One of the many things that differentiate online shopping from in-store shopping is the ability to personalize the customer’s experience. It might sound like an oxymoron that a shopper gets a more personal experience delivered via the internet, but with the ability to capture real customer data in real time, and in-turn provide them with relevant content specific to their needs and wants, commerce personalization is changing the customer experience and driving sales.
More customers are not only embracing personalization, but have even come to expect that a commerce site knows a little bit about them and can help make their shopping experience better and more efficient. As online shoppers, we are becoming trained to receive recommendations, look at reviews, have our information automatically pulled up, filled in, and to be kindly reminded of our past purchases and how our current purchases can be supplemented by those extras that we may have forgotten about. It’s about guiding the customer, helping them circumvent the extraneous and delivering to them what is pertinent.
Having said all of that, there is a fine line between improving the shopping experience for your customers and being invasive. Which is why the focus needs to remain on the customer – customer first, profits second. It is important to know your customer base and segment them, then engage them with content that is personalized to them based on the data you’ve collected, using the technology that allows you to present it to them and then report on what happened.
Real time personalization starts with a dialogue with someone who is both passive and anonymous – and you don’t need more information than is necessary to get it running. Here are the stages of customer personalization and targeting; the higher the stage the more personalization can be accomplished:
Stage 1: Visitor – a visitor is someone who is visiting your site for the first time, or a repeat visitor who returns periodically to get information, but is not invested as a regular customer. You can get to know your visitor by looking at viewed pages and specific content, point of referral (how they got to your site), location, and purchase history. You can convert visitors to the next stages by asking them to subscribe, become a member, etc. BUT never disrespect or make demands of your visitors, as they can serve as gatekeepers to the integrity of your website and they may be your biggest incognito advocate/fan.
Stage 2: Member – a member is someone who has opted to give you information about them selves so that their shopping experience is more efficient and you can guide them in their purchases. At this stage, they have access to creating a wish list, storing preferences, rating and commenting on products, etc. They usually set up username and password and have stored payment and purchase history information to expedite future purchases with better ease and a positive user experience.
Stage 3: Customer – a customer is someone who has made a purchase and registered their information in your system. They have started to build a profile with demographics, psychographics and purchase history, likes and dislikes. Personalization becomes more sophisticated and effective based on the person’s profile information and purchase history. At this stage content targeting and personalization is honed to the degree that conversions greatly increase and customer loyalty is bench marked.
Types of Personalization
How you deliver your products and services is as important as the products and services you deliver. Personalization begins with gathering enough information to identify a persona, then creating a user scenario, defining the needs of the customer, and developing the content. Different types of content delivery can include:
- Collaborative filtration – “People who bought product X also bought product Y"
- Product bundling – show related items that compliment what was purchased
- Promotions and discounts - target products customers would like based on their past purchases, ratings, profile, etc.
Customer personalization is one of the best ways to leverage your online commerce platform, especially considering businesses are spending a lot more money on online marketing than they are getting back in conversions because they are failing to target effectively. Also customers are coming to expect and demand a personalized experience.
There are many ways to accomplish the delivery of personal content without the help or cost of IT/developers. Commerce software such as Commerce Server, as well as some CMS software like Ektron, can provide the tools you need to personalize content. Contact us to learn more about Commerce Personalization.