Get Personal To Stand Out from the Competition

E-commerce consumers have choices about where they spend their dollars, but your ability to personalize their experience can be a huge competitive advantage. Here’s how you can customize your e-commerce experience, and why it’s so important.

Don’t wait to address the customer. Email remains a low-cost and highly efficient marketing channel, but as an e-commerce retailer, you have a superior advantage over offline retailers thanks to your ability to collect relevant online data from e-commerce visitors (even those that don’t order). You’re able to continually hone those analytics and insights to better predict what your customers may find interesting. With that said, don’t underestimate the amount of emails customers receive — or how little time you have to get noticed in their inbox. Regardless of why you’re sending the customer an email, personally address the recipient in every subject line, whether that means mentioning an item they’ve previously purchased, or acknowledging something about them that you know (which may be propensity toward a certain promotion, brand or product category) based on their past search behavior. In Experian’s 2013 Email Market Study it was revealed that multichannel retailers experience a 37 percent increase in unique open rates for emails with personalized subject lines compared to emails without personalized subject lines.

Make your brand’s personality personally relevant. Personalizing your customer’s online shopping experience in a way that leads to brand loyalty requires communicating your brand’s value in a way that is meaningful to their personal values. That starts with understanding your various customer segments and addressing each accordingly to reinforce your shared value system, based on data you collect over time. In one study cited in Harvard Business Review, the majority of respondents indicated they don’t view brands as something they have a “relationship” with, regardless of how frequently a brand messages to them — unless there is a sense of shared values. Experiment with creative ways to communicate and demonstrate what your brand stands for, understanding that your message may be different across segments. For example, one customer segment may care about your donating a portion of proceeds to a non-profit organization that aligns with your (and their) interests, while others will be moved by messages about your sourcing products based on parameters that align with their values.

Act like a personal shopper. Retailers with brick-and-mortar storefronts have the luxury of forming a connection with customers to personalize the shopper experience once they’re in store. Though you may never meet your customers face to face, you can deliver a similar one-on-one interaction that personalizes their experience. As customers browse your site and place items in a shopping cart, for example, leverage automated upselling tools that suggest additional products they’re likely to respond to, based on the data you already have about them (a study by McKinsey indicates that such cross-sell techniques can increase sales by 20 percent, and profits by as much as 30 percent).

If your site offers a promotion triggered by some kind of required threshold (like free shipping based on a certain order amount, or a free item with the purchase of another), make the consumer aware of how near they are to reaching that money-saving opportunity, and make their experience seamless by guiding them through to reach that redemption requirement. (In one infographic compiled by BrainSINS, e-commerce retailers noted a 54 percent increase in their average order values by personalizing the shopper experience in a similar way.) Likewise, think about personalization as a convenience offering: If the customer indicates a need for rush shipping on an item but it’s not in stock, let them know immediately and suggest an alternative product. Even features like live chat for customer support present an opportunity to make the customer feel special, even if it’s simply to acknowledge them by name and thank them for their return visit.

About the author:

Don Amato is Vice-President, Sales of Chicago Tag & Label in Libertyville, IL. The company delivers business solutions with custom forms, labels and tags for all types of businesses, including ecommerce.