This is a guest story by Victoria Greene, an eCommerce marketing expert.
People love to feel listened to and supported by brands — often, it’s the only way to make a sale in today’s market.
And with all the available data — from metadata to user behavior and CRM data — not getting personal seems crazy.
In fact, at the heart any successful modern eCommerce or retail strategy lies a personalized experience.
There are many ways in which you can provide a more streamlined and personalized customer journey, but it’s important to stay within your means, and focus on strategies that are optimal for your business niche. What works for Netflix or Uber, isn’t necessarily going to work for you.
The most critical thing to focus on is harnessing your business data. This will enable you to make better decisions about your marketing approach, and provide the best online shopping experience for your customers. Read on to find out how.
Understand Your Audience With Data
Naturally, it’s far easier to create a personalized customer experience when you know something about your audience. So the first batch of data you’ll need to consider will be demographical.
- Does your audience fall into any specific age groups?
- Where are your customers located, globally?
- How does your audience consume content, and on what platforms?
- When are your customers online, and how do they spend their browsing time?
- Are there any specific interests common to large proportions of your audience?
These details not only help you to form your overall marketing approach, but also enable you to build highly specific buyer personas. As a consequence, you can build micro- and macro-conversion strategies designed to appeal to specific personas, about which you have a detailed understanding.
The advantage of this is that while the persona may not be a direct match with any individual member of your audience, it will be very close to a large number. This means your marketing tactics will resonate more directly with individuals, causing them to feel more connected with your brand.
Harness user, audience, and customer data — and see how and when they overlap. Learn from the patterns the data is showing you, but don’t forget to connect up the dots by talking to sales and support teams. There might an interesting backstory that merits further investigation — data isn’t always the full story.
As you collect data about individual customers, you will gradually develop sophisticated taste profiles for each of them. These profiles not only provide insights into buyer behavior and preferences, but also contribute to your pool of demographic data.
The benefit here is that you will ultimately build up a database of correlations between particular habits and interests. Similar to the advantages of using buyer personas, this data means that even for a brand new customer, you can provide accurate recommendations, and on-point marketing messages, based on minimal data about them as an individual.
This is because, via a combination of machine learning and qualitative analysis, you can make predictions about a person’s preferences, based on the information you have about people similar to them. The advantage of this is that you can immediately win someone over by giving the impression that you are already on the same page, and that you understand their individual needs.
Embrace New Technologies
As you will already have noticed, even recent developments in marketing tech have become more the expectation than the exception. Your customers know what’s out there, and they want you to be up to speed with the latest tech. This means you need to have your finger on the pulse of the industry at all times, and maintain a fluid enough marketing strategy to embrace new developments as they manifest.
Of course, this doesn’t mean throwing out your old approach just because there’s something new on the table. If your strategy is effective, it would be unwise to simply discard it and hope that the new approach will measure up. Plus, sudden, dramatic change can be jarring for your audience, and may put them off altogether.
In general, it’s sensible to gradually integrate new ideas into your customer experience strategy, allowing it to evolve with your audience. As such, you will always be providing something that is in line with their expectations, and in keeping with marketing personalization best practices at any given moment.
Some critical technologies you should be integrating if you have not already are machine learning, AI, and AR. These features will enable you to provide more targeted, cohesive, and innovative shopping experiences, that keep customers interested and engaged, even when they are not interacting directly with your business.
Depending on which eCommerce software you use, AI-integration via APIs and plugins should be easy. WordPress users benefit from a diverse AI-led WP plugin and widget ecosystem, but store builders like Shopify are also coming up the ranks with more and more AI apps — including their very own AI marketing buddy: Kit. These advances are a testament to the retail data revolution and the onward march of data-led commerce.
Cultivate an Omnichannel Experience
As we all know, most people consume content on the go, and many will even switch between two or more devices. In fact, this can mean that someone finds your website via mobile browsing, but switches to their pc in order to make a purchase. The most important thing to remember here is that this is the point where it is extremely easy to lose a lead.
As such, you should put some time into creating a seamless omnichannel experience. This means that even when switching devices, customers can continue as if nothing had changed. Is their basket preserved? Can they quickly and easily navigate back to where they were on your website? Are their user preferences retained when they switch to another platform?
Having customer accounts makes this far easier, and also enables you to add personal touches such as addressing them by name, or offering exclusive discounts. This consistency boosts the sense of connection with your brand, and enables customers to have more control over their journey, as they can safely switch devices at any time.
Be Present and Accountable
Sometimes things will go wrong, no matter how diligent you are. The important thing is how you handle these situations. Acknowledge complaints, be accountable, and offer a swift and practical solution. After all, everyone makes mistakes, but these occurrences can often be turned into positive publicity if handled well.
The other half of this is simply being present. If you have social media accounts, a forum, or even a commentable blog, your audience needs to know you are paying attention. Try to get involved in conversations, offer positive insights, and aim to solve questions and queries even if the answer already seems obvious.
AI and chatbots can be especially helpful here as they enable you to put a system in place whereby there is always someone available to answer customer queries. For more complex questions, the AI can refer matters onto the relevant member of your team. You should also ensure that your website and social media profiles state clearly when you are available to talk. Otherwise, users may assume they’re being ignored, simply because you’re not around at the time they attempt to get in touch.
Reach Out and Retarget
After converting a lead and gaining a customer, retention is the next step. Repeat business is the lifeblood of many online businesses, as it provides a steady baseline income, modified by the volume of impulse and one-off sales. However, even the most loyal customer may disappear for a while, or forget how to find you. This is where retargeting comes in.
- Is it time for someone to restock on a certain item? Why not email them with a reminder and a token discount on that product?
- Perhaps you have a new product about to be released? You could notify customers who are most likely to be interested in that product, and even give them a sneak peek at what’s to come.
- Send a brief thank you after someone places an order. Not only is this a pleasant gesture, but it also serves as confirmation that the order has been received.
There are many ways to retarget customers, from email automation to well-timed push notifications. The best method for you will depend on your audience and how well they are likely to respond to each of these methods. And of course, machine learning and segmentation strategies make it far easier to isolate the most promising leads, and select the best method for reaching out to each person.
Seal the Deal
Ultimately, data-driven personalization is the secret to securing those conversions, and turning your marketing leads into paying customers.
- Implement quality machine learning tech to gather and analyze data about individual buyer habits, and process this to provide insights into consumer behavior as a whole.
- Construct buyer personas and adjust them according to shifts in trend data.
- Encourage customers to sign up on your website, so you can win them over with highly personalized tactics, from using their name, to offering an exclusive discount on a product they love.
- Split test ads, and explore consumer engagement with individual approaches, so you can continuously optimize your technique.
Your customers underpin the success of your business, so you should always be exploring new ways to keep them interested in your brand. Ask for feedback, run surveys, and provide genuine insights into the aspirations and expectations of your business.
Over time, this will give customers a greater sense of control over their interactions with your business. Furthermore, by involving them in decisions about your business’ future, you create a sense of investment in the business, as customers feel that they have played a direct part in its evolution.
Remember, your audience and its preferences will be continuously changing, so to maintain a truly personalized experience, your strategy will need to evolve with them. This means keeping a careful eye on your performance metrics, watching out for shifts in market trends, and staying up to speed with all the latest tech.
Naturally, this requires a good deal of time and dedication, but the more accustomed you become to the requirements of your audience, the easier it will be to adjust your strategy accordingly. Plus, as your business grows, and relative taste profiles become steadily more complete, you will be able to make better predictions, and provide all-round improved personalization across the board, even for your newest customers.