Amazon helped a user choose a mattress and a crib for her son. Instead of being overburdened by random choices, and the neverending options to choose from, Amazon provided her with what she really wanted. She concludes by writing: “Thank you so much for making my life simpler and easier.”
At a time when e-commerce businesses around the world were finding out different ways to increase sales, the team at Amazon were busy decoding customers. And we all know how it paid off. They not only became one of the best but also outperformed 50-year-old Walmart and gave Google and Facebook the chills. From being the first ones to give due importance to customers and winning hearts, they have mastered their way to sales. Ka-ching!
As early as 2015, customers had claimed that Amazon offers the best-personalized experiences, followed by Walmart with 9 percent and eBay at 8 percent. With the abundant data opening up opportunities, they have created a 360-degree customer profiles.
When Amazon started off with their personalized approach, users went crazy. Everything they were looking for was displayed on the homepage, there were relevant recommendations landing up in their mailboxes and the experience they had on site was bang on. 35% of all sales is attributed to Amazon’s recommendation engine. With neverending products at its disposal, it was seen that users directly came to Amazon to search for products. Amazon receives 183,030 unique visitors and ranks 5th in the top 50 U.S. Digital Media Properties.
"Amazon continues to be the first destination when consumers want to find a product, driven largely by a perceived superior end-to-end experience. Online shopping is all about relevance and convenience, and comparison shopping has never been easier – especially with mobile growth," said Jason Seeba, BloomReach head of marketing.
Amazon takes into account granular details that the users leave; the searches, clicks, purchases, repetitive user behaviour etc. They keep track of the breadcrumbs left behind by the users and takes this data to their advantage. All these not only help them create a personalized experience for that user but also help them in recommending products to the next user.
With ‘My-Mix’ just rolling out, they are prioritizing products for every user depending on their interest. It is like a personalized shopping feed, where users can save what they like, to consider for purchase (almost like digital window shopping). Amazon also adds its suggestions to the feed which is inspired by users favoriting activity (users ‘hearting’ the products they like).
It knows its customers so well that it ensures that the users see exactly what they came for in the first place.
"Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do."
Not everyone had understood the importance of personalization until Amazon had put its foot forward. But, sadly some e-commerce businesses still haven't realized its potential. The numbers will make your eyes pop out.
84% of customers would no longer buy from an organization that did not take account of their preferences and purchasing history. Shop Direct, the UK’s leading online retailer personalized their home page for every single customer and created 3.5 million different pages. Shop Direct’s profit soared by 43.6% to £150.4m in just 53 weeks after implementing a personalization strategy.
E-commerce businesses lose out on a lot of potential customers as they are overloaded with tremendous data that is overflowing, without extracting value from it. To make the most of this data and provide users with a tailored experience, many ecommerce businesses have integrated AI to their CRM.
Business Insider predicts that85% of customer interactionswill be managed without a human by as soon as 2020.
“AI has begun to do what loyalty programs have not. They’re building loyalty by understanding individual customer’s needs , timing, price-elasticity, and channel-preference. Retailers will know what their customers’ needs are even before they do."
The North Face, grabbed the opportunity to embrace AI and since then have scaled up their knowledge about their customers and have had their home run. Titan implemented AI and launched a chatbot on its website, which helped millennials to choose the right pair of specs and watches.
Not planning to jump into AI? No problem! You can personalize even without it! Excited? Let’s dive in.
There is more to a user than a name and the last trigger. Personalization has been taken to a different level, and users are now demanding more than ever. Every store the user visits is compared to the king of personalization, and just like that, you find yourself competing with Amazon.
Amazon has done it. It has spoiled users. And now you have to suffer. Well...not necessarily. See what you need to do -
This is one of the best ways to know your customers. Almost foolproof! Get it out from the horse's mouth. Set some questions that would help you segment them, and show relevant offers. You can encourage them to take a quiz, slide in an offer if you have to. Ask the users to choose images and answer questions to know their tastes.
CoffeeDesk got 49 purchases by the discount code provided to users who took the interactive quiz. They received 1350 sessions and 45% was generated by new users.
A helping hand in making decisions saves a lot of time and effort. An e-commerce website needs to be like a friend who has suggestions while you shop. But how can you know them so well? Behavioral segmentation is something you need to jump into, to know the benefits users are looking for, where their interests lie and the activities that they perform, their purchasing behavior, the user's status and their loyalty quotient.
You need to respect user’s time. The time spent searching also create an impact on the user experience. The faster they find products, the minimal clicks they have to perform, better are your chances of converting them. That is the precise reason why you need to approach users with a tailored website.
You need to ace your on-page personalization to make the users feel as if they are entering their space; everything displayed on your website should be of interest to your user. For example, if a user is always buying Adidas products, show them the most sold Adidas products when they land on your homepage.
Once a user converts, make sure that you instantly make changes on the homepage. This makes sure that if a user returns to the home page after making a purchase, they will be displayed with other relevant products that will keep them engaged. For example, if a user buys a phone and returns to the homepage, phone cases, phone holders for cars, phone stands, earphones can be shown, striking new buying options.
Personalized Product Recommendations – attributed by Amazon.com to account for as much as 35% of their conversions
It is the product pages that the user usually lands on (when they click on a link on an email, web push, ads etc) . When they do, serve them with products that will encourage them to spend a few bucks more. You need to know your users at your fingertips to be able to give them the right recommendations. Here are some of the types of recommendations you can try-
The trick here is using the right recommendation at the right time. For example, if a user is viewing a bicycle, a recommendation of biking gears will not provide them any value at that time (you can probably place it below the ‘Similar suggestions’). The user is looking for a bicycle, so provide them with different bicycles options. It could be different colors they are available in, different brands, styles, price ranges, etc.
Once the user proceeds with the purchase, you could take them to a different page where you can show them the products that others have paired it up with. A clear opportunity for a cross-sell. At this moment, users would probably be like, “What the hell, just a few more bucks, why not!”. You could also cross-sell when the user returns back to the home page. But make sure that you don't end up showing products that the user has already purchased.
FYND conducted a focus group research and observed what products they browsed to be paired together, before proceeding with the purchase. This gave them an idea as to what products can be paired together, and started of with its ‘Mix and Match’. Now they provide ensembled products, helping users get the complete look.
Users who click on search, already show an intent to purchase. They know exactly what they want, and are fishing for different options. Once the user starts typing, serve them with possible options to choose from. This makes the search quicker and also makes sure that the user reaches the right page.
Baymard Institute did a usability review of 50 e-commerce sites, analyzing 3,000 search elements and ranked Amazon #1, with a usability score of 1,216.
Almost 99.07% of your audience is more likely to click on a suggestion or type a short query rather than type the whole thing out
Analyse what keywords are usually searched and show relevant prediction against each search. Once the user clicks on the search bar, you can also display the top trending products, reminding them of other things they would like to buy. For example, during Christmas, a user might have come to buy a Christmas tree, but the trending searches might remind the users that Christmas stocking and holders are something that should be purchased as well.
It is not about suggesting the right product names but modifying the search terms according to the way a user would search for. Analyse what keywords do they insert while searching for a particular product. Once they land on a product page after a search, do they click on the search bar again, unsatisfied with what has been displayed? If yes, find out what they were looking for and use this data to improve your search results.
Users in a hurry might even type in wrong spellings. You need to recognize the words and provide them with the right answers for a seamless search.
It is not just enough to provide them with options, but intelligently placing them is also important. The products that are highest sold for that query needs to be displayed first. This makes sure that the user engages with the products which are more likely lead to conversions.
Optimization Tips - You might have what they are looking for, but how do you make sure that they get to view it? Provide users with options that will help them to drill down better and view the right products. By applying filters, they can choose the colors, brands, price range etc. This makes sure that the users are provided with relevant products faster and don't end up leaving your website without finding what they came for.
You also need to keep in mind that when a user browses on the phone, hardly 2 products would be displayed. And if products aren't relevant, they need to scroll through a never-ending list. Argh! Not a pleasant experience, is it? The users will eventually lose patience which will result in low engagement and high bounce rate. Thus, it becomes critical to provide mobile users with relevant content right from the first scroll. Recommendations are a boon from heaven at this point of time. It helps you guide the users, keeps them engaged and encourage them to convert.
What if users want to find something similar to what they just saw while they passed by an expensive store, or get the shoes they saw at the Gym? Some users find it easier to search for a product through an image rather than describe it in words. It is much quicker to narrow down to similar products than search for it in the numerous options one receives from the generic search. It helps the users get a chance to grab the product they are looking for in seconds. It also becomes easier to compare the prices of products in the store to the ones that are online. Again, the images with the closest resemblance needs to be displayed first. Another way of looking at is, showing products a particular user is likely to buy, especially if you don't have a similar product.
The popups on your website need to be tweaked according to the users. Imagine new user receiving a pop up asking them to buy a dress for $1,200. Why would a new user place their trust in you with such an expensive product? First and foremost you need to know their interests, serve them with relevant content and start off with ‘foot in the door’ products. Once you establish trust, then you can approach them with bigger offers. Analyse which users respond to discounts and what is the discount range that attracts them the most. Craft popups with relevant message and discounts that a particular user would click on.
Optimization tip - If a user is already subscribed to your website, a pop up showing special offers for signing up for email will confuse the user. If that offer was not available at the time they had subscribed, it might even frustrate them.
The CTA buttons help users to know what will happen once they click on it; it guides the users through the next steps. The copy and color play an important role in increasing CTR. Generic call to actions buttons displayed to every single user hampers your chance to get more clicks.
Your loyal customer viewing a CTA that reads ‘Get 1st-time purchase offer’ does not benefit the customer in any way. You need something else to entice them.
Tell them what they need before they even realize it. Surprise them with offers related to products that they recently bought. Sometimes it slips their mind, sometimes they don't realize they need it and sometimes they just need a push to convert again.
Target, a discount store, figured out that a girl was pregnant before her dad did. What did they do? They had closely observed the shopping patterns of pregnant women. Once the girl matched all the criteria, they started sending her products related to pregnancy. Now that is hitting the nail on the head.
Purchase intent tools
Once the users are off your site, you need to engage, re-engage and re-target. How do you do this? You might already know the answer to this, you might say by sending emails, web push and so on, But that was not the question. It's true that you can use different channels to reach out to the users, but how do you actually get their attention?
Johnny Cupcakes created different segments based on gender, interests, behavior, brand preferences and then set out its communication. With these segmentations, it received a 42% rise in CTRs and a 123% boost in conversion rate.
If you send me an email for a sale on floral prints, guess who is going to click on it? Not me. Then why send me emails that won’t get you any clicks and just end up cramming my inbox. If I keep receiving such emails, I might end up ignoring deals that could actually benefit me and might even unsubscribe from your mails!
I don't think that's a track you want to choose. Let’s see how you can personalize your communication-
If you want to have high CTR, you need to give them a reason to click on it. You can’t expect a teenager to click on baby products, nor can you expect sweaters to be sold to regions where it is still summers. The timezone, geography, interests, behavior, activities the users perform needs to be taken into account before pushing out your communication.
Souq.com used DoubleClick Dynamic Creative and shot their online purchase by 190%. They created tailor-made ad copies and not only helped them drive product sales but also decreased the need to make multiple banner images by 98%. They made dynamic ads and then changed content according to date, time and geography. Thus, relevant offers were sent to the right users.
Just because you have added new products to your store, you need not knock on every user’s door to inform them. You need to check if the new product will provide value to the users, only the ones whose interests match should be informed.
An e-commerce fashion website drove new product sales by personalizing their approach. They helped users discover and find new products that were of their interest. This helped them achieve 30% sales from new productsduring the launch time and a spike in CTR by 24%.
First-time users can be provided with a special discount to encourage them to buy from your store. Lower prices displayed for a new user, increases chances of them converting. A loyal customer can be lured to buy more by giving out exclusive offers. It’s almost like playing the ‘but I always shop from your store’ card. Well, in this case, you approach them with discounts for being your regular customer and impress them.
“The way to make money online is to target people with different prices based upon their proclivities, based upon their interests.”
Staples, showed different prices for different users according to the location of the users. Sometimes shipping charges will differ according to the location, hence changing the prices as well. Amazon creates different pricesfor existing customers to show them their appreciation, thus increasing loyal customers.
Some of the products you are selling are bound to go out of stock. The users who have shown interest in that particular product, need to be informed when the product is in the verge of being sold out. This makes sure that the users do not miss out on it and also builds a bond between the user and the store. During a sale, when you know the inventory is almost over, you need to start sending out updates to inform the users.
Monsoon Accessorize realized that they were losing out opportunities to convert users as they did not display how many products were left when a user selected the size of the garment. Once they started showing numbers of products available against each size, they increased conversion rate by more than 10%.
Users sometimes add to cart and compare the same product on other stores. Before you lose them to your competitors, try to understand why they are hesitating to purchase. Is it the price, delivery charges, delivery date? Try to solve this for them, give them incentives and bring them back to the site to convert.
Make sure that you aren’t giving out incentives to every single user. A study had found out that you will end up spending more than you receive. Many users have realized this marketing technique and have started keeping products in their cart hoping to receive discounts. New potential users and loyal users are what you should be focusing on when it comes to providing incentives on cart abandonment.
You can’t imagine your life without emails, can you? It’s been a part of your life. Almost everyone checks their mail on a daily basis, which makes it an amazing choice to re-target users via promotional emails. Amazon has especially aced its personalized recommendation through email marketing. Here are some emails templates that Amazon uses according to user behavior.
Doggyloot created different emails according to the size of their user’s dogs. By customizing their emails, they achieved a 750% boost in their CTR. Here are 7 clever email templates that they have used.
How to reach out to users who have closed your website and who have not provided their email address? Target them by sending web push notifications of course! Not everyone will be willing to give out their personal details, even if they do give you their email address, they need not open your mail that very second. Browser push makes it a point to gain users attention quickly with the banner images and a catchy title. At Least the users don't miss out on flash sales on their favorite product! Yay!
Jabong after implementing web push, segmented its users by shopping behaviors, shopping preference and more. This helped them receive a 2X impact on CTR and a 3% of total sales from web push. MyBageecha personalized and automated their web push notifications and increased their order value by 56.48%. Check out these web push templates you can use to evoke emotions in your personalized notifications.
Any e-commerce won’t deny that ads are one of the best ways to bring users back to their website. Jabong, who started off with Facebook ads saw a 2X increase in customer acquisition. They personalized the ads to every user who had interacted with their products on their website or on their app. They then used custom audiences to according to location, demographics, behavior and interest. This helped them retarget effectively on mobile and desktop and generate sales. The also created lookalike segments, helping them predict and reach out to other potential customers. Check out 674 Facebook Ads collected by AdExpresso to get some inspiration.
You need to lay your trust on Google Analytics to track the user journey; where they came from, if they converted and if they left immediately. You can also dive deep into analytics to have a better idea about the users, their behavior, which page do they spend more time on, which industry do they belong to etc. You also need to track which channel gives you the best traction so that you can double up on those, check which page users spend the most time but drop off, keep tabs on the cart abandonment rate, which are your most profitable products, analyse what is missing, are your CTAs personalised, do you require a live chat etc to reduce bounce rate and guide them towards conversions. You can also pair up GA with some of the tools mentioned above to get better insights. Tracking your metrics using Google Analytics plays an important role to know how you are faring and insights on how you can make your business roar.
1. Which e-commerce store makes you awe at the personalization techniques used?
Besides Amazon, in physical e-commerce, I have only come across Myntra.com as a company that invests in real time user level personalization techniques. I had the opportunity to meet with Sharath Bulusu and learn about the stellar team required to develop the personalized experience at Myntra. I am sure large enterprise retailers might use something similar by investing millions of $$$, but none have the experience standing out directly as these two. But services like Netflix, Hulu, Youtube, Amazon Video, Spotify, Pandora etc., are phenomenal when it comes to Personalization.
2. What would be a right time for a store to start off with personalization?
Personalization is not right for all. It makes sense when you have high repeat visitors, multiple visits before purchase & high mobile traffic.
3. Are customers okay with sharing personal information? If not, what do you think can be done?
Visitors are definitely comfortable sharing this information as they are hounded today by remarketing ads. Personalization is about making the onsite journey a lot more relevant vs. applying a one size fits all approach.
4. 61% marketers understand the need for personalization, but 51% of them do not know how to personalize. What are the first steps they should be looking at?
Marketers need to first understand the difference between personalization and personal. Any retailer serious about their online business talk about personalization, but ends up using technology that does not predict in real time what their visitors want. Marketers need to understand that personal is using static data and personalization is using data to learn & predict intent.
5. What can be personalized besides recommendations and search? Any example that you would like to share?
Personalization can be applied to onsite experience like Search, Recommendations & listing pages but also off site experience like push notifications, email marketing ads. At Tagalys we also create personalized stores to ensure the complete onsite shopping experience is personalized in real time.
6. How do you attribute sale through recommendations?
At Tagalys we use a rigorous system to back track every data to the visitor and the feature in use.
7. Can you personalize the experience for a first time user? If yes, how?
This is highly unlikely, unless 3rd party external data is used to generate a shopping persona, which increases the cost of personalization. Like any brick mortar store, the lowest cost for the best personalized experience, is if the shopkeeper learns what you like by watching your actions in the store.
8. If a users has not clicked on a product in the past few visits, is it a good idea to remove that particular product in the pages they visit?
Our current hypothesis says no, but we are still collecting data to validate this.
9. How can personalization and automation be blended together?
Personalization is automated. It is humanly not possible to continuously learn from vast amounts of data and draw insights in real time.
10. How do you measure the impact of personalization? What are the metrics one needs to track?
Product views per unique visitor, click depth bounce rate. Conversion rate is correlated but not a primary driver of personalization as many external factors not in the control of the engine like PDP design, layout, payment gateway failure rates,marketing effectiveness, promotions etc., influence end conversion rate.
11. Some personalization experiments that e-commerce stores should try?
The ability to seamlessly connect onsite & offsite personalization to make the complete visitor experience personalized using the same persona.