E-comm

Personalization is now key to the online shopping experience

63% of consumers are more likely to do holiday shopping with brands that customize the experience to their needs, according to a survey.
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Francis Scialabba

· 4 min read

To stand out from the crowd this holiday season (and beyond), online retailers need to do more than offer a good discount.

“Younger e-shoppers have different expectations for their shopping experiences than other demographics, but personalization is something all online buyers appreciate,” Rob Keve, CEO and cofounder of Flow Commerce, a cross-border technology company that works with e-commerce brands, told Retail Brew.

  • 63% of consumers are more likely to do holiday shopping with brands that customize the experience to their needs, according to an October Optimizely survey.

Online personalization has often focused on shopping recommendations (and we mostly have Amazon to thank). But companies are now taking things a step further, owing to new tech like AI and better customer info.

“Data has fundamentally changed the rules of the game for retail, disrupting a sales industry that previously relied upon incomplete information and educated guesses to move SKUs,” explained Nikhil Mitter, group creative director at innovation consultancy R/GA. “Building on the recent transformation in digital, retailers are now looking to data to help inform everything from back-of-house operations to frontline service moments.”

Levi’s, for example, will introduce computer vision and visual search to its website to better curate products for its shoppers.

Stitch Fix, too, has been an early adopter in leveraging a mix of computer vision and human stylists to make personalized recs. But it can come with some challenges.

  • Stitch Fix has been working on a new preview function, and some of the company’s stylists told Insider that clothing picked by the algorithm is sometimes confusing and repetitive. For instance, it suggests the same sweater in several different colors. (Stitch Fix declined to comment to Insider for the story.)

Take it easy

Beyond AI (and new acronyms we haven’t even yet heard about), there’s plenty more retailers can do to enhance personalization for online shoppers.

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Technology can be used to improve customer service, both before and after making a purchase.

“Prioritize aftercare by leveraging shared data and insights to proactively provide consumers with answers to questions they are most likely to ask—delivering a personalized service that helps to alleviate negative experiences and buyer’s remorse,” Mitter noted.

Beauty brands like Sephora have mastered this type of personalization, thanks to its high-touch loyalty program.

  • For example, the company sends an alert when a customer’s preferred product is back in stock.

“Surfacing relevant products that create deeper emotional connections offer ways for customers to engage and grow with a brand,” Mitter added.

That might have been top of mind for Saks. It revamped its website last year to make personalization a key component of its e-comm experience. Features included product recs, curated content, and filters that let shoppers search products by same-day shipping.

The bottom line: What consumers are ultimately looking for is something convenient and easy. Even things like multiple delivery options—which may not seem like a personalization play to e-comm retailers—actually feel that way to consumers, Flow’s Keve noted.

“Reinventing the e-commerce wheel isn’t necessary, nor is it wise to try, especially for smaller retailers without the internal resources to do so,” he said.

It can just as often come down to getting the right offer on the right product at the right time, added Michael Simoncic, managing director at Alvarez & Marsal Consumer Retail Group.

“It is about knowing the customer’s preference and then tailoring the response,” he said. “It should be a seamless, frictionless experience...Personalization efforts that require significant time and investment from customers don’t work.”

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