“No!”

“For the hundredth time! No!”

Paul yelled as he slammed his laptop shut. All the websites he visited were trying to sell him ridiculously printed sweatshirts. Okay, a new animated movie has released and everyone is flocking to buy the franchise t-shirts and hoodies, but he is not!

He has had enough with the “discounts”, “few items left”, and “book now” offers on products which are “hot” but clearly not according to his needs.

Now every time something like this happens, consumers like Paul are pushed aside. In favor of people who are buying the “hot” items. But how many are they actually? Does real time recommendation solve this problem of not understanding your customers’ needs? Retailers miss making loyal customers out of people like Paul because of lack of effective recommendation engines. Retailers drown consumers in products that seemingly everybody wants but many people don’t need. This is where real time recommendation can help save and retain your customers.

Right recommendations = high retention

On an average a customer will search your website for a few minutes before he decides to leave. So, how do you personalize recommendations in that small time-frame? With the help of real time personalization solutions like PRIOS. These will take the customers’ few minutes of browsing information and create an appropriate profile, which will help in creating personalized recommendations.  Solutions like PRIOS helps the customer navigate through hundreds of products and reach the most suitable ones within minutes, phygitally (both instore and online). With the help of real time data processing, self-learning recommendation engines, smart shelves, websites and mobile apps- the way people shop has drastically changed.

With suitable recommendations in real time you help your customers finalize their products and complete the purchase rather than confuse them with way too many options or unrelated products.  Take the example of smart shelves, imagine as a customer passes by, the digital screen fitted close to the aisle flashes an item based on real time information about their preference, the customer stops and checks out the aisle, give him a onetime discount and chances are he is buying it. You get brownie points and of course loyalty, where do you think this customer will go to the next time they need something?  To keep him hooked, plan and present a personalized loyalty points program and present it to him on mobile before he walks out,  stating that the more time he shops with you the more he gets out of the experience.

Equal importance on long tail products

Understand what your customers need, not just seasonally, but stay accurate all year-round. Make recommendations based on searches, history of purchase and social network activity. Don’t fall for the “Harry Potter Effect” where you give them only what you think the whole world wants.  Take the example of Amazon, their real time recommendation engine shows options “bought this also bought” for cross sale. They don’t push you to buy, flood you with things that you might not need, just a gentle suggestion, how about this too, sir? An effective and subtle way of cross sale. Your long tail product buyers are the ones who make your business, because they are always there. You should always be ready and equipped to tend to their needs. No matter which trends come and go, make sure, your customers stay.

Recommendation engines know your customers best

They know your business, they know your products and most of all they know what kind of customers you attract. So, they are ready. It is easier for these recommendation engines to understand what this particular customer might be looking for within very less time. It’s not just based on online researches, it’s based on big data. Good analytics put to various channels of data including social, personal and inside sales information. You get an in depth insight of each individual’s personal context of buying a product, so that you can offer them a better service. New age recommendation engines use a multi-tiered algorithmic approach to understand the needs and present suitable products. As a retailer you deal with diverse customer sets, in case of a new or infrequent customer you have sparse data sets to analyze and know their preferences.  Recommendation engines work on available data and study the customer behavior pattern before recommending products on a real-time basis.

Persuasion is easier with recommendation, if you find out what kind of headphones your customer is looking at then you can easily persuade for an upsell which may cost them a little more for  “only for $5 more.”

Intuitive customer touchpoints

Say Paul is a first time buyer on one of your customer touchpoints, be it your app or webpage. He will not give you hours to understand what he is looking for. Either you catch on to his kind of ‘relevant’ fast or you lose him. Real time analytics will follow his few clicks and within minutes recommend products that cater to his needs. Now you’ve got Paul hooked, presenting discounts for a first time buyer that will only seal the deal. Now that you know his preferences you can even recommend products which are out of stock but can be added to a wish list, to keep him coming back for more.  Same rule applies if a first time visitor comes to your shop or webpage. Follow his browsing, recommend based on his choices and voila! They have made a purchase.

Now integration solutions like PRIOS merge the physical and digital experience seamlessly by storing information from one and all touchpoints and syncs data to offer seamlessness of service to customers. Now when Paul visits your store for the first time, your store associates already have his online profile, made from his online shopping history. They offer Paul the right options, direct him to the right products and make a sale. Paul will have the same personalized convenience if he stops by your app for his next purchase. Eat. The UK based food retailer has used beacons to store loyalty programs and customer based data. These beacons help them in pushing offers to their customers and keeping them updated about discounts and offers.

Smarter store associates

Let’s say Jane Doe is a regular shopper on your website and app, now she decides to visit your store to purchase a pair of shoes that she liked online. She wants to try it on, see the fit and comfort and then make the purchase. This is where online touchpoints and their interplay with instore come in the picture. With beacons installed in your brick and mortar  and the help of solution like PRIOS the store associate will know the minute Jane walks into the store and have her purchase item ready. Australian supermarket chain Woolsworth have been using beacons to provide this service to their click and collect clients. They can also suggest an upsell by presenting her a better pair of shoes in the same category and even cross sell with a bag maybe which looks nice with the shoes and to complete a look a scarf can also be added. At this point Jane ends up buying “the look” and not just the item she initially came in for. London’s Regent Street shops are using beacon technology to provide personalized marketing content to their customers. Whenever they pass by the app on the customer’s phone displays messages tailored to their interest. Customers can input their preferences in these apps without disclosing their identity, they can also respond to text advertisements and redeem offers on mobile before walking in store.

Real time recommendations will make sure that people don’t just walk by, they stop by. Customers want exceptional experience both online and offline.  Depending only on crowd sourcing won’t be of much help if you want to provide 1:1 customer experience. Recommendation engines provide personalization at an individual level.  In today’s fast changing consumer market you need to live by learning to please your customers. Real time recommendation helps you learn about your customers from the very moment they step into your store or open your website. The process continues with every purchase of the customer and soon, you know your customer the best and you are their only preferred option.

Shreyasee Ghosh

Shreyasee Ghosh

Research Analyst at Aspire Systems
Shreyasee Ghosh is responsible for handling various kinds of marketing content including whitepapers. She has a 1st class 1st Graduation degree in Mass Comm & Journalism. In a career spanning over four years she has worked at a renowned media organization and other IT companies.
Shreyasee Ghosh