5 years of research, 5 years of data

Brands have come a long way in five years when it comes to retail personalization. Here’s a quick look back at the evolution of the retail personalization experience: where we were and where we are now.

Highlights from every Retail Personalization Index

  • 2017
  • 2018
  • 2019
  • 2020-2021
  • 2022
    • 2017

      Building Data Foundations for Email Personalization

      Research found that 76% of brands evaluated were not incorporating or displaying user data in email in 2017. Even the top brands in the study failed to score over 79 out of a possible 100 in personalization beyond email to provide a better experience.

    • 2018

      Consistent Messaging Across All Channels

      Research found that brands were recognizing the importance of ensuring consistent digital channel and in-store experiences around price, product, and message. Brands also focused more on providing customers with a seamless omnichannel experience around their shopping cart, from desktop to mobile site and mobile app. Customer data and preferences collected through loyalty programs enabled relevant product recommendations and targeting across all channels.

    • 2019

      Lifecycle Email Expansion Triggers Personalization

      The 2019 Index found that most brands started with a welcome email, though each subsequent step in the customer lifecycle was less common. Only half of brands sent abandoned cart emails, though 84% of the top performers deployed this tactic. About one-quarter of retailers sent win-back messages to re-engage lapsed customers, which is rare even among the top performers. 88% of retailers were not doing personalized messaging using first name, loyalty status, or product recommendations.

    • 2020-2021

      Orchestrated Real-Time Personalization

      In this Index, we saw a more cohesive experience across marketing channels, as well as in-store and online experiences (fulfillment, communications, personalization). Omnichannel communications were being used to support BOPIS and curbside pick up experiences. There was greater integration of user data across sources and channels. Upon moment-of-open, technology was deployed to ensure information is accurate when the customer sees it. Personalized send time was used to account for changing consumer behavior.

    • 2022

      Consumers Drive Evolution in Privacy, Personalization & Loyalty

      Customer loyalty has been shaken as a result of the pandemic. Personalized customer experiences are the value exchange for the data explicitly and implicitly provided by customers to brands. Privacy headwinds lead to increased focus on zero-party and first-party data and the leveraging of all types of behavioral data (not just sales). There is a greater use of predictive analytics to identify emerging customer loyalists, as well as lapsed/disengaged customers for retention.


Where We are Today: Key Takeaways

Customer-centric marketing and personalization as a marketing strategy have been around for years. It’s only more recently that the capabilities, data, and technologies to realize this strategy have become increasingly advanced.

Customer data has expanded tremendously, from collection to activation, so retailers today have the capability to truly personalize based on a connected view of relevant and reliable customer signals. From a technology standpoint, advances in AI and algorithms, cloud-based systems, and increasing tech integrations and connectivity have enabled brands to shift personalization to the customer level and away from a focus on personalization across channels.

Here’s a look at some key retail marketer insights from the past five years, and priorities for what’s ahead.

Key Insights + Takeaways

Customer expectations are outpacing most retailers’ ability to make shopping feel personalized.

Continuously use progressive profiling to build richer customer databases. The more data you collect, the more personalized you can make the next shopping experience, which leads to increased sales and higher customer satisfaction levels.

Omnichannel isn’t a bonus, it’s an expectation.

Customers want always-on, cross-channel, and cross-organizational communication with the brands they do business with. Leverage predictive analytics to get better at knowing in advance what your customers want and when they want it.

Top retailers use loyalty programs better than their competitors.

Grow your loyalty program. It remains one of the best ways to collect data and build a long-term relationship with customers.

Consumers are willing to share personal data if there is a clear value exchange.

Create frictionless experiences for shoppers. The future of commerce is about orchestrating every step of the purchase journey so customers don’t need to re-explain a complicated return or input an order number to track the status of a delivery. Shoppers expect ease and convenience. Integrate your data internally so customers feel valued and known.

Deep Dive into the Research

Successful retailers are personalizing every touchpoint of the shopper experience: in-store and online, across all platforms and devices. We surveyed consumers and retail marketers to understand customer expectations today — and to learn how brands believe they’re delivering on those expectations.