Personalization and customization are not just about enriching the online experience; they offer opportunities to empower customers and strengthen relationships with every interaction. A highly respected Connecticut retailer, with big-ticket clothing stores in Westport and Greenwich, is a leader in personalizing the customer experience. Andrew Mitchell, the company’s vice president of marketing, says, “Let’s face it, we’re in the suburbs and our affluent customers can travel anywhere in the world they wish to go. We have to give our customers something different; something they’re not going to find elsewhere. We know we have the kind of merchandise they want. But that’s not enough. We also know that we have to continually build on our relationships with our customers which requires a deep-rooted understanding of their every need, want and desire.”
In addition to continuing personalized communications, the stores offer free alterations, local delivery, and special gift wrapping services. They will send clothing and a tailor, if necessary, to any customer anywhere in their metro region. They even offer VIP fitting rooms complete with all the clothing and accessories laid out for a specific customer’s needs, with complimentary cappuccino and imported water.
Closet consultations are routinely offered free of charge. At the customer’s request, a sales associate goes to the home to help inventory, organize, and add onto the closet’s contents. The client receives suggestions on how to creatively mix and match the existing wardrobe, as well as ideas on how to add new pieces from the store’s seasonal merchandise offerings. Free maintenance and a company tailor to handle alterations are readily available. Outfit combinations are photographed, and discarded items are brought to the customer’s designated charity by the sales associate. These folks really understand today’s overloaded customer and they’re finding innovative ways to empower her.
Scott Martin, vice president of CRM and Alliances at Critical Mass, a website developer: “The benefits to the customer can be extraordinary if strategically approached personalization allows the customer to gain control, so the underlying statement is all about empowerment.”[7 ]
Rachael McCarthy, Unica general counsel and chief privacy officer: “Personalization can save consumers time and money. Rather than wasting time and clicks wading through Web pages and promotions that are not of interest, the customer is presented with product and service options, information and promotions that are relevant.”
Jamie Fiorda, senior product marketing manager at E.piphany: “Real time personalization can prevent customer churn, enable cross-channel consistency and encourage the use of value-added services.”
Bruce Kasanoff, one of the original partners of Peppers and Rogers Group and author of Making It Personal: How to Profit from Personalization Without Invading Privacy (Perseus Books, 2001): “You can save people time by eliminating repetitive tasks or remembering transactional details. You can save people money by preventing redundant work, eliminating service components unnecessary to a person or identifying lower cost solutions that meet all other specifications. You can deliver better information. Usually this means providing less, but more relevant information that’s tailored to a person’s needs or expertise. You can address ongoing needs, challenges or opportunities by providing one-stop services, accommodating unique personal preferences and recognizing and rewarding achievement with special treatment.”
Because so much of the hype about personalization and customization is about Web companies, one might conclude that businesses not actually selling on the Internet have little need of the two features. But how many brick-and-mortar customers are also using their Web services? Sixty-six percent of multichannel shoppers browse in one channel but purchase in another.
And multichannel shoppers spend more. Consumers that either browsed or purchased in all three channels—on the Internet, through catalogs, and in retail stores—spent $995 on holiday shopping in 2001, compared with shoppers who browsed or purchased in two channels ($894) and consumers who used only one channel ($591). Despite all the excitement about online purchasing for holiday 2001, retail stores continue to be the most popular channel for purchasing among multichannel shoppers. Out of the average $894 spent by multichannel consumers, $572, or 64 percent, was spent in retail stores; $233, or 26 percent, was spent on the Internet; and $89, or 10 percent, was spent through catalogs. Fifty-four percent of customers purchased through both retail stores and on the Internet, and 22 percent made purchases through all three channels.[12 ]
So personalization and customization are not just for the Web. They can let customers have more control of the relationship, wherever and whenever—on the store’s selling floor, on a sales call, and in the call center.
Angela Karr, “Questions About Personalization,” Customerinterface, December 2001, pp. 32, 33.
 “Mitchells/Richards,” Retail Ad World, February 2002, pp. 16, 17.
[12 ] “Multi-Channel Customers Most Valuable: Study,” Direct Newsline, January 29, 2002, pp. 2, 3.