Gone are the days when personalization was a nice-to-have for retailers. Today, personalizing the shopping experience for customers is a must—and this is especially true in the wake of COVID-19. As more shoppers flock online to buy everything from basic needs to discretionary products, the onus is on retailers to provide them a seamless, personalized experience or risk losing them to competitors. To discuss how excellent personalization strategies will help retailers attract and retain customers, Digital Commerce 360 spoke with Meyar Sheik, president and chief commerce officer at Kibo.
What have been the biggest personalization challenges confronting retailers during the pandemic?
COVID-19 caught retailers off guard. Even if they had a solid personalization vision, most suffered from a lack of resources— and they just had to try to survive. This is where relying on a reputable solutions provider to handle the heavy lifting involved with personalization initiatives and strategies could help.
COVID-19 aside, any personalization strategy is only as good as the data that goes into it. Personalization is like an engine, and data is the fuel. Many retailers struggle to collect and utilize that data—so their personalization strategies don’t perform well.
Why is personalization particularly important in today’s ecommerce environment?
There’s been a surge of sales with Amazon, Walmart, and other large chains throughout this pandemic. The big getting even bigger has only put more pressure on an already-challenged group of retailers trying to compete—even pre-COVID-19.
By utilizing data to get to know the customer, retailers can deliver the personalized, frictionless experience that today’s customers expect. And that’s the biggest differentiator they can have because they can’t out scale or outprice the bigger players.
How does testing and optimization help retailers with their personalization strategies?
Personalization is a combination of art and science. The science is where you rely on that high-fidelity data about the customer—their browse behavior, what they did in each channel and what products they purchased. The art is merchandising, where retailers rely on their own intuition to decide what products to promote and how to make the customer’s experience good. Testing and optimization validate those intuitions.
For example, a retailer takes a percentage of its traffic and assigns it to a test group and compares it against a control group to see how conversion or click-through rates measure. It doesn’t replace the retailer’s intuition, but it helps validate it quickly.
How are BOPIS and BOPAC helping retailers manage these challenges?
Because of store closures, a lot of retailers’ revenues have plummeted. Those that offered flexible fulfillment options like buy online, pickup in store (BOPIS) and buy online, pickup at curbside (BOPAC) could leverage their stores as local warehouses and mini distribution centers. Retailers often personalized those experiences by making recommendations, based on that customer’s order, for other products they had in stock at that store. With the pandemic, these touchless, frictionless options like BOPAC are important to satisfy customers and boost revenues. And in a lot of cases, BOPAC is even faster than Amazon.
How steps should retailers take to implement a personalization strategy quickly?
First, retailers should know that personalization is not technology. It’s their customer retention strategy. They should find a technology partner that understands that and offers a comprehensive personalization platform.
Kibo, for example, helps retailers collect and understand that critical data. And our platform offers testing, autonomous optimization and content personalization. Retailers that approach personalization as a strategy—not a “check the box on a feature”—are the ones that do well.