Personalization. It’s a trend, a buzzword, a proven strategy, and a huge source of anxiety for merchants and marketers everywhere.
This year, we wrote about how Covid turned the typical ecommerce customer into a savvy online shopping guru, and the strategies merchants should use to rise to the new challenges that brings. One of the strategies we highlighted was, of course, personalization — and how more than ever, consumers will be seeking out a personalized experience online.
Before and since, we’ve sensed mounting anxiety from merchants about what personalization is and where to start. They want to implement tailored content, curated product recommendations, and targeted offers, all at different levels via different channels, and all adapting to customer needs and goals in real-time. It’s a daunting task.
Worth the anxiety?
Personalization makes sense, and is only gaining momentum. By now we’re all familiar with the stars:
“77% of consumers have chosen, recommended, or paid more for a brand that provides a personalized service or experience.”
“80% of shoppers are more likely to buy from an organization that offers personalized experiences.”
There’s no question that consumers want to feel like a company isn’t just a faceless machine, but rather a real person who is speaking to them. They expect content tailored to their interests, relevant recommendations, and offers that make sense — because they’re finding it elsewhere already. The trend is clear, just as the benefits of personalization are clear.
“Organizations see a 20% average increase in sales when using personalized experiences.”
“44 percent of consumers say that they will likely become repeat buyers after a personalized shopping experience with a particular company.”
Think you’re late to the party? Consider this: Blogs everywhere are still flooded with personalization what-why-and-how-to posts, because in truth, there’s a lot of chatter but few success stories. But why? What makes it so difficult to start realizing wins with personalization? Of course, the answer may vary between different organizations, but we’ve identified some commonalities.
- Rigid, immature, disparate sources of customer data.
What is your best source of customer data? For many merchants, the answer is complex. Online store, CRM, ESP, marketing system, ERP, customer service platform — any number of valuable but scattered entities. You likely have a wealth of customer data, but that data may live in different places, with different access points. We find organizations often have no mechanism for consolidating or formulating insights from their data; little or no analysis or tagging in place from which to derive segments.
- Poorly-defined goals.
Why personalize? Do you have defined revenue or engagement goals? Do you know your customer base well enough to pinpoint where and how you want to personalize? Goals for personalization can include engagement, retention, increased customer LTV, or simply reduced wasted spend. Unless and until you consider these goals, your personalization plan could be a plan to fail.
- Everything, all the time.
Most importantly, we encounter the common misconception that personalization means personalization at scale, right now. That once implemented, personalization means each and every visitor is catered to precisely, on every channel, through an exhaustive set of tactics. But you don’t have to tailor for every segment, and no one personalization tactic defines the strategy. Over-personalization creates noise and friction.
Long-term goals; quick wins
Fully-agile customer data, the unified, single view of the customer, and personalization at scale via intelligent automation: These are the long-term goals, the Holy Grail. Reaching these goals requires bringing together analytics, marketing, design and technology, and careful planning around goals.
For quick wins, consider a parallel approach. Think big, but start small. Begin by choosing one data source, one goal, one tactic. Start with the strongest data source you already have, narrow in on where the most impact on revenue is to be had, and choose a tactic with the most potential. While our mantra here at TAG is
and that should guide your big-picture effort; you don’t have to be a data scientist to experiment like one.
The best part? You are learning as you go. While delivering impact quickly, you are building knowledge and capabilities in parallel, which will add color to planning as you lay the foundation to scale.
Three areas of opportunity for quick wins, often underutilized for personalization, are things you (probably) already have in place: email, chat and search.
Often your best truth begins with your email marketing tool. ESPs are inherently profile-based systems, built for marketing. Many (Listrak, Klaviyo) come equipped with intelligence that aggregates and delivers insights for you, as well as workflow automations — beyond your run-of-the-mill “abandoned cart” follow-up — that can be set up quickly to deliver the right message to the right person, at the right time. Take the time to investigate your provider’s capabilities.
Already using chat to manage customer service queries? A chatbot directly integrated with your storefront and its data can do more, act on real-time behaviors, offer timely and reactive promotions, and provide personalized assistance that feels intimate.
Most chatbots can automatically and contextually promote currently-running discounts to your store visitors, right when they are browsing. For instance, a chatbot can appear automatically as a visitor lands on a product page that has a discount, showing the discount code and a link to add to cart with the discount applied.
Tap into your chatbot’s capabilities, and there’s a bonus: You'll bolster customer data, reflecting their needs, wants, and difficulties, which can be tapped later for deeper segmentation.
Depending on the size of your catalog, your search box can be the most valuable real estate on your site; hence it’s often the most overlooked marketing tool. Visitors who use the search box are 1.8 times more likely to convert. Failure to ensure that search results are optimized and merchandised against specific input is a significant missed opportunity — one that typically requires a relatively small lift to resolve.
A semantic results technique alone speaks directly to customers based on what they search for. It shows understanding of almost exactly what the user is looking for, instead of simply matching keywords to pages. Implementing thoughtful synonyms that are highly relevant to your sector, industry, and your customer base will lead to satisfying search results and even higher conversion.
Any good advanced search solution also provides the functionality to make product recommendations within search results and merchandise results as well. Chances are these tools are ready to be tapped — so dive in!
Personalization doesn’t have to keep you up at night. Think big, start small, and you’ll start to see layered results.
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