The state of ecommerce personalisation in 2018

17th April 2018

If you were to look at your sales numbers and add 19 percent to the bottom line - what impact would that have on your business?

Using ecommerce personalisation, that 19 percent is readily attainable – according to research from Econsultancy – by improving personalised product capabilities on your website. Personalisation, or mastering what exactly your customers want when they come to your website, is now big business.

Almost 60 percent of your customers want real-time personalised promotions and offers as they browse your website. Leading online retailers don’t view themselves in the “selling” business; they are in the “cross-selling” business. Their goal is to personalise the customer journey enough so customers purchase not only what they are searching for, but the complementary products and content they may not even realise exists.

These leading retailers have their customers in the driver’s seat when it comes to the journey; they use machine learning on their customers’ online user behaviour data, and the same retailers continuously learn the content and products that will lead to higher conversion rates, larger basket sizes and deliver it automatically.

The rest of online retailers, however, are falling short on ecommerce personalisation. Without a targeted understanding of what customers need, these big box stores are losing valuable insights from their customers, leaving them to wonder if the retailer understands their needs. Half-hearted attempts at personalisation are no longer an acceptable option – not when 74 percent of online consumers are frustrated when content is not personalised to their interests.

So why the delay for these online retailers? It’s complicated. Statistics show it’s a combination of many factors. Another survey found that marketers struggle to gain insight quickly enough (40%), have enough data (39%), and often deal with inaccurate data (38%).

The secrets of ecommerce personalisation

What makes the successful online retailers stand out? Some retailers are winning the personalisation game, but I’ll let you in on a little secret: they’re all using the same playbook. It covers how to get around the data challenges that their peers face.

  1. Personalisation through search. The search box is the holy grail for leading online retailers. The best online retailers are personalising product results for customers and then capitalising on that data. They are actively mining this data to build more and more advanced customer profiles, sending that feedback to product development, adjusting inventory levels and forecasting, and finally, informing its advertising and retargeting strategy. You just can’t be a successful online retailer these days without a more intelligent search box.
  2. Content recommendations. This is the virtual ‘upsell.’ Help point your users to the right content by auto-suggesting and recommending content. Extend this beyond the search box to create search-driven proactive suggestions that help customers make a decision. For example, create a comparison table with similar products so the user understands what the options are. Leverage machine learning to analyse and understand previous customer search history. This will allow you to customise content for the homepage and increase the conversion rate.
  3. Advanced usage analytics. Data everywhere: the mantra of every successful online retailer. The more sophisticated customer data is, the better your products and customer experiences are. Analytics on your search engine should also allow you to A/B test content, prompting you to continually refine your user paths and customer profiles. These should also show you where your product and content gaps exist. What terms are customers searching for, that are leaving your results coming up short? The answer may mean adjusting your stop words or synonym groups to match related words to their query, or even bringing it to the attention of merchandisers and buyers.
  4. Machine Learning. The relevance of your search results should continuously evolve – without a lot of manual effort on the part of developers. The most important aspect of your search practice is its ability to scale and grow as your product list, customers and content grows. Relying on developers to do the legwork means that as your business grows, the IT administrative costs will grow along with it.

Most online retailers know that they need to personalise, but the key to capturing that 19 percent increase in sales that competitors are seeing requires the solution to deliver on all of the above practices and align with your business priorities.

Coveo will be attending SUGCON in Berlin April 23-24 this year. Please drop by our booth and meet the EMEA team, or come along to any of our speaking sessions.

About Seamus O’Riordan and Coveo

Coveo are market leaders in site search and content personalisation. Their intelligent search platform can be integrated with Sitecore, Salesforce and a range of different platforms.

Seamus O’Riordan is Coveo’s Head of Business Development and Strategic Alliances for Salesforce and Sitecore in EMEA. Starting his career in consulting with Ernst & Young, Seamus has extensive experience building global partnerships. Seamus has worked closely with Salesforce before joining Coveo, most notably with Altify (The TAS Group). He also once managed Global Operations at Novell.