Subtle Ways to Personalize the Shopping Experience

I recently had the opportunity to listen to Kit Yarrow talk about the new ways people shop and buy. Yarrow studies shoppers for a living, and her research suggests 58% of shoppers would rather consult their phone than a sales clerk. On the other hand, consumers don’t find it intrusive if you send them personalized recommendations — as long as they don’t come with a pushy sales pitch.

The upshot: We are open to a virtual sales clerk interacting with us in a low-key way.

Two strategies come to mind that would fit the terms “virtual” and “low-key”:  browse abandonment and product recommendations. Once options only for very large ecommerce sites with dedicated IT teams, both these strategies are  increasingly available to the one-or two-person shop. They can amp up your engagement with customers in a way that builds lifetime value.

Why is Personalization so Important?

As consumers we crave shopping experiences with merchants who get us. I don’t have the time, or want to spend the time, looking for clothes, shoes or gifts. I know what I want and what works for me, and I wish the companies I go to over and over again would understand that and offer me what I want or might like. Unfortunately, what passes for personalization these days is often crude and expensive – think about the retargeting ads that follow you to every website for days after you’ve looked at something online. Not that they are bad; it’s just that they should be better.

Meanwhile, shopping cart abandonment messages sent via email, a comparatively inexpensive method of personalization, return 53 times the investment. It makes sense then to use the same technology behind shopping cart abandonment to encourage shoppers to revisit those items they were browsing on your website or suggest a product based on what they’ve browsed or bought.

The keys to deploying such solutions are flexibility, automation and ease of use, along with a few other considerations.

Consider the Complexity

Smaller- and mid-tier ecommerce companies need options that require minimal setup, and IT support. The good news is that product recommendations are easier to set up than cart abandonment (because you don’t need to pull in price data). And cart abandonment has been successfully deployed by small companies with only one dedicated ecommerce specialist.

Look for options that don’t require a lot of copying and pasting and allow you to define rules for a combination of product fields and priorities to determine which products to display to a segmented list of subscribers.

Aim for One-to-One Recommendations

You want lots of filtering choices, such as “customers who bought this, bought that” or “recommended products in your preferred brand.” Multi-brand ecommerce marketers need different choices from marketers who only sell their own brand. With browse abandonment, the goal should be to tie browse behavior to a known contact, or save it to be matched later to a known contact.

Focus on Profitability

One of the trickiest tasks is to move customers with a low average order value into a higher tier. To help with that, you’ll want to be able to adjust filters to show high-margin items (if you have access to margin data) within a shopper’s area of interest. If you have a product customers buy again and again, work to sell out faster with an “almost out-of-stock” email.

Measure, Measure, Measure

As exciting as it is to offer product recommendations and browse abandonment marketing, you need to be able to measure how effective the programs are for your business. It’s also helpful to be able to split out results by rule, popular products and traffic trends. The information needs to be kept at the contact level to build the best segments.

Browse recovery and product recommendations are the new frontier for ecommerce marketers. They will become increasingly critical to commerce marketers to engage distracted shoppers and keep them loyal to your brand.

Susan Wall is Vice President of Marketing for Bronto Software


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