This post is contributed to GetElastic by Kevin Lindsay from the Adobe Digital Marketing Blog (and if you like Get Elastic, we highly recommend you head over and subscribe to the Adobe blog!) You can follow Kevin @kevinlindsay)
Last week I talked about how personalization has redefined the e-commerce landscape. Consumers demand relevant experiences before they click to buy—and if they can’t get what they want from you right now (whether they know what they want or not), they’ll go somewhere else.
Google has empowered customers to simply “x out,” pop in what they’re looking for and have it served up just the way they want it, in a fraction of second. Loyalty goes out the window if you resist integrating personalization. Instead, you’ll find yourself with a cadre of detractors that far outweighs the loyalists. And that’s a proverbial wasteland that no digital marketer wants to be in.
So what, exactly, are customers looking for when it comes to personalized journeys and relevant experiences? Plenty, but nothing so earth shattering that it should come as a surprise. And what’s more, the customer has the same goal as you: conversion. Illuminate the customer’s path to checkout and everyone wins. Sprinkle in a few targeted moments for good measure and you’re on your way to not just locking down the sale, but the long-term customer.
Say hi—and mean it
Everyone loves a friendly greeting, be it when you enter the store or the office, or while strolling down the street—and just because an interaction is happening online doesn’t mean it’s any less human of an experience.
Say hi to me when I land on your homepage. If you know my name, say “Hi, Kevin!” If you know I’m in San Francisco—and thanks to geolocation alignment, you should— show me something I might like right off the bat. If we haven’t met before, give me your warmest greeting, acknowledge that I’m new, and tell me something about yourself that will instantly engage and draw me in further, be it a discount, a special offer, or a unique point of differentiation. Something that says “pick me.”
Illuminate the path
When you find something great, you can’t wait to tell someone in your social circle. Think of your e-commerce as just that—a living, breathing social circle. So go to it! Tell them what you love, what your other friends—other shoppers—can’t get enough of, and what, based on their past purchases and real-time browsing, they might love, too.
Consumers are time pressed and efficiency driven. They want it yesterday. But, unless your site sells time machines, you’ve got to work in the now—as in right now.
For the known customer this is a slam-dunk, no-brainer. When it comes to these consumers, don’t overwhelm with choices; instead, curate content and products based on what you know about the shopper or his or her persona. Let the shopper pare down the options based on known needs in the moment, such as price point, color, or size. It’s easier than browsing the aisles, and more convenient than starting the search over. Cull more data and the shopper continues the journey, and keep the relevance coming.
And what about the anonymous user? Like I’ve said, this user still craves a relevant experience, even though it might not be so simple to decipher what that tactically means.
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Geolocation is a good, down-and-dirty starting point that most automated targeting systems can readily tackle and that lets you connect visitors to content and product based on where they’re coming from.
Two other tactics: deliver an offer that’s universally relevant but still special (20 percent off for new shoppers, free next-day shipping on a first purchase) or, simply, just ask. It’s amazing what “can I help you?” leads to. Store associates do it. Why not replicate that personal, one-on-one experience on your site?
Now about that cart
They came, they shopped, they loaded up their carts and … they left. This wouldn’t fly in the brick-and-mortar realm—barring something truly exceptional, when was the last time you saw a full cart just sitting mid-aisle?
Although e-commerce has made browsing more of a sport than ever, addressing those abandoned carts should be no less critical than it is in-store. The average online cart abandonment rate is nearly 68 percent. That’s a massive number of consumers you’ve pulled all the way through the sales funnel, until the very last step.
With so much of the legwork already done it doesn’t make sense to just shrink into the sunset and wave goodbye. Remind them of the fledgling relationship and ask them to come back—and see what you can do to make that happen. Maybe a surprisingly high shipping fee is to blame. Maybe they’re comparing prices elsewhere, and may or may not return. Maybe they simply got distracted, disconnected, or otherwise incidentally or accidentally disengaged, then lost focus.
A gentle reminder, a personalized outreach, or a friendly opportunity to reconnect can do wonders. Send an email with the contents of their cart—if they still need those items, they’ll likely take notice if not click back through. Offer up a “cart completion” discount with a short expiration window. Or, ask them if they’re still interested: “Are you still looking for a black leather men’s messenger bag? If so, we’ve got a bunch of perfect options at a variety of price points. Come take a look!”
One email may do the trick but, likely, a series of well-timed, well-targeted notes is needed to draw the reluctant buyer back. Create an increasing sense of urgency with each note—if the customer is interested, there’s nothing worse than coming back to a site and seeing your carefully constructed cart emptied out.
Create a customer, not a conversion
Sales are important, of course. But creating a long-term customer or, better, a dedicated loyalist or brand evangelist is the be-all, end-all. As the expression goes, “make a customer, not a sale.” It’s those repeat customers who, despite making up just 8 percent of site visitors, generate more than 40 percent of sales, converting at rates 5–9 times higher than a newcomer.
Consumers are looking for those warm, fuzzy, relevant moments when they enter your site. Whether it’s a great deal, a perfect product, or simply a sense of connection and belonging, e-commerce has become a relationship-driven science.
And because it’s not solely transactional but, instead, a true relationship on both sides, personalization is no longer an option—it’s a demand. Create the relevance customers are looking for and they’ll invest even more in that relationship. Ignore their need for relevant experiences and they’ll immediately assess the infinite options that exist outside of your site, and take their business and their loyalty elsewhere.
Kevin Lindsay heads up product marketing in San Francisco for Adobe’s
leading targeting and optimization solution, Adobe Target. He is an expert
on conversion optimization and personalization, and speaks frequently at
industry events around the globe. Kevin was with Omniture prior to its
acquisition by Adobe, and previously held product and strategic marketing
positions at search software companies Mercado and Verity. Kevin is a
Canadian expat who enjoys life with his family in the hills above Silicon
Valley. Follow Kevin on Twitter @kevlindsay