Today’s customers don’t just want a certain level of personalisation. They expect it. But most builders’ merchants aren’t even close to delivering personalisation. Most haven’t even taken the vital first step of defining what it means to their customers, and many are unclear about what they need to build to create a truly personalised experience – let alone why.

Learning from the best

Best-in-class retailers use personalisation to make purchases faster, easier, and more seamlessly intuitive for their customers at every touch point – maximising the value of the data available about their individual preferences. To do that, however, requires building personalisation capabilities and the digital marketing strategy to support them.

Now this doesn’t mean developing a unique experience for every builder at every step, which would prove too costly. Instead, the aim is for merchants to use technology to personalise the most important touch points in a way that best drives value for the builder and merchant.

The scale of personalisation achievable depends on the merchants’ current business and budget capabilities. But even a relatively small advancement in this direction can take them a long way. Not to do personalisation at all is simply to hand the advantage to every competitor who does.

People respond better to personalisation

It comes as little surprise that a study commissioned by Google showed customers increasingly prefer a retail experience that’s not only quick and easy but which helps them make purchase decisions that are right for them. Customers don’t think consciously about this personalisation, just about the benefits it brings. Merchants who don’t think consciously about what it means are losing out – and will soon start falling behind.

So what is personalisation all about?

Personalisation is about constantly tailoring the retail experience to suit individual customers by using a combination of first-party customer data (which the merchant collects from its customers) and third-party customer data (collected by external companies which aren’t the sources of the data).

When planned and executed well, personalisation can result in significant benefits. In Google’s study, it was shown that when the shopping experience was highly personalised, customers indicated they were 110% more likely to buy additional items and 40% more likely to spend over what they’d intended. Better still, when asked to rate a retailer, customers who’d experienced a high level of personalisation gave scores 20% higher than those who’d experienced a low level of personalisation.

How much should merchants invest in personalisation?

Currently, averagely successful retailers are investing around 0.7% of their revenue in personalisation. However, best-in-class retailers are investing on average 0.9% – about 1.3 times more. In the near future, retailers in the survey plan to increase their investment in personalisation by around 18%, over the next three years. However, best-in-class retailers intend to bump up their investment by around 30. Google’s study predicts this will widen their performance gap significantly.

And it’s well worth it. According to Google’s research, personalisation done properly can pull in significant returns. Retailers that use personalisation have seen retails growth of 10% and more.

The questions merchants should be asking:

  • Are we changing our old ways of working? To make personalisation work requires new ways of working. It depends on a business’ ability to align its teams and get them to collaborate – overcoming entrenched and siloed thinking – and bridging the disconnects between the physical and online stores, between traditional and digital marketing.
  • Do we have the right senior people leading the way? Creating strong personalisation capabilities can be daunting. It takes a strong leadership team who understands digital, are preparing to make the necessary investment, and who can drive change across their business. If the leadership team don’t make personalisation a priority, it simply won’t happen.
  • Do we really understand the importance of personalisation, and do we have a plan to achieve that goal? Although most businesses understand the importance of what personalisation means to their customers, they don’t always have a vision of what that personalisation means to their businesses – or a plan to implement these digital initiatives.
  • Are we partnered with the right people? Businesses need to decide which capabilities to build internally and which to build with strategic partners. It’s generally a mistake to attempt to do everything in-house, especially when speed is important. Finding the right partner with both the digital building (website) AND strategic skillsets (planning) is invaluable.
  • Are we helping builders at every stage of our marketing? Most retailer profess to ‘Put the customer first’, but are still focused on pushing product rather than asking what people actually want. Their most loyal (and valuable) customers are assailed with marketing emails, while new customers are often ignored. A truly customer-centric business uses personalisation to ensure the shopping experience is tailored to the needs of each customer and is seamless throughout the retail journey.
  • Are we tracking builders’ digital experience and reacting quickly? It’s essential to define the metrics used to assess the impact of personalisation initiatives and evaluate their effectiveness, provide timely feedback, and continually adapt. Instead of simply testing adverts from time to time, businesses should develop a systematic approach to test tactics across different channels and use efficient feedback loops to inform next steps and further testing. Speed is of the essence here.
  • Are we investing in the right digital solution? New technologies are constantly creating better ways to personalise the retail experience. Businesses need to ensure they have high-quality customer data, smart analytics, and automation to deliver effective personalised across the customers’ digital touchpoints.

The time to get personal is now

Traditional builders’ merchants need to start their digital transformation now to offer services such as personalisation, or risk being overtaken by better-in-class competitors who will soon earn the loyalty of increasingly demanding customers. Soon, advanced personalisation capabilities won’t just be a way to thrive in retail – they’ll be essential simply to survive.

Developing what’s required to transform a business to offer a highly personalised and connected builders’ merchants retail experience – from digital platform to digital strategy – is a big undertaking that takes time. Fortunately, there’s now a way to accelerate the process.

E-Merchant Accelerator

E-Merchant Accelerator is a unique digital transformation programme designed specifically for builder’s merchants, making it easy for them to make the switch and develop the capabilities they need.

E-Merchant Accelerator integrates two essential and complementary services: a world-class eCommerce trading platform from merchant website specialists eCommonSense, and a proven digital marketing strategy and approach from the UK’s leading strategic brand and marketing agency for the built environment CMDi, to get you found, grow and segment your online marketing to increase your ROI.

Together, this unique team of sector specialists offers a turnkey solution that can be tailored to merchants’ specific stage of digital transformation – quickly and cost-effectively.

“Wherever you are with your digital transformation programme,” says Managing Director of CMDi Dianne Lucas, “talk to us and see how E-Merchant Accelerator will get you there faster.”

E-Merchant Accelerator is supported by the Builders Merchants Federation (BMF). CEO John Newcomb describes the programme as “a vital tool to help our members get future fit fast”.

For more information you can view our E-Merchant Accelerator service page, or contact Dianne Lucas, MD, CMDi on 01483 924766 / or Andy Scothern, MD, eCommonSense on 01156 975975 /

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