Online personalisation has become part of day-to-day life. We log into Facebook, Linkedin or Twitter to see updates from the people we’ve decided to follow, or head to and see a homepage full of targeted product recommendations.

This focus on personalisation is prominent in ecommerce, where numerous research has shown the link between a personalised online experience and customer engagement, loyalty and sales. This is demonstrated by Cooperative Travel, who saw an increase in revenue of 217% after introducing personalisation to its website.

For many retailers, this personalised online experience is rarely duplicated in-store. Retailers have spent the last few years dealing with ‘showrooming’, whereby customers research products in-store but buy them online.

Different retailers have taken some novel approaches to dealing with showrooming – notably an Australian store who charged every customer a $5 fee for “just looking” and similarly a shoe store charging a $20 “fitting fee” refunded only on purchase (you’d better hope they have your size in stock!).

Recent research suggests that whilst consumers are likely to use their smartphones in store (looking up either prices elsewhere or additional product information), many customers (60%) will browse online before making a purchase in a physical store. This is called ‘webrooming’ and the decision to purchase in store is often to avoid delivery charges or waiting time.

The response to these challenges

Regardless of whether retailers are dealing with customers who are showrooming or webrooming, the key factor is the influence of both the physical store and online channel on the consumer’s journey to purchase. Every time the consumer switches channel, the retailer is at risk of losing the customer to a competitor.

The best way to turn this into an opportunity is by ensuring customer engagement and loyalty, by improving customer experience cross-channel and aiming to offer the same ‘personalised’ service in store that the customer expects online.

The cloud is the answer to offering a personalised service in store. As individuals, we are increasingly comfortable with using the cloud every day, whether collaborating on files through Google or uploading photos of food to Instagram. Retailers can utilise cloud-based CRM systems to recognise their customers in store and use this information to their advantage.

One example of this link between the online and offline world is the menswear retailer Charles Tyrwhitt. In store, their checkout assistants have the ability to view a customer’s previous order history and can confirm which size shirts have been previously purchased. This simple approach is effective in ensuring customers are drawn back to the brand, as forgetting their size does not land them back at square one.

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The Charles Tyrwhitt example is a simple one, but there is even more that can be done. It’s called ‘clienteling’ and often looks like store assistants armed with iPads, looking up the details of the customer they are serving. This allows them to understand their previous purchases, any customer service cases and items they might be interested in. Using this information, the store assistant can offer a truly personalised service and has the ability to successfully cross sell and up sell.

Technology enablement

When introducing cloud-based CRM systems, one solution which enables retailers to offer personalised service across channels is Salesforce. This software-as-a-service solution enables the customer profile to live in the cloud, be automatically updated whenever the customer interacts with the brand; but most importantly be accessed by any relevant party within the company (be that a customer service agent or an assistant in store).

Capgemini is a global partner of Salesforce, working with retailers to help implement and make the most out of the service. The recent acquisition of Oinio – a Salesforce partner with focus in Europe and China, will go even further to boost the ability for retailers to undertake digital transformation and introduce personalisation.

The future

As some retailers start to focus on being able to offer personalisation in-store, and develop a consistent customer experience both online and offline, many more opportunities will be uncovered. Future-proofing your chosen solution is imperative to succeeding in the long-term, and the cloud is enabling this.

I am already looking forward to a future full of exciting developments. As retailers utilise cloud-based CRM to offer personalisation and more rewarding customer experiences, they will be able to boost customer loyalty and sales without the need to charge a $5 “just looking” fee.