Seamless personalization is key in 2022: Experts weigh in

Editor’s Note: This is the second article in a series of ecommerce predictions for 2022.

Ecommerce has been on an upward trajectory for years. But when the pandemic hit in early 2020, many brands shifted to digital sales and customers demanded better from online retailers. According to Experian, 60% of consumers “have higher expectations of their digital experience” than before the pandemic1.

From marketing communications to customer service, brands need to personalize customer touchpoints in order to compete in this new environment.

Three ecommerce experts weigh in on what brands need to do to personalize the customer journey—and meet shoppers’ new expectations.

Acquire and retain customers with personalization

Many experts agree that email blasts are a thing of the past. If you segment your email and SMS subscribers by their behaviors and preferences, it will go a long way to creating a loyal customer base.

“Marketing and communications will become much more tailored to individual consumers,” Sara Du, CEO and Cofounder of Alloy, predicts. 

“Sending the same message to everyone may have worked in the past, but technology has advanced and consumer expectations have advanced with it,” adds Tina Donati, Senior Marketing Manager at Fuel Made.

With increased competition and higher customer expectations, you can’t afford to send content to customers that isn’t relevant to them. If someone’s shopping for women’s leggings, they probably don’t care about your upcoming launch for men’s dress shoes. It’s best to save that email and SMS campaign for the customers who would actually be interested.

“Think about it: if you prefer white wine but a brand keeps sending you emails about red wine, would you engage? Probably not,” adds Donati. “But if that brand knew that your preference was a dry, fruity Riesling and every email they sent you included Riesling recommendations, you’d be much more engaged—and you’d probably eventually make a purchase.”

Tracking how customers interact with you and asking them for relevant information at the right time allows you to send content that they’ll want to engage with, while improving conversion and retention.

Personalized customer service is an essential ingredient for brands to compete in a saturated marketplace

Personalization goes beyond your marketing communications. Every touchpoint with your customers needs to be personalized, including your customer support channels.

According to Zendesk, 45% of shoppers say that the most annoying part of a bad customer experience is when they have to repeat information multiple times to a support agent, while 23% of shoppers say that they are frustrated when an agent doesn’t have enough information on file2. You can mitigate these issues by personalizing the customer support experience.

“We have to be proactive in working for our customers because people are now getting used to an exceptional customer experience,” says Martin Roy, President at Gorila Fitness. “It’s basically a matter of being the closest to Amazon’s customer service in your industry—and keeping it at that position.”

Getting support shouldn’t create work for your customers. To have effective conversations with customers, your customer support tools should be integrated with the data you collect on your customers. This includes purchase history, browsing data, and customer preferences. When your support representatives have contextual data at their fingertips, they can anticipate a customer’s needs and offer the best solution without asking a lot of questions.

Leverage Customer-First Data™ to scale personalization

The loss of third-party data and skyrocketing acquisition costs for digital ads has been challenging for many online retailers. Moving forward, brands will need to be “more focused on creating a personalized relationship with owned marketing data,” according to Du.

In order to personalize effectively, you need to be able to scale and create engaging, personalized marketing campaigns by collecting the right Customer-First Data. With this data, you can build segments to target the right people with the right messages.

Brands need to collect the right customer data to power their marketing campaigns

Customer-First Data is data collected directly from a customer or prospect. It includes zero-party data (information someone gives you proactively, like their email address and birthdate on a pop-up form) and first-party data (information you’ve observed about people on your owned channels like what products they’ve browsed on your website or links they’ve clicked on your SMS campaigns).

The more data you have on your customers, the better you can personalize their shopping experience.

Track behavioral cues. Purchases, email and SMS engagement, and products browsed can help determine what marketing efforts are most effective. These cues can also help predict relevant product recommendations and anticipate who is most likely to convert.

Ask your customers for relevant demographic and psychographic information for richer personalization.

“This information will help you create extremely targeted campaigns—and it’ll give you valuable customer insights,” says Donati.

Ask your customers about their preferences, needs, shopping intent, and other information relevant to your products. If you own a pet store, this can include what kind of pets your customers have. Or, if you sell candles—find out the reason why your customer made a purchase. A person who bought a candle as a gift should be targeted in a different way than a person who purchased a candle for a home décor project.

Donati recommends experimenting with all the places you can ask customers for data, including subscriber sign-ups, quizzes, surveys, post-purchase questionnaires, and preference centers.

UK razor brand Wilkinson Sword captures product interest in its signup form to segment its welcome series. This approach results in a high purchase rate of 39%.

Data integration is no longer a nice-to-have—but a need-to-have

Ecommerce has become saturated in recent years. Now, with the increased cost of acquisition, loss of third-party data, and the complexity of omnichannel experiences—it’s important to make sure that you’re putting the data you collect to good use.

Data integration is the glue that holds personalization efforts together. In order to personalize the customer experience effectively, all your systems need to communicate with each other.

“Every brand should ensure that data is shared between all of their tools and communications are personalized automatically,” Du says. “At a time when most brands are keeping their teams lean, automation makes an invaluable impact.”

Traditional personalization efforts only go so far. For example, take an athleticwear brand that releases leggings in new colors every season. Using transaction data, this brand sends an email or text to customers who have purchased leggings in the past, offering a selection of leggings in the latest colors. But if a customer previously gave those leggings a one-star rating, they’re probably not going to buy them again.

That’s why it’s important that your marketing communications are connected not just to your transaction data, but also to the data collected by your product review app. 

Scale personalization efforts so your brand doesn’t get left behind

Heading into 2022, every brand needs to personalize its marketing communications. Customer expectations will continue to rise, and you need to meet them to build a loyal customer base. Connect your entire marketing stack so that you’re communicating with customers in a way that shows you’re listening.

Continue to grow your email and SMS list to cultivate your owned relationships. Scale personalization efforts with a marketing automation tool like Klaviyo. Bring your customer data from your owned channels—like your website, email, SMS and customer service calls—into one place.

Finally, segment your audience by their behaviors and relevant attributes to your brand—and start sending the right messages to the right people to build long-lasting customer relationships.

New to marketing automation? Check out these tips on how to get started.

Sources:

1 “Consumer loyalty will remain for brands who keep up with today’s digital shift” via Experian

2 “The Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report 2019” via Zendesk

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