In both digital commerce and marketing, personalization - the art of engaging with your client - has taken root and is offering promising results for businesses. Not only is online commerce booming unlike ever before, but its rise has also been rapid. While the boom has created new opportunities in online retail, it’s also created more competition. This is why it’s particularly important for online retailers to have a good digital strategy in place. One of the most promising means of connecting and turning page views into conversions is through personalization. When we personalize communication the results are indisputably better. In a recent study, 80% of customers said they are more likely to purchase a product or service from a brand that provides personalized experiences. There are varying levels of personalization, and it may be as simple as calling a client by his or her first name in an email, or as complex as making real-time recommendations based on current page views, but the effort is effective.
Start with Data and Analytics
The first step to any kind of personalization is knowing your clients. A century ago, the staff at a department store probably knew repeat customers by name and vice versa. Maybe they knew about each other’s families and could enquire about a child’s school progress or about another family member’s health. These pleasantries have largely been lost online where shopping is impersonal and there’s usually no interaction with another human. So without human interaction, we rely on data to learn about our clients; consumers appreciate it when we know them well enough to help guide them towards products and services that will improve their lives or solve a problem. 91% of consumers are more likely to shop with brands that provide relevant offers and recommendations.
One easy way to gather data is simply to ask customers for it. Oftentimes, they’re willing to share personal information in exchange for discounts or early access to products. There are other computerized ways to obtain data through analytics such as Google Analytics, which offers a breadth of information about a user’s interaction with a site. Further analytics and data are also certainly available. But it’s key to note that the accuracy of the data must be reliable. If the data isn’t accurate, personalization can backfire and actually alienate clients. The bottom line is this: make sure your data is good; clean the data before you allow it to inform decision making.
Based on data, a business can opt to create user personas which are archetypes of clients. They represent different segments of the population that are likely to engage with a product or service. Generally, personas add a human touch to data analysis and are used to understand patterns and to create marketing material. Taking this a step further is Personality-based marketing. This approach groups individuals into psychological profiles (Psychographics, a qualitative methodology used to describe human traits with psychological attributes) and communicates with them based on their personality preferences. The common goal is simply to get a better understanding of your actual customers in order to better engage with them.
In digital marketing, there are multiple ways to personalize a customer’s experience. One such way is through funnels. Funnels refer to how a customer arrives at the site. This could be through an organic online search, or an email marketing campaign or a social media platform. Each funnel can be personalized so that a user entering from an email marketing campaign has a slightly different experience than someone who googles the company’s name. Personalization can be batched according to the funnel to provide an optimal experience for potential customers.
Another important item to note is that businesses must provide transparency when collecting data from their clients. It’s important that clients are made aware of business activities when it concerns their privacy and information.
Personalized subscription-based services work particularly well if the product is something such as cosmetics, household goods, or staple food items. A family can estimate roughly when they’ll need their next toilet paper rolls and by enrolling in an auto-renew subscription, the client no longer has to think about buying specific household goods, they routinely ship on schedule.
Another means of personalization comes through offering suggestions and similar products when a client views an item. This type of personalization is a great way to up-sell a client as well as give them a full range of the product line. Another simple, but brilliant way to personalize an experience is to show promotions or sales based on a shopper’s past interests. A case study showed that ShopYamaha.com, the gear and accessories online sales division for Yamaha, personalized its promotions and had a 5-fold increase in its conversions.
Amplified Personalization During COVID-19
Personalization is also highly appreciated by clients immediately after purchase. It’s an ideal time to check-in and make sure the customer is happy with the product. A recent article in Inc.com highlighted how a writer purchased a new Mac Book Air from Apple for his wife. After the laptop arrived at the writer’s home, he began unpackaging it—beginning the oftentimes arduous process of setting up the new computer— when he received an email from Apple. It was offering him help setting up the new computer by scheduling a free online session, the email arrived at the exact moment when he could use it. The timing was genius he noted, as was the initiative that acknowledged that because of COVID-19, customers aren’t coming into Apple stores to receive the kind of personalized experience and hands-on assistance they would have had previously. This level of (free) customer service and brand identification is likely to keep users loyal for some time to come.
Personalization in digital commerce and marketing hinges upon good, clean data analytics. Once good data is in hand, user personas are a starting point to help better understand clients’ needs and wants. The marketing, sales, and overall brand experience can then be tailored to a business’s clientele. Marketing funnels, subscriptions, and suggestions are all ways that online retailers can personalize their customers’ experiences. Timely and personalized emails offering technical service or help with new purchases go a long way towards impacting the client-retailer relationship, especially in the time of COVID-19 while in-person resources are often not available. Personalization shows higher conversion rates and better responses from customers; while personalization in its various forms is a sizable financial investment for businesses, when executed properly, the results pay in dividends.