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A few weeks ago I was honoured to be invited to address some of the sharpest minds in digital retail and ecommerce in London. During this invite-only debate on ‘Personalisation in Retail’, kindly sponsored by Forge Rock, one thing was really clear. Personalisation is the future. For all brands, all retailers, and all industries.
One would think that this is obvious. We have a millennial generation who have grown up with much of their interactions specific to their individual needs. They have tailored every interaction in their daily lives, grown up in a world where you expect it to work for YOU.  Their Spotify stream is different from anyone else’s, their news feeds and social media ecosystem curated to their unique tastes.

‘You are here’

I think the humble map is the ultimate metaphor for this generation. Previous generations used large fold out paper maps, which only worked if you knew where you WERE on the thing before showing you how you might get to where you wanted to go. It showed that you were a small part of this big world, the world was shown to you and your place in it.


Today’s map on your phone shows you at the centre. The world is shown to you from your perspective, the world relative to you. You are its King, the blue dot. Extrapolate that out to the buying public at large and you have a fundamental mind shift. What you have is a shopper who is only interested in your brand if you talk to them one-on-one, placing them at the centre. They don’t care about the wider world, they really only care about THEIR world. But it’s easy to get it wrong.

Euro Disney App Fail

A recent trip to Euro Disney with my kids was a good example. I downloaded their APP for the park, accepting their push notifications. I expected to be updated during our 3 day adventure on shows starting in our vicinity soon, the shortest queues based on where we were, the best rides to suit the age of my kids. After all they’d know who I was and where I was at all times. What I got was an APP that was about as useful at home in Ireland as it was in the park itself.

General v Personal

Despite the fact that Disney knew where I was at any given time via their geo-location enabled app, their push notifications were all general. “It’s nearly lunchtime. Have something to eat at any of the great cafés” instead of “It’s nearly lunchtime. Grab a table at Toad Hall Restaurant here in Fantasyland in the next 20 minutes and get a free dessert”. The APP never prompted us to try rides we might like based on the ones we’d done. It never asked the age of its users and so we were still left to navigate through all the attractions to find the ones most suitable. And no peer-to-peer reviews, meaning you had to trust the general remarks on their rides which often failed to match actual expectations. Five years ago the APP would have been great. A digital map of the park in your pocket. But shopper’s expectations have changed hugely in those past five years.
It is everything that is wrong when a brand thinks it’s ticked the ‘technology’ box. App. Tick. Done that. An app that gives its user the best experience they could have. No, far from it I’m afraid.


Don’t please the masses

I think every brand needs to look really hard at every aspect of its product offering and pose some tough questions. How can we make this more relevant to this specific shopper? How can we maximise value and make it less ‘average’? Pleasing the masses no longer works, it has to be tailored.

If you’re not getting it your way, then it’s not relevant to you as a shopper. Effective personalisation is set to be a real differentiator in every industry. It is what delights shoppers when you get it right, disappoints when you don’t. If you know WHO your shopper is, WHERE they are (through geo-location or iBeacons) and WHAT they want (through transactional data modelling or predictive analysis) there is nothing you can’t do. What more would a creative marketeer need to add value? Today’s technology and systems empower us to be able to personalise and communicate like never before, to trigger incremental sales and build brand advocacy stories.

I never thought I’d say this but someday Mickey Mouse will send me a text saying “I’m watching you Ken. Your every move”.

Well, we can all have our fantasies…


A blog to  inspire and delight

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A blog to  inspire and delight