Customer engagement, no matter the business, provides the key to success for driving overall conversion and loyalty.
As the amount of available customer data continues to grow, so do the challenges of making sense of that information as it relates to true engagement.
According to T.J. Gentle, President & CEO of SmartFurniture.com, “in today’s ultra-competitive world, the advantage will go to those business leaders, digital marketers and retailers who are able to leverage their data to create personalized experiences that are truly relevant to their customers.”
Gentle points to Netflix as an example of a company paying close attention to the content each subscriber views and is factoring the subscriber’s subjective ratings (one to five stars) into their algorithms. This allows them to create highly personalized and relevant experiences for each customer, resulting in higher conversion rates and subscription renewals.
Gentle adds that extensive and engaging personalization is no easy task, but the benefits of captivating customers in a personal way have long been proven. Though this charge may seem daunting, it’s what good retailers and salespeople have been doing for hundreds of years.
The true goal of personalization is to become the perfect salesperson, someone who takes the time to get to know customers, has encyclopedic knowledge of products and combines the two into a perfect match, creating an intuitive and inviting experience for customers. Utilizing common sense, some clever technology and constant course correction, will keep customers coming back time and again.
Gentle says this practice is known as prescriptive personalization. Just like a doctor combines knowledge of a specific patient with understanding of diseases to diagnose a condition and write a suitable prescription for treatment, savvy retailers can combine customer preferences with comprehensive product knowledge and consumer data to prescribe a specific web experience that is engaging to each individual customer.
Here are some of Gentle’s thoughts on using data to build sales:
Obtaining the Right Customer Data: Gathering customer data must be easy for both the customer and retailer alike, the simplest and least obtrusive form of information gathering is automated; that is, statistical data based on IP addresses and zip codes. This is often not enough detail to create truly meaningful personalization, but the addition of a user-friendly quiz that asks the right questions can acquire highly relevant data very quickly. The key is knowing what questions to ask and how to present them. Questions should get at the heart of what you need to know to make a good assessment without burdening your customers.
Ask about budget, value proposition and stylistic preferences as well as anything that will help differentiate between the various products that have already been broken down and analyzed. Because many people do not categorize their preferences, it can be helpful to offer images of various products and ask customers to select which item they prefer. Finally, offering an incentive like a discount code can often increase customer participation.
Breaking Down Product Data: To achieve product segmentation, deconstruct each item into a set of fundamental attributes. Assigning values to characteristics like materials used, manufacture process, and length of warranty will help in determining quality levels, while attributes like style, price point, and dimensions are simpler to quantify. Be mindful to segment based on characteristics that are meaningful; for example, things like country of origin or curing processes may be important for some retailers and meaningless to others. This can vary significantly depending on what items are being marketed and who they are being marketed to.
Once enough information is available to create a number of segments for both customers and products, an algorithm can be designed to map the two together and customize a web experience that is intuitive and reduces clutter. Initial matches can be created using a set of logical assumptions, but testing and analyzing those matches is crucial. Conversions, customer satisfaction levels, and feedback can all be used to validate and tweak the matching process. Over time, this becomes easier and machine learning can eventually take over the bulk of the work.
Don’t be afraid to apply prescriptive personalization to various aspects of the web experience, it’s advantages don’t stop at product offerings. Theoretically, any aspect of content display can be personalized from actual messaging to how it is laid out on the screen. The key is to identify where the differences are meaningful and drive actual engagement.
Sums up Gentle: “There truly is no limit to what you can do with personalization. The question is what should you do? The simple answer is to use personalization as a tool to create a more meaningful connection between your customer and products. Personalization tools should be the place where you showcase your understanding of how your products solve the problems of your customers.”
T.J. Gentle is President of President & CEO of SmartFurniture.com,