Need help getting started with the personalization of your e-commerce? You've come to the right place! In this guide, we'll review how to make use of customer data and use it in the best way to increase the conversion (and sales) of your e-commerce through personalization.
Why personalize e-commerce?
Personalization of e-commerce has become easier and easier as the digital landscape has grown. It used to be something only for the "Amazon's" of the world, but today most e-commerce merchants use personalized content and communication to some extent. At the same time, this evolution happens simultaneously with the growth of customers' expectations of being recognized and addressed in a personal and relevant manner. The customers of today are busy and expect to be served with content, offers and communication that is relevant to their personal interests. This in turn leads to an increasing number of e-retailers starting to engage in personalization - and the wheel keeps spinning! One thing is sure, we live in a more personalized retail climate than ever before, and it's not likely to start going in a different direction.
Personalizing your e-commerce
1. Create product recommendation based on customer data.
There is a lot of buzz about using customer insights to your advantage, but how do you get started? Well, the first step is obviously to collect some customer data to begin with. If you're e-commerce is new or you haven't worked this way before, this means setting up data points and deciding what to track. All customer data is valuable, not only previous purchases or product interest. If possible we want to know where our customers come from, what the purpose of their visit to your site is and how they interact with your website. What are they searching for? What channels do they typically use to navigate the topics they're interested in? The answers to all of these questions are important because they give us a good picture of what content we need to create in order to satisfy the customers' needs.
The next step of the process is to show your visitors the products or services that they are actually interested in. Personalization at this level is quite basic and many visitors today expect a website to cater to their preferences when it comes to recommended products, etc. But that doesn't mean you should greet a returning visitors with blunt messages like, "Hello again! The last time you were here we saw that you checked these shoes, are you still interested in them?”. This type of behavior can easily feel like a website stalking you or monitoring your behavior more than necessary, which is uncomfortable. Personalized service at it's best is when you don't notice it happening, rather than it being obvious, intrusive or pushy.
One way of thinking is that you should help the customer achieve their purpose with the visit, whatever it is. Some may visit your website with a clear buying intent while others just want to look around. Focus (as discreetly as possible) on highlighting products that may be relevant based on past customer behavior. Did the visitor search for a pair of red boots during a prior visit? Then it's probably smart to let those boots show up among the first products in the search results or recommended products section, but showing the customer 11 differents styles of red boots based on prior behavior will feel creepy. It can be a tricky balancing act, but try to always respond to the customer in a relevant but natural way. We've repeated it a couple of times, agreed - but it is simply so important that it cannot be stressed enough!
2. Highlight content that will lead the customer in the right direction
In addition to product recommendations there are many other options for those who want to personalize their e-commerce. Product reviews, articles, video clips, blogs and guides are some of them. The main goal of personalization is to lead the visitors in the right direction and help them get where they want to go, whether that's going for the checkout or getting inspiration for a future purchase that they have no intention of finalize in the current session. Simply put, we want to make it easy to find what you are looking for. You can also use relevant content in the form of e-mails, campaigns, images or banners to gently direct visitors towards conversion points. This is a more "covert" form of personalization, as the customer is not always as aware that the content is actually personalized.
Perhaps you want to share a specific offer to your most loyal customers, but you don't want new visitors to be able to access the same deal. Or maybe you want the opposite; to give your new visitors a discount code in order to convert them into customers without it being visible to the loyal regulars. In these cases it may be a good idea to customize a newsletter or banner that is only shown to the intended audience. The objective is for each customer group to be treated with offers that are relevant to them!
If you're a female visiting an e-commerce website that sells fashion wear for both men and women, you will probably feel that it's helpful if the website automatically show you women's clothes. This is an example of personalization that is so natural that it doesn't even feel like personalization.
When it comes to newsletters, there are also tools that allow you to be extremely relevant with the help of automatic feeds. For example, if you send a newsletter with offers based on customer existing behavior, you can ensure that the offer is automatically updated depending on what the customer is searching for or is likely to buy in the future. This way you avoid showing the same coat over and over again - in order to realize (too late) that the customer just bought that coat two weeks ago and is currently looking for a pair of matching boots.
As with all e-commerce, the devil is in the details. This is especially true when it comes to personalization! When done correctly, it will show you matching pants and boots after you've just bought a jacket. When done wrong it will haunt you with pictures of jackets similar to the one you just bought, for weeks without end.
3. Engage existing customers through Referral Marketing
The best personalization is the one you can't buy. Ultimately there are only a few things that can beat the precision of data-driven customer insights, and one of them is the strength of personal recommendations. Why? Because your friends and family likely know you better than any algorithm ever can, maybe even better than you do yourself. By using referral marketing you have the chance to reach out with your message to a very relevant customer group, because a friend making a referral will instinctively know for which of his or her friends a certain offer will be relevant. Think about it, if you were able to share a great deal on golfing equipment you probably have an idea of who you'd share it with. The same is probably true if you were offered to share a great deal on skin care products. Chances are you're not thinking of the same person in the two different examples, right? Furthermore, it doesn't have to cost much, because you're engaging your existing customers!
Let's say you have a customer who buys a particular product every month (we'll pretend it's protein supplements). Sooner or later you will probably want to reward this customer with a discount code or something like free shipping for being a loyal and returning customer. This is smart, because your showing your appreciation while at the same time increasing sales and the chance that this customer continues to come back and shop with you. This is great, but why not ask for something in return instead of just giving stuff away for free?
Referral Marketing is incentivizing and rewarding your existing customers in exchange for them recommending your business, product or service to people they know.
So, instead of just giving your loyal customer a discount on that protein supplement they usually buy, ask them to help you out by sharing the same offer with one or more friends in order to get the discount. A person buying protein supplements is almost guaranteed to have friends that are interested in the same products, which makes it a small step for them to share this offer in return for getting to take part in the offer themselves. This is much smarter than just giving out discounts blindly! Now you've given your existing customer an incentive to place a new order, created a strong interaction with your brand between two friends, as well as distributed an offer to your customers friend that has a good chance of turning them into a new customer as well! What did it cost you? Not much more than that discount code you were planning on giving your customer anyway.
Tips for personalized content
Lists of bestselling products (that change based on previous customer behavior)
Filtered search results based on past customer behaviour and preferences
Articles, video clips, tests and reviews that are sorted based on customer relevancy
Recommendations such as "Others who bought this were also interested in..."
Newsletter with personalized offers
Campaigns where existing customers can reach out to friends through personalized friend referrals
Start your own Referral Program
Get started with referral marketing today
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