out fully in 2018, but is being launched in Browns in London and Thom Browne in New York in the interim – focuses on data collection to improve the shopping experience for both customers and sales associates. Once they’ve given Farfetch permission to collect data related to their in-store activity, customers are tracked through features like RFID-enabled clothing racks, which automatically add products to a customer’s wish list when they’re picked out. Payment is all mobile-based, and using an app to pay means that customers can connect with sales associates (who, in Jose Neves’ vision, will become “in-store influencers” rather than “inventory controllers), so they can keep in touch. “Data [can] offer a super-personalised experience … imagine targeting a customer on Instagram, because you know that five hours earlier they’ve been to your shop and they’ve picked up a certain bag.” Neves told the Business of Fashion. “Once you get a customer to [share their data], it’s gold dust.”
Ian Dewar, Director of Customer Lifecycle & Analytics at the The North Face joins our panel 'Authenticity & Adventure: Using Data to Deliver' at the Decoded Fashion New York Summit (November 1-2). Book your ticket here.
Image Source: IBM