Personalization has quickly advanced from ecommerce trend to industry standard. We know it’s important, we’ve all heard the stats: 80% of shoppers are more likely to purchase from a brand that provides personalized experiences. Yet, for retailers exploring personalization for the first time, it can seem as though no one can quite agree on what it really means.
If you’re in the process of trying to pin down an exact definition of ecommerce personalization, you’re probably trawling through a world of jargon and buzzwords.
The fact is, it means something different to almost every retailer. And that’s okay. By its very nature, personalization will never be a one-size-fits-all solution.
At Searchspring, we think of personalization as giving the power of personal touch back to smaller retailers. At its core, it should empower ecommerce businesses to replicate that friendly, personable in-store experience. In a time before ecommerce, it was that familiarity that shaped a retailer’s niche in the face of competition from big chain counterparts. When selling began to shift increasingly online, that all changed.
While independent stores were still building their first ecommerce sites, industry giants like Amazon were already mastering the art of data collection and targeted recommendations. To compete, smaller retailers must do more than catch up. They must now reassert themselves as leaders in delivering personalized shopping experiences, no matter how or where a customer chooses to buy.
Many retailers assume that personalization means a fully automated, AI-driven, set-it-and-forget-it strategy. There’s no denying that automation is an invaluable part of a merchandiser’s toolkit – who doesn’t want to eliminate manual processes from their workload? But while certain aspects of a merchandiser’s role can, and should, be streamlined, there’s one asset that can never be fully automated: the human touch.
Personalization engines often treat merchandising as an afterthought, and seek to override the knowledge and experience of the ecommerce professionals steering the ship This is frustrating for the merchandiser, and often results in a disjointed experience for the customer.
To maintain the quick-thinking and dynamic nature of running an online store, merchandisers should always retain full control of the shopping experience. A seasoned team that has accumulated in-depth knowledge of your customer will always spot an opportunity for an in-the-moment promotion or innovative new cross-sell bundle before a machine does. Artificial intelligence should augment human decision-making and innovation, rather than completely replace it.
Capturing shopper intent
Another common misconception about personalization is that lengthy and intensive preparation is needed before implementation. The fact is, you don’t need a wealth of customer data to begin personalizing the shopping experience on your store, nor should you wait until you reach that point to get started. Personalization can subtly come into effect from the first moment a shopper engages with your brand.
It can be as simple as greeting shoppers with targeted messaging based on their channel of arrival. New visitors who click on an ad can be welcomed with your best sellers and a discount on their first purchase, while return shoppers who engage with your latest promotional email should immediately find the products that enticed them to click.
From there, the experience can become gradually more personalized as the shopper interacts with your store and begins to demonstrate preferences for certain products or attributes. Each visit is different, and even regular customers might surprise you with the occasional purchase that doesn’t match their previous behavioral patterns – especially over the holidays when many are shopping for gifts. As your strategy becomes more advanced, personalization should remain flexible and capable of responding to a shopper’s intent in the moment. Shoppers expect personalization
Ecommerce is a crowded game. Shoppers are fickle, and competitive prices and quality products are no longer enough to guarantee market share.
The only way to compete and remain front of mind is through intuitive, personalized shopping experiences that draw shoppers back again and again. Don’t put off personalization because it seems overwhelming or out of budget. Start small, and take back the power of personal touch.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ten Chu, VP of Product, Searchspring
Ten Chu is VP of Product at Searchspring. He started his career at the Chicago Tribune Company, as part of the team developing and supporting the very first version of the chicagotribune.com. Since then, his career has spanned across various industries, from media, to location-based services, education technology, and high-frequency trading.