Personalization: 5 Ecommerce Experts Reveal How to be Clever, not Creepy

Jack Maden  |  June 22, 2016

Jack Maden  |  June 22, 2016


Part one of our series on personalization looked at its growing importance in digital retail. Tailoring online journeys to suit each individual customer can be a fantastic way to improve customer experience and, in turn, increase conversions. With new technologies making it easier than ever before to enable the mechanics for personalization – and with customers now beginning to expect it– there seems to be little excuse for not considering its implementation for your ecommerce site.

But how do I implement it effectively?’ you ask, terrified. ‘How do I ensure these personalized journeys are relevant, useful and not just showing off how much (incorrect) data we’ve collected about our customers?’

This is a legitimate worry. When done well, personalization is subtle, helpful and beneficial for both customer and merchant – the former in that shopping is more efficient, the latter in that conversions are higher as a result. When done badly, however, personalization can be irrelevant, ineffective and downright creepy.

With part one establishing its importance, part two of our series asks five ecommerce experts how a site can do personalization well. 

What two tips would you give a site to keep on the ‘clever’ rather than ‘creepy’ side of personalization?

Chloë Thomas, founder, speaker, author & host of the Ecommerce MasterPlan Podcast

Chloe_Thomas_blue.png"When you start getting into personalization it can be very tempting to go all out. But the quick wins are the ones where the customers think - 'that's a great improvement', not 'eww! that's creepy'. Identify the areas of the site where personalization could improve user experience – for example, if you're a fashion brand, gender-tailor the homepage - or reorder the navigation to put the customer’s favorite categories first. In both of these examples it can save the customer time and clicks - which they will like!

"Once you've removed all the points of friction, start creating some ‘wow’ experiences - for example if you have VIP customers, recognize their status when they get to the website."

Brett Bair, Senior Director of Client Advocacy at Monetate

Brett_Bair.png"My first piece of advice is that just regurgitating what you know about the customer isn't very interesting. ‘Hi Brett from Philadelphia welcome back’ just doesn't do a lot for the customer. Great personalization should never be in your face – it should just feel right. For example, if you were a regular customer that had established some clear affinities, you would expect the merchant to be using that information to point you in the right direction – ‘Here are some new versions of what you are very likely to be interested in’ and so on.

"My second piece of advice is to start with utility. Mobile and tablet shoppers are more likely to use an alternative payment technology like PayPal. So, make that front and center in your checkout flows for those devices. If your navigation is difficult on a touch based device change it will frustrate customers and they will be less likely to come back."

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

Justin_King_blue.png"In B2B, customer journey personalization is less creepy as it’s more expected. Most B2B users are used to logging in to get their pricing and products.

"B2B companies can and should precisely personalize the experience of their customers. Based on who they are, their industry and their past purchases they can pre-fill carts for them, suggest purchases, autocomplete forms, and help out with anything else they have sufficient (and accurate) data on."

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

Andrea_Mantovani_blue.png"The first tip I would give is to try to talk and brainstorm with the offline retail department – if your company has one – before designing any online site personalization. Only when the brand recognizes each customer across every touch point can it really make the experience unified and relevant for them.

"The second tip I would give is to always remember that a customer can be great value for the brand even if they don’t spend lots of money in store. If they actively interact with the brand community, they can make the best ambassadors. This is higher value than a single purchase, so it has to be considered and rewarded with the same dignity of a big sale – with sufficient personalization in mind too." 

Sven Ramspott, Conversion Rate Optimizer at Peerius

Sven_Ramspott_blue.png"You can be clever by presenting a user experience that the consumer enjoys and finds useful: using their behaviour data intelligently and for the clear benefit of the consumer.

"It’s not a case of spying on the consumer but using their data to steer them efficiently to products and things they are most likely to be interested in - and doing it in a subtle, helpful way."

Next time

The third and final part of our series will examine what the future holds for personalization. Will it turn out as envisioned by Brett Carneiro, who climbed the Decibel Insight Soapbox to share his thoughts on the unity of digital and in-store personalization? Stay tuned for next time to find out!

Do you have any tips for how to do personalization effectively in ecommerce? Or any horror stories for how it’s been done badly? Tweet us or let us know in the comments below!


This post was originally published on 2nd November 2015, but has been updated to include Sven Ramspott's view.


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Jack Maden

Written on June 22, 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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