Dissecting the Dark Horses: The Personalization Index’s Top 5 Upsets

The Retail Personalization Index is an exhaustive research project and long before it was even close to completion, we identified our favorite takeaway: The scores are significantly higher this year. At Sailthru, we’ve always considered personalization to be a crucial business strategy. But between our research with Forbes, where 39% of marketers admitted to thinking of personalization as a mere tactic, and last year’s scores, we weren’t sure enough companies agreed with us.

In the inaugural Retail Personalization Index almost one year ago, not one brand scored above 80 points. Part of what made the winners stand out is how much they were doing compared to other retailers we analyzed, many of which were doing the bare minimum.

A lot has changed since then. With an identical score in both Indexes, Amazon dropped from 17th place to 50th. Sephora, Walmart, eBay, Net-a-Porter, JustFab and Nordstrom have all improved their personalization enough to maintain their top spots. However, joining them in the top 10 are several brands who didn’t even clear the top half last time.

We’re particularly impressed with the 30-plus club, the five retailers with the most dramatic jumps in score. Let’s take a look at these dark horses:

Urban Outfitters: Up 39 points from 56th to 3rd place

Last year, Dave Hayne, Urban Outfitters’ Chief Digital Officer, vowed to improve personalization through data and analytics investments. That really showed, particularly with regard to email.

Urban Outfitters’ new and improved email strategy begins with a personalized welcome message and continues all the way through the entire customer lifecycle. Each email has three to five personalized product recommendations designed to get shoppers back on the brand’s website… or app… or in the store.

Strong integration was another factor in Urban Outfitters’ upset. Whether you’re on the site or the app, the experience is the same. That consistency is thanks, in part, to UO Rewards, which encourages cross-platform and cross-channel interaction with the brand. It seems to be paying off. Largely driven by ecommerce, Q2 sales increased 13.7% year over year to a record $992 million.

Urban Outfitters - UO Rewards

Bed Bath & Beyond: Up 34 points from 85th to 17th place

In 2016, Bed Bath & Beyond vowed to spend more on personalization, in addition to relaunching its mobile app and revamping the website. If the brand’s second score is any indication, Bed Bath & Beyond has delivered on its promise.

Bed Bath’s channels are all connected and personalized the whole way through. If you put something in your cart, expect an email with relevant recommendations and content from the Above & Beyond blog. Browsing the bathroom section? You may just get an article about hacks for glamming up your vanity.

Nailing product recommendations is key for Bed Bath & Beyond, a retailer with a seemingly infinite inventory. How many duvet covers can possibly exist? Bed Bath & Beyond’s website has more than 1,400 of them. Curating the massive inventory keeps customers’ shopping streamlined.

Bed Bath & Beyond - recommendations

The Body Shop: Up 33 points from 51st place to 2nd place

While many retailers publicly declared personalization a priority, The Body Shop’s statements were more focused on customer experience, a term that can mean basically anything. But of course, the best customer experiences are personalized, as The Body Shop clearly knows. The brand was already basing product recommendations on shoppers’ skin tones and things have only gotten better over the past year.

Chief Digital Officer Harriet Williams noted that more than half the retailer’s online traffic comes from mobile devices. While The Body Shop got 0 points in the mobile category last year, it got a perfect score this time around, thanks in part to the retailer’s generous Love Your Body Club loyalty program migrating into the app.

Since The Body Shop has embarked on this personalized journey, Natura, its Brazilian parent company, has reported a 24.5% increase in net revenue for the year.

The Body Shop - Love Your Body club

The RealReal: Up 31 points from 64th place to 15th place

More than the other brands on this list, The RealReal represents a turning point in retailers’ embracing personalization. Last year, Net-a-Porter, Nordstrom and MATCHESFASHION.COM were exceptions, luxury brands with strong personalization. This time, more of their high-end contemporaries rose to (or toward) the top, none more than The RealReal.

The RealReal improved its scores across the board, all with the aim of delivering a personalized, highly-curated customer experience, of course. Curation is one of The RealReal’s strongest points, with an editorial team hand-selecting items from jackets to jewelry for customers based on their browsing history.

At the same time, shoppers can customize their experience, as well. The RealReal’s app allows them to filter products to their liking and the feed automatically updates whenever a new arrival lines up with their preferences.

The RealReal - App

PacSun: Up 30 points, from 66th place to 19th place

Across the categories, PacSun improved the most in email, earning 22 out of a possible 30 points. We don’t know for sure, but we also suspect PacSun’s email performance improved in terms of open rate.

One of the most generous loyalty programs around, myGSOM Rewards doesn’t only trade points for purchases. The program also incentivizes actions such as receiving push notifications, checking in at a store or reading an email, which is worth 15 points.

PacSun promised to deliver a unified omnichannel experience by the end of the year. The app is as well-designed as it is beautiful, providing a navigable, personalized experience that aggregates a shopper’s online shopping carts, upcoming events and loyalty points. There are also relevant recommendations, a mix of previously-browsed and complementary items, delivered via push notifications and in-app messaging.

PacSun - Recommendations

2018 Retail Personalization Index

View the Top 100