Science-based personalization can differentiate retail brands as they fight to capture consumers’ attention. Companies across the industry are striving to deliver a memorable, personal customer experience to build loyalty and ultimately improve sales — but it takes the right combination of business context, math and data to make it successful.

Creating this kind of experience requires the tools to learn about your customers, build relationships and know what kind of offers they’ll be interested in, and when. What’s equally important is knowing what offers aren’t relevant, to avoid annoying or alienating your most loyal customers.

Getting Personal in a Crowded World

Building customer relationships in retail can be broken down into three steps: acquisitionactivation and activity.

  • Acquisition – is all about getting customer attention on the products and obtaining new customers, which means reaching potential buyers in the broader market with proactive marketing, channel partnerships, ads and offers.
  • Activation – the retailer focuses on getting the customers to execute a particular action or follow a certain desired path that maximizes the customer value. This might mean visiting a store a given number of times each month, completing a specific type of transaction or increasing awareness for different offers. The goal of the activation phase is customer interaction with the brand, enabling the retailer to engage them and build a relationship.
  • Activity – the final phase is where loyalty programs and benefits come into play.

While the first phase of relationship building is based on broader outreach, the subsequent two phases are all about personalization. The only way the activation and activity phases will be successful is if the customer has a personal interest in the offer or product.

If a recommended item or a proposed offer is off the mark, why would they engage? In this sense analytics become an invaluable tool for retailers who are looking to personalize offers and build loyalty with their consumers.

Analytics enable retailers to easily keep track of which offers resonate with their prospects and which don’t, ultimately enabling them to eliminate the non-relevant offers, hone outreach and become a reliable source of information and products for each individual consumer.

Shoppers are busy, and if they know one brand will be delivering exactly what they want based on previous purchases and interests, that’s the brand they’re going to go for.

Working the Data

So what tools are needed to make this relationship building possible?

Although most marketers and organizations have access to vast amounts of data – both traditional and social – it’s an ongoing challenge to mine it, elevate the most important customer segments and react in real time to customer needs. Today the most common challenge organizations face is that they are drowning in data and starving for insights. In fact, following the release of the most recent survey by, its director Christine Moorman commented that one of the biggest challenges is not securing data but instead creating actionable insights from that data.

When marketers are armed with the right analytic tools, however, big data can be more of an opportunity. It’s this data that allows retail marketers to achieve success in the activation and activity phase of relationship building – they just need to know how to work it. Optimally combining business, data and math to extract insights about how a customer might react to a given offer or interaction makes a world of difference as companies work to improve their targeting and personalization.

Analytics enables marketers to make sense of today’s data madness and truly improve in these areas, which in turn helps build loyalty and revenue.

One retail category where this is clearly evident is grocers. Mobile apps, beacons and other technologies produce a deluge of data around the in-store journey of consumers. Smart retailers and brands are using analytics to process that data in real-time and produce relevant offers that activate customers before they leave the store.

For instance, Hillshire brands is able to track shoppers in stores using iBeacons, allowing them to send customized ads and coupons for their craft sausage when the shopper approaches that section of the store.

It’s no secret that today’s retail world is more competitive than ever. Building customer loyalty is a focus for top brands, and the only way they’ll succeed in doing this is to get personal with their customers.

It won’t happen overnight, but when approached properly, retailers have the ability to truly put their customer data to work to better understand each individual’s needs and preferences. This information is the key to improving personalization, customer relationships and ultimately a company’s bottom line.