According to Gartner, by 2024, the World Health Organization (WHO) will identify online shopping as an addictive disorder. It predicts that a key driver will stem from retailers increasingly deploying AI and personalization tactics, designed to drive greater awareness and engagement of products and services amongst consumers.

Matt Meckes, Chief Technology Officer at Cohaesus, a strategic digital consultancy and developer based in central London, believes that while this prediction is likely to prompt much debate, personalization has actually been a force-for-good in the retail space:

“The impact that personalization has had on the retail world is in no doubt. The chasm of data available to organisations means we now have the ability to better understand customer buying habits and therefore make better recommendations to consumers when it comes to products and services, which are actually desired.

“Early personalization models were based on a consumer’s past actions. The emphasis was placed on trying to make the consumer make a repeat purchase but there are inherent issues with such an approach – a person buying a washing machine for example, doesn’t need to be repeatedly shown offers for washing machines after making a purchase!

“Instead, what we’re seeing is a greater desire amongst savvy retailers to improve their understanding of the customer lifecycle across specific brands and products. Correlating this information and understanding buyer behaviours, brands are now linking together seemingly unrelated actions, enabling eCommerce stores to make more personalized recommendations to customers.”

For the organisations looking to develop a highly personalized retail experience for their customers, Meckes believes there are five key considerations:

“Firstly, consider the timeline which your customer is likely to undertake. Do they purchase a new pair of trousers every three to four months without realising it? Secondly, is there any symmetry between seemingly unrelated events. Does buying a new t-shirt become an indicator that a customer is going to consider footwear next?

“It is then important to consider the chain of events. Does buying a new phone indicate a consumer might start shopping for their next phone in two years-time? Individual preferences can sometimes be difficult to gauge but should never be discounted. Every brand or store should recognise some people prefer free returns over speedy delivery, and others would prioritise next day delivery. Finally, consider buying device patterns. Does a person conduct research on a smartphone during the day of a big purchase, requiring more long form content, but wants to watch videos in the evening on a product? For consumables, is it a case of one-click purchases during the day, but product comparisons in the evening?”

Meckes concludes, “Personalization and data tactics enable retailers to build a stronger bond with their customers which are actually appreciated. According to one report, 91 per cent of consumers are more likely to buy from companies who remember them and provide relevant personalized offers. Relevancy is key. Every page on an eCommerce platform should be curated for each individual visitor. While the risk of increased shopping addiction is valid, what can’t be denied is the role personalization has played in enhancing the shopping experience for the consumer populace.”