Whilst personalisation isn’t a new trend as a marketing tactic, it’s the volume of data available combined with the advances in technology that is making marketers efforts more impactful.
Understanding the impact that a personalisation strategy can have on any business is key:
D2C brands have to work harder than B2C brands
In more ways than one, Direct-to-Consumer brands have to work harder for conversions than B2C retailers.
“Indeed, they must introduce the brand to users, place the brand and products in as an appealing light as possible, avoid alienating users, and provide them with substantial brand and product information — all without overwhelming users with too much content.“
With the ecommerce industry seeing 10 years of online growth in 3 months, online consumers are rapidly becoming more digitally savvy.
Consumers are used to big retailers’ websites and the convenience they offer with a wide choice, easily filtered to what they are looking for, reviews, offers, online customer services and more. They expect this consistency across any website they use.
With the above in mind, ensuring your brand is visible at each stage is necessary. However, this is a big ask for any startup (or new to marketing your own) D2C brands.
The online shopping experience is now more immersive, personalised and engaging than it has ever been. The technology exists to allow all businesses to make more of the data they collect, turning it into strategic campaigns and allowing for greater levels of personalisation. This, in turn, helps to boost your conversion rates.
Can any brand use personalisation?
Any brand can adopt personalisation tactics, but should they?
When conducted well, personalisation can increase average order values and retention rates:
Customers want more personalisation. 65% of customers said they would be loyal to a brand if they got personalised offers.
On average, once companies implement personalisation, they see a 20% increase in sales.
But implementing offers and email newsletters, then overlaying that with exclusive content alongside the myriad of other tactics you use, can become overwhelming.
We’ve conducted numerous User Experience reviews for our clients to find buy buttons blocked by pop-ups, site search disappearing on mobile versions as the header is overcrowded with the navigation, non-consolidated menus on mobile and more.
Just adding on code-free plugins and extensions is not the answer to nailing your personalisation strategy. You need to know what data you are going to use, how you’ll use it, what channels shall support its efforts and what the ultimate goal of engaging in a personalisation strategy is for your business.
With benefits clearly evident, really understanding how to personalise your services/products for your consumers is key.
Some things to consider before adopting a personalisation strategy
Whilst there are certainly hundreds – if not thousands – of software options out there, they do require a certain amount of data to be effective.
Many of the tools offer “plug and play” options where little development knowledge is required – this is great for the D2C brands without a permanent dev solution.
But this ease of use and ability to automate tasks is powered by some form of AI learning, which when faced with limited data sets, can actually spit out some generic as opposed to personalised experiences. Make sure to review the details of any software provider, as many require a minimum amount of page views a month for their solutions to be truly effective.
Knowing what you’re looking to achieve from g your personalisation strategy should help you understand whether it’s software or alternative solutions that will help you succeed.
If you’re going to do anything, do these 3 things…
- Determine your customer segments (surveys to understand what’s important to which segment, describe various data sources that can be used etc)
- Establish your tech capabilities: anything is possible, but most things cost money and some more than others. Understand what’s possible with the platform you operate.
- Test and learn: create various hypotheses based on what you’d expect to happen to each segment. Take benchmarks, review, optimise and improve.
Personalisation Software Options
We’ve been lucky enough to get some direct insights from big players Personyse and PureClarity, whilst providing some details on some other familiar names in the personalisation software space.
Personyze provides a comprehensive personalisation toolkit, making practically anything possible. Any way our clients could verbally describe the website changing for any segment is more or less feasible. That means one of the chief challenges we face is to narrow it down to what to focus on for the client’s needs, especially in the beginning.
Of course, the advantage of automated AI tools is that all that’s required is to set up the widgets, which usually only takes us a day or two at the most. From there, the system runs itself. There’s even the possibility of training the algorithm with past transactions data, to get it started.
So, relatively quickly and with very minimal effort, the end customer has everything they’re looking for right in front of them. If they’re buying a smartphone, the most frequently bought accessories are right there, at every turn, with very little effort from the marketer.
After knocking out a few easy home runs like this, then we proceed to more sophisticated implementations, such as personalized push notifications, geo-targeted free shipping offers (based on how close they are to distribution centres), and other advanced use cases like these.
eCommerce Best Practices and Beyond
We see a wide variety of strategies and applications in this constantly evolving domain, but some common patterns have emerged, both in terms of what has become normalized as best practices, but also new patterns for those who wish to be ahead of the curve.
The following are examples of some of the highest-performing recommendation engine algorithms for various pages:
- Most Popular from Your Favorite Category (or most popular on the site, for new visitors)
- Recommended for You (machine learning-based)
- View It Again (for return shoppers)
- Don’t Forget Your Previous Cart (items left in the cart last time, if relevant)
Product Page Recommendations
- Frequently Bought Together (bundles, ideally with “item + item” display as seen on Amazon)
- Most Popular from this Category
- Those Who Viewed This Ultimately Bought
Cart Page Recommendations
- Frequently Bought Together with Your Cart Items
- Upgrades for Your Cart Items (up-sells)
- Popup recommendation to show cheaper alternatives when an item is removed from the cart
Of course, we’re really just scratching the surface here, there are many more e-commerce use cases that are proven to be highly effective, beyond product recommendations.
For instance, exit popups are your first line of defence against cart abandonment. Popups using exit intent technology can have targeted messages based on product interest, and can:
- Offer a coupon as an incentive to convert, perhaps with a countdown timer
- Offer to send them their cart, with a form if you don’t already have their email
- Show product recommendations in the popup, perhaps items on sale
Jonathan Riley, Success Manager, Personyze
PureClarity provides ecommerce personalisation SaaS solutions for the SME market, founded and run by people who really understand technology, the power of AI and online retail.
With easy to implement plugins for all ecommerce platforms, PureClarity saves clients time, and removes the stress of delivering personalised online shopping experiences manually.
Their expertise in understanding the challenges faced by online retailers, such as customer data interpretation, revenue goals and resources, coupled with a great personalisation feature set has enabled PureClarity to create a powerful and cost-effective ecommerce personalisation solution that delivers a positive ROI from the outset.
The full range of PureClarity features within their toolkit, available to every client regardless of size, vertical or business type, is used across a wide range of D2C, B2C as well as complex B2B industries including homewares, equestrian, sports and leisure, dental and medical, food and drink, beauty and fashion to name but a few.
Helping clients understand their customers is one of the initial key objectives. Enabling clients to segment customers based on a wide range of variables from previous and current buying behaviours, preferences, budget, geo-location through to cart contents, likes and dislikes…the list goes on.
Once customer segments are established, clients can effectively target each segment and individual through the use of PureClaritys personalisation tools, whether AI personalised product recommenders, custom-built recommenders, pop-ups, live chat or personalised content banners and carousels or email. With seemingly endless options, it allows clients to add the personalised experience at every touchpoint throughout the buyer’s online journey. Each feature has unique benefits but when they work collaboratively together are extremely powerful in driving revenue and loyalty.
Joanne Burman, Head of Marketing, PureClarity
As the number two rated a/b testing software out there, Optimizely is certainly a solution packed with loads of options to test and learn. But that is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the products on offer and personalisation forms a focal point for much of the offering from the platform.
Using data to identify the varied audiences ecommerce stores have, it’s the ability to track these various behaviours that make some of Optimizelys’ customers’ huge increases in conversion rates and revenue.
One such example would be how Missguided experimented with new business models, namely a new delivery service. Being able to easily segment audiences, it was possible to test a new premium delivery model of unlimited free next day delivery for a year. With a huge 177% increase in conversion rate with the test group, it was soon rolled out across the full customer base with Missguided now offering ‘unicorn delivery’.
Adding to this experiment, Missguided were looking to focus on another audience that they were trying to convert into more valuable customers: those which were teetering around the level of VIP customers. Understanding the number and frequency of purchases created a new audience dubbed as ‘Rising Stars’. With these customers being sent personalised offers such as buying three items for a 30% discount, lead to Missguided creating so many more of their valuable VIP customers.
Another big player in the personalisation industry, Qubit has been around since 2010 so is well established in the market, whilst making continual improvements to their offering all the time.
Much of Qubit’s impact on Ecommerce sites appears to come from the compound effect of utilising multiple solutions they offer, from 1:1 Product Recommendations and 1:1 Product Badging to Personalised Content. It certainly seems to be having that effect for many of their clients with results like this:
There are some great case studies on their site detailing how they’ve helped big brands achieve significant uplifts in their conversion rates, with one such example being River Island adding Urgency elements to product pages (X bought in the last 2 days etc) which saw a 6.2% increase in Revenue per Visitor.
Algonomy = Rich Relevance:
With the merger of RichRelevance with Manthan Software to form a new Digital Experience company called Algonomy at the beginning of the year, there is now a lot more on offer from this personalisation software.
RichRelevance was better known for its personalisation tool kit over the ability to perform A/B tests, as there was the issue that it did not integrate with Data Management Software, but this is no longer the case thanks to this new partnership.
This is a real step-change for the business, trying to encapsulate every detail required to run a truly scalable Ecommerce business that “allows companies to rapidly unify all customer data in a single platform for real-time AI-based decision making.”
This merger is the direct result of the surge to online shopping, trying to give businesses everything they need in one place to create, execute, test and improve every touchpoint of the customer journey. This definitely seems like a full-on Enterprise solution, however, and with the option to request a demo only, pricing is likely to be on the higher side.
If you really want a comprehensive review of nearly every piece of personalisation software worth checking out, the guys and girls at FreshEgg have such a comprehensive comparison guide covering the above and many more tools, you’ll definitely find the best option for your site.
Personalisation is not the only marketing tactic D2C brands should be implementing
Recent research from Baymard.com shows interestingly a difference in how consumers shop on D2C brands in comparison to that of B2C websites. It’s almost like there are trust issues, especially if it’s a startup:
Throughout our testing of large B2C sites (e.g., Amazon, Target, Office Depot, etc.), users are almost always in a product-focused mindset: they’re looking for a particular product that will in the end be suitable for their needs.
While many factors go into this decision making (e.g., the product price, variations, return policy, etc.), users are rarely observed to make decisions based solely on what they think of the brand itself.
In contrast, users on DTC sites — somewhat similar to users on digital subscription services sites — typically want to “get to know” the brand and products at a deeper level before they make a purchase decision.
In fact, many users want to feel like the site shares their tastes, values, and goals.
This has implications for what kind of information DTC sites need to provide, beyond “the basics” that are expected by users on almost all e-commerce sites (e.g., product titles, images of the products, etc.), as well as where and how the information is presented.
This presents great opportunities for D2C businesses to really distinguish their brand amongst their competitors in their given (often saturated) market.
Direct-to-Consumer Brands on a Mission
Cutting through the noise of brands fighting for consumer attention, there are many brands differentiating themselves by creating a brand with a purpose.
One of the most recognisable D2C brands at the moment is Allbirds, sellers of trainers completely made from natural ingredients, setting out “to make the most comfortable shoes on earth made from the earth.”
It’s a brand that has also made a commitment to its supply chain with long term contracts, leading the brand to be FSC Certified (no easy feat for any brand). Recycling, upcycling and using all-natural solutions is certainly something many people value with brands and certainly something you see many of the larger B2C brands looking to promote.
With brands creating products that stand for something or are helping towards a mission, they also often cost a little more than competitor products. This is true for the wonderful fashion label from the US called Eileen Fisher.
The average cost of a dress on the site is £200, whilst comparatively expensive to some brands, not terribly expensive. But it’s the angle Eileen Fisher take with their products:
Fabrics and designs created to last years, whilst if you decide you want some new items in between the years of use, you can recycle your clothes. “A simple wardrobe. A sustainable life.”
Restore is a brand of particular interest. Creating a completely new material to establish a brand that’s set to transform the world of disposable cutlery (and more) for the good!
After 10 years, 50 patents and a lot of hard work Restore created AirCarbon®, a naturally regenerative material found in the ocean. The team have managed to harness this new found technology to create products that are just-as-good if not better than the existing products on the market.
But the mission is much bigger than that and it’s an incredibly important value to individuals around the world:
Whilst the benefits of a personalisation strategy is clear, it’s vital that you know what you are looking to achieve when engaging one. It’s also important you understand what is realistic to implement based on your tech stack.
But one thing is clear, there are plenty of solutions to help you roll out a personalisation strategy with some AI-powered software – just make sure your data is accurate first and that the software has enough data to play with!