Bringing the personal touch online
The biggest advantage e-commerce has over physical stores is the convenience that customers can shop from anywhere 24x7x365. However, one area e-commerce has traditionally struggled to replicate is the human touch. Good sales staff can provide you personalized recommendations based on your preferences. The best sales staff remember the preferences of loyal customers and give them valuable products recommendations. In an era of increasing competition, the ability to delight your customer is often the difference between a loyal customer and a window shopper.
Personalization is profitable
As e-commerce competition gets tougher, companies are vying to offer customers similar personalized experiences on the web. Take Amazon, their recommendation algorithm is what many e-commerce companies take as a gold standard. Judging by the 91.4B USD revenue it made in 2016 (1) it's clear that they have many loyal customers. In fact, some analysts have estimated that revenue from the recommendation engine can be as high as 35% (2).
Today, the benefits of personalization are obvious, what's more elusive is how to implement it effectively. When asked about personalization, most store owners think of product recommendations. These usually take the form of a little product carousel showing what a visitor previously viewed or the clichéd 'people who bought X also bought Y'. While this is a good start, it's boring and misses a great opportunity to connect with your customers in a personalized way. Below we've listed some ideas you could try to make your website more relevant to your customers.
Relying only on product carousels is boring and misses a great opportunity to connect with your customers in a personalized way
Website banners are a great way to personalize visuals
For first-time visitors, it makes sense to show a main banner that is related to best selling products or maybe one of the active promotions that you know visitors like. You can be more specific by tailoring the experience to device type, time (seasonal products) or location. For visitors who have visited your site before, you can be a lot more creative. You know what they have clicked, browsed and hopefully bought. You can use this information to personalize the banner. Let's say the last product a visitor recently looked at was sneakers, you can show a banner containing shoes or sneakers the next time they come back. The keyword is recent, if the activity happened a few months ago, the visitor may no longer be interested in sneakers. You're probably better off treating them as a first time visitor if they returned to your store today. By going the extra mile to understand your visitors needs you can do a lot to make your web experience personal and seamless.
Category (sub) banners and brands
Another area often overlooked for personalization is subbanners. Does the customer have a strong preference for a few brands? Are there categories that they always browse? By understanding the browsing patterns and suggesting categories or brands each visitor is most likely to be interested in, they are more likely to become your customer.
Product carousels don't have to be boring
The classic product recommendations algorithm looks at what each customer has bought or clicked at and arrive at a list of other similar items. However some businesses have other objectives. One fashion e-commerce company that we work with is a marketplace for pre-loved clothes whose aim is to reduce fashion waste. They want to make sure that the buyer's location is also taken into consideration so each buyer will see items closer to them which reduces shipping costs and significantly more environment friendly. Another client is home accessories company who works with multiple suppliers. They prefer to recommend products from the same supplier which reduces shipping time translating to happier customers. If you understand what your business objectives are, product recommendations can help you achieve them beyond focusing on conversions.
Recently viewed products
This is an obvious feature many e-commerce stores miss out on. If you sell more than 50 items, the least you can do is save your customers time looking for the product you were looking at yesterday / last week. Show them the last few products they were viewing as a carousel to help them easily resume their browsing.
Content marketing can be tailored to each viewer too
Is your business running a blog or content marketing? Depending on what each customer has viewed, searched or browsed, that's a very good indicator of their purchase intent. You can use these activities to prioritize some posts over the others. Say you run an online furniture + lifestyle store and you know that some customers have bought large furniture items recently. Chances are they might be undergoing a home renovation which is a great time to share any posts you've done on furnishing tips.
As you can see, personalization should not be limited to a product recommendation carousel. In fact, the homepage is just a small segment of where companies should personalize their interactions with customers. In our next post, we will look at other areas of your website such as search results and email for personalization and explore you can start implementing them.
1. TechRepublic, https://www.techrepublic.com/article/infographic-how-amazon-makes-its-billions-with-e-commerce-streaming-services-and-the-cloud/
2. Rejoiner, http://rejoiner.com/resources/amazon-recommendations-secret-selling-online/