This article from LYONSCG Executive Creative Director, Mike Davidson, and Senior UX Designer, Russell Schofield first appeared in Total Retail on July 10, 2019.
Personalization has typically been an afterthought in the world of digital commerce, as limited insight into customer data and lack of technology often left marketers with few options.
Today, with the rise of integrated CRMs, sophisticated website platforms, and advanced machine learning technology, brands and retailers have access to more data and more powerful technology than ever before. This has ushered in an exciting new era of opportunities to create truly individualized shopping experiences.
The question now is not “should we personalize our digital presence’s user experience?” but “how can we create the most effective personalized experiences for our customers that keeps bringing them back?”
The answer depends largely on the marketer’s goals and objectives. Ultimately, personalization can be a powerful tool for three key business drivers:
- To acquire new customers;
- To assist customers in the buying journey; and
- To nurture long-term customer relationships.
Let’s explore each of these business drivers further.
ACQUIRE NEW CUSTOMERS
Acquisition is typically the most important business goal of any digitally focused company. One of the best ways to encourage new users to engage with a channel is to show the user content and products that match their intent. This “core approach” to personalization can increase marketing return on investment by up to 20 percent, making this a perfect place for companies to start building a personalization strategy.
However, how does one show personalized content and products to a new user who hasn’t yet generated any data for the marketer?
An easy solution is to ask! Consider this example from eBay. Upon opening a new account, eBay politely asks the user a few simple questions to get to know them better. This, in turn, enables eBay to begin to show the user more relevant product categories and featured items.
Online pet retailer Chewy.com takes a similar approach to learning about its new users:
In both examples, the more information the user shares, the more personalized the user’s shopping experience can be. The user has all of the control, and therefore feels more comfortable telling the marketer exactly what’s most important to them.
ASSIST CUSTOMERS IN THE BUYING JOURNEY
Personalization can also play a role in helping the user move forward in the buying journey by making it easier to find exactly what they want.
This is where e-commerce gains an enormous advantage. While 62 percent of consumers say they love the in-store buying experience for the ability to touch and feel products, 31 percent believe brick-and-mortar stores can’t match online shopping when the user needs more in-depth product information.
Sometimes this simply comes down to showing smarter recommendations. User intent is key here, and marketers have a wealth of information to help figure out what a user might be looking for.
A good place to start is the keyword the user originally searched for. Consider a shopper who visits REI.com and types in “jackets.” The user clicks on a jacket in the search engine results page and arrives at the product detail page. What happens if that jacket isn’t exactly what the user wants? Leverage that search intent to show the user other options:
Another approach is to pair related items together to make it easier for the user to move from one product to the next. For example, if a user comes to home goods retailer Wayfair’s website searching for flat sheets, Wayfair has thought about what else the user might need and bundled those items together so the user doesn’t have to do it themselves:
The goal here is to make it effortless for the user to continue to browse and shop by anticipating everything they need.
NURTURE LONG-TERM CUSTOMER RELATIONSHIPS
The power of making the right product recommendations can’t be overestimated: 56 percent of online customers are more likely to return to a website when the site recommends products. Bringing customized experiences to existing customers is really where the true power of personalization shines through.
Amazon.com has famously taken this level of personalization to nearly an art form. Upon logging in, the user immediately feels at home, with quick access to past browsing sessions, recent purchases, and smart product recommendations.
An often-underutilized opportunity for nurturing relationships with existing customers is the customer account center. Rather than simply creating helpful functionality, when done right, personalization turns the account center into a destination — an entire ecosystem that includes easy access to subscriptions, gift cards, wish lists, favorites, and so on. See an example from Sephora below.
By leveraging the user’s entire history of data to curate an immersive shopping environment, the marketer can create a “sticky” relationship that keeps the user coming back again and again.
At the end of the day, personalization is all about providing a better service experience that consumers truly value. To do personalization well requires marketers shift their mind-set and think about the entire buying journey from the perspective of the customer. Where are the opportunities to guide the customer to the right product, services and content? How can the marketer give the customer more control and provide guidance along the way? What can the marketer do to better match the on-screen experience with the customer’s true intent?
As more and more marketers answer these questions and design user experiences that more fully deliver on the promise of personalization, everybody wins. Consumers get precisely what they want with far less hassle, marketers hit their business goals and objectives more easily, and long-lasting, mutually beneficial relationships are born.