Today’s consumers have an increasing amount of choices. Emerging brands and fashion styles, plus competitive pricing and year-round discounts, equates to tough competition among retailers. As a result, consumers have demanding expectations that retailers must respond to by easing the shopping process with a more individualized experience. Consumers also have less patience to shop with any one retailer, especially if they lack a strong connection with the brand. Therefore, retailers must optimize the shopping journey by delivering a personalized experience. Below are four key strategies for executing this smoothly.
Increase Product ‘Findability’
Retailers should guide their shoppers in a way that helps them quickly and efficiently find the products that are most relevant to them. Engaging shoppers early — such as on the homepage — with personalized offers and relevant product recommendations helps to shorten the purchase path and simplify the shopping process.
Consumers are particularly receptive to a visual shopping experience, with 40 percent responding better to visual information than plain text. Therefore, retailers can provide a shopping experience that stands out by offering visual product discovery features such as visual search and navigation, as well as implementing a visual product finder.
Create a Relevant, Connected Shopping Experience
To ensure that every offer and step of the shopping journey is as relevant as possible, retailers must leverage shopper behavioral data from across all touchpoints, including in-store and online shopping history as well as email engagement. It’s also especially important that retailers update online inventory in real time to avoid offering out-of-stock products or items already purchased on another platform.
With real-time behavioral data and real-time inventory updates, retailers can confidently incorporate special offers and deliver unique, timely and personalized shopping experiences to individual shoppers.
Reduce Abandonment With Enhanced Engagement
Seventy-three percent of shoppers have abandoned a retailer’s website because they couldn’t easily find what they wanted. This is a painful statistic, as it could be significantly reduced if retailers improved their relevant product "findability" or enhanced their engagement efforts.
Smart retailers deploy a variety of personalized features that encourage engagement on the homepage. Instead of a generic banner image, retailers should present a targeted hero image that depicts an activity/product that’s appealing to the individual shopper. For example, for a female from New York who recently browsed running shoes, the image might portray a woman running in the snow sporting winter fitness gear; meanwhile, for a San Diego male who recently bought a warm weather tent, the image might portray a hiker with lightweight backpacking equipment. The homepage is also a great place to introduce relevant buying guides, product information resources and product recommendations relating to recent shopping history.
Deploy Email Personalization
Email personalization is a great method to encourage engagement and improve conversions. In fact, 81 percent of shoppers are more likely to make a purchase after receiving a personalized email. This helps explain why so many retailers send targeted promotional emails, which increase awareness to their promotions while highlighting the components that are most likely to intrigue each specific individual. Retailers often send a series of timely promotional emails as part of email campaigns to inform consumers about new deals or expiring offers.
Every transactional email should include targeted loyalty offers and relevant accessory product recommendations. Since nearly 100 percent of transactional emails are opened, and they reach shoppers right after they’ve made a purchase, this is the perfect time for retailers to re-engage shoppers with loyalty programs and additional offers.
Retailers can entice shoppers who have abandoned their purchases or browsing sessions by sending remarketing emails offering the products that were viewed or left in the cart. It’s best practice to send a set of three emails, the first within 24 hours of session abandonment. These remarketing emails should provide an incentive for shoppers to purchase the items they previously viewed, such as free shipping or a discount, or suggest alternative, relevant items.
Retail sales growth was inconsistent throughout 2016. This can be partially attributed to retailers launching an increasing amount of promotions and specials at various times throughout the year, not just during the holiday season. We can expect this trend to continue in 2017, meaning consumers will have plenty of enticing options throughout the year, and retailers, more than ever, need to deliver a smooth, personalized shopping experience.
Meyar Sheik is the CEO of Certona, a multichannel personalization platform.