Personalizing Customers' Web Retail Experience

By Anthony Wilkey

Today's retail customers expect personalized online shopping experiences.

Marketers who implement and execute personalization strategies, promoting products and offers that are meaningful and relevant to their customers, experience a significant return on investment (ROI).

Recent research by Econsultancy found that 59 percent of marketers reported that their personalization strategies are delivering a good ROI and an average uplift of 19 percent in sales. In addition, with personalization, businesses are able to automate manual elements of their merchandising strategies, freeing up valuable time for their teams to build stronger customer relationships, increasing their customers' lifetime value.

Let's take a closer look at how marketers can use personalization on the Web to enhance the customer experience.

Importance of Customer Data

To create personalized experiences, marketers should leverage their customer data - injecting real-time and behavioral data, preferences and demographic information that support delivering a unique experience for each visitor. With an understanding of both products and customers, marketers can, for example, update their homepages with related blog articles based on visitors' interests that can be dynamically merchandised with relevant product suggestions. As customers journey deeper into a website, Internet retailers can continue to enhance the online shopping experience with relevant product recommendations based on preferences, search criteria and demographics. Using a blend of crowd-based data and knowledge around each customer and his or her behavior, it is possible to create a website that familiarizes customers with your brand and its products or services. Ultimately, by providing a meaningful experience, retailers easily win new customers and keep them coming back.

Personalization as a Service

Check out how service providers can use customer data to personalize the online experience at Recognize Customers

Personalizing the online experience allows businesses to recognize customers and use insights, like historic and real-time behavior, to offer relevant recommendations. Consider Scotland-based online butcher Donald Russell and the company's online customer experience.

When a customer shops on the Donald Russell website, the site remembers what type of meat the customer is interested in, what sizes they are looking for and what categories of meat they buy in. Throughout the customer journey, and whenever a customer returns, the site displays relevant promotions and product suggestions.

So what exactly does this mean? It means a pork-buying customer will receive recommendations for bacon, while a customer who prefers poultry will see recommendations for chicken, duck and turkey meat. While it may sound simple, acknowledging your customers' preferences creates stronger relationships with them.

Product Knowledge & Automated Personalization

Internet retailers are using online personalization to replicate the in-store experience and grow sales by applying their expert knowledge about their products and customers to make alternative and complementary suggestions throughout their online experiences.

Take Majestic Wine as an example, the United Kingdom's largest retailer of wine by the mixed case. Majestic Wine has hundreds of knowledgeable wine experts within its business. In-store, each customer receives a personal experience with a sales assistant who, in turn, is learning about the consumer's preferences and likes and dislikes to guide the shopper toward the kinds of wines and spirits he or she might like. Using personalization technology, they have replicated this experience on their website by using transparent algorithms and rules, instead of "black box" systems, which decide what content to share with customers. Majestic Wine's product recommendations are now based on the collective knowledge of its experts, enabling the website to suggest the perfect bottle of wine - every time.

As with any emerging technology, early adopters have taken the lead in personalizing customer experiences. The increased focus and adoption of true personalization shows that businesses understand the need to be relevant to meet their customers' expectations. Moving forward, more businesses will provide truly personalized experiences to every individual customer across multiple touch points - Web, email, mobile, social and offline. Businesses need to be forward-thinking, leap-frogging competitors instead of catching up by using lower-impact personalization tactics.