E-commerce has been on the hunt for the holy grail of personalization - a consistent, cross-channel experience that adapts to customer needs and goals in real-time - since rumours of the technologies that could do this were simply whispers on the wind.
The good news for e-commerce is that these technologies have arrived. The bad news is that the proliferation of these technologies, which offer very different levels of personalization, means it’s completely unclear what an truly personalized experience actually means.
True personalization brings your customers relevant interactions across the entire journey, from acquisition to brand loyalty. This is done by connecting your tools and data at the core of the experience, letting that data learn from itself, and pairing this insight with your unique industry knowledge to continuously improve every customer interaction.
To see how this level of personalization can be achieved, dive right into our Ultimate Guide to Personalization, or read below for the 5 must knows about content personalization to drive e-commerce success.
1. What. Where. How.
You’re ready to dive into the personalization game, ready to deliver those relevant experiences to your customers and drive loyalty - and revenue - through engagement. So where do you start?
You’re personalization strategy needs to be uniquely tailored to your customers - what goals are they trying to fulfill from moment to moment and how can you help them do that? Taking this into account, the road to personalization boils down to 3 questions:
- Where should personalization occur in the experience? Look at all the channels and touchpoints your customers interact with. Where would a personalized element help the most? Product recommendations, inspirational content, location based services, site search, customer portals - map out each micro-moment that could benefit from a more contextual experience.
- What information will be used? What tools do you already have - CRM, marketing automation, A/B testing, transactional systems, - that offer a wealth of information? Take your map of where you’d like personalization to occur, decide which of your current tools could help support each micro-moment, and identify the gaps in data you need to fill to complete your vision.
- How will you use technology and human insight to create this personalization? Now comes the fun part. How are you going to bring all of your channels and data together to deliver this contextual experience at scale. This is the biggest question of the 3, and one we dive into in the following 4 ‘Must Knows’ on your way to personalization.
2. Personalization includes a whole spectrum of technology
There’s no single tactic that defines personalization. It’s not as simple as “We ran an A/B test, and now we are personalized.” (oh but if it were…). There’s a whole spectrum of technologies involved and creating your personalization roadmap means making your own unique recipe of how much, or how little, you will rely on each one. The below table contains some of the most common tactics used, and points out how relying on a single technology brings limitations to personalization.
3. Human + Machine is the key
The advancements in AI, in particular machine learning and natural language processing, have been a major driver of personalization. So much so, that some organizations claim putting personalization completely in the hands of machines is the way to go.
But putting the machines in complete control of the experience would make it, well… un-personal. The unique industry knowledge the actual people of an organization possess is the true special sauce. Your own brand voice, and your understanding of your customers as people, is what makes customers like you, trust you, and continue to come back to you.
Some things machines do better, some things humans do better, and letting both do what they do best is how personalization truly takes off.
4. True personalization lives in the core of the experience
There has been proliferation of personalization technologies, each one promising a complete transformation of the experience. Different teams across the business want to experiment with these technologies and pop them into the experience through widgets or add-ons, resulting in a fragmented version of personalization. A version that is only happening around the fringes of the experience, each tool collecting data that is not talking to each other.
This brings us again to the 3rd question of personalization: How to bring everything together.
Most important is that the data needs to communicate. Your customers see every single interaction they have with your brand as part of a whole, and your experience should reflect this. Controlling the whole experience through one central, open and intelligent, platform let’s you bring this data together and gives every department the keys to this combined insight.
Data gleaned from visitor search, page navigation, product preference, multi-channel usage, and external data from CRM systems can combine with larger picture data on product performance and user personas to gain deeper insights into how your customers prefer to interact with your brand experience. These insights, combined with the scalable power of machine learning, can help you deliver a 360 experience to every visitor.
If you read that and thought ‘Yes! This type of open platform, with embedded intelligence that can bring all of my data together is exactly what I’m looking for!”, then I have some great news for you.
5. You’re never done learning
Now fast forward. You’ve got your tools talking to each other, every touchpoint across the experience is brand consistent and contextually delivered, your customer retention rates have skyrocketed, and you’ve created the perfect balance of man and machine to make your brand stand out. You’re finished now, right?
Well of course not. Digital commerce is a fast paced industry, and customer expectation is constantly changing. But lucky for you, you now have the connected data that allows you to analyse the entire cross-channel experience, gain real-time insight to find opportunities for improvement, act on these opportunities by experimenting with new strategies, and evaluate the results against a baseline that shows you exactly what impact your changes have. Then take these new insights and do it again in a continuous cycle of improvement.
Which is the true power of having a connected experience with machine learning at its core - the ability to monitor and react to customer needs as quickly as they evolve.
For more information on how to take your personalization efforts out of the fringes and embedded it into the core of the experience, check out our free Ultimate Guide to Personalization.