Content personalization increases revenues for online retailers.

What could you do with 19 percent more sales?

This is how much retailers stand to gain by improving their personalized product capabilities on their website, according to Econsultancy. Mastering what exactly your customers want when they come to your website is big business.

Almost 60 percent of your customers also want real-time promotions and offers as they browse websites. Leading online retailers don’t view themselves as in the “selling” business; they are in the “cross-selling” business. Their goal is to personalize the customer journey enough so customers purchase not only what they are searching for, but the complimentary products and content they may not even realize exists. These leading retailers have their customers in the driver’s seat when it comes to the journey; by using machine learning on their online behavior data, these retailers continuously learn the content and products that will lead to higher conversion rates and basket sizes and deliver it automatically.

The rest of online retailers, however, are falling short. Without a targeted understanding of what customers need, these big box stores are losing valuable insights from their customers and leave customers wondering if the retailer understands their needs. Halfheartedly attempting personalization is no longer an option – not when 74 percent of online consumers are frustrated when content is not personalized to their interest.

Yet there is a delicate balance (and significant amount of data) that companies need to meet that expectation. Web marketers must balance meeting the needs of their customers by delivering a personalized experience, while simultaneously  influencing their purchase decisions in an organic and relevant way.

The Personalization Habits of Successful Online Retailers

As more and more retailers turn to e-commerce, it is important to consider reallocating the money being saved from manning a brick and mortar into making the digital customer experience that much more effective. Some online retailers are winning the personalization game, and they are doing so with the same playbook.

  1. Personalization through Search. The search box is the holy grail for leading online retailers. The best online retailers are personalizing  product results for customers – and then capitalizing on that data. They are actively mining this data to build more and more advanced customer profiles, sending that feedback to product development, adjusting inventory levels and forecasting, and finally, informing its advertising and retargeting strategy. You just can’t be a successful online retailer these days without a more intelligent search box.
  2. Proactive suggestions. This is the virtual ‘upsell.’ Help point your users to the right content by auto-suggesting and recommending content. Extend this beyond the search box to create search-driven proactive suggestions to help customers make a decision. For example, create a comparison table with similar products so the user understands what the options are. Use previous customer search history to also customize content for the homepage and increase the conversion rate right from the homepage.
  3. Advanced analytics. Data everywhere: the mantra of every successful online retailer. The more sophisticated customer data is, the better your products and customer experiences are. Analytics on your search engine should also allow you to A/B test content, prompting you to continually refine your user paths and customer profiles. These should also show you where your product and content gaps exist. What are customers searching for, but are coming up short? The answer may mean adjusting your stop words or synonym groups to match related words to their query, or even bringing it to the attention of merchandisers and buyers.
  4. Machine Learning. Your search analytics should continuously evolve – without a lot of manual effort on the part of IT. The most important aspect of your search practice is its ability to scale and grow as your product list, customers and content grows. Relying on IT support to do the legwork means that as your business grows, the IT administrative costs will grow along with it.

Most online retailers know that they need to personalize, but the key to capturing that 19 percent increase in sales that competitors are seeing requires the solution to deliver on all five of the above practices and aligns with your business priorities.

Many marketers have invested in powerful CMS and marketing automation to develop the personalization, but still need to optimize the search experience. Find out more about your personalized search experience by reading our recent ebook, “Best Practices for Site Search.