Putting the “You” in Online Shopping: Making the Most of Personalized Shopping Experiences

Putting the “You” in Online Shopping: Making the Most of Personalized Shopping Experiences

Personalized shopping is a trend that’s here to stay.  If they’re smart, online retailers have invested heavily in finding unique and effective ways to personalize their shopping experience for each visitor.  Most consumers would agree that they want a personalized shopping experience and they are willing to vote with their wallets for services that provide the most convenient and relevant suggestions for their needs.  There are downsides to this trend, though, as innovative companies collect more data on consumers from more sources to push the limits of product personalization.  Can you get a personalized shopping experience while maintaining some privacy?

What Does Personalized Shopping Really Mean?

A true personalized shopping experience helps consumers find things they didn’t even know they wanted or needed.  It exposes them to products that fit their lifestyle, location, circumstances, budget and tendencies; while adding certain flare that helps secure the sale (think up-sells and cross-sells, customizeable catalogs, daily suggestions, etc.).  True personalization also creates a shopping experience that’s tailored to consumer preferences.  This means that consumers have a convenient and relevant process across every sales channel they frequent.

Personalics recently presented the five standard steps that every company looking to provide personalized shopping should follow.  They advise that this journey begins with collecting and implementing strategies based on data from a variety of different channels that consumers visit during their shopping experience.  This means retailers need to make use of internal and external data sources to truly curate the experience.

The second step is found with maintaining a profile on every shopper.  Once a retailer has the customer profile and data, the next step is implementing an algorithm to predict what each shopper prefers.  This may start as a broad set of “if-then” scenarios that make educated guesses.  These predictions are then accompanied by a set of personalized messages for each shopper.  Finally, these messages are made to be channel-specific.  Potential shoppers should see a different message when they are on a retailer’s website from the one they’d see on social channel, while email marketing would present a unique set of messages and circumstances as well.

This process of personalized shopping enables online retailers to tell a more targeted and personalized story to each user, one that is based on those specific rules.  A shopper that found a retailer on a Google search, for example, and stopped by their website and left without purchasing (commonly referred to as “bouncing” away or as “cart abandonment” if they added an item to the cart before bouncing away) would see a unique message that would encourage them to revisit the online store; a curated message that would be based on the items the shopper had previewed during their earlier experience/s.  In contrast, a shopper that had already purchased from the retailer would see a unique email about items that complemented that purchase.  This is a simple example, but it shows that personalized shopping starts with simple predictions for every type of shopper.

Why Amazon is the “Gold Standard” of Personalized Shopping

Most people think of Amazon when discussing the topic of personalized shopping.  That’s because this online marketplace has created an experience that delivers a unique and personalized message to potential shoppers on nearly every possible channel. Tech Crunch reports that Amazon hosts more than 2 million sellers, which combine to offer more than 1 billion products, all helping power its unrivaled ability to curate unique shopping experiences for its millions of shoppers.

Whether you’re shopping on Amazon or you find their ads on Facebook, these messages are designed to provide the most pertinent and enticing potential product or service at that time.  This personalized shopping experience may lead some people to wonder how Amazon seems to always know what they want or need. But it’s hard to dispute that they deliver a new level of convenience and personalization to online shopping.

Best Personalized Shopping for Clothing

The clothing industry has found some unique ways to use personalized shopping to improve their sales while providing a better and more relevant experience to their customers.  Clothing companies around the world are using creative ways to deliver real-time messages that are tailored to the styles, preferences and lifestyles of the specific shopper, and are even utilizing hyper-targeted, localized messages too.

British clothing company Very serves up clothing suggestions based on an algorithm that even considers the local weather.  This creative approach allows them to show one visitor in a cold weather climate jackets and scarfs, while showing a visitor from warmer climates bathing suits and sandals.  Their approach certainly considers shopper preferences and purchases, but the inclusion of weather adds a new layer of personalized shopping.

Personal Shoppers

A wave of websites and apps that provide personal shopping services have popped up as consumers look for more personalized shopping experiences online.  Personal shoppers were once a service targeted towards the wealthy.  Now, almost anyone can benefit from various personal shopping services ranging from clothing, furniture, and artwork to groceries and more.  Monthly subscription services like Trunk Club, Bombfell, and Stitch Fix have created loyal subscriber bases by providing unique personal shopping services to their subscribers that deliver new clothing every month.  They tailor each delivery to the customer’s requests and history to find unique and specific items for that customer.

This personal shopping trend is also changing how people shop for groceries, as services like InstaCart, Amazon Fresh and Postmates become more popular.  With these services, shoppers can create grocery lists, get suggestions and receive regular deliveries while never having to go shopping at a local store again.

The Downside to Personalized Shopping

Some consumers may still wonder about the downsides to personalized shopping.  They may even be conflicted about how much information they really want to share with online retailers for the sake of a more personalized experience.  A recent report on The-Future-of-Commerce.com explored whether personalized shopping could actually lead to pricing discrimination.  They cited a study that found that 51% percent of consumers wanted personalized pricing and 75% percent wanted a personalized shopping experience.

There are plenty of recent examples of personalized discounts being used by online retailers around the world.  It’s certainly not difficult to find special discount codes and sales on your favorite products with an online search.  However, the aforementioned report explores when special discounts become pricing discrimination.

The report breaks down pricing discrimination into three categories.

  • The first would group consumers by their willingness to pay for a particular item.
  • The second provides discounts on the amount of an item they buy.
  • The final group targets users based on demographics.

That final type of pricing discrimination presents the most obvious dilemma for consumers.  No one would say they want to pay more simply because they can. The incentive for online retailers is clear.  They want to encourage users to purchase all the items they desire at the highest possible price.  The question becomes how much personalization will consumers demand, and if there’s a point where they will push back against big data collection.

Personalized Shopping is Here to Stay

Indeed, personalized shopping is quickly becoming the future of e-commerce, at least for a growing segment of loyal shoppers. Perhaps it’s because these websites and apps so conveniently suggest the items they want most from their next shopping experience. Or maybe it’s because it saves consumers time and money by giving them lists of things they want, so they don’t have to look further than a few clicks the next time they whip out their phone and browse.

Regardless, one thing is for sure: Personalized shopping is here, it’s growing fast, and it’s not going anywhere, anytime soon. Only time will tell if consumers will continue to give up more information and privacy for an increasingly personalized shopping experience. All signs point to yes for now.

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