Lambrusco again? What restaurants can teach retailers

by / Wednesday, 28 May 2014 / Published in E-Commerce, Online Retail / Interactive Merchandising, Strategy

A recent dinner at a restaurant wowed me and could school retailers on what personalization is all about. While the food was great, what caught my attention at Il Pittore in Philadelphia was the quick personal attention. Our waiter “remembered” our wine selection from our lone previous visit, three months back. I called the next day to get the scoop for how they managed our experience. Surprisingly simple. The staff take notes and connect those with our opentable.com reservation. This links our earlier interests and led to the relevant, personalized service.

The visit felt special because the connection made was totally unexpected while incredibly relevant. Their notes gave the staff the right information to deliver recommendations tailored to our previous behavior.

Retailers aren’t quite connecting the dots as meaningfully as this restaurant was able to do. Sure, some retailers track their best customers and have had recontact protocol set for years. But we were by no means in this restaurant’s premier customer tier. Yet we were treated like this was our regular Friday night spot. Il Pittore was able to use the right data to make our experience personable. And this relevant personalization is an incredible opportunity for retailers.

Granted, relevant personalization is a difficult task online. While data exists for any customer logged into (or ‘cookied’ on) a retailer’s site, it is difficult to parse the right data to determine what is relevant for that particular shopping moment.

One example of a retailer missing the mark comes to mind with a recent bag purchase. I researched and visited quite a few sources. I didn’t purchase from Amazon, but their data suggests I am still in the market for a particular bag. I now receive targeted ads for a purchase made weeks ago. This isn’t helpful now that I’m shopping for books.

Retailers are taking strides in the right direction. The gap that remains now is judging intent and breaking down behavior to make purchasing decisions easier. Personalization is progressing at a quick clip as retailers are able to do things like filter in a friend’s recommendation, suggest similar products or complete a set, and even automatically reorder your monthly pet food haul.

As retailers build the right framework to connect their many pieces together – both online and in-store – you’ll be surprised that the product you are looking for in the near future is served seamlessly. Rather than look through a 10-page wine menu, you’ll be able to say “Yes, I’d like something similar to that Lambrusco we had last time. Just without the bubbles.”

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