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Mahesh Tyagarajan, RichRelevance: How to buy personalisation tools

11th Feb 2016
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In the latest in our series of articles where IT leaders provide their take on the purchasing process, Mahesh Tyagarajan, chief product officer at RichRelevance, shares tips for those looking to buy personalisation solutions. 

MyC. What do practitioners need to consider before they start looking for personalisation solutions, to determine their requirements?

MT. The first step for any retail business looking at personalisation solutions is to ensure that they fully understand their customers, the shopper. Beginning with the customer in mind, retailers should work their way back to how they can delight these shoppers while achieving key business objectives. When considering their omnichannel personalisation strategy it is important to consider their business’ overall customer experience, how omnichannel fits with their brand and merchandising strategies and, crucially, how it will help set the business apart from the competition. We have developed a webinar series to help demystify omnichannel, and assess what their customers and markets need.

MyC. What kinds of questions should they ask themselves? 

MT. We've helped hundreds of businesses take their first steps into the world of real-time personalisation, but even the biggest retailers can struggle to tackle the omnichannel customer imperative. That’s why we’d recommend considering the following eight types of questions on this journey:

  • What do you want the customer experience to be in each channel?
  • How will you connect these various touchpoints to provide a seamless experience?
  • What goals do you want to achieve with personalisation – improved customer experience, greater relevance, engagement metrics or revenue goals?
  • How will you measure success? 
  • How do you differentiate yourself from your competition?
  • What does the end-to-end funnel look like?
  • Have you considered the data that is needed to personalise across all the channels and touch points?
  • What levels of training need to occur within each of the different channels to achieve true omnichannel personalisation (e.g. training in-store assistants to use mobile POS)?

MyC. How can buyers convince the CFO that investment in this kind of technology is a wise decision? How can you get buy-in?

MT. There is a simple ROI associated with personalisation. In fact, it may be the only marketing solution that is able to immediately provide measureable and attributable results (as early as a month after the implementation). Solutions such as ours allow the retailer to report on the direct benefit from personalisation. This is done as a controlled A/B test with personalisation and without personalisation.

Even though you can start to see results as soon as a month after implementation, businesses should allow three to six months to optimise and get the maximum benefits out of the solution. Best practice is to measure ROI at six months and again at 12 months, and of course to continuously optimise and get the maximum out of that implementation. The more care a retailer takes to understand, monitor and continuously optimise the implementation, the more benefits they will see from it. Best practices include importing the relevant data, for example from point of sale through to the personalisation platform, and more importantly ensuring the proper placement of personalised content on the site. Optimising site real estate can be an extremely powerful differentiator for shoppers, and will further boost a retailer’s ROI.

To further bolster your case for senior buy-in, there are customer experience benefits in addition to the monetary ones. Retailers can see the customer experience benefits of personalisation strategies by measuring engagement, repeat customer visits, customer satisfaction and customer service feedback. Retailers often establish key performance indicators (KPIs) for measuring each of these so management sees the cumulative benefit.

MyC. Are there any particular challenges in the personalisation tech market that buyers need to be aware of?

MT. Not all personalisation providers are created equal. It is important for retail buyers to be aware of the challenges that can occur if they choose the wrong personalisation partner, who may not be able to ensure the right implementation.   

Firstly, the key to a successful personalisation strategy is access to data. This is usually product, content and user data. Historical data is not a must but can help - especially in omnichannel use cases. A second challenge is making sure that as more data points are provided, the personalisation solution delivers more for you. The tech provider should be able to consume additional data to better provide more accurate personalisation.

Secondly, real-time omnichannel personalisation is vital. The relevance of a personalised customer experience diminishes when it is not delivered in real-time, so retailers need to pick a vendor that can deliver a leading real-time service and will keep them ahead of the competition. Questions to consider include: How does the personalisation solution being considered work across all my touch points – digital and physical? How real-time is it? Does it take in real-time user context and behaviour? How quickly can it react to changes in product, content and user information?

MyC. Once practitioners are at the solution selection stage, what advice can you share to help buyers find the most appropriate vendor for their needs?

MT. Selecting the right vendor can make or break your omnichannel personalisation success. The top three areas to ensure proper vendor selection include:

  1. Make sure that the vendor has implemented personalisation in the categories and line of business that you are in. It should not be just a demo, the vendor should have other successful retailers in the space that you are considering.
  2. Make sure that the solution is flexible and allows your business users to control and run without having to involve IT/developers after the initial implementation. Rather, it should be productised to the extent that you can control initiatives through a dashboard rather than having to change the implementation.
  3. Make sure the solution is enterprise grade so you will not outgrow the solution in the near future (3-5 years). It should be extensive enough that you can do product recommendations, content personalisation, search personalisation and optimisation and allow you to build new products using the data (consider an open ended platform that will be there with you for a long time to come).



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