Though personalization has been a buzzword for many years, the need for it in retail is more crucial than ever in a world where consumers are inundated with the “digitization” of everything.

How do you we know this? Because consumers say so, and there is a stark contrast between the level of personalization that retailers think they are providing and the level that consumers feel they are receiving.

To find out if retailers are meeting consumers’ need for personalization, Engageware recently surveyed 100 C-level retail executives asking about their perceptions and plans around personalization and customer experience. More than half of retailers are confident they are already providing a personalized experience to their customers, but consumer data shows otherwise. This is a reality check for retailers who mostly define personalization as providing a consistent experience across all channels, while only 26% of consumers feel retailers are actually doing it.

As the majority of transactions still take place in stores, this is the chance for retailers to prove consumers wrong, engage with them and provide a highly personalized experience. For example, consumers who have loyalty rewards enter a store, but remain anonymous until point of purchase and by then it is too late to offer a personalized experience.

Scott Duby, IBM’s Director of Global Consumer Industry comments…

“In-store experience is the retailer’s opportunity to differentiate. Brick-and-mortar is just as important as ever as almost 90% of transactions still occur in the store. However, investment in store technology and associates continues to lag.”

Duby also points out…

“Close to 50% of store associates believe they do not know enough about the products and services they are selling. In fact, over half of store associates admit they have lied to a customer due to a lack of product knowledge.”

As consumers currently rank brick-and-mortar as the second worst channel for retail customer experience, initiatives that enhance the in-store experience are critical to the success of the brand. The good news is that the retail decision makers surveyed cite the physical store as their top priority in terms of personalization, and training in-store associates as their top initiative to improve customer experience. The key will be for retailers to execute on these plans.

There are many proven technologies that retailers can use that will help automate processes for store associates and also the consumer. Simple automation and self-service can enable consumers to have a seamless experience and help them engage sooner with associates for more prompt service. In the end, personalization is a top priority for both retailers and the consumer, and it is up to retailers to discover and act upon the gaps they need to close.

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