The Individual Shopper is Finally Taking Center Stage

In a recent eConsultancy survey, retailers were asked to name the single most exciting opportunity for their organizations in 2016. It turns out that the top two are “optimising the customer experience” and “data-driven marketing that focuses on the individual”. Both these priorities are about the customer and in many ways, they are twins that work together. A customer experience cannot be fully optimized without marketing that focuses on the individual.

Over the past couple of years “personalization” has been considered one of the most exciting opportunities for retailers. Now, in 2016, it is interesting to see that “the individual” is included in the report, but “personalization” is not.

Personalization has traditionally been about product associations (e.g. people who bought this, also bought that) or targeting overly broad segments (e.g. urban hipsters, soccer moms, etc.). Individualization, as its name suggests, is about anticipating and responding to a consumer as a unique individual. What that specific person has preferred in the past, along with their current interests and intent. You can learn more about the differences between personalization and individualization here.

Consumers are increasingly getting used to a world in which their digital experiences are more relevant to them as individuals.

Google tells me when I have to leave for the airport to make it to my flight on time. Spotify makes a playlist that’s completely unique to my tastes, which, in Spotify’s words, is “like having your best friend make you a personalised mixtape”. Netflix is also ridiculously good at knowing what shows and movies I’m going to want to watch next. The list of individualization in today’s world goes on and an increasing number of sites and apps respect that there aren’t very many people like me (or you) in this world.

As smarter, more intuitive experiences are becoming more of a norm in our digital interactions, what was once exceptional is starting to be expected. I have to admit, I am happy, but no longer blown away, when Netflix emails me about a new series that’s been released which they (correctly) think I’ll be interested. Or when I type “American Airlines” into Google and my frequent flier number shows up at the top of my results. I’m starting to become jaded by the accuracy and convenience of it all. What does blow me away these days, but in a negative way, is when something is off base. When I receive five emails a week about children’s clothes (I don’t have kids, but I did buy sneakers for my nephew once) or when I return to a site and it’s impossible to find what I was just about to purchase last week. I’m not just picking on retail. There are a lot of industries that have a long way to go. But it is refreshing to see that the individual has finally taken center stage as one of the most exciting opportunities for retail in 2016. Bring it on! As a consumer, I’m ready.

Stafford McKay

Stafford is the former Director of Content at Reflektion. He’s passionate about eCommerce Marketing, Technology, and Lake Michigan. When he’s not writing content, he can be found out on the water in the 1938 Chris Craft he shares with his family.