Time to Take E-commerce Personally

January 27, 2015 Shaun Ryan

Thumb up 2015At the beginning of each year, many people ask me what trends to expect in e-commerce technology for the year ahead. For 2015, I see vast opportunities for increased personalization in the online shopping experience.

Most retailers do a poor job of personalization because they don’t know enough information about their customers, or because the information they have is poor quality. Their knowledge is limited to what they can gather through the interactions customers have with them, which are inevitably a small part of shoppers’ total retail experiences – plus they often lack context.

An example of failed personalization is when I recently logged on to Amazon and saw an array of suggested romance novels – not because I’ve read or purchased them, but because my wife did so using my account. Although Amazon has information about a lot of purchases made on my account, they don’t know who those purchases are for. Other retailers know even less about me than Amazon does and are likely to make even worse recommendations.

As an industry, I think we can do a lot better with personalization.

Customers Expect a Personalized Experience

Shoppers enjoy having a seamless shopping experience. For example, in our core competency areas of search, navigation and recommendations, if these work well then they’re almost invisible to shoppers – shoppers just know that they’re getting what they want quickly and with minimal effort. There is an opportunity to use personal information to improve this experience further. Most online shoppers are willing to have a site gather and store personal information about them if they know that it will benefit them in the future. For instance:

  • In a study by ClickFox, more than 80 percent of respondents said they expected retailers to know their purchase history and past consumer experiences
  • In a survey by Accenture, 73 percent of consumers said they prefer doing business with retailers who use personal information to make their shopping experience more relevant

While consumers expect and prefer the personalized shopping experience, they also want the ability to control how their personal information is used. Trust is also a critical factor, and retailers can best earn customers’ trust by consistently providing secure and positive shopping experiences.

Personalization is a Priority for SLI Systems

At SLI Systems, advances in personalization are among our high priorities for the coming year. In supporting more than 1.5 billion search queries last month, we have a wealth of insight into search and conversion patterns for shoppers around the globe. When we combine that knowledge with our team’s decades of expertise in site search and navigation, there’s a lot we can do to continue improving the ways we help shoppers quickly and easily find what they want to buy.

Personalization takes many forms and SLI already offers several ways of personalizing the shopping experience. We show recent searches and recently viewed products, which are simple but very effective. We also offer the ability to use cookies that identify brand preferences during browsing in order to offer more personalized product suggestions.

We also have customized solutions for customers that want to auto-filter based on gender or other previously-gathered customer information. For example, when you navigate on BodenUSA.com to the women’s section of the site – then perform a search for “shoes” – the SLI engine remembers you’re looking at women’s products and keeps you in that section for your subsequent searches, unless you specify otherwise.

There’s a lot more we can and will do with personalization. I look forward to unveiling future products and features that bring personalized shopping to an entirely new level.

To hear more on this subject, I invite you to listen to the on-demand version of our latest webinar, “The Shopping Experience of the Future.” On the webinar, I am joined by Lakeshore Learning VP of E-commerce Sam Sarullo and SLI Systems CMO Tim Callan to discuss personalization and other trends for 2015. 

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