Personalization tops retailers' priority lists

Palm Springs, Calif.—Personalizing the shopping experience is a top priority for many retailers in 2015. Jason Miller, chief strategist, Akamai, talked about how trends like personalization are beginning to shape the future of retail at this week's eTail West summit.

According to a Forrester survey, 75 percent of retailers put personalization technology as their top investment priority in 2014.

In order to do this, Miller suggests that retailers start by looking at what can be segmented on an anonymous level to reach shoppers. For example, retailers can segment marketing pushes, whether they be communicated by email, text or app, by geolocation to match the climate in a specific region. Miller said that for one of Akamai's retail customers, this kind of anonymous personalization created an 11 percent increase in sales.

Furthermore, retailers should start experimenting with cross-device personalization. For example, the in-store personalization experience can be linked to beacons placed in the store that map a customer's movement within the store via his or her mobile phone.

According to Miller, a big part of personalization in 2015 will revolve around mobile devices. The sales of mobile devices in 2014 outpaced the sales of desktops for the first time. And that's no surprise. The average user touches his or her mobile phone 221 times a day.

Customers are looking for promotions and pushes on their phones. As many as 66 percent of marketing emails are opened on a mobile device, up from 65 percent the prior year.

"So if you don't have your message optimized for mobile, the customer is going to leave," said Miller.

However, Miller said mobile devices are still not caught up to desktop when it comes to the sophistication and ease of shopping. In 2014, 45 percent of consumers purchased online, 82 percent purchased in brick-and-mortar and 17 percent purchased on mobile. "If there are too many form fields, they give up," he said. "Mobile devices don't' support the same features as desktop."

Miller predicted that with the chip-and-pin law going into effect in October of this year, Apple Pay (NASDAQ:AAPL) and other mobile wallet applications will gain a lot more speed. While the majority of customers still use a credit card to pay, cards entail an inherent vulnerability that many customers could do without. "It's a more secure way to process, and once clients [retailers] get that, they will pick up the speed," Miller said in reference to mobile wallets.

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