Getting Personal

At the tail end of last week, I received a mailing from the folks at Total Wine.  It’s one that comes along each week and contains what Total calls my “weekend recommendations.”  It shows me some highly-rated wines that are supposed to fit my tastes.  The problem is that they don’t.  There are several bottles of white wine listed and I don’t drink white wine.  There is some expensive champagne and I prefer prosecco.  I don’t believe I’ve ever bought pinot noir in the store and yet there is a pinot recommendation as well.  

I’m not surprised. Although I shop fairly regularly at Total and love the store, there is no system in place to associate customer purchases with customers.  There is no loyalty card, as I have with a supermarket or two, to record what I’m buying, how often etc.  Without that information, recommendations can’t be personalized.  It’s the difference between me walking in the store and having them greet me by name as opposed to a generic hello.

I think we’ve all become spoiled by personalization, so much so that I think the ability to personalize the customer experience is table stakes for any retailer.  Notice I’m not limiting that to online retailers either.  My supermarket personalizes every trip as soon as I use their scanner to shop by delivering instant coupons and savings on products I buy or might like based on past buying.  We’ve all used Amazon and seen their recommendations.  In fact, their algorithm is so good that it’s worth examining what they’re using to determine your personalized selections and deleting things that you don’t want to include (maybe you bought something as a gift that should not be included, for example).  Netflix famously paid a lot of money to scientists that improved their recommendations by 8.5%.

Any business needs to think about how to incorporate personalization, even those of us that are not in B2C businesses.  Still showing generic decks to potential customers?  Still have a standard rate card that you send out when people ask for price quotes?  Still think you’re in tune with customer expectations?

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