Personalization is quite the buzzword in the eCommerce world. Any retailer, eCommerce executive, merchandiser or eTail technology leader will be quick to mention 1:1 personalization as one of hot topics on their mind. I have experienced this firsthand during my visits to digital retail events in 2017 — right from Big Show and eTail to IRCE. Almost every retailer wants to know more about this elusive trend that is hot on the charts and every vendor claims to be doing it like a pro.
But getting down to the brass tacks: what is 1:1 personalization?
Amazon’s online strategy — and the introduction of uber-personalized Prime — changed the world of eCommerce forever. Repeat visits and purchases allowed them to collect tomes of data which later translated to better recommendations and enhanced shopper experience as a result of machine learning. We’ve all experienced it — it almost feels like these sites are talking to you and coaxing you to buy. This is the classic use case of 1:1 personalization.
Evolution of the marketplace
Ever since, brick-and-mortar stores have just been playing catch up. Most retail giants have realized that the future, or maybe even the present, is online. Staying profitable, and relevant, requires brands to act now. And the one-word answer on every retailers mind to make this possible is personalization.
But solving this problem requires a deeper understanding of the marketplace and the factors that influence it. Amazon is able to personalize at the scale they do as they have a vast reservoir of data, accumulated over a long period of time. A whopping 32% of their shoppers are repeat customers and they buy on Amazon once a quarter.
As a retailer — if your user demographics are as vast as Amazon, 1:1 personalization is meant for you. However, if your site traffic isn’t as diverse, which is true in the case of 95% of the retailers out there — don’t get worked up at the thought of 1:1 personalization. Most retail sites across the world can personalize to only 6 – 8% of their overall visitor traffic and can’t customize to the majority of their audience.
So here’s a piece of advice for all of those who are wondering whether you should climb onto the personalization bandwagon: Don’t pick up a solution just because it is what everyone else is doing. Instead, stop and decide if this is something that works for you.
How 1:1 personalization can work for you
1:1 personalization that isn’t accurate can actually drive customers away. I’ve been to a number of sites that gave me irrelevant suggestions while I was searching for products and that’s the kind of experience you really don’t want to emulate. If you’re not doing it right: don’t do it at all.
Instead of hyper personalization, that requires a tonne of data, focus on proper segmentation and targeting as it’s a much safer bet to play.
For example, if I was a regular visitor to your site, you might not know everything about me right away, but a few visits would inform you of my location, the device I am most comfortable with, number of visits I’ve made to your site, and how I arrived on your site. Some level of click-through analysis can help you determine what I am looking for.
This is because geographical location, device type, user type, number of visits, and channel are all defined segments. Such data can help you target customers better once your team has a system to analyze, assimilate, and bucket the data into relevant segments with set rules in place. Additionally, if your merchandisers create appropriate product placements or if you have a machine learning system to rank products based on this segmented data — you can achieve some level of personalization to a significant percentage of visitors.
1:1 personalization might not be everyone’s cup of tea but you can still make the most of the data you have. My interactions with tonnes of retailers over the years have made me realize that the shift in technology & behavioral landscape will ensure everyone innovates and make this a more evolved marketplace. The various technologies available only help in making this possible.
What we have on the other side is a stronger retail ecosystem and right now is the time to collaborate and win!
Sharath Keshava, in his role at Unbxd works as an evangelizer and closely works with retailers across the world. Unbxd is a leading product discovery platform working with over 120 enterprise brands in the US and powers over 1200 retail sites globally.