“It’s summer! Is your body ready for the beach?”

How many times have you heard that headline, reminding you to join a gym or order the salad or put down that beer? It’s trite, but there’s a lesson in it – if you want an outcome, you’ve got to work toward it in some way.

All too often I meet with people who know what they’re supposed to be doing. They know their business goals: increased loyalty, meaningful relationships with customers, seamless cross-channel recognition. Yet they simply aren’t taking the steps to get there.

A recent survey by Boston Retail Partners investigated personalization tactics used by North American retailers, with findings suggesting retailers were on the whole not acting on customer data, nor doing much to gather more or increase its utility.

While many retailers use suggested-selling tools—using previous purchases to suggest next ones—only 4% of those surveyed do so and believe that it works well. Meanwhile, 16% of surveyed retailers are currently using personalized digital content and think it needs improvement. On the other hand, the same survey showed that 44% of retailers state that increasing customer loyalty is a focus for the next 12 months. Well then what are they doing? They’re talking a big talk.

Suggested-selling is one technique for personalizing a customer’s experience, but it’s based on a moment in time, not a relationship. If retailers really want to walk the walk, preference management would ensure that relationship building is on the customer’s terms – the best way to net loyal, return customers. The best way to meet all those goals you’re supposed to be working toward, remember?

Preference management – the active collection, maintenance and distribution of unique consumer characteristics, such as product interest, communication channel preference and frequency of communication – optimizes ongoing relationships using personalization. By offering opt-ins to customers and indicating the benefits and limitations to sharing their preferences for communications and content, they become both informed and engaged.

As channels diversify and customers move between platforms, it’s essential to lay the groundwork for loyalty by capturing preferences in the beginning. Lagging in loyalty now only means that your customers are getting scooped up and engaged elsewhere.

You know what your goal is, don’t you? Do something about it now and get a jump on those that are just talking. And then call me from the beach.