By Graeme Grant, VP Predictive Intelligence

I recently came across an interesting interview with Wanda Gierhart, the SVP and CMO for Neiman Marcus. As a retail marketing innovator, Gierhart was asked what the most important marketing initiative is this year. Her reply: “personalization.”

In her interview, Gierhart explains how personalization has helped bridge the gap between Neiman Marcus stores and Neiman Marcus digital experiences (e.g. the retailer’s ecommerce site and various mobile shopping apps). And she makes an important point regarding personalization here – when done correctly, personalization can mimic the experience of interacting with a highly effective, personable, in-store sales associate. Like a great sales associate, personalization can leverage a customer’s tastes, preferences, habits and personal information to not only offer the right products to a customer at the right time, but also proactively predict product choices before a customer even realizes they need (or want) them.

Why is mimicking one-on-one, in-store experiences with effective sales associates so important, though? We live in a hyper digital age, where consumers have little time for “personal touches” and expect limitless product choice and immediate availability above all else. Right? Not exactly. Recreating personal, one-on-one, in-store experiences is important, especially in our hyper digital world, because now more than ever consumers are demanding relevancy. Consumers want more than just deals and coupons and overnight delivery offers. They want retailers to listen to their unique tastes and needs, and deliver products that are relevant to them as individuals. Personalization, when done correctly, is all about delivering relevance to each individual consumer. It’s about showing the consumer that you can solve their particular needs. And in order to compete as a retailer, you’ve got to deliver on this demand.

When a retailer begins to demonstrate that they can proactively deliver on a consumer’s individual needs, the infinite business benefits of personalization are realized. Because by demonstrating how they understand a customer, their tastes and shopping preferences, and by showing they care for a customer’s business by making it easier for them to get the products they want, retailers develop deeper relationships and trust with their customers. And deeper customer relationships create greater customer loyalty, which in turn, creates more business for retailers.

What about you? Is personalization your number one marketing initiative this year?