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CX Tech

4 Ways Smart Retailers Exceed Expectations with Personalization

Erik Mathes
December 02, 2019

4 minute read

This is a preview of the ebook “3 Customer Experience Essentials for Today’s Shoppers“.

If you’re looking to exceed expectations with customers this holiday season (and well into the 2020s), it’s not difficult. The thing is, old approaches simply won’t cut it in the “Experience Economy” we’re now living in.

In an age where consumer expectations have kept pace with constantly increasing technological capabilities, people have grown so comfortable with online shopping that 35% are making online purchases at least weekly, according to the Pitney Bowes 2018 Global Ecommerce Study. At the same time, however, they’ve become more frustrated with the overall experience. The same Pitney Bowes study found that 56% of U.S. shoppers were “let down” by online retailers during last year’s holiday season — an increase of 20 percentage points from 2017.

So, how can companies exceed expectations of 21st century shoppers without stretching their resources and budgets into the red? The key is to get personal.

In the past, personalization was impossible to do at scale, but thankfully, technology has our backs, and smart retailers are embracing the possibilities through these new capabilities. Here’s how they tap into artificial intelligence (AI) to offer inspiring personalized experiences, delighting customers while driving sales and building brand affinity.

Leverage AI and machine learning to gain insights into shopper preferences

When retailers incorporate AI and machine learning into their operations through a customer experience commerce cloud, they can glean deep insights into site visitors’ preferences — even anonymous ones. Searches, page visits, and purchases are tracked and stored — data that can be leveraged repeatedly to provide personalized experiences, custom content, and tailored recommendations through a variety of channels across a shopper’s journey.

Perhaps that’s why, in a 2019 CommerceNext and Oracle report that surveyed 100 marketing decision-makers across traditional retailers and direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands, 52% said they plan on increasing their year-over-year investment in personalization technology. That’s after 51% admitted they were dissatisfied with their level of performance with personalization the previous year.

Chief Digital Officer of Tumi and Samsonite, Charlie Cole, was one of those marketers surveyed who was satisfied, at least on some level, with his company’s shift toward personalization. But, he understands there’s plenty of potential to continue elevating their approach. According to Cole, his brands have “done a great job on personalization with people we know, using first-party data on existing customers. The thing we’re still exploring is how to execute on marketing to people we don’t know, with second or third-party data.”

His vision for the future? “Our next evolution at Samsonite,” said Cole, “is to graduate to a phase where there are 100 different versions of our website depending on who lands there. Personalization will help us get there.”

Use cloud solutions to get non-developers involved in CX

It used to be necessary to have a developer’s skills to iterate as fast as possible on certain marketing initiatives. And marketers are still lagging when it comes to getting campaigns and promotions out the door.

42% of marketing decision-makers from the CommerceNext and Oracle study anticipate that “executing quickly enough on marketing initiatives” will be a main factor keeping them from hitting their goals in 2019.

Fortunately, technology has evolved to a point where non-developers can employ user-friendly cloud solutions built with simplicity in mind to eliminate creative barriers. This empowers all team members to create, update, and send out content on the fly to capitalize on seasonality, unpredictable trends, and other personalization opportunities.

Collect feedback from social media and reviews

Imagine being able to analyze social media posts and reviews containing mentions of your company and products, and then producing actionable insights from the data.

By collecting feedback from these platforms and separating out spam from the mix with AI, retailers can learn about consumer sentiment toward specific products and services, make appropriate changes, and address issues or complaints. Smart companies can also get ideas for new products and promotions based on this feedback to fuel their marketing and R & D teams.

This feedback can also be used to create personalized content to boost engagement. According to Angela Hsu, SVP of Marketing & Ecommerce at Lamps Plus, who was also surveyed for the report, “Personalization has provided results in three key areas: increased engagement, increased time spent on site and increased conversion rates, all of which are great from a business perspective, but the key to all of these results is a satisfied customer.”

Tapping into AI has helped Lamps Plus “provide an experience that is better aligned with our customers’ needs,” says Hsu, “by showcasing products and information that is aligned to their tastes, and where they are in the customer journey.”

Translate rich consumer data into personalized discounts and recommendations

With the data collected and stored thanks to AI and the cloud, teams are fueled with opportunities to provide timely, engaging, and delightful customer experiences.

One way to start is if you know your consumers’ birthdays, you can create customized communications through email automation wishing them a happy birthday and offering a discount. You can even add linked images to products you know they’re interested in because they’ve searched for them or browsed their pages previously without purchasing.

Providing personalized promotions and recommendations is especially powerful during the holidays. To drive conversions, retailers can send out on-site promo messages throughout the shopper’s journey, prompting them to increase their order value or checkout faster to “unlock” an offer (and help you avoid cart abandonment). Messages stating “Spend $10 more and save 25%” or “Buy two, get one free” can entice customers to dig deeper into your offerings and spend more than they planned.

Want more? Discover how to appeal to 21st century consumers in the ebook 3 Customer Experience Essentials for Today’s Shoppers“.

Erik Mathes
Erik Mathes is a content marketing and SEO expert with an extensive background in food and drink, travel, lifestyle, and tech. He has consulted and created content for some of the world's most notable companies and startups, including Amazon, MasterCard, Unilever, AWAY, Neil Patel Digital, Vitamix, LivingSocial, and Oracle, and his writing has appeared in dozens of publications, including BuzzFeed, AFAR, The Daily Meal, The Huffington Post, Yahoo! Travel, and USA Today.
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