by Raj De Datta, CEO and Co-founder of Bloomreach
Many have spoken about the promise of personalization over the years, but fewer have been able to recognize its full potential. Lacking the correct data and technology needed to drive real personalization, businesses often assumed it just wasn’t possible — that personalization was more of a buzzword than anything else.
Yet over the past year or two, that mindset has changed. With the accelerated growth of e-commerce having reached its peak, businesses — and retailers in particular — have recognized that sustainable e-commerce growth requires more than simply standing up a store. To win (and critically, to retain) customers, businesses need to stand out. And that’s where personalization comes in.
The Benefits of More Relevant Experiences
Personalized experiences keep customers returning because they recognize — and appreciate — a shopping experience that feels tailor-made for them. It’s impossible to overstate the value of that kind of experience, but here’s a try:
- 71% of consumers expect personalized interactions — and over 75% become frustrated when it’s lacking.
- 52% of customers report increased satisfaction when they receive more personalized digital experiences from brands.
- 80% of people see personalization as standard and are more likely to purchase from brands providing personalized experiences.
With so many brands trying to grab our attention online, it stands to reason that the ones speaking directly to us would be most compelling. It not only adds a level of ease and convenience that every consumer wants, but also helps to cut through the noise, particularly when we consider the volume of marketing content consumers see on a daily basis. If a brand presents their customers with content informed by past purchases or browsing and research behaviors, it’s much more likely to stand out amidst a deluge of standardized SMS and emails. Personalization is what helps a brand rise to the top.
Of course, personalization cannot come to life without the data that powers it.
Data:The Heart of Personalization
Customer and product data are invaluable to any business’s personalization efforts. With access to real-time data, they not only understand what customers want, but also gain deeper insights into how customers interact with different digital channels. This in turn allows businesses to meet customers where they are — whether that be on a phone or on a computer, on an e-commerce site or in their email inbox.
With the ability to more accurately reach customers where and when they’re most engaged, businesses also become more efficient with their money and resources. They can do less with more. That could mean sending fewer emails in a campaign (knowing the ones they do send are getting higher engagement), or being more selective with paid media (knowing retargeting ads are reaching the customers who actually want to see them).
Elevating Your Strategy
While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to personalization, the following questions will help develop an effective strategy to meet your needs.
- What touchpoints along your customers’ journey would benefit from personalization?
Your brand interacts with customers in myriad ways, with micro-moments like product recommendations and emails, SMS or site searches. Evaluate where personalization is lacking, could use a boost and would be most helpful and effective. This is an area where data can help — do you know which channels your customers are engaging with most? That’s an area where personalization should be strongest.
- What data do you need — and do you have any gaps in your data?
Your martech stack likely has all the tools you need — from e-commerce marketing automation and A/B testing to your CRM and other transactional systems — creating a wealth of data. Ensure that you both have access to that data (meaning you can get it in a timely manner, without having to wait on a data scientist) and that you have a unified view of that data. Siloes can create a disconnected customer experience.
- How can you leverage technology and human insight to deliver personalized and contextualized experiences to every customer?
While data drives personalization, human insight enhances it. You must combine channels, data and digital commerce expertise to deliver personalized and contextual experiences. For example, you wouldn’t show winter clothing to a customer in a tropical climate and you wouldn’t market your discounted items to a shopper who usually purchases items at full price. In the B2B world, if a buyer has logged onto your website to check shipment status, they’re likely interested in when it will arrive rather than in ordering something else. At that stage in their journey, they may be open to more informational content rather than promotions and product recommendations. These details matter to customers but can also make a difference when it comes to revenue impact — now, and down the road.
Value That Persists
Personalization is key to sustainable e-commerce growth for many reasons, but primarily because of how dynamic it is. Executed correctly, its value can grow in perpetuity, allowing a brand’s digital experience to become more relevant with each customer engagement. That means a business can continuously offer reasons for customers to come back. With each new journey, they’re confident they’ll find something new, something exciting, something that feels just right. This is how lasting loyalty begins.
A buzzword no more, personalization is what will drive e-commerce forward in the years to come. With the right technology, data, and strategy in place, businesses can finally see its potential realized — benefiting customers and the bottom line alike.
TODAY'S AUTHOR: Raj De Datta serves as Co-Founder and CEO of Bloomreach. Before launching the Company in 2009, Raj was entrepreneur-in-residence at Mohr-Davidow Ventures, served as Cisco’s director of product marketing, and was on the founding team of telecom company FirstMark Communications. He also worked in technology investment banking at Lazard Freres. Raj serves on the Council for Player Development for the US Tennis Association, as a Founder Partner at seed-stage venture capital firm Founder Collective and an individual investor in over 20 Silicon Valley start-ups. He holds a BS in Electrical Engineering with a certificate in Public Policy and International affairs from Princeton University and an MBA with distinction from Harvard Business School.