Why personalisation is key to digital success
Online shopping concept

With advances in AI poised to power the next generation of customer experience, retailers would be wise to increase their focus on personalisation and optimisation to meet consumer expectations.

The Publicis Sapient Digital Commerce Survey 2024 found that Australian consumers are the second most likely, after the UK (59 per cent), to switch brands over digital experience – with over half (53 per cent) switching brands if they’re not satisfied with their digital commerce experience.

Digital commerce is often thought of as online purchases. But it is much more than that and can be a large contributor to a customer’s overall satisfaction with a brand. With the influence digital has on in-store purchases continuing to grow, retailers need to be thinking of a much more integrated digital and physical experience.

Satisfaction rates for digital commerce experiences vary across sectors in Australia. The nation’s consumers reported the highest level of satisfaction with digital commerce in healthcare at 43 per cent, above the global average of 33.4 per cent. They reported the second-highest level of satisfaction (64 per cent) with their digital commerce experience in banking and finance – well above the global average of 58 per cent and just behind the UK at 68 per cent.

Untangling consumer dissatisfaction

Retail and Consumer Products (CP) industries have a higher level of digital commerce maturity than most other industries, and this has perhaps raised the bar for customer expectations and opened the door to potential dissatisfaction. Our research indicates that more than half of consumers we surveyed globally (56 per cent) are dissatisfied with their retail digital commerce experiences.

The biggest issue these consumers have is that the user experience (UX) needs improvement. More than one-in-five people (21 per cent) globally cite this as a reason for dissatisfaction. A second key issue is that a retailer may not provide a complete end-to-end service (i.e., shopping, purchase, shipment, receipt and possible return). Consumers are also concerned that information isn’t customised to their preferences and/or updated.

Plea for personalisation

Across all sectors, from banking and insurance to healthcare and retail, the one thing all consumers are expressing is that they want more personalisation. Women in particular want more targeted services with customised options that reflect their individual situation.

Many/most Australian consumers will have shopped on the international behemoths such as Amazon, or rising newcomers like Temu and Shein, and they know what’s out there in terms of relevant, real-time recommendations and customised, curated experiences. They now expect the same features, ease and convenience from local retailers.

Consumers are also hungry for more information. Over three-quarters (77 per cent) of consumers globally want greater detail about products to make informed purchase decisions, especially women (80 per cent) and Baby Boomers (78 per cent).

Customer-centricity is key

The key to building a successful digital retail experience is customer-centricity: The customer should be first and foremost in design. One example of this is global supermarket company Carrefour, which overhauled its online platform to better serve customers. The company already had a strong brand and a loyal customer base, but its digital footprint was fragmented with data siloed across the organisation.

Leaders went back to the drawing board and invested in building a cohesive, common vision to unify the company’s digital assets to drive e-commerce growth, which included mobile, voice and personalisation at scale. After six months, the new e-commerce platform went live. Within a year, it was driving massive e-commerce traffic and customer satisfaction had risen to record levels. The conversion rate has registered steady growth.

But most importantly, the pace of change at Carrefour has massively accelerated, with the capacity to deliver customer-centric, evidence-based enhancements every day without downtime. Teams can now measure, iterate and swiftly react to customer feedback and behaviour.

Strategies for success

Not all retailers will have the scale and resources of a global organisation, but the kinds of technologies being used to drive customer service excellence are accessible to all sizes of business. There are three clear strategies that retailers can deploy to transform digital commerce experiences to deliver on the demands of today’s customers.

First, show them and tell them. Customers told us they want clear and descriptive content. Digital tools can help bring data, production and optimisation into one seamless process to create compelling visual and written content in real time. Retailers and CP companies can use platforms to create such content at scale and syndicate it across all their digital commerce sites.

Secondly, make every experience matter. With loyalty on the line, every experience should be a positive one. Look for ways to transform digital commerce and make interactions more efficient and effective. Customers reflected a desire for better shopping experiences that are customised to their preferences. Use the data you have to deliver on customers’ ever-changing needs and expectations from their digital commerce experiences.

Finally, lean into generative artificial intelligence (GenAI). Retailers have an opportunity to take advantage of the huge investment in GenAI that technology vendors are making. Now is the time to explore how to leverage AI capabilities into existing platforms and to see how GenAI can evolve the customer experience.

Consumers are vocal about what they want: clearer content, more intuitive interfaces, better recommendations and more personalised interactions. Business and brands must act now and reimagine how they can transform digital commerce experiences to delight consumers, inspire loyalty, attract new buyers and drive customer lifetime value.

By John Costello, chief technology officer at Publicis Sapient

This article was first published by Inside Retail