Aug 02

This Time it’s Personal

While the recession is still in full blow online sales have gone up 15% to £50bn. Yet to really  secure  those sales retailers have found that they just have to go one step further and this time it’s personal!

Echo E-Business Management’s managing director Deborah Collier says “Personalisation gives any etailer the competitive edge. Branding is important but the ability to engage customers and understand them is crucial in tough times.”

Personalisation has been a hot topic for some time, helping brands improve one-to-one marketing, customer segmentation, up and cross-selling. But today, it’s all about predicting what the customer wants before they even know they want it and then making them think it was their decision in the first place.

One etailer springs to mind as a brilliant example of personalised shopping: Amazon. Each time you log in they suggest new books, CD’s or DVD’s according to your previous purchases. But personalisation is more complex than this.

Guy Westlake, senior product marketing manager EMEA at ecommerce provider Vignette, suggests: “The most cutting-edge technologies track customers’ actions on your site and build a profile of their wants and behaviours from there. Within one or two clicks on the site, you can build up a picture of the consumer.”

Three-step process

However, in what may be seen as personalisation heresy, Westlake explains that, as a rule, our behaviour is never that individual and even if it were, you could never give every single person exactly what they wanted. Instead, he advocates a three-step process:

  • Use technology to harness the wisdom of crowds and understand your consumer to personalise the product offering. “It’s low cost, high return and has a short lead time to implement,” Westlake says.
  • Personalise the online experience taking the lead from social networking. “Retailers underestimate that customers love talking to each other. They like to have ownership of brands and it creates advocates further along the loyalty ladder,” he reveals.
  • Allow users to add their own further levels of personalisation. Westlake explains: “Sites such as the BBC’s draw users into the experience, create ownership of the online environment and make it a port of call rather than a sales channel.”


The biggest problem etailers face is people abandoning their baskets moments before checking out. One suggestion is to introduce a ‘Click to Call’ button allowing customers to talk through their purchase with an assistant. Customers feel reassured that they are getting the same level of service online as in store. Also, another problem is people spending a lot of time clicking through pages and abandoning the site leaving it inactive. One way to combat this is to include pop ups to remind the customer that they have un-purchased items in their basket.

Another problem is the log in procedure made simple by using Facebook connect- one click allows the site to use the data on Facebook to automatically create an online account- this speeds up the purchase process as this is where many people abandon their baskets.

Personalisation is now the new differentiating factor as retailers boost their websites and niche etailers pop up out of the blue. You want to stand out from the crowd- then make it personal.

3 Responses to “This Time it’s Personal”

  1. Jason See Says:

    “Another problem is the log in procedure made simple by using Facebook connect- one click allows the site to use the data on Facebook to automatically create an online account- this speeds up the purchase process as this is where many people abandon their baskets.”

    — Who does this? What percentage of customers that shop at a site with this feature actually utilize this functionality? With the hype of privacy on Facebook, I see this as a huge risk for the etailer.

  2. Kevin Howard Says:

    The relevance of Facebook Connect probably depends upon the demographic of your target market.

    I don’t see any real harm in providing an option to use Facebook Connect, however it’s benefit maybe nullified by people’s wariness of putting personal information into Facebook.

  3. Andrea Says:

    I have to admit that I have often utilised this facility it saves time writing all your info in to create an account with the retailer, but I do agree that it poses many privacy problems. When a user clicks to connect to Facebook, they need to be clear about how much information is actually going to be shared with the retailer. Eventually retailers may begin to use information such as your social habits, pages you like as well as detailed personal information. It often doesn’t give you the option of opting out of email communications (something that would arise when creating your account personally). I agree Kevin, with the hype over internet security many Facebook users often don’t put their personal information into their profile. One of the reasons why FB connect is so popular is that is goes some way to preventing spammers or people signing up fake accounts.

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