By personalizing particular elements of your website in accordance with the data and decisions of the users visiting your store, you can provide an experience that feels much more helpful and unique than a generic UX journey could ever be.
Nowadays, you can’t get away with only providing a good retail service. In a time when competitors are plentiful and profit margins on common products are often razor-thin, it takes a concerted effort (on top of fast delivery) to keep a customer from taking their business elsewhere.
With that in mind, here are some handy ideas for how you can effectively implement personalization to improve your UX, drive conversions on your online store, and create long-term customer relationships that increase in value over time.
Prioritize mobile buying
On Black Friday in 2017, 46.2% of the revenue from 80% of the monitored sales from 100 major U.S. retailers came from purchases made on mobile devices — so it’s fair to say that adopting a mobile-first design approach is a matter of some urgency. While desktop traffic still comes out on top, mobile traffic is rising steadily, and it makes far more sense from a UX standpoint to start with a mobile design and scale up than to begin with a large screen in mind and have to remove features when condensing it for mobile screens.
An excellent way to personalize the experiences of your mobile visitors is to encourage social logins. Instead of requiring each customer to register an account with your store, you can give them the option of sharing their user data through one of their social media accounts.
You can also implement convenient payment gateway options that make use of linked accounts already configured for mobile ecosystems (usually iOS or Android). By letting your customers pay through whichever means is easiest for them, you’ll get them through the checkout stage more quickly and minimize the frequency of dropouts.
Provide dynamic pricing
Now, when we look at this option, we must take care to distinguish between general dynamic pricing and personalized dynamic pricing, because the latter is somewhat controversial. If you’ve ever used a price comparison site to look at flight bookings, you’re probably familiar with the seemingly-arbitrary fluctuations in pricing — people have found that they can view the same booking from two different accounts and see two different prices.
Some frown on this approach because it’s seen as price gouging, but you don’t need to go that far —they key is being transparent. Offer customer tiers (imagine selling to VIPS, standard customers, and wholesalers, for instance) and openly state that you offer lower prices to loyal customers. This will provide an incentive for people to stick around.
If you do decide that truly personalized pricing might work well for your store, again, make it an open and clear part of your business model. Stress that it is about charging people according to their means and not about squeezing customers for maximum profit. If you position the lower pricing as a boon to the struggling and the higher pricing as a mark of prestige for the thriving, you might well be able to rehabilitate the much-maligned concept.
Configure intelligent search
On-site search is important for all retail websites, but even more so for those with the largest inventories. Think about Amazon’s enormous product range, and how unwieldy it would be to track specific items down without a robust internal search. But there is one thing that sets some site searches apart from others — personalization.
By taking into account a user’s history (their viewed products, their recent searches, their previous orders) you can anticipate their needs and serve them with customized results, especially in autocomplete data. Imagine that a customer types in ‘pr’ and is met with a pop-up list of suggestions. What should be highlighted at the top? If they’ve bought exercise equipment, maybe ‘protein powders’. If they’ve bought office supplies, perhaps ‘printer paper’.
This is all about understanding user intent. The better your store’s search function is at gleaning what the user wants the most and delivering it, the more sales you’ll earn. This is really because people don’t want to be made to think too much about what they’re doing — if circumstances require them to stop and reconsider their efforts, they get further opportunities to decide that they don’t actually feel like buying something after all.
Offer smart product recommendations
Just as you can use user data for search results, you can use it to push and advertise other products that you think may be relevant to the user’s interests. To use Amazon as an example again, it’s the master of offering both bundle options and other items that people purchased alongside the product currently being viewed.
This can easily extend to email marketing. If your analytics data tells you that a particular user places an order for confectionery every month, you can email them about new products in your confectionery department and know that there is a higher than average chance of them converting.
Similarly, you can infer from multiple purchases of recipe books that a user is probably interested in doing more cooking, and subsequently link them to deals on culinary equipment. Just be careful about getting too intrusive with this — Target notoriously exposed a teenage girl’s pregnancy after inferring it through her purchasing habits and sending baby clothing coupons to her house.
Email marketing is one of the many things that you can viably automate while working on personalization. Think about every step of the user journey as an opportunity to reach out, then consider that you don’t need to do it manually if you have the detailed information needed to automatically customize your copy and offers to suit the recipient.
By creating varied design and content templates, collecting the right data (being mindful of GDPR), and setting your emails, pop-ups, and discounts to trigger at the optimal times, you can build a sales funnel that operates more efficiently, makes your customers happier, and save you time and effort.
It’s definitely worth looking at what comprehensive automation tools like Sitecore Commerce can do for your customer journey. Using the broader Sitecore platform as a foundation and Coveo Machine Learning to iteratively improve a customer’s UX across numerous channels, ensuring that the longer a customer stays with you, the happier they’ll be.
While it will take time in the short term to configure sophisticated automation, you must consider the long-term benefits. If you commit a chunk of time to exploring it now, it won’t be very long before you’ve gained that time back with interest through efficiency savings.
AR, VR, and the IoT: what the future will bring
Augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and the Internet of Things (IoT) are developments that will become more and more significant in the coming years. AR and VR will become vital parts of the sales process, allowing users to enjoy fully-customized demonstrations that will virtually insert products into their real surroundings and make it possible to get an idea of exact dimensions and colors without having to physically test them.
The undisputed pioneer for this sort of technology in the ecommerce world is not Amazon, surprisingly, but Shopify. As a provider of one of the leading webstore-building systems, it is currently providing early access to its program to help sellers implement AR and VR technology into their stores.
The IoT, meanwhile, will provide a potentially-overwhelming amount of information on every facet of a user’s life, even tempered by regulations such as GDPR. As it becomes common for products such as fitness trackers or smart fridges to be linked to store accounts (Amazon’s AWS IoT Button has a lot of potential for this kind of functionality), those retailers will have more opportunities than ever before to curate storefronts for maximum effect.
In an eCommerce landscape of similar pricing and boundless integration options, UX is the chief delineating factor, separating the successes from the failures. Advanced personalization is a key tool for improving your UX and building a customer journey that engenders loyalty and brand positivity.
Put as much time as you can into developing your UX, adding elements of personalization when you can, and you’ll soon see a marked improvement in the feedback you receive and the level of customer retention you achieve.