A personalized online shopping experience isn’t a customer “nice to have.” It’s a must have – and 71% of consumers feel frustrated when a shopping experience is impersonal.
A “one size fits all” model doesn’t work anymore – and, going forward, the companies that thrive will be the ones that personalize. So how can your store get up to speed?
Below, we’re defining exactly what we mean by a personalized online shopping experience – and outline the key benefits for your business. Then, we’ll walk you through our top five personalization strategies – and how you can start integrating them into your ecommerce business’ approach.
A personalized online shopping experience is one that’s tailored to the unique circumstances of the individual customer.
That includes their needs, pain points, purchase history, product preferences, geographical location, and demographic information – like their name, age, gender, and even their height, weight, or jean size.
A personalized online shopping experience isn’t just a piece of jargon. It’s the future of your online store – and if you’re not already considering it, your competitors are.
So before we get to our personalized online shopping experience strategies, let’s take a look at the benefits. It’s great for the customer, of course. But what’s in it for you?
- Increased customer loyalty: when you go out of your way to look after your customer with a personalized online shopping experience, they’ll do the same for you – paying your brand back with increased loyalty and custom.
- Better conversion rates: loyal customers tend also to be the ones that convert – especially when you harness personalization strategies to build consumer confidence in – and affection for – your online brand.
- More accurate business intelligence: personalizing your customers’ experience is beneficial not only in the present, but for the future. Personalization results in better data, which in turn informs more strategic business decisions: across sales, marketing, and customer service.
Ready to start creating your own personalized online shopping experience?
Here are our top five strategies for success:
- Offer personalized product recommendations
- Create a virtual fitting room
- Utilize smart reviews
- Use locations
- Personalize customer returns
One way to provide a personalized online shopping experience that’s as customized as it is conversion-rate boosting is to provide tailored product recommendations.
These are suggestions based on products and pages on your site that your customer has previously engaged with, searched for, or saved.
Why are they important? Because 91% of consumers report that they’re more likely to shop with brands that provide recommendations and offers relevant to them.
For a near unbeatable example of personalized product recommendations, it’s hard to look past Amazon. One glance at the homepage, and you’re offered up not only products inspired by your recent browsing history and views, but other “recommended deals for you.”
Quizzes are another powerful tool for providing personalized product recommendations. By asking your customer to answer a few questions and receive a tailored product recommendation in return, you’re tapping into one of Cialdini’s principles of persuasion – “reciprocity.” They do something for you; you do something for them.
As you’ll notice as you move through our site, this particular personalization tactic is one we use here at Website Builder Expert! By asking our users to simply tell us a bit more about their requirements, we’ll match them with the right website builder or web hosting provider for them.
A virtual fitting room allows you to offer your customer that rarest of ecommerce experiences – the chance to try before they buy, without being anywhere near a brick-and-mortar store.
Virtual fitting rooms use augmented reality (AR) to overlay an image of your item on top of a live feed of your customer. This allows the shopper to visualize exactly what your product – be it a dress, a hat, a t-shirt, even a particular color of lipstick – would look like on them.
It’s the kind of stellar, personalized experience you’d once have only found in-store. Not anymore.
We say “create” a virtual fitting room here – but of course, that doesn’t mean you have to build one yourself. There are many virtual fitting room technology providers – Style.me and 3DLOOK, for example – which slot seamlessly into your ecommerce store.
Want to know more about AR, and how it can help you cultivate a personalized online shopping experience? Explore how AR can benefit your online store.
Showcasing recent, relevant reviews of your products isn’t just important, then – it’s powerful social proof that can help assuage the last of a customer’s doubts, and get them to convert. So what are smart reviews?
Smart reviews allow your customer to filter reviews not solely by star rating or date – but by the physical and demographic characteristics of the reviewer.
Beauty giant Sephora utilizes smart reviews to let its customers share their height, weight, age, jean size – as well as which size they bought the garment in, and how it fit. With all this information at their disposal, shoppers can make better decisions – increasing their trust in and loyalty to your brand, and helping avoid returns.
Plus – for detail and helpfulness, at least, it certainly beats a simple star rating system!
Of course, to implement smart reviews properly, you’ll need, well… reviews! So if you’re struggling to obtain them, be sure to check out our guide to how to ask customers for reviews. It’s not as daunting as you might think!
When it comes to providing a personalized online shopping experience, another strategy is to tailor your site’s content to your customer’s geographical location.
Google does this is, of course – simply scroll down to the bottom of the search engine results page, and you’ll see your location there.
And sure – while this kind of IP address tracking can come across as a little creepy, it actually helps you go a long way toward providing that personalized shopping experience consumers crave. Because, when you know where your customer is physically located, you can provide them with:
- More accurate product recommendations: not advertising winter clothing to customers shopping from Sydney in December, for example!
- Up-to-date inventory and rates: not showing customers shopping from overseas products that are only available in the US – and enabling people to browse in their own currency.
- An experience they understand: providing alternative-language versions of your website empowers your customers to shop in their own language – making them feel more comfortable, and hence more likely to buy!
For online shoppers, returning a product is as much a part of the shopping experience as buying it in the first place. It makes sense to personalize the purchase experience, of course – so why not the returns, too?
At its core, personalizing customer returns refers to adjusting the flexibility, generosity, and leniency of your policy to a customer based on:
- Their loyalty to your brand
- The number of purchases they make with you
- The amount of money they spend with your brand
It doesn’t make sense, after all, to treat two customers – one a first-timer with no established spending patterns, the other a long-standing member of your loyalty program and a regular shopper – the same.
When you personalize the returns experience, you can offer longer return windows, free return shipping, and courier pick-up (plus other perks) to your most loyal customers. This, in turn, rewards them for their commitment to your brand.
For your less well-established shoppers, personalized returns policy can act as an incentive to become a regular customer, or sign up to your VIP rewards program.
In practice, this could look like utilizing a third-party app plugin, such as Loop for Shopify – though which provider or app you go with will depend on which website builder or platform you’ve built your ecommerce site with.
Now we know some of the principles behind personalized shopping – and the processes you can use to implement them – let’s draw on some examples from two top brands to explore how it looks in practice.
Netflix’s Personalized Content Recommendations
Think back to the last movie or TV series you watched on Netflix. Did you pick it because you had an epiphany, earlier that day, that you simply had to watch it?
Or, did you choose it because Netflix’s intelligent algorithms picked it for you based on your interests, preferences – and the content you’ve already watched?
We’re betting the latter!
As we saw earlier, quizzes are a fantastic way of providing a personalized – and effective – online shopping experience. Their interactive nature gets people engaged, and – because the customer knows the recommendation is highly tailored to their own requirements – they’re more likely to convert when they’re done.
Beardbrand’s beard style quiz is the perfect example. After 10 questions, the customer knows exactly which facial-hair style will suit them best – and can then shop Beardbrand’s range of beard oils, washes, and shampoos.
From tailored product recommendations and virtual fitting rooms to smart reviews and quizzes, there’s no shortage of ways you can personalize your ecommerce store’s shopping experience.
And why wouldn’t you? With the potential to boost conversion rates and customer loyalty – and reinvent the way you plan and optimize for your business’s future – providing a personalized online shopping experience is a no-brainer.
So good luck, and be sure to report back on your personalization progress in the comments section below.
But before you get started, why not grab a cup of joe and stick around for some more hot ecommerce content? Explore our guides to how to attract customers to your online store – and how to manage your ecommerce site.
- Offering personalized product recommendations
- Creating a virtual fitting room
- Utilizing smart reviews
- Using locations
- Personalizing customer returns
The data agrees. According to Epsilon, four in five consumers are more likely to buy from a brand that offers personalized experiences. While data from Statista suggests a whopping nine in 10 find marketing personalization “very or somewhat appealing.”