8 Essential Elements of Personalization in eCommerce: Why and How

Personalization has become an indispensable component of eCommerce business strategy. Explore key benefits, what it looks like, and how to implement it yourself.

magnifying glass in front of illustrated people showing ecommerce personalization concept

1. What is eCommerce Personalization?
2. 4 Key Benefits That Mean the Right Time to Personalize Is Now
3. eCommerce Personalization Examples
4. Set Yourself Up for Personalization Success
5. 4 Fundamental Steps to Personalize your eCommerce Experience

Personalization. If you’re an eCommerce business owner, you’ve likely encountered many a marketer evangelizing this Thor’s hammer of customer engagement - and for good reason.

It’s one of the most powerful ways to capture a customer’s attention and compel them to keep coming back.

While personalization for eCommerce has been a key industry topic for some time, its benefits and the best way to actually go about it might still be as fuzzy as a ready-to-eat peach.

Thinking about dipping your toes into this ocean of opportunity? This post is for you. Today good things come in...sets of 4.

We’ll lay out 4 reasons why personalization in eCommerce wields such power, 4 different outfits personalization can wear, and 4 steps to harness it and become your very own Norse retail hero.  

Ready to turn myth into reality? Let’s get into the nuts and bolts.

What is eCommerce Personalization?

eCommerce personalization is the strategy of using segmentation to craft and deliver real-time customized shopping experiences to each visitor.

These tailored experiences span the entire user journey in a dynamic way, showing the right individualized content to the right customer - at the right time.

Personalized content approaches can take the shape of product recommendations, cart abandonment emails, unique offers, onboarding quizzes and more.

Each unique eCommerce website experience is defined by the specific segment the customer falls into. This enables the experience to be as relevant as possible for each customer, and help them find what they’re looking for faster.

The gas behind this powerful engine? 

Data - but we’ll get into that more later.

First let’s have a look at why Christmas comes early with personalization - that is, the benefits your business will enjoy.

Christmas comes early with personalization in eCommerce

4 Key Benefits That Mean the Right Time to Personalize Is Now

In a pandemic world rife with lockdowns, shoppers are turning their eye to the digital screen more than ever. They’re also willing to shift to new brands in a way that is shattering brand loyalty as we know it.

For the eCommerce business owner this means an explosion of opportunity - at the same time, it is more critical than ever to absolutely nail the online shopping experience.

Thoughtfully executed eCommerce personalization helps you get it right, and you’ll see the benefits in several ways.

  1. Boosted and expanded customer experience: Deliver richer, individual experiences for a diverse range of visitors that make them feel understood - by targeting their individual interests and needs.
  2. Increased sales: When you help the customer in an individualized way, they’re more likely to buy. For 86% of consumers, personalized experiences influence what they purchase, and 74% of retailers report an increase in sales after implementing personalization.
  3. Lifted conversions: Personalization has been shown to yield more engaged customers and raise conversion rates 10-15%.
  4. Growth in customer loyalty: According to a Segment study, 60% of consumers say they will likely become repeat buyers after a personalized shopping experience. 

Sound convincing? 

That’s what data is for!

Okay, now you may be wondering what this can actually look like in practice. We’ve pulled together a few examples for you below - keep in mind that this is just the tip of the iceberg in the personalization opportunity ocean!

eCommerce Personalization Examples

1. Intelligent product recommendations

Recommendations of products that are similar to current browsed products or shopping cart items can be quite effective, and facilitate shoppers hopping to other complementary categories. Bandier does a great job with this.

Bandier long sleeve product page

When browsing long sleeve shirts, visitors have the option to shop for the whole look - shoes, leggings, or the complete kit.

Bandier recommends related products to complete the look

2. In-session retargeting from behavioral triggers

A great way to guide customers along your sales funnel is to offer exclusive discounts or promotions based on visitor behavior. This can be done in a tiered manner to drive up average order value (AOV).

It's also a great way to draw potential customers back in if they're about to abandon their shopping carts.

True Vintage implements this by offering a 10% discount to first time visitors who are browsing products.

True Vintage offers discounts based on behavioral triggers for new visitors

3. Onboard quizzes

What’s one of the best ways to find out what products and content are most relevant for your visitors? Ask them!  Vanity Planet offers a curated skincare product selection based on evaluated user input.

Vanity Planet offers curated product selections based on personalized user input

4. Visitor-based layouts

Changing the homepage and navigation based on visitor interests can provide a compelling individualized experience. ASOS took me straight to the women’s section on my second visit, since I had looked at women’s products before.

ASOS shows personalized page layouts and navigation based on user interests

So, as you can see - there are some pretty cool ways to bring your visitors along your funnels. 

Itching to get started?

Ready, set, personalize!

...not so fast. We’re not going to put the cart before the horse here. 

Set Yourself Up for Personalization Success

Before you jump into personalization itself, it’s important to first make sure you’ve focused on creating a seamless website user experience that is optimized for conversions. 

Would you take your driver’s test without learning how to drive a car first?

Sure, perhaps if you’re the wizard Gandalf - he probably wouldn’t need driving lessons. For most of us mere mortals, though, it doesn’t make sense to run before we walk. 

If your website doesn’t give users a smooth, enjoyable experience, personalization will just be a waste of your time and efforts.

A cumbersome, difficult-to-navigate website won’t get a leg up from customers seeing content that is just for them if they’ve already decided that your website isn’t even for them.

This means making sure all your ducks are in a row when it comes to your website optimization:

  • you have fast page loads, no typos, a bug-free shopping cart - your website is glitch-free.
  • your user experience is pain-free - navigation is easy, your checkout process is simple and flawless, and your messages are clear.
  • your content is high-quality - solid product photos, benefits-rich product descriptions, and social proof round out your product pages.

Are you optimized and ready to personalize? Let’s dive into how to do it.

Two women implementing personalization strategy for eCommerce business

4 Fundamental Steps to Personalize your eCommerce Experience

Our 4 step process today is based on Forrester’s POST methodology to build a personalization program - but don’t worry, the only mail you’ll be dealing with here is more sales flowing into your inbox. 

The approach focuses on People, Objectives, Strategy, and Technology.

Step 1: People

In order to start personalizing your eCommerce experience, you need to understand your audience and focus on where to start. This means collecting meaningful data that will power your personalization.

Key segmentation areas include:

  • New visitors, returning visitors (non-customers), and returning visitors (customers): are they interacting with your website for the first time, have they already purchased from you before, or have they seen your website without purchasing items (yet!)?
  • Traffic sources: how did visitors arrive at your site? Organic search, email marketing, Pay Per Click, a referral URL, or social media? UTM parameters can be helpful here.
  • Location / IP address: where are your visitors located? What region are they in? What language might they speak? What is the weather like where they are?
  • Behavior: What are a visitor’s past actions? Browsing history, purchase history, search history, abandoned cart items - this kind of information is powerful and can give you a picture of a visitor’s motivations.
  • Device: Is your visitor using a mobile device, a tablet, or a laptop? What browser or operating system are they using? What screen size?

Once you’ve analyzed your data and segmentation, identify your most valuable customer segments. You can do this based on demographics, in the classic style.

Other approaches like psychographic profiling focus on psychological traits like values, motivations, interests, and goals.  Use this data to then generate profiles that include the relevant information. 

Step 2: Objectives

Great, now you know who you’re aiming for and you have a sense of where they are. Where do you want to take them? The next step is to determine your personalization goals.

Choose your channels 

On which media do you want to focus your personalization? Will you start with a couple channels or design an omnichannel approach (combining social media, email, web, and more)? 

Regardless of your approach, you’ll want to be sure you create a unified experience across all the channels you choose.

Define your metrics and set goals

Let’s say you want to become a better cyclist. 

cyclist as analogy for setting goals in personalization strategy

Do you want to ride longer distances? If so, how far? 

Do you want to ride faster? If so, what speed? 

Do you want to ride more difficult terrain? If so, what types?

You won’t be able to track your progress if you don’t define what success looks like. Your personalization for your eCommerce business is no different. 

Key performance indicators you can track include:

  • Page views
  • Average order value (AOV)
  • Dwell time
  • Conversion rate
  • Bounce rate 

Step 3: Strategy

Let’s say you’ve defined your goal to become a better cyclist by riding a 50 mile race that happens in 2 months. Great!

You’ve decided your training plan is to watch documentaries about cycling for 6 weeks, then ride your 20 year old rusty mountain bike 45 miles the week before the race.

If you currently ride 10 milers, you probably wouldn’t be setting yourself up for success.

Hey, visualization is a powerful tool, but it’s not magic - it won’t save your couch potato bum. 

The third step of your personalization journey is to ensure you’re not a “couch-to-45-miler” cyclist. Build the foundation of your personalization process - your strategy. Suggested points of focus:

  • Designate employee resources to the project. This can look like a cross-departmental committee which is responsible for more granular goals, timelines, and progress assessments. 
  • Designate financial resources to the project. Again, this can be an interdepartmental effort. Teamwork makes the dream work!
  • Build a team to execute the strategy. Make sure all responsibilities are covered. This includes personalization design, technology implementation, testing, and optimization.
  • Establish a continuous improvement process. Personalization is not like your TV infomercial automatic rotisserie BBQ - you can’t “set it and forget it.” Successful personalization implementation means consistent engagement with iterative analysis and adjustment to stay on track to your goals.

Step 4: Technology

A Phillips screwdriver won’t get the job done when you need a flathead - no matter how many people with strong forearms you throw at it. 

The bottom line: when you assess your technology toolbox it’s important to choose the right tool for the right job. 

In the sea of personalization providers out there, your specific goals are your lighthouse. They will inform the solutions you need and the additional areas you may want to expand into in the future. 

When evaluating a possible technology offering, consider whether it will support your needs in all necessary channels and touchpoints. 

General features worth taking into consideration:

  • Open architecture: the ability to integrate personalization efforts with the rest of the marketing technology stack is powerful in enabling seamless implementation.
  • Omnichannel: unified shopping experiences have become a customer expectation. Cover all touchpoints, whether they’re in-store, web, or app. This drives engagement - and, ultimately - your bottom line.
  • Real-time: the ability to process and use data in real-time will deliver a smooth, relevant customer experience.
  • AI-driven: technological advancements in AI and machine learning mean real-time data crunching and optimizations are more accessible and scalable. Identifying trends and content direction without sinking hours of manpower is a huge capability advantage. 

Embark On Your Business’s eCommerce Personalization Journey

Personalization in eCommerce has become the norm - not the exception - when it comes to competing in the market.

From intelligent product recommendations to behaviorally triggered offers to onboarding quizzes to personalized website layouts - the world is your personalization playground.

It's time to get started - which awesome benefit are you looking forward to most?

If you build out your strategy purposefully, allot proper resources, and choose your technology carefully, you’ll be well on your way to creating meaningful, seamless, relevant customer experiences that will drive up conversions, sales, loyalty, and AOVs.

If you’re not sure how to start the personalization process for your eCommerce business, Xanevo is here! We help you show the right message to the right customer, at the right time - generating the differentiated content you need.

For all kinds of different customer segments, whether they’re first time visitors, returning customers, discerning product comparers, and more, Xanevo has you covered. Intrigued? Book a free consultation call with Xanevo today to jumpstart your personalization path.

Stacy Yee content marketing specialist

Timo Tzschetzsch

Founding Partner - Co-Founder Jinni AI

Timo used to be a co-founder at Xanevo and is now leading his own AI company portfolio.

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