No retailer has ultimate knowledge about what its consumers want—not even Amazon.com Inc.

Even so, retailers are embarking on the challenge of uncovering what consumers are thinking (and, more importantly, looking to buy). After all, that’s what consumers want; 44% of consumers say they’ll likely become repeat buyers after a personalized shopping experience with a company, according to a 2017 consumer survey conducted on behalf of data analytics vendor Segment. At the same time, personalization is growing increasingly complicated as shoppers interact with retailers in more ways than ever before—from in physical stores to online to mobile devices to chatbots to smart speakers.

Merchants are racing to keep up—aiming to deliver relevant messages across each channel, ideally driven by data that’s stored in a central consumer profile that memorizes every interaction a shopper makes with them—but doing so isn’t easy.

Many retailers are stuck on the simplest forms of personalization. Just 27% of brands can execute basic personalization tactics like including a shopper’s name in an email, and only 26% can tailor content using data like browsing history, according to a 2017 Yes Lifecycle Marketing survey of more than 300 brands. Another 17% struggle with collecting and analyzing data. Only 11% said they can personalize all content in real time, suggesting there’s plenty of room for improvement.

“Omnichannel retailing has stretched older forms of analytics to the breaking point,” says Dan Mitchell…

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