Troubleshooting personalisation for retail ecommerce
Personalisation has many benefits for retailers but very few brands actually obtain the optimum return on investment from their programs because they are not using personalisation strategically as part of their ecommerce efforts. The first thing to understand is that personalisation comes in many forms and it’s rare for people to agree on what it is.
Fundamentally, personalisation in retail is the tailoring of a user experience to make a consumer more likely to trust your website and brand so they will buy from you. There are different levels and types of personalisation, but the one thing they all have in common is that they need to be calibrated to the brand.
You can’t just plug and play
Personalisation takes effort and one major mistake brands make is thinking the tools are ‘plug and play’. Personalisation programs run on machine learning where the more data you feed it, the better the algorithms get, so the solution is never optimised out of the box. These tools start from a place of ignorance and if you don’t interact with them, or if you ‘feed’ them rubbish, they never get smarter. There’s a machine learning curve and it’s important that your team sets the rules from the start so that personalisation works as intended.
Tools for visual merchandising, for example, will personalise an experience by recommending certain products to a user according to the page they’re on, whereas platforms that use audience segmentation will base recommendations on past behaviour according to what people similar to the user have done. They only know what to show if you tell it what to look at and what to do with the information.
Personalisation and experimentation are partners
Too many brands see personalisation and experimentation as independent of one another when they actually work best in tandem If you’re using a personalisation tool for product recommendation, for example, experimentation will help you identify:
- where to place it: does it work better on the product landing page or in the cart?
- what format it takes: do I show images of the products, link to them or mention them by name?
- what stage of the customer’s journey gives you the best result: do I give this prompt as soon as they add to cart or when they are about to check out?
- what form the message takes: does it work better if I tell them these items are frequently bought together of if I say this item is really popular?
Frequently, retailers use visual merchandising tools that are not equipped to deliver the optimal personalisation outcomes on their online channel. You would do better to stop thinking like a retailer and start strategising as an ecommerce brand.
Take an omni-channel approach
Another area of weakness for retailers is when they treat their physical store differently from their ecommerce channel. Start connecting what’s happening in store to your website. Too often the team that looks after visual merchandising in stores works separately from the website team when they should run campaigns together. Customers do not experience these channels as separate stores; if a customer sees an item in a window but doesn’t have time to shop, they expect that item to be similarly featured on the brand’s website.
Integrate your teams and create a seamless omni-channel approach so that everything from customer acquisition to product messaging and brand aesthetics becomes part of a holistic experience. Every touchpoint, every piece of content and every brand experience should contribute to making the customer’s journey personalised, optimised and more likely to result in a sale.
We work with 500 of the biggest retailers in Australia, helping them increase their conversions by 1-3%. Download a copy of the Pulse Report, a study of the top experimentation programs in Australia