An outstanding customer experience is one of the pillars of small business success, and it’s a topic we cover often here on our business blog. When we last explored best practices for standing out with a killer customer experience, one of our tips was to put a personal touch on interactions with your customers. Whether you offer gift wrapping services during the holidays or include hand-written thank-you notes with deliveries, you’re providing a little personalization that really distinguishes you from your competitors (especially big-box brands that can’t afford to customize every single customer interaction). Taking the extra step to surprise and delight your customers can go a long way towards turning one-time shoppers into life-long regulars.
Personalizing interactions with customers in person is one thing, but it’s important to maintain that human touch on e-commerce channels as well as brick-and-mortar locations. Not a believer? There’s a treasure trove of research out there that quantifies how much of a difference personalization can make to a customer while shopping online. In a report from Infosys, 59 percent of shoppers who have experienced personalization believe it has a noticeable influence on their purchasing decisions. More importantly, a negative online experience can be significantly detrimental to your brand, as revealed by research from Janrain that found 74% of customers get frustrated with websites when content (e.g. offers, ads, promotions, etc.) appear to have nothing to do with their interests.
If personalized customer service is a pride point for your business, then you should be taking steps to expand those customized interactions to your digital assets. Here are a few ways you can personalize your business’s e-commerce experience.
Think of every e-commerce site you’ve ever seen or used, from Amazon and Target to your favorite local boutique. Most of them have a section of their website that’s labelled “Customers also bought” or “Visitors who viewed this product also viewed.” This section offers your customers product recommendations that are based on what items others looked at or purchased. A product recommendation section on your website is a great upsell opportunity. It can encourage your customers to make additional purchases based on what others like them are buying or what else in your inventory goes well with what they’ve bought. Product recommendations can be a powerful tool, and research has shown that knowing what others are interested in can serve as a sort of social proof that validates a good or service as a worthwhile purchase. The best product recommendations are precise and automated, which means they’re reliant on the data you’ve collected about your customers’ behavior on your website. Even if you don’t have that data you can still personalize your website experience by manually grouping products that you know customers typically purchase together (think of this as a “Frequently Bought Together” section). Just make sure any manual recommendations are relevant to the items your customer views or buys.
When your customers visit your website, every action they take and page they view gives you valuable data about themselves and their shopping preferences. You can use this information to provide personalized offers in real-time. For example, you can track how your users land on your site. If they come from a specific referring website or clicked through an email promotion, you could have a prompt appear that offers a specific promotion or points them towards a specific product based on where they came from. You can also use their location to tailor the content presented to them. If your customer is visiting your site from out of state, you could present an offer that provides a discount on shipping. Use what you know about your customers’ online behavior to present the promotions or information that will convert them from being a browser to a buyer.
As more websites ask consumers to create a user profile in order to save their preferences, such as shipment or payment information, more people are forgetting their usernames and passwords. In many instances, consumers are opting to abandon a transaction altogether instead of resetting their account to get a new password. Rather than asking your customers to create a unique account on your website to store their information for fulfilling orders, you can offer them a social login option that allows them to use their social media profiles to automatically create an account. Along with streamlining the buying process for your customers, social login provides a number of ways for you to further personalize your business’s online shopping experience. One of the more important features that this facilitates is a “save your cart” option. Smart Insights has reported that on average, 75% of online purchases don’t occur because of abandoned shopping carts, which often aren’t saved because consumers don’t want to deal with the hassle of registering for a user account. With just a few clicks, they can use the information from their preferred social media profile to set up an account on your website and save their shopping cart for a later purchase. Once a purchase has been made, they can also use a social login to seamlessly transition to writing a product review or posting about their experience with your business to their social network. That’s a chance for you to encourage your customers to spread the word about your business and hopefully attract new traffic via their friends and followers.
Combining what you know about your customers with the wealth of data available through your website gives you a number of ways to better personalize your customer’s online shopping experience. If you don’t have the data you need to get started, consider doing some thorough customer research to understand how your customers spend their time online and what level of personalization they’ll find appropriate. It will be well worth your time and effort.
Written by Heidi Capodanno
Director of Customer Experience, Union Savings Bank