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Personalization, personalization, personalization. It’s a buzzword in the marketing world as of late. But there is more to this word than claiming “customers like personalized service” or “personalize that promotion”. To meet today’s consumer’s wants and needs, personalization needs to be the overarching theme for every marketing endeavor. With the New Year right around the corner, there is no better time to delve deeper into this topic and the yearly trends that make it tick.

As Avi Dan writes in Forbes, “Personalization is not a trend. It is a marketing tsunami, here to stay, which will transform how we think about and how we manage global brands.” And he’s right. Personalization is not a trend. But it does need trends to make it tick. And although the hottest trends may seem intriguing, there is no sense in wasting energy adopting them. Instead, channel that energy into transforming the tried-and-true trends from the previous year to boost personalization in the coming year. Below are three of the best trends we observed in 2015 and examples of how they can be applied to your 2016 personalization practices.

The Continuation of Omnichannel

In 2015, we saw the rise of omnichannel in both retail stores and restaurants. This past year, marketers used these omnichannel practices, along with data collection, to personalize a customer’s retail or restaurant experiences. Throughout 2015, almost anything a customer did could be used as a point of data for a brand to collect and evaluate. These brands collected information from consumers through their online shopping habits, mobile phone searches, in-store shopping habits, and food and beverage choices in restaurants. With this data, brands were able to personalize the retail and restaurant experience for every customer. They provided them with specialized coupons for items they were sure to enjoy and recommended items that they knew they would want.

In our recent blog post on the topic, we even noted how omnichannel practices can help to eliminate cognitive dissonance and buyer’s remorse. The seamless integration of the various channels gives customers a platform in which they can fully research and review the products they are interested in, eliminating this remorse and dissonance and strengthening their relationship with the brand. Although this can mostly be seen in retail (as higher ticket items are usually purchased here), it is applicable in restaurant settings as well.

In 2016, personalization will still be critical. However, omnichannel will begin to focus on convenience for the customer as well. 2016’s omnichannel practices will be centered on delivering customers exactly what they want exactly when they want it. Domino’s “tweet-to-order” system is a great example of this. This promotion is the epitome of convenience for the customer. They can tweet (or text, or order through their smart watch, or a multitude of other options) Domino’s a pizza emoji while lying on the couch and watching TV. Domino’s knows which pizza to make because the user has already entered their favorite order into their “Pizza Profile”. This promotion limits the amount of contact that a customer must have with a business, while also connecting the two entities more than ever before (thanks to the customer’s preferences in their “Pizza Profile”). Some call it anti-social, others call it genius. We call it great marketing.

Dynamic Digital Signage

Gone are the days of digital signage being used as an expensive static advertisement. 2015 saw the rise of digital signage technology being used at its full potential. Stores and restaurants have realized that although digital signage is initially expensive the benefits of it cannot be ignored. A study from Zugara.com found that digital displays can potentially double audience information retention. And Lavi Industries found that digital signage reduces perceived wait times at checkout by as much as 35%. With statistics such as those, it’s no wonder digital signage was such a popular trend in 2015. This past year, we even began to see brands playing with digital signage’s new features, such as lift and learn technology and facial recognition technology. Both of those are truly futuristic, and there is only more where that came from.

In 2016 we will continue to see how the advancement of technology applies to digital signage. A great place to view this change is in drive-thru menus. Next year’s screens will become more advanced and capable than ever. They will be able to handle harsh weather conditions, while still delivering a beautiful, digital message.

The digital drive thru of tomorrow will be able to identify each user that pulls up via a beacon on their car or mobile phone. They will be able to determine if the customer has already ordered, if they are a returning customer who has not ordered yet, or if they are a new customer. If they have already ordered, their food will begin to be prepared when they near the restaurant and will be ready when they reach the window. If they are a returning customer, the screen will display their favorite order as well as other items they might like based on their preferences. The screen will also be personalized for them, welcoming them by name. If they are a new customer, the screen will display popular items, as well as items the restaurant would like to sell based on inventory. Through recognition technology, the screen can even determine what the customer may like to order based on their demographics and the kind of car they are driving.

As personalization is the overarching theme of 2016, it is sure to show up on tomorrow’s digital drive thru. The drive thru of the future will have a screen where you can see the face of the employee who is taking your order in real time. Some Starbucks drive thrus already this feature. The social cues and visuals of a “face to face” conversation help both the employee and the customer ensure the order is correct. It also helps build a more personal relationship between the customer and the employee, because they feel as if they are talking at another human, not just a radio box.

The Power of Localization

Customers are becoming less and less favorable towards the generic service approach that brands have used in the past. They want a personalized experience between themselves and the employees, which is why omnichannel practices and data collection are so important. They also want a personalized experience between themselves and the store or restaurant environment. In 2015, brands realized the importance of localizing graphics and promotions for each specific location, while still maintaining brand consistency. They achieved this goal by designing their stores to fit the wants, needs, and culture of the surrounding community and directing their promotions towards individuals near their location.

Again, Starbucks is a great example of this. Although they have great brand consistency (everyone knows what a green straw means) they have pledged to localize their stores, from their double-decker train car location in Switzerland to their Japan location that is decorated with more than 2,000 wooden sticks for a “cave-like feel”. They don’t want any of their stores to look the same; and why should they? A person who visits a Starbucks in India has an entirely different culture, values, and beliefs than a person who visits a Starbucks in California. Starbucks understands this and has decorated their stores in a way that supports these values.

2016 will see the rise of more businesses taking Starbucks' approach to personalized décor. We will see many remodels this coming year and many changes to a brand’s business plan. Smart brands will find cost-effective ways to conduct these remodels (such as wall graphics and window graphics) and to carry out these localized promotions. These brands need to have an in-depth knowledge of their local customers for this strategy for work, which is where data collection and omnichannel practices come in handy. Do you see how all of these trends are connected?

With personalization at the forefront of marketing in 2016, customers are set to receive increasingly favorable experiences every time they interact with a brand. With each interaction, the brand will gather more data about them, which will help them to provide the customer with personalized promotions, as well as use the data from multiple customers to better understand the community as a whole. The shift from the old way of “treating everyone as one entity” to “treating everyone as an old friend” is something that both brands and consumers should be looking forward to in the future, 2016 and beyond.