House of Fraser’s David Walmsley has said that retailers need to approach personalisation “with transparency and honesty”.

The new chief customer officer, who arrived from heading up M&S’s digital operations last month, said that he believed personalisation should start with transparency and honesty.

In a panel session about how to avoid personalisation becoming creepy, Walmsley said that a value exchange between customers and retailers took place when customers gave up their data, and that retailers should respect that.

“It’s give and get,” he added. “We all get freaked out on the internet when we see data being picked together. It’s horrible and frankly suboptimal.”

David Walmsley on personalisation and the future of department stores.

Monetate regional director Anthony Gavin added: “When personalisation is done well you shouldn’t really notice it. It just puts relevant information and products front and centre for that individual.”

The pair were joined by PetsPyjamas boss Gracia Amico, who emphasised the need to be subtle when personalising communications. She gave the example of customers who booked pet-friendly hotels through PetsPyjamas receiving highly targeted emails designed to look like mass-market emails which happened to reference the hotel they had stayed at.

Walmsley also spoke about the difficulty of getting personalisation projects off the ground. “People latch onto tech but the hardest problem is business process,” he said. “Worry about that before algorithms. Get yourself off to the races.”