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Getting Personal with Forrester Guest Speaker Brendan Witcher: Takeaways from our recent webcast

Personalization is finally edging out omnichannel as the most frequently cited term by retailers far and wide. It’s an aspiration, a key strategy, a business imperative…however you cast it, personalization is top of mind for business leaders and technology strategists alike. Oracle Retail VP of Strategy and Solution Management, Jeff Warren recently co-hosted a webcast with guest speaker, Brendan Witcher, VP and Principal Analyst of Forrester to dig into the state of personalization in retail today and Forrester’s take on what it means (or doesn’t mean) to be customer obsessed. I sat down with Jeff for a quick Q&A after the event to capture the key takeaways: Q: It’s clear that personalization requires two key elements: it must be relevant to the consumer and it must add value. Based on our research, The New Topography of Retail, there is a massive opportunity for improvement as only 22% of consumers believe the offers they receive from retailers are relevant and only 21% believe they are personalized, or value-add if you will. Can you talk through what it takes from a technology point of view to improve performance in this area?                                    Jeff Warren: This is very much about capturing data that builds a rich and deep customer profile across all your touchpoints, and aligning this intelligence with enterprise data about items, inventory, orders. For example, to accurately predict where you need inventory based on your consumers next most likely purchase, you need to know what inventory you have available, where it is, and what the customer might want. This will enable you to determine the next best offer to make that you can also fulfill, in real-time. Understanding their profile as an individual and matching that with your enterprise inventory data gives you the ability to deliver a unique and relevant offer that can be executed on. I will stress this aspect, you must be able to execute on it and without inventory, item, order and customer profile all connected you cannot get it done. Q: We heard a lot about segmentation and the various assumptions businesses make about what they “know” about their customers. As a marketer, we all know that traditional approaches to segmentation have been declining in performance for the better part of the last decade. Not only have consumers changed but the availability of more finite nuances allows for a much more elegant approach to understanding how to engage someone in an authentic interaction. We can tap into details that were previously unavailable. How has Oracle’s approach to building customer profiles evolved and what value does that offer to retailers as they fine tune their customer interactions? Jeff Warren: The use case for traditional segmentation has certainly narrowed but I would agree with our guest speaker, Brendan, segmentation isn’t dead. We put stores, customers, associates into categories because it’s a sensible way to group and measure. That said, when you treat people as part of a category you miss the opportunity to interact with them on an intimate level. Creating individual profiles for each customer has major impacts on your data management and processing requirements and you cannot manage it by simply working harder. This is where cloud, machine learning, and AI are your only answer. Cloud gives you the elasticity and agility to flex your data management requirements as they grow, machine learning builds intelligent customer profiles based on infinite data points that may seemingly be unrelated but actually come together to form a beautiful image of your customer. Machine learning, as a feature in a platform that not only informs but executes and gets smarter over time, allows your team to manage by exception which reduces inefficiencies and speeds informed decision-making, so you can be relevant, personal and real-time. Q: Once a retailer defines their personalization approach and has the right solutions in place to capture, convert and cultivate loyal customers consistently (alliteration not intended), what’s next? What’s the next level on the maturity curve? Jeff Warren: As retailers start to achieve proficiency around customer intelligence they need to be able to do something about it, and I don’t just mean a better offer. Of course, a personal and relevant offer is a first step in this journey, but retailers need to start envisioning how they can take the data and insight to produce new outcomes. For example, let’s look at returns. Traditionally you capture the basics – didn’t fit, didn’t like, wasn’t what I thought it was based on the website. Okay, great, but what does that tell me about the customer’s taste profile? Nothing. Returns offer a significant opportunity for a retailer to not only inform their next interaction with a customer, it should also influence their assortment and product development decisions. Every customer interaction must inform your enterprise, we call this the Pivot to Customer. Retailers tell me all the time that the business is built around the customer. Pivot to customer is far beyond “great customer service” or dynamic content on your website or responsive digital signage in your store – it’s about your assortment, inventory placement, fulfilment strategy. Making the pivot to customer impacts your talent pool, your KPIs and your technology investments, but in the end you will be in a position to consistently anticipate and execute against your customers’ demand and acquire your next best customer. Access the full on-demand webcast for more details on Forrester’s perspective on the state of personalization and recommendations for making progress on personalization initiatives.  

Personalization is finally edging out omnichannel as the most frequently cited term by retailers far and wide. It’s an aspiration, a key strategy, a business imperative…however you cast...