2014: Things Just Got Personal

As we stand at the threshold of 2014, it’s only natural to wonder what the new near will bring. If 2013 was the year of ecommerce, 2014 is set to be the year of personalization.

2014 will see retailers truly embracing personalization. Brands that can offer a richer, more personalized experience, in-line with online purchase behavior, will enjoy benefits including higher spending and repeat visits.

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More than nine out of every 10 marketers believe that personalization is critical to current and future success, while very few think that they do a good job of delivering those experiences.

A major challenge for marketers is that the term personalization carries no universally accepted meaning. And without a standard, agreed-upon definition―including the goals of personalization and the ingredients that make it possible―evaluating the extent to which different technologies deliver personalization remains largely impossible.

It’s important to clarify that personalization is not a goal in and of itself, but rather a means to achieving one. And while the mantra of “right experience/right customer/right time” comes closer to approximating what personalization strives to achieve, the simplest explanation is the ability to deliver a winning customer experience that is at once relevant, valuable, authentic and timely.

Many marketing trends poised to gain greater traction in the year ahead ultimately serve to support personalization and the ability of marketers to deliver a winning customer experience. Three key drivers influencing the move to personalization in 2014 include:

Big data analytics

Though largely impossible to offer a 2014 ecommerce prediction without mentioning “big data,” it’s importance and potential impact cannot be overstated. Big data analytics will become a critical component toward realizing the promise of personalization.

Big data and analytics will evolve beyond segmenting email lists. Brands will collect and analyze data which helps them better understand and predict consumer behaviors both on and offline.   Intelligence gleaned from big data analysis will help brands more effectively acquire, retain and convert more customers. Look for big data analytics to emerge as a core business practice for ecommerce companies in 2014.

Responsive design and tablet commerce:

Mobile commerce will continue to rise in the year ahead. As retailers look to capitalize on this trend, the use of responsive design in apps and websites — or the ability to make physical and structural changes to a website in order to deliver a “device-optimized” experience — will become increasingly important.  Without responsive design, tasks such as viewing emails or completing a checkout process may be all but impossible. For example, typing address and credit card information is significantly more difficult on small touchscreen devices. However, marketers can act on device information to serve alternative payment options―such as PayPal―to streamline the checkout process and make it easier for mobile and tablet shoppers to convert.

While responsive design goes a long way in personalizing the customer’s experience, it does not necessarily guarantee a good one. A bad customer experience is still bad even if you make it responsive to the customer’s device.

Multichannel shopping

Channel specific marketing strategies will not translate into competitive success in the age of personalization. Multichannel shopping has becoming a sizable force in ecommerce. Multichannel is much more than simply pushing the same message across all available channels. It represents the combination of channels and messaging in a way that enhances the customer experience beyond that of a one-time interaction in a single channel. Integration across channels is essential to creating a seamless path to purchase and a positive perception of your brand. Assembling the right combination of channels will depend on the unique wants and needs of your target audience – raising the importance of properly identifying, segmenting and understanding your audience as they move cross-channel.

Personalization is about the person. Having the largest data set or number of algorithms will neither help you know each person better, nor act in the most relevant, valuable, authentic, or timely ways. The best brands, and most forward-thinking marketers, understand the true meaning of personalization and deliver winning experiences on every page, email, channel, and at during all stages of the customer relationship.

Blair Lyon is VP of Marketing at Monetate.

[CLICK HERE to view the entire 2014 Predictions archive]

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