Comment: Do you know what personalisation means?

Do you know what personalisation means? The most likely response to that question is ‘of course’. Everyone has a general sense of what personalisation means. But when it comes to actually personalising experiences for your customers – and understanding how to assess the results from such activity – it becomes a more complex issue.

This is partly because while personalisation is a hot topic in eCommerce, it remains a work-in-progress for retailers in terms of implementation – with many already up and running with campaigns of some kind but often only applying it to specific areas of their offering, such as email retargeting or product recommendations, rather than the whole customer experience from start to finish (and follow-up); which is clearly a far bigger project.

In essence, it means different things to different people. One retailer’s personalisation strategy may actually be regarded by another as localisation (ie. showing relevant currency pricing) or customisation (ie. providing the customer with the ability to select different product colours or sizes) rather than personalisation per se.

As a concept that’s still evolving and being rolled out by retailers, it’s also likely we’ll continue to see its meaning shift over time.

We published a report with Apptus to get to the bottom of what it really means and where it’s going – below we share three key things we learnt from our research.

Personalisation is not an end in itself

A common mistake is to do something for the sake of doing it – developing an app because everyone else is, etc. However, embarking on such activity should only ever be done for the right reasons, so, while it is becoming essential to start ‘doing personalisation’, it has to be supported by clear goals and targets that can be measured.

Personalisation campaigns should not be viewed as being independent or separate, but be integrated into the overall customer strategy of the business – and complementary to it.

It’s also important to understand that personalising an area of the customer journey isn’t the same as ensuring the experience remains highly relevant to the context of their engagement with your brand – which is what personalisation is all about, fundamentally.

Personalisation can be done badly

Implementing a personalisation campaign can lead to quick and impressive improvements in key metrics – click-throughs, conversions, engagements etc – yet it can be misleading to assume that this automatically means you are providing good experiences in the process.

It can, for example, lead to putting customers off through excessive overuse of follow-up email alerts and basket abandonment retargeting (that may also clash with other campaigns your business is running at the same time) and quickly change the communication from being relevant and interesting to annoying junk mail.

Remember that a clear and universal aim of personalisation is to build lasting relationships with customers – rather than just increase sales and margins, as that may be on a very short-term basis if handled badly.

Personalisation can be active as well as passive

Many probably think of personalisation strategies as being based on content and products relating to previous customer behaviour – such as items purchased, viewed, searched for, abandoned from their basket etc.

While this provides a strong platform to build successful campaigns upon, not all activity has to be based exclusively on past behaviour – which we might think of as having a passive strategy.

Some customers or site visitors may be very focused in terms of the product ranges they browse and purchase from, so it’s possible just being passive can lead to them never being exposed to any products outside of a very narrow range.

By constantly looking for opportunities to actively expose customers to wider ranges of products – in categories outside of their usual browsing behaviour – can help to extend the scope of interactions with them and, ultimately, support the further development of customer relationships.

Further information

Personalisation as a concept is far from being fully evolved yet – its meaning will continue to change in line with shifts in the enabling technology and more integrated retail implementations.

However what won’t change is the fact that, as with many things in the digital world, it won’t stand still – and neither can you afford to with a concept as key as this.

Download a copy of Personalisation: what does it mean - where is it going?

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