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The Personal Touch Matters Even In eCommerce

There’s something so comforting about walking into a small town diner where everyone knows who you are.

The servers already have your favorite kind of pie ready, they know how you take your coffee—they even ask about your friends and family. eCommerce shouldn’t be all that different from Sue’s Diner, not really. As a marketer you can access more personal information about your shopper than those servers could ever know about their regulars, so why are you giving them a far more generic experience?

The old high pressure car salesman/sales funnel models are gone and they’ve been replaced with something a lot simpler, and far more intuitive. Your customers want to be known, they want a personal experience and they want to be treated decently. eCommerce order fulfillment couldn’t be simpler, but marketers are still overthinking it and missing the mark.

Building Relationships That Last

It wasn’t that long ago that corporate business firmly believed that repeat customers really didn’t matter—people could come back or they couldn’t, eventually everyone would come around.

Those power players were spending a lot of money on acquiring new customers when they had existing customers that would be profitable and loyal lifetime fans if they were only nurtured. In fact, analysis of customer data by Harvard Business School and Bain & Company found that increasing customer retention rates by a mere five percent could increase profits by 25 to 95 percent, depending on the industry. Early on, the Harvard experts found, customers can cost as much as 20 to 40 percent more for eCommerce companies, but by months 24 to 30, those repeat customers spend twice as much as they did than in their first six months.

Experian’s Q2 2016 Email Benchmark Report showed similar results. For example, brands that sent emails thanking customers for their purchases saw twice the open and click rates and five times the transaction rates of promotional mailings. Welcome emails to point of sale subscribers had a 32 percent higher click to open rate than for subscribers obtained in any other way.

Customers are crying loudly for a little attention, but eCommerce retailers are still not hearing them. All they want is for you to get to know them. This means more than adding their names to emails or remembering what color scheme they preferred—but you can use the huge amount of data around your shoppers to get to the heart of the matter: What are their interests? How can your products solve their current problems?

When Does Personalization Get Creepy?

There’s a caveat to being personal and helpful, though.

The creepiness factor is a real problem and a serious turn-off for shoppers. It’s one thing to know they prefer high heels or denim jackets and yet another to mine their data so deeply that you learned the lyrics to their favorite song in high school. Computer learning is certainly capable of deep personalization, but there are limits.

The problem is that some people are ok with your software knowing everything that’s in their diary and there are others who really aren’t. There’s not a perfect solution to this, but a good answer for now is to simply ask permission. It’s another form of permission marketing for the digital age. You should be very clear about what data you’ll be using and what you’ll be doing with it, and let your customer decide if they want a personalized digital shopper.

Although customers are still pretty divided on personalization, more want it than don’t and the interested parties are growing all the time. Learning how to harness the power of personalization, or at the very least, segmentation, can give help increase your sales dramatically and build loyal customers who will return for years to come.

November 01, 2016
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