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Is Personalization Even Important? 5 Ecommerce Experts Give their Verdicts

Jack Maden  |  June 20, 2016

Jack Maden  |  June 20, 2016

        

When we asked ecommerce professionals about the future of digital retail, a recurring theme in their answers concerned personalization.

Monetate’s Senior Director of Client Advocacy, Brett Bair, said: “I feel strongly that personalization will become a must-have component to a retail strategy – and technology will rapidly eliminate the biggest roadblock which is dynamically creating those experiences on the fly.”

Leah Ryz, UX Research Lead at Usablenet, commented: “I believe omnichannel will become industry-standard within the next few years, and retailers will place far more emphasis on personalized experiences.”

These predictions prompted us to take a deeper look at customer personalization across the industry. Our three-part series asks ecommerce experts their thoughts on personalization’s importance in general, how it can be done well, and in what ways they think it will be implemented in future with the emergence of new technologies.

Here’s the question we asked our experts for part one.

How important do you think personalization is for a digital retail site today?

And here’s what they said!

Chloë Thomas, Founder, Speaker, Author & Host of the Ecommerce MasterPlan Podcast

Chloe_Thomas_blue.png"Personalization is a powerful tool in ecommerce. However, there's a lot it makes more sense to get right before opening the on-site personalization box.

"Turning on a personalization system massively changes the variables you're looking at to find the successful mix, and will just exacerbate existing issues if it's turned on too early - possibly even hiding them. It's also important to have enough traffic and sales coming through your site to make personalization worthwhile - to gather reliable results and for it to be worth the effort.

“If I was launching a brand new ecommerce site tomorrow I would make sure I was on a platform that would enable me to launch personalization at a later date by bolting in some best-of-breed software, but I wouldn't start personalization on day one. Instead I would start A/B tests to improve what I'd launched with. Then once I hit the law of diminishing returns, I would consider personalization - but only if it was the most powerful next option. However, I would consider launching with a ‘searchendising’ tool integrated - to improve the on-site search results, and make the product listing pages word harder for me.”

Brett Bair, Senior Director of Digital Marketing Insights and Strategy at Monetate

Brett_Bair.png"I would say ecommerce professionals are underestimating personalization’s importance today. Many reports and studies state that most digitally focused marketers are highly aware it is important but have taken very little action – lots of excuses but very little action. 

“The problem is consumers don't care – if something doesn't work for them they have more choices than ever. One-size-fits-all ecommerce has been dead for some time now and I think the businesses that are waiting for their ecommerce platforms to solve this are going to miss the boat. 

“If I was starting an ecommerce site tomorrow personalization would be a top priority. I would need flexibility to easily deliver different messages, experiences and recommendations for different audiences in different situations. Ideally I would leap past the more recent notion of mobile first and set my bar as device agnostic. No matter what device you are using to shop my site it just works – period.”

Justin King, Founder of eCommerceandB2B.comhere offering the B2B perspective on personalization

Justin_King_blue.png"In B2B, personalization is different from B2C – it becomes more of an issue of segmentation and contracts. Taking the latter first, from within their account customers should have access to personal pricing (per contract, terms and conditions), their local warehouse, and even products by their SKU numbers. In other words: an experience personalized to their contract terms and conditions. 

“Personalization through segmentation means content should be personalized by industry segment. A good example of this is Medline.com, a manufacturer and distributor of healthcare supplies in the US, who ask users to self-segment by selecting their area of interest when they first visit the site.

“Another consideration in B2B is personalization by user within a company, which means personalizing by role. A buyer can search and fill a cart, while an approver may not need access to the catalog but the workflow for approving orders. Personalizing the tools and experience available by role and by organization makes everyone’s job easier - and when their job is easier, they come back and spend more.”

Andrea Mantovani, Head of Digital & Ecommerce [China] at Moleskine

Andrea_Mantovani_blue.png"Personalizing customer experience is one of the main pillars in Moleskine’s strategy in China – we regard it as very important.

"With the ocean of digital opportunities, customers need a strong reason for getting our products from the official store. Whether we like it or not, our products are available through many online channels – some of which are fake, with products sometimes imported from non-official resellers – so it can be difficult for customers to make a judgment. Providing them with a deep and engaging brand experience is therefore essential to remove this confusion.

“On top of that, a tailored experience is what consumers look for – and that means a full and unique multichannel customer journey. From out-in: awareness, inspiration, engagement, custom products, CRM, loyalty.” 

Sven Ramspott, Conversion Rate Optimizer at Peerius

Sven_Ramspott_blue.png"Personalization is important because there is an expectation amongst consumers that organisations they interact with understand them. Touchpoints are many and through many channels - and peoples’ time is precious.

"That makes for an environment where relevancy is critical and superfluous offerings at best irritating if not annoying. In my experience, personalization increases conversions, improves customer retention, and makes marketing efforts more useful."


Verdict

Our experts seem to be in general agreement that personalization is an important strategy in ecommerce. Chloe advises getting the fundamentals sorted first – looking to personalize too soon may hide or exacerbate pre-existing problems – but sees personalization as a powerful tool for improving a digital retail site going forward.

Brett, meanwhile, thinks the days of a one-size-fits-all ecommerce platform are over: personalization is the future and should be the present. Sven agrees: relevancy is critical.

Justin offers an interesting perspective on the B2B side of ecommerce personalization. As orders may be recurring in B2B, speeding up the process with personalization seems to be more of an essential part of the customer experience than it might be in B2C. Moreover, Andrea touched on how providing a deep and personalized experience can encourage customers to purchase through official channels and display brand loyalty.

In summary, then, personalizing customer experience is a strategy our experts believe should be adopted - or at least seriously considered - by any established digital retail site.


Next time

And so ends part one of our series on personalization! Part two looks at how to stay on the ‘clever’ rather than ‘creepy’ side of personalization when it comes to applying it to the customer experience.

In the meantime, we'd love to hear your thoughts. Do you agree with our experts that generally personalization is a very important factor for the success of an ecommerce site? Tweet us or let us know in the comments below!  

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This post was originally published on 29th October 2015, but has been updated to include Sven Ramspott's view.

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Get the full lowdown on how to measure and improve experiences with our ultimate guide to ecommerce and online retail.

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Jack Maden

Written on June 20, 2016 by:

Jack Maden

Jack is Digital Manager at Decibel, the best digital experience intelligence platform around! He also runs philosophy break.

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