Stitch Fix, arguably one of the most disruptive retailers today, relies on deep personalization to connect with their customers. It’s not a surprise then that the online retailer employees over 60 data scientists. What might surprise you is that they still rely on the personal touch of 1000s of stylists to make sure that every customer receives the perfect ‘fix’ – what they call their box of curated items sent directly to the consumer’s door.
The reason they do this?
According to Ernan Roman, President of marketing analysts ERDM, who spoke with Stich Fix’s Lindsay Ferstandig, Director of Marketing, at the Retail Innovation Conference this month, the challenge is that today’s consumers are rejecting the predictive personalization tools backed by retailers trying to guess who they are and what they might like. That’s why Stitch Fix asks their customers to share personal information about themselves and combines it with an actual human who makes the final tweaks and decisions for styling the consumer.
For a company like Stitch Fix, there is a clear value for their customers to sharing this highly personal data because they experience a direct benefit. For the rest of retailers getting customers to share this kind of data presents an immense challenge. According to RetailDive’s 2017 customer survey, over half of customers aren’t willing to share personal data with retailers. Without this data retailers are left with the same, ‘ID by clicks’ paradigm that ERDM proves just doesn’t connect with customers. It leaves customers in the “You bought jeans, here are some more jeans” shopping experience.
So what are retailers to do when you don’t have a deep knowledge of exactly who your customer is and what their preferences are?
Here are some thoughts to help bridge the gap:
- Think about what you do know for sure about your customers. Location is a powerful tool to present a relevant experience with little risk of “turning off” customers by incorrectly guessing who they are. For example, showing what other New Yorkers are shopping for on the website right now can create a powerful social connection with your brand that ultimately influences what you purchase.
- Merchandise to what’s relevant in their lives. What events are happening nearby, what’s trending on twitter, and even the weather all present great opportunities to connect beyond guessing what your consumer might click on next.
- Encourage direct experiences with your people. Stitch Fix has proven that there is no substitute for the personal connection with a stylist or associate. Getting customers into the store and engaged with your brand ambassadors is one of the best ways to bridge the personalization gap.
Providing curated shopping experience is critical to capturing new customers, but customer engagement models are rapidly evolving. As always, innovation and disruption is key to understanding where the customer will be instead of trying to play catch up with where they are today.