Making It Personal

Choosing and applying your personalisation solutions

This is the second article in a three-part series on planning and implementing an effective personalised ecommerce strategy. You can read Part One here

Once you have a clear idea of personalisation experience and objectives across the customer journey, it’s time to start the hard part: applying your personalisation tools across channels and over time. For most customers, personalisation is an ongoing, evolving operation.

Sophie Wilson
Digital Consultant for Astound Commerce

With product offers changing frequently, customer behaviours shifting with external influences, and your ecommerce proposition evolving over time, you need to ensure that data capture is constantly maintained, personalisation remains relevant and effective, and no opportunity is missed. 

With many journeys starting with acquisition activities—and the cost of these having increased 60 percent in the last six years—email and paid search are perfect opportunities to initiate the personal experience for your customer, given these options provide cost-effective engagement from the outset. Relevant recommendations based on user intent in email, search, social, and display can widen the funnel; personalised subject lines alone make customers 26 percent more likely to open emails.

Social listening gives you the opportunity to pick through potential customers’ conversations, analyse them, and respond on social channels. Tools such as Brandwatch and Digimind use AI to track sentiments across social networks in real time—even identifying influencers—and can provide specific details on customer interest in your brand, allowing you the opportunity for prompt and accurate response.

Simply determining if the user is new or returning can trigger compelling personalisation, both online and in-store; further, appointment-led sales funnels—such as kitchen purchases—can trigger a personalisation path with complementary products, special “new customer” offers, and on- and offline promotions for customers creating a profile.

Clear a Path to the Product

The generic homepage is dead. Customers today expect a personalised experience from the outset, with tailored content and targeted product recommendations now considered a hygiene factor. And this expectation extends to the entire customer experience: from your homepage to your product taxonomy to your onsite search, personalisation can boost the propensity to purchase at every stage of the customer journey.

Take a lead from personalisation vanguards Amazon and Netflix: the homepage gateways to these pioneering sites and media platforms are always changing, seemingly always learning, pushing recommendations based on past user behaviour, contextual relevance, and geo location. Utilising social listening onsite to provide those spookily accurate promotions that everybody loves to hate has proved incredibly lucrative for these brands (89 percent of US consumers are more likely to buy from Amazon than any other site). There is so much about personalisation to learn from this ecommerce giant that uses AI in multiple ways, including connecting purchasing and browsing data to obtain a far more accurate picture of user needs. 

Netflix is the king of A/B testing with 250 running each year, each employing personalisation techniques to serve one of two different versions of an experience to different people, then selecting the most successful to roll out to all users. Even outside the 100,000-strong A/B test group, no two experiences are the same: individual data drives every element of each page. Netflix also sets the tone for capitalising on the “returning user” with one of its most powerful features: “Continue watching . . . .” This approach can be applied easily to ecommerce: by using a relatively simple algorithm and surfacing abandoned baskets and previous searches on the homepage, or even pulling up in-store purchase histories, you can create a continuous shopping experience for your customer.

Navigation through your product set can also constitute a uniquely tailored view. Sophisticated A/B and personalisation tools such as Evolv can reorder navigation based on user preferences, learning and reacting to continually optimise in real time. 

US homewares retailer Bed, Bath & Beyond has won plaudits for its retailer makeover. Ranking in 12th place in Sailthru’s Retail Personalisation Index 2021, the company customises users’ digital experience to fit shopper interests. Shoppers can create mood boards to plan projects with real products, using recommendations from buyers as to what works best in combination. 

Your onsite search can also be automatically customised to respond to real-time user behaviour—leading to results that are more relevant and more attractive and, ultimately, to a higher conversion rate (NB Decathlon saw a 50 percent higher conversion rate when itintroduced personalised search). Add autosuggestions, project completers, and “because you bought this . . .” suggestions to the product listing page (PLP), and you’ll further entice your customers with alternative products.

Inspiring a Community, One Person at a Time

Personalisation doesn’t have to be limited to guided navigation, bespoke promotions, or A/B testing. Using quieter, less overt content can gently ease your customer toward starting a long-delayed project and building a bigger basket—while also elevating your customer experience across all channels.  

On a structured journey via Category landing pages and inspirational content, you can tailor messaging to engage and influence at an individual level. By using dynamic content blocks, personalised banners, and targeted links to recommended content pages (such as project how-to’s or customer generated images), your website can provide a bespoke experience for any known customer and encourage a higher average transaction value (ATV). When the shopping experience is highly personalised in this way, customers indicate that they are as much as 110 percent more likely to add additional items to their baskets and 40 percent more likely to spend more than they had planned, according to BCG.

Every shopper has unique tastes and preferences, but matching them with like-minded users and using personalisation in conjunction with user-generated content (UGC) can further heighten their shopping experiences. Matching your customer with users who have similar preferences or details and displaying their reviews, images, or other content adds a compelling dimension to the browsing and selection journey: one where the customer feels they are browsing with a friend, or at least a peer with compatible tastes. 

With more than 50 percent of US shoppers claiming that they usually learn about new and interesting products from friends and acquaintances, coupling the power of UGC with personalisation and creating a “people like me like this, so I should like it” message is incredibly powerful. Think Tripadvisor, whose entire model is based on this principle; apply its strategy to your own ecommerce proposition, and reap the returns. 

In the third and final article in this series, we analyse personalisation omnichannel strategies and solution options.


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