How Personalization Has Helped Waitrose Respond to COVID and Prepare for Coming Campaigns

June 12, 2020

With the UK Prime Minister telling customers to shop for food online on March 23, we, at Waitrose, experienced extreme spikes in demand very early in the pandemic. While meeting demand proved to be challenging, we were able to quickly pivot our messaging and online experience using personalization. 

Through personalization, Waitrose has implemented a variety of message slots that we rotate for specific times, locations, and customers to help us cope with this unprecedented demand. This sets our brand up well to quickly guide customers—a large contingent of which are first-time customers—to new information. It will also allow for easy additional changes in the coming weeks as locations open back up and restrictions relax. 

But many online visitors still need personalized attention and special consideration now. In fact, using Monetate’s personalization capabilities, every Waitrose customer touchpoint has had some form of optimization added to it in the past few months. As of this writing, we count 26 different intent-driven experiences across customer touchpoints—across our home page, slot booking, and checkout pages. As a result, four times as many customers (or 19%) have passed through a customized experience so far in 2020 compared to 2019. 

Different Support for Different Customers 

For at least the rest of the year, Waitrose plans to offer added online support across the following three categories: 

  • Touch-Free Collections – For patrons that don’t order delivery, touch-free collection (also known as curbside pickup) has become particularly valuable and will remain so. 
  • Information and FAQ – Certain customer groups will continue to need information about special store hours, cleaning and other store practices. 
  • Rapid Delivery – This newly added service has exploded in the London area, where Waitrose guarantees a 2-hour delivery for a cart of 25 items. 
personalized platform

And, for the many new online shoppers that Waitrose has added through the pandemic, we are now able to use our best practices, such as personalization with Individual Fit Experiences (IFEs), a AI-driven method for informing 1-to-1 individualized content decisions, to deliver relevant messaging across many shopping touchpoints.  

Waitrose used IFEs to test different messaging during a recent bank holiday weekend to compare oven-cooked messaging to barbecue messaging and were surprised to see the preference for oven-cooking. We’re also testing different personalized messaging on both product recommendations and on offer pages, where we have a lot of different promotions and want to ensure optimal targeting.  
To this end, we started flagging different preferences such as ‘family meals’ and ‘vegetarian options’ to guide our offers and have been able to increase CTR by 15.7% when offers were personalized, increasing AOV by 22%. 

Planning for the End of Year – Whatever May Come 

Looking forward to the end of 2020, there is so much uncertainty in the air, and so Waitrose has decided to stick to some firm favorites, such as the Christmas turkey, in our coming campaigns. 

As Christmas draws closer, we’ll personalize to any new customers and use IFEs and Majority Fit Experiences (MFEs), an AI-enabled method to route traffic to winning variants, to test more messaging. There will likely be many first-time online customers, and we’re now determining how to help them through that shopping journey. 

personalized platform

Even beyond the grocery realm, these are the three key takeaways other merchants can pull from when thinking of the months ahead: 

  • Be Reactive – Move quickly and be flexible to help with elements like last-mile delivery and product recommendations. 
  • Be More Personal – There are so many new online shoppers, and many customers need more help and more communication, so personalized messaging is particularly valuable. 
  • Be Agile and Iterate – Now is the time to set up for fast and easy testing at every customer touchpoint. 

Waitrose has the agile, personalized platform we’ve needed to get through the worst of the COVID-19 surge in online grocery shopping, and it has allowed us to reactive and personal in our approach. While no one wishes that such a situation arise again, the silver lining is that Waitrose is well set up to serve our online customers, new and old, during upcoming holidays, and in any future scenario. 

This post was written by Mary Simpson, the Digital Development & Optimisation Manager at Waitrose & Partners.