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Delivering personal experiences in the new digital reality

Lizzie Powell
Lizzie Powell
Managing Director, Design & Technology UK
5 min read
17 September 2021

Personalisation plays a pivotal role in digital strategies and experiences. It rapidly evolved from a buzzword to become an essential way for brands to build strong, long-term relationships with audiences. And when the pandemic forced companies and customers to engage purely through online means, it became an even more dominant force. Personalisation is spoken about extensively by CMOs, practitioners and technology vendors alike, but what do consumers think?

The e-commerce industry went through a much-cited growth spurt as a result of the pandemic, accelerating 10 years in just 90 days according to McKinsey. Following a period of such immense growth and transformation, and with many new marketing technologies on the market to assist in the advancement of personalisation efforts, DEPT® wanted to find out if the retail e-commerce industry is leveraging the opportunity to its full potential. 

After uncovering what consumers really thought of personalisation in 2019, we’ve run our consumer study again to find out: how consumers’ perceptions have changed (if at all); identify any gaps in retailers’ current strategies; and make recommendations on the best ways brands can take action in the new digital reality. 

Failing to keep pace with change

As in 2019, personalisation is still in the domain of being perceived as both good and bad, with strong feelings both for and against it, suggesting that not enough progress is being made by brands and retailers. However, consumers feel slightly more favourably towards it than they did two years ago, with sentiment for why they like personalisation growing across the board. 

We found that the advancements made across the e-commerce industry as a whole throughout the last 18 months are not reflected in retailers’ and brands’ personalisation efforts, leading to a lack in consumer awareness and understanding of the true extent of benefits it can offer. Rather, many consumers are left frustrated by the irrelevance of some personalisation methods and many have concerns around data sharing.

Key findings

  • The most common type of personalisation is previous purchase recommendations; the least common type is asking consumers questions when they visit a website
  • Positive sentiment stems from the practicality personalisation offers, such as helping consumers save time, find new products or find exactly what they need 
  • Negative sentiment for personalisation is focused on it being perceived as irrelevant, unsecure and creepy 
  • The majority of consumers are likely to spend more if a brand adopts relevant personalisation
  • Retailers and brands are implementing personalisation with a short term focus on conversion, rather than how it can benefit consumer loyalty in the long term 
  • Most consumers are willing to share more data to improve personalisation, but only that does not make them identifiable

Personalisation for the people

Consumers were keen to share their thoughts on how brands can improve personalisation efforts, from showing them true stock levels in real time to allowing them to choose when they do or don’t want a personalised experience and managing their data and preferences via a personal control centre. 

“I’d like to be able to go the whole hog and enter a shopping space that is mine to curate and choose from. I should be able to build my own shopping Eutopia like Minecraft!” 

“It would be great to be able to upload a photo and my measurements so that I can virtually see what clothing products would look like on me. Also, recommending what size I would need based on items I’ve previously ordered from other brands would be helpful.” 

Future focus

The topic of personalisation is certainly controversial, but these insights create an opportunity for brands to maximise the positives and address the negatives in order to drive future personalisation progression. 

Technology advancements have made it possible to personalise more elements of the customer journey in better ways than ever before. In our report, we highlight the key opportunities and actions for brands and retailers to make progress, such as prioritising experience over everything, increasing intelligence, building trust and how to better aggregate and activate data. 

Despite some strong negative feelings, it’s certainly not all bad. There is a clear appetite for more creative, ambitious personalisation; many consumers are just waiting for brands to raise the bar. Just don’t keep them waiting too long. 

Download the full report or get in touch with our experts to find out how DEPT® can help your business accelerate its personalisation strategy and get ahead of competitors.

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Managing Director, Design & Technology UK

Lizzie Powell