Ao.com boss John Roberts believes there is a lot of “guff” talked about personalisation and argues more needs to be done to put the customer first.
Speaking on how to leverage technology to become a better retailer at Retail Week’s Tech & Ecomm conference this morning, Roberts said businesses are failing to implement personalisation and CRM to suit the needs of the customer
He said: “Personalisation is not rocket science and there is a lot of guff talked about personalisation and we are nowhere near on personalisation where we would like to be.”
Roberts believes retailers could do more to personalise the web experience for shoppers using customer data.
Roberts said: “Most of our customers have told us exactly what they want before they come in. We just don’t give it to them - we take them to a homepage.”
Ao.com is currently trialling serving up more personalised search results on its website such as including Bosch products at the top of listings when customers search for washing machines if customers have bought Bosch products previously.
Roberts revealed this process has however led to an unmanageable amount of web templates and as a result the company is “working our way back up to what are the really key things that are important to personalisation and what actually delivers for consumers”.
He added: “Equally there is a lot guff talked about CRM. People think of CRM as flogging stuff to a customer that has already bought from you.”
Roberts argues that retailers should use CRM to show they are always thinking about the customer, rather than just attempting to sell them products.
For instance, Roberts said Ao.com could use data on whether customers are living in a hard or soft water area to ascertain when they should be sent emails with a video advising them on how to descale their machines.
However, Roberts concedes there is a time and a place for “flogging” goods, such as on Black Friday.
He said: “We think you are able to prostitute yourself 10% to 20% of the time.”
Using tech in recruitment
Roberts also believes the “single biggest thing in any business is the people” and some businesses can be guilty of introducing “technology for technology’s sake”.
He said: “Businesses quite often get quite consumed with what is the next cool thing and don’t necessarily join the dots.
“The single biggest thing in any business that makes the difference is the people”
John Roberts, Ao.com
“The single biggest thing in any business that makes the difference is the people. We have a phrase that we don’t recruit on qualifications, we recruit on DNA.”
Roberts said the company has applied technology to its hiring process in order to find people who are the correct fit for the job now that the business is too large to make “instinctive qualitative judgements” about job applicants.
Ao.com has analysed all its current employees through psychometric testing and matched the results against who are the best performing staff to build up a profile of the type of person who is most suited to working at the ecommerce firm.
All applicants are put through the test whether they are a driver or a director and if they do not match the profile they do not reach the next stage.
Phone data system
Roberts also revealed the company has invested £3.5m in a new phone system that can use customer data to predict why they are calling in order to answer their query with an automated message before they are put through to an operator.
For example, the system knows if a customer is ringing on the day of delivery by matching their number to their order and will deliver an automated message to tell them what time their order is due to arrive.
Roberts said that this often results in the customer not needing to be put through to a call handler and therefore saves the retailer time and money on call handling costs.