The e-commerce industry continues to grow at a fast pace, with total global sales forecast to top 4 trillion dollars by 2020. Not only does this mark an upward trend, but it seems the pace of growth itself is increasing year on year. With this dramatic increase, e-commerce businesses are rightfully looking for ways to gain a competitive edge and set themselves apart from the stiff competition.
E-commerce gives customers the widest possible choice of products from the comfort of their devices. In exchange for this freedom of choice, customers lose some of the personalized experience they would receive at a typical ‘bricks and mortar’ store, but does this have to be the case?
One of the best ways your e-commerce business can gain an advantage in this competitive industry is through personalizing your customers’ experience. By providing customers an element of the individual attention they receive during their in person shopping experience, you can create a dedicated customer base (people like to go where they feel special).
Of course, customizing and personalizing customer experience is easier said than done. Luckily, advances in marketing tools, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and best e-commerce practices are making it possible to provide customers with a more personalized experience, leading to increased sales.
So what are some of the best approaches and latest trends in personalization? Read on to find out.
Personal online data
There’s a common narrative that people find personalization off-putting and intrusive. However, there’s also an abundance of evidence to the contrary. In fact, some industries see as high as 90% of surveyed consumers stating that they would do business with a company offering a personalized online shopping experience.
Providing customers with advertisements, discounts, and more information about the types of products that they are interested in is not only effective but also increases the convenience factor for customers.
When your customers are able to easily access the types of products they’re interested in, they’re more likely to begin, and most importantly, complete purchases.
With this in mind, personalization through personal online data is one of the most effective strategies for creating a customized shopping experience. Targeted marketing where advertisements align with previous customer online behaviors is particularly effective, despite the often reported ‘creepy’ factor (i.e- how did Google know that about me?!).
Some of the most effective personalization strategies allow for customer subscriptions to products that they purchase regularly. This approach allows both customers to save time ordering the same thing over and over and gives your e-commerce business a consistent flow of purchases.
Not to mention that millennials are increasingly becoming fans of subscription-based shopping.
Example: The Amazon Recommendation Formula
Amazon is one of the first businesses that come to mind when thinking of customer personalization. The recommendation formula, which shows customers products similar to previous purchases, is relatively simple, yet effective.
Taking into account customer purchase history, products they have interacted with previously and what’s currently in their cart, Amazon is able to effectively personalize their recommendations to each individual customer.
As mentioned above, there are many uses for online customer data. One of the most promising ways in which to use this data is by customizing your website experience. Through careful planning of the customer experience, you can increase the likelihood that customers will make purchases and eventually return to your website.
Many e-commerce businesses continue to take a “one size fits all” approach to their website, focusing on providing a smooth uniform customer experience.
There are many ways, however, that you can use the information you have about your customers to create a personalized experience from the moment they land on your homepage.
Some of the most effective strategies in this regard help your customers to easily navigate your website and find the exact products they are looking for. This ease of use creates a sense that your website is tailored to the customers’ needs.
- Geo-location information can redirect customers to a country or region specific version of your website. This allows customers to immediately land on the version that can best serve their needs without wasting time navigating themselves.
- You can also use your customers’ previous browsing data to adjust how they navigate through your site, directing them to products you know they are interested in.
- Customers can use a styling tool to enter their own preferences and find the exact type of product they are looking for. This can help customers more easily locate exactly what they want to purchase, speeding up the shopping process.
These are just a few of the specific strategies you can use in your efforts to provide a customized experience. The list of ways in which you can personalize your website for individual customers is long and continuously growing.
While more businesses are employing some of these strategies, there are still plenty who are not, meaning there is still a competitive advantage to be had.
Chatbots and Embedded Chat
One of the things customers miss the most about the in store experience is the conversation. Sometimes a simple “welcome, how are you today” can make an impression to go a long way. Speaking to a sales rep, asking questions, and making a human connection are all strengths of the in person shopping that ecommerce struggles to replicate.
One approach is to hire staff to monitor embedded Live Chat on your website in order to engage with customers. Many Instant Messaging apps come with a live chat feature, and there are some who specialize in this area. While this certainly can help recreate the in-person aspect of shopping, and personalize the overall customer experience, it’s also costly.
One alternative approach gaining in popularity alongside technological advances is the use of “chatbots.” With chatbots you can field basic inquiries, and help customers place and track orders, something that previously needed to be done by an employee.
While there’s still a long way to go before chatbots act completely “human,” on the plus side they remove the need for customers to wait until an in-person employee is free. The fast pace of development in this field is driven by fierce competition over chatbot technology, so you can expect to see continuing improvements in chatbots going forward.
Example: The Nike Style Chatbot
Nike’s style chatbot through Facebook Messenger helps customers find a style of shoe they like or create one of their own. A process that used to be done in store with limited stock can now be completed online through Facebook Messenger.
The bot further helps clients track orders, giving customers a direct support in completing their purchase.
While not strictly related to the e-commerce shopping experience (i.e. navigating an e-commerce site), personalized emails continue to be one of the most effective ways to get your customers to your website in the first place.
Receiving specifically targeted messages for different occasions increases the likelihood of customers first reading the email, then acting on it.
Sending emails based on previous customer preferences, personal information like birthdays, and customer behaviors can lead to significant results. If a customer feels that a business has taken the time to provide them with special attention, they are more likely to become dedicated to that business.
With this said, it’s also important to be strategic in this approach, as customers can easily become turned off by a flood of marketing emails from a business. Selecting a few well-timed emails can have a much stronger impact than sending a constant stream of messages.
One effective personalized email approach involves sending customers emails based on their behavior on your website. For example, emails including special offers on certain types of products the customer has previously viewed or offered discounts to customers who have made it to the final stages of making a purchase but ended up abandoning their shopping cart. In this way, you will help customers to complete purchases on products that they are clearly interested in.
Many online shopping experiences continue to lack a personal element, despite advances in technology and knowhow. The tools for personalization are improving every day, yet many ecommerce businesses aren’t taking complete advantage of them.
For now, many customers looking for individual attention continue to prefer the in-store experience, but this doesn’t have to always be so. By focusing on creating a personalized experience for your customers, you can expect to see significantly increased site visits, conversions, and sales receipts.
Much of the information you need in this process is already available through personal customer data. Strategically using these data can help you to create an experience where the customer feels valued as an individual.
Make your customers feel like you care about, and are taking into consideration, their individual needs. Taking advantage of these practices and giving your customer the special attention they are looking for can make the difference between an average e-commerce business and a thriving one.
Author: Nikola Baldikov
I`m a digital marketing enthusiast, specializing in helping companies` success. Besides my passion for digital marketing, I`m an avid fan of football and love to dance.