Imagine entering a store customized for you. The sales staff anticipates your unique needs, knows your sizes and tastes, and offers discounts on products you actually want. They make relevant suggestions so you don’t miss out, pointing to things you’re sure to like but may not have otherwise noticed. And they remember your previous purchases, recall what worked and what didn’t, and strive to make this visit even better than the last.

It’s every shopper’s dream come true.

In the not-so-distant past, highly-personalized retail experiences like this existed only for elite consumers. Upscale retailers vying for wealthy customers used personal shoppers and concierge services to ensure select clientele were shown products perfectly suited for them. But in the digital age, what was once an exception for the rich and famous is now within the reach of every shopper. And today’s consumers aren’t merely accepting personalization – they demand it.

Why the demand for personalization?

With so many product options, it’s easy for online shoppers to get overwhelmed and become dissatisfied. And when shoppers become dissatisfied, they abandon carts and brands. Personalization delivers a solution. High-functioning personalization strategies enhance a shopper’s journey and mitigate these frustrations. The result? Most consumers today (91%) opt for retailers who offer a personalized experience over those who don’t.    

Just how deep does the desire for personalization run?

Deep. Consider this – a survey by Salesforce revealed a whopping “82% of customers will share relevant information about themselves in exchange for connections between their digital and in-person experiences” and “85% of customers will share relevant information about themselves in exchange for proactive customer service.”

With numbers like this, it’s clear that growing personalization is imperative for retailers interested in getting – and keeping – customers.

And savvy online retailers haven’t failed to notice the increased demand. According to SLI System’s H1 2018 E-commerce Performance Indicators and Confidence (EPIC) Report, one-third (33%) of retailers across the globe say their companies are already giving their customers a personalized online experience and almost half (49%) plan to add it in the next year. In fact, only 7% of retailers worldwide say they are not adding some form of personalization to their e-commerce strategy.

As e-commerce professionals know, Customer Experience can either entice customers to return or drive them to the nearest competitor. And it’s clear personalization is a must in order to deliver a strong customer experience. But personalization isn’t a single-faceted entity. What’s more? Choosing the correct personalization strategies can make or break a shopper’s online experience – and the bottom line.

So how are e-commerce businesses personalizing and how do they plan to expand?

SLI’s EPIC Report indicates that with 57% of those surveyed saying it’s already in use, Emails Triggered by Online Behavior is the top way retailers currently personalize for their online shoppers. And it’s no surprise. MarketingDive explains that personalized email subject lines “can increase open rates by 50% and lead to 58% higher click-to-open rates.” The second most common way to personalize is Recommendations Based on Online Behavior (55%) followed by Segmentation Based on Demographic Data and Offers Triggered by Online Behavior, which tied for third (34%).

Underutilized strategies offer unique pathways to personalization.

Less used forms of personalization reveal opportunities to improve customized shopping experiences through a variety of alternative strategies. But which strategies can retailers use to take advantage of these opportunities? SLI uncovered that Persistent Profiling through a Data Management Platform (DMP) is the least utilized method of personalization with only 6% of those surveyed reporting it is currently in use. DMP is closely followed by Offers Triggered by Offline Behavior (7%) and Recommendations Based on Offline Behavior (9%).

To be successful, personalization must actually be personal.

Conversant found irrelevant content is the number one way to frustrate shoppers and lose sales. So how do retailers ensure their customers’ personalized experiences are, in fact, personal? Tracking and utilizing online behavior in the right ways. And e-commerce strategists are taking advantage of expanding technology in this arena. SLI discovered the top ways retailers plan to expand personalization all center on online behavior.

"Offers Triggered by Online Behavior" is the number one way retailers plan to add personalization to their e-commerce site. The top approach selected for implementation this year by 42% of retailers is Offers Triggered by Online Behavior. It was followed by Emails Triggered by Online Behavior and Category Page Results Based on Online Behavior 38% each in second place. Recommendations Based on Online Behavior took third place with 36%.

The Bottom Line

Finding out what your customers want and helping them get it through a personalized e-commerce experience isn’t just good for shoppers, it’s good for business. Sixty percent of those surveyed by SLI believe personalization will increase conversion rates. As technologies to improve personalization expand, retailers must take advantage or risk losing consumers to those who’ve embraced the growing demand for personalization.   

For more on the latest trends in e-commerce personalization, click here to download the H1 2018 EPIC Report.