Competition is growing in online retail, and to win in this industry in 2018, online retailers need to differentiate themselves by providing a personalized customer experience that is more engaging and more memorable than their competitors. Shoppers today are more tech savvy than ever, and they love shopping experiences that are fast and convenient. Online retailers have found that personalizing the shopping experience is the fastest way to connect shoppers with products that they’ll love.
In this blog post, we’ll outline the top three ways that you can create a personalized shopping experience for your customers. Following these tips will help you learn more about your customer base, expand the impact that social media channels have for your business bottom line and drive ecommerce sales through personalized product recommendations.
Ask Questions and Collect Answers: Get to Know Your Customers
We’ve all sent a personalized greeting card to a friend or family member. A personalized greeting includes the recipient’s name and address, along with a personal message. Our personal relationship with the recipient helps us choose a greeting card they might like and to craft a meaningful message that we’ll write inside. If we include a gift, our knowledge of the recipient helps us decide what to buy – we know their likes, dislikes and interests, their hobbies and habits, and we can figure out how to make them happy.
As an online retailer, you should realize that creating a personalized shopping experience for your customers means that you have to get to know them. Just like your family and friends, you need to learn their names, their addresses, their likes and dislikes, their habits and their preferences. You’ll also want to track their buying behaviors, purchase history, browsing activity on your website and engagement with your brand across platforms.
It’s not enough for businesses to assume that they know and understand what their customers want, and the best way to learn more about your customers is simply to ask! Customers should be given the opportunity to engage with your brand across multiple platforms, including online via your e-commerce store, through social media on their mobile device or inside your bricks-and-mortar locations.
Giving customers the chance to submit their e-mail address in-store or online to receive personalized promotions, or offering a discount to shoppers who showcase their new purchases on social media is a great way to learn more about your customers while driving brand loyalty. Smart retailers deliver customer satisfaction surveys once a shopper has made a purchase, even offering a coupon for shoppers that complete the survey. This creates an incentive for the customer to engage and allows retailers collect feedback on the customer journey.
What these examples all illustrate is that customer engagement is a two-way street – your business benefits from increased brand loyalty and new customer information, and the customer needs to benefit too, either with a special discount code or a promise to receive personalized promotions in the future.
Online retailers should also adopt an omnichannel approach to managing customer interactions. Customers should be able to engage with brands across multiple channels and retailers should collect and blend data collected from all channels to provide a seamless customer journey. Personalization in online retail sales means tracking the customer journey across platforms – they can view the catalog on their mobile phone, add items to their cart on their desktop at home, finalize their purchases in-store, and fill out a customer satisfaction survey via e-mail once they’ve received their purchase. Brands should integrate their marketing efforts across platforms to reach customers where they are and promote engagement on multiple platforms.
Reward Brand Ambassadors for their Efforts
Social media offers online retailers new opportunities to enhance customer loyalty and engagement by rewarding the loyalty of brand ambassadors. Millennial shoppers are tuned into what brands are generating buzz through the social sharing platforms they frequent, especially Instagram and Facebook. In 2018, prospective customers are more likely to purchase a product based on a recommendation from a friend than they would be based on an advertisement, and retailers that create the right social sharing incentives around their brand can benefit from “social proof” that their products are loved.
Brands can start be featuring user-generated content on their ecommerce websites and on marketing materials. Shoppers love the idea that a photograph taken from their Facebook or Instagram post could be featured on a website that thousands of people will visit – they want their social media profiles to be associated with your brand. When shoppers see user-generated content on your ecommerce website, it acts as social proof that your brands are popular online and in the community and encourages shoppers to get in on the latest trend.
Retailers that haven’t started capitalizing on social media yet are missing out on a lot of cost-effective advertising and customer engagement opportunities, but it’s easy to get things moving with the right strategy. Start by building your social media presence – connect with online retailers and industry leaders, and look for opportunities to engage with your followers. Promote your social media accounts and hashtags wherever you engage your customers now, including whenever they buy from you. When your brand followers do engage with you online, take the time to thank them personally and offer something in return – access to special sales or a coupon code for their next purchase.
Rewarding shoppers that are willing to showcase your products on their social media is a great way to generate brand loyalty, drive word-of-mouth advertising and give back to your most devoted customers.
Deliver Hand-Curated Product Recommendations
Shoppers rely on online retailers to make it easy and convenient to find the items they want in an ecommerce store. Just like in physical stores, a motivated shopper doesn’t walk up and down the aisles aimlessly until they find what they’re looking for – they scan the directory for the item’s location and go straight to it. When a customer lands on your ecommerce page, they want to do the same thing – quickly navigate to the department and product that matches their needs.
Hand-curated product recommendations are the best way to put desirable products in front of shoppers in your ecommerce store. Our platform acts as a virtual style advisor for online retailers, showcasing outfits made from products in your catalog with your on-brand styling guidelines. For shoppers in your ecommerce store, Stylitics acts as their personal style advisor, showing them how to pair and wear items of their choice according to the latest fashion trends.
Online retailers are also using customer experience optimization platforms to gather more consumer data about preferences and demographics. Retailers can collect demographic data in CRM tools and blend it with website behavior analytics and customer preferences to improve the way marketing and promotions are targeted.
With behavior analytics, online retailers can mine website data to determine what items are most frequently bought together. Then, when a shopper purchases one of those items, the product recommendation engine can recommend the right products that complement the purchase. The synergy of consumer data and website analytics gives online retailers the tools to start delivering the right product recommendations at the right time to trigger a sale.
Giving your online shoppers the personalized experience that they crave can boost customer engagement, enhance brand loyalty and drive sales – and you’re closer than you think to making it happen. Start by getting to know your customers – create more channels for them to engage with your brand and cross-promote your channels to create even more buzz. Integrate the customer journey across channels to provide a seamless omnichannel experience, and always make sure that the customer benefits from the engagement.
Social media is a great way for brands to feature user-generated content in their ecommerce websites and marketing materials while boosting brand loyalty and establishing social proof that influencers online love their products.
Finally, shoppers crave hand-curated product recommendations that inspire their creativity and match their interests. Online retailers can deliver customized product recommendations by collecting customer demographic data and blending it with website analytics, purchasing history data and customer preferences. The end result is the right product recommended to the right person at the right time – a truly personalized shopping experience.