Personalization has changed the face of e-commerce

Personalization has changed the face of e-commerce
(Image credit: / Unsplash)

In 2021, more than 2 billion people worldwide shopped online. In the second quarter of this year, e-commerce sales accounted for over 14% of total sales — or $252.1 billion in sales in the US alone. What’s more, online sales have jumped 40% year over year, with 75% of US consumers relying on brick-and-mortar and online channels to research and purchase products

If brands were on the fence about whether or not they should prioritize investments in their digital experience, the answer is a resounding yes. 

But, where should brands focus within that experience? The answer is personalization.

Why prioritize personalization?

Simply put, a business can’t exist without its customers. A majority of e-commerce and digital marketing executives participating in a CommX survey conducted by Commerce Next agreed, naming developing meaningful relationships with customers a top priority for 2022. This emphasis outranked investments in AR/VR, cryptocurrency payments and other technologies.

A brand’s ability to deliver personalized content increases customer loyalty, lead conversion, average order values and revenue growth. When brands send personalized content, recipients see what’s relevant to them, making it easier for consumers to determine whether a product or service matches their needs.

  • 78% of consumers chose, recommended or paid more for brands offering personalized services or experiences. (McKinsey)
  • 60% of consumers experiencing personalized shopping with a specific brand indicate a likelihood of becoming repeat buyers. (Segment)
  • 80% of consumers indicate a greater likelihood of buying from a company offering personalized experiences. (Epsilon)

The heart of personalization

People spend an incredible amount of time on their computers, tablets and smartphones. They’re skimming emails and texts at lunch, standing in line at the store, and while waiting for their kids after school. It makes sense that brands would want to meet these customers where they are (online), and to do so in a way that feels seamless and relevant.

This is where data, the heart of personalization, comes into play. With access to real-time insights, brands have the ability to better understand just how consumers interact with those digital channels, what exactly they’re looking for and what else they might be seeking. Then, brands can tailor the content, campaigns and products shown to those consumers to ensure each touch point reflects their individual needs and preferences. 

Maximizing your personalization strategy

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to personalization. But when you’re developing a personalization strategy, you should start with these three questions:

1. Where should your users’ experience personalization?  

Consider all the touchpoints along your customer’s journey. Identify the areas where personalization would be most effective and helpful. Micromoments might include emails, SMS, product recommendations and site search. Each of these opportunities contributes to creating seamless customer journeys.

2. What information should you use?

You’ve already got a wealth of tools at your disposal — A/B testing, CRM, e-commerce marketing automation and transactional systems — generating plenty of data. Once you’ve mapped out where you’d like to incorporate more personalization, identify which tools will help you get there and where you may have data gaps you must fill to achieve your goal.

3. How can you leverage technology and human insight to create personalized experiences?

Personalized experiences are data-driven but human infused. Identify how to combine your data and channels using your expertise as a digital commerce expert to deliver online personalized and contextual experiences. 

In business-to-business marketing, prioritize context before personalization. As an industry historically dependent on the human experience to drive sales, consider how you can use your expertise as a starting point for understanding what customers want. Then, supercharge that understanding with data and analytics to refine your personalization (and contextualization) efforts further throughout your digital channels. 

Personalization connects the dots

Though studies show that 73% of B2B customers want personalization, it’s long been a challenge for B2B marketers to get it right. They’re faced with multilayered personas defined by multiple factors like accounts, applications, departments and verticals.

Customer bases also are more diverse: from customer service reps to researchers to technicians and others. Additionally, most product catalogs are pretty complex. It isn’t easy providing the right information to the right people.

B2B buyers make purchases to solve a business or organizational problem or fill an urgent need. Merely personalizing the journey isn’t enough — it must be contextualized. That approach requires B2B companies to understand not only the products they offer but also their customers’ industries and use cases. 

The most effective way to offer contextualized, personalized experiences requires basing them on the application. Your strategy needs an intelligent personalization solution with both artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities. 

This technology — which crunches data quickly and facilitates real-time optimizations and scalability — is faster and more accurate than humans. Product, marketing and sales teams can take insights from the data to create custom, user-oriented shopping experiences that offer personalized recommendations for every customer in real-time. 

Start your e-commerce personalization journey

In the e-commerce world, personalization is everything. As you plan your strategy, you should:

  • Conduct due diligence on the available e-commerce personalization tools and technology.
  • Create a team and assign resources to manage this project and measure its gains. Personalization can, and should, produce measurable business results.
  • Begin segmenting your audiences and infusing personalization across key channels — whether via email personalization or by personalizing the site experience itself.
  • Regularly and consistently track and monitor your strategy’s results, adjusting and optimizing as necessary.
  • Once you feel the strategy is right, start scaling across channels. Remember, personalization shouldn’t exist in a silo. Empower your customers to move seamlessly across your brand’s channels by creating a single journey personalized to their unique needs every step of the way.

Personalization completes the customer experience. It increases sales by an average of 20% when used effectively. It doesn’t have to be complicated — but it does need to engage, inspire and keep your customers coming back. 

Companies failing to embrace personalization risk falling behind in the e-commerce world — and leaving an extra 20% on the table.


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Raj De Datta is the CEO of Bloomreach, which he co-founded in 2009. Before that, Raj was entrepreneur-in-residence at Mohr-Davidow Ventures, served as Cisco’s director of product marketing and was on the founding team of telecom FirstMark Communications. A founder partner at seed-stage venture capital firm Founder Collective, Raj holds a BS in Electrical Engineering with a certificate in Public Policy and International affairs from Princeton University and an MBA with distinction from Harvard Business School.