When the movie “Minority Report” came out in 2002, marketers fixated on one particular scene. After Tom Cruise’s character, a member of a special “pre-crime” police unit, finds himself charged with a future murder, he undergoes an eye transplant in order to go on the run.
This futuristic society depends upon eye scan identification for everything (not just security) and, as he enters a Gap store, he is greeted by a hologram that addresses him as Mr. Yakamoto, asking about his previous purchase of assorted tank tops.
Marketers still covet this unattainable ability to greet every customer by name and inquire about their product satisfaction, all with just a brief scan of the eye. Both iris and retina scanning technologies exist, but biometrics is just one means of obtaining quality personalization data.
Ecommerce merchants must continually find ways to distinguish themselves from their online competitors. While the vast majority of online businesses recognize the need for ecommerce personalization, only a fraction actually implements it. Understanding your customer base provides the means for developing personalization that increases sales.
Related Article: How to Create a Powerful User Experience on Your Ecommerce Site
The Power of Personalization
The volume of ecommerce purchases is staggering. At the same time, competition amongst online sites is high. Consumers expect a great shopping experience with every purchase, especially online. Ecommerce sites must distinguish themselves, even if they offer similar items to a competitor.
Great personalization goes beyond the ubiquitous “Hello, [Your Name Here]” at the top of an ecommerce page or simple product recommendations. Online personalization requires accurate and specific data, which can achieve markedly good results. Now, technology can enable ecommerce merchants to put personalization to work for them.
The Realities of Personalized eCommerce
Econsultancy's Realities of Online Personalization Report reveals that 94 percent of companies agree that personalization “is critical to current and future success.” Furthermore, most agree that personalization improves customers’ online retail experience as well as their own business practices.
Personalization builds stronger bonds with buyers because, when executed properly, it anticipates their needs and desires by reacting to their behavior. Nonetheless, Econsultancy reports that less than half of the study participants characterized their sites as even “somewhat” personalized.
Make It Personal
There are several effective methods for achieving good personalization. Taking advantage of them may entail technology updates along with development of an understanding of what makes data “good,” how to source it and how to use it.
Understanding customers and how they use a site fosters creation of effective personalization rules, which then leads to customer personas that can direct interactions, according to Oracle’s How to Win Online: Advanced Personalization in E-Commerce. Personas augment the power of traditional customer segmentation, which depends upon basic variables such as age and gender. Personas use more detailed subjective information. Over time, as profiles increase, personas develop and customer interactions become more personalized.
Analyzing consumer site usage and immediately reacting should pique the customers’ interest more successfully. The aim is a sale or conversion, so personalization tactics must work towards that goal. At this point, creativity and insight count:
- Provide real-time suggestions
- Implement individualized home page themes that welcome users to the site
- Use related accessories or complementary items to cross-sell
- Provide live help pop-ups when customers seem to stall in the purchase process
- Time interactions to occur at the optimal stage of the purchasing process
- Enable “searchandizing,” where past behavior influences search results
- Reduce return rates by following up on purchases, especially fashion items, with an email showcasing how the product is worn by various celebrities
- Offer a last-ditch tempting offer to users on their way off the site, such as free shipping or a discount
- Present new visitors with a welcome gift of free shipping or a discount
Never relegate personalization solely to when a consumer first reaches the site and then as they prepare to leave. Rather, structure it so that it accompanies them throughout their time on the site. Done correctly, ecommerce personalization will bring them back repeatedly. If possible, ensure they experience updated personalization each time they visit the site.
The Source of Quality Information
Plenty of methods for data collection exist, such as past and present web behavioral data, clicks, searches, views, page views, social media, likes of postings and more. Other valuable real-time data includes past purchases, recently browsed items and abandoned products.
The other part of the data puzzle is dynamic content, such as:
- Name, telephone number and email address
- Psychographics, such as interests and opinions
- Past email responses or on-site comments
- Past purchases
However, depending upon the site and the individual, a straightforward request for information about visitors’ interests and characteristics also works.
The Importance of Doing It Right
Ecommerce personalization is a business strategy that encompasses:
- Who the customer is
- What the customer prefers
- What the customer dislikes
- How often the customer does or does not want to hear from an online site
Beyond that, personalization through a single integrated platform works best. Personalization should lead a consumer down the path that leads to a completed sale, all while boosting their customer loyalty.
In the end, using poor quality data, implemented at the wrong place or time, may result in a lost sale. Proper personalization requires gracefulness and good management so that the consumer feels they receive what they need without feeling other items are unavailable to them, and that they never feel as if the site knows a little too much about them. After all, most consumers are not yet ready for computers that scan their eyes to personalize their web use.