As a former member of the research team at Shop Direct, I took particular interest in the news last week that they are launching a fully personalised homepage for the Very brand.
With such a vast array of customer data at their disposal, Shop Direct can individually tailor the homepage to best fit the customer’s past and predicted behaviour, ensuring that the most relevant brands, products and offers are directly presented and communicated.
Initially over one million different homepages will be possible, with the expectation that this will triple by the turn of the year.
The research implications and opportunities related to this are fascinating. In essence, very few customers will have the same experience when visiting Very.co.uk so it will be critical that the research reflects this. Customer engagement with the brand will become entirely personalised (at a direct level) so it will be increasingly important that they are researched in this way as well. The personalised nature of the platform should however enable this to be more achievable than ever, particularly using direct online approaches.
In the same way that few customers have the same experience, the research design should be equally personalised / interchangeable according to the individual. This is something which has been built into research design for years based on segments and quotas, but never at this level. The relevance of every single question to each respondent is going to become more important than ever. Not sure I fancy looking after the version control on that one!!
The implications will run even further through the industry. I’ve referenced segmentation. Will this next level of personalisation kill the need for these entirely or take segmentation to the next level by enhancing their quality and accuracy? And what for brand research? If the ‘personal’ customer experience with the brand is different to broader market communications, how will this impact brand perceptions and understanding and the measurement of these? I suppose my TV will be spitting out entirely personalised Ads for me to fast forward anyway before too long so we won’t need to worry about that.
In order to maintain relevance and credibility, it is critical that research design continues to evolve and adapt to the ever-changing nature of brand experiences and engagement.
Gareth Hodgson is a Director at Mustard.