12 min read

7 step strategy for personalised customer experience

Ve Global
Ve Global
Digital Revenue Optimisation
7 step strategy for personalised customer experience

When we think of ecommerce, we rarely imagine a personalised customer experience. Without the face-to-face selling that makes in-store shopping so personal, how can online shoppers be targeted as individuals?

This is a misconception. Online shopping does not have to be a cold and impersonal experience. In fact, personalised customer experience is transforming the ecommerce market and encouraging shoppers to see online shopping as a fun, unique, and personal activity—even more so than the in-store experience.

If you own an ecommerce business or you are a digital marketer, you’ve surely heard other retailers and marketers extolling the benefits of delivering a personalised experience to customers. You might be wondering how you can deliver this to your customers.

If so, then look no further. This guide will tell you everything you need to know about personalised customer experience and offer simple yet effective advice on how you can deliver it to your customers.

Read on and learn:

What is personalised customer experience?

Marketers and ecommerce businesses use personalised customer experience to target customers on an individual level.

Personalised customer experience is delivered through website and marketing content based on individual customers’ demographics—such as location, age, and gender—browsing behaviour, purchase history, and other customer data.

ecommerce engagement meme

Delivering a personalised customer experience isn’t just about using your customers’ first names. Any email marketer can create emails that use customer first names. This doesn’t create an experience.

An experience delivers personalised, relevant content at every stage of the customer journey—from initial social media ads to follow-ups months after they have made a purchase.

The aim of providing a personalised customer experience is to deliver unique, relevant content that improves website user experience, customer satisfaction, customer retention, and website conversion rates.

Let’s use an example to dive into how this might work. Imagine you are searching for the best headset for business calls. You will browse plenty of websites and online reviews, but a personalised experience on one website could seal the deal.

After a few seconds of browsing on this website, you’re greeted by name by a Digital Assistant, which asks you questions about what you need a headset for, your budget, and your feature requirements. The Digital Assistant directs you to the best headsets for you and answers any questions you have in real-time.

This is just one example of a personalised customer experience, and we’ll be exploring more creative and inspiring ways you could deliver this sort of experience to your customers below.

Why is personalised customer experience important to marketers and ecommerce?

Before we get into how you can deliver a personalised experience, let’s consider why you should.

There are a lot of benefits to offering a personalised experience to your customers. Here are the most compelling ones with statistics to back them up.

Customers want and expect personalisation

Research by Epsilon found that 80% of customers are more likely to purchase products from a business that offers a personalised experience.

The increased expectation that brands offer a personalised experience is driven by ecommerce giants like Amazon, who have been delivering personalised content on their homepage to customers for years, most notably in the form of personalised product recommendations.

The reality is, personalisation is moving from being a customer want to a customer expectation. Managing expectations, be it the quality of your website or the level of personalisation in your email marketing, is an important way to showcase your business’s professionalism whilst also offering an opportunity to promote products and boost revenue.

The increased expectation that brands offer a personalised experience is driven by ecommerce giants like Amazon, who have been delivering personalised content on their homepage to customers for years, most notably in the form of personalised product recommendations.

The reality is, personalisation is moving from being a customer want to a customer expectation. Managing expectations, be it the quality of your website or the level of personalisation in your email marketing, is an important way to showcase your business’s professionalism whilst also offering an opportunity to promote products and boost revenue.

Keep your business ahead of the trend

The COVID-19 pandemic led to a boom in the ecommerce industry. In the U.K., April 2020 saw record high ecommerce retail sales, accounting for 30.7% of all sales—compared to 19.3% before the pandemic.

If you own or market an ecommerce business, you might be thinking, “Great! More sales!”. Whilst the booming ecommerce market is certainly great for business, it also means that new and exciting online retailers are appearing every day. The market is expanding, but it’s also set to become more competitive.

With customers wanting and expecting a personalised experience from ecommerce businesses, it’s vital that you deliver this so that you can keep the edge over your competitors.

Personalised customer experiences generate higher revenue

Personalised customer experience generates sales. One report found that 70% of companies who used advanced, AI-driven personalisation achieved a return on investment (ROI) of 200% or more.

Returning to the Digital Assistant example, let’s say you’re looking for phone systems for business. The personalised experience of being guided by a Digital Assistant convinces you that this is the business you should buy from.

It’s possible that their phone systems are a bit more expensive than their competitors, but the excellent personalised experience you had on their website convinces you to buy and even encourages you to recommend them to others.

Personalisation is a pillar of customer loyalty

Ecommerce business owners know that customer loyalty leads to customer retention and increased revenue. While some businesses are focused on how to get more customers and first-time website visitors in their personalisation efforts, an effective personalised customer experience strategy can also boost customer loyalty.

A 2020 report by KPMG found that personalisation was the strongest driver of customer loyalty in 19 of the 27 markets that they assessed. Customers want to feel that brands are meeting their individual needs and wants. If a brand can deliver this, they will see increased brand loyalty. Simple personalisation strategies such as product recommendations can make a huge difference to how customers perceive the business they are buying from and how likely they are to return.

Businesses use personalisation to get to know their customers

Another benefit of delivering a personalised customer experience is it also allows you as a business to gain a better understanding of your customers. Personalisation tools such as Digital Assistants record things like purchase history and frequently asked questions, and gather customer data such as age, gender and location.

Graphic: External data can help companies create value in several key areas.

Not only does this data allow for a more personalised customer experience, it is also useful for any ecommerce business’s product and marketing decisions. With customer data gathered through your personalisation efforts, you can do things like:

  • Track the customer journey on your website.
  • Determine the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns and social media channels.
  • Identify popular and trending products.
  • Segment customers based on demographics and purchasing behaviour.
  • Continue updating and improving your personalisation strategy.

Personalisation offers a 360-degree approach to the gathering, analysing, and use of customer data. Not only will a personalisation strategy help you show your customers that you are selling to them on an individual level, but it will also help you continue to do this in more effective and targeted ways using the data that it collects in the process.

Examples of personalised customer experience

Personalised product recommendations

When you open Netflix, you’re greeted with a bunch of interactive lists of film and TV titles. These are personalised, as they’re created using algorithms that analyse your Netflix history, though Netflix also throws in their recent productions and lists such as ‘Popular on Netflix’.

These personalised lists are important to the user’s online experience on the streaming platform as without them users may not find the TV and films they actually want to watch.

Popular on Netflix example

Ecommerce businesses can apply this approach to their own landing pages. Personalised product recommendations that incorporate the customer’s name (‘Top Picks for Emily’) on the homepage give users a personalised experience that encourages them to purchase products based on what they have browsed and purchased in the past.

Personalised product recommendations not only improve the personalised customer experience, they also offer an opportunity for ecommerce businesses to upsell, showcase their best products, and increase average order value (AOV).

Personalised social media ads

Have you ever browsed a website and a few hours later you’ve seen a personalised ad from that site on your social media feed? The ad could include products you were browsing and even products you added to your online basket.

ASOS social media ad

Personalised social media ads are a typical form of marketing automation and targeted remarketing. Website visitor data is used to target customers who have recently visited the website or filled their online shopping basket without making a purchase.

Personalised email marketing

Another type of marketing automation comes in the shape of personalised triggered emails that are sent to customers as a result of certain user actions.

A classic example of this is the abandoned basket email, which is sent to customers who add products to their online basket but do not make a purchase.

Examples of personalised email marketing

Personalised emails are often a form of remarketing, too. Emails can be triggered to remind customers to refill on products such as makeup or food and drink, or remind customers about special offers and promotions on products they previously purchased or added to a wish list, and even give them personalised offers.

Personalised videos

With 84% of consumers buying a product because of watching a brand’s video, video marketing is one of the most important marketing and ecommerce strategies of 2021 and beyond. Did you know that videos can be personalised, too?

Screenshot from a personalised video ad

A great example is the personalised video campaign that Cadbury launched to market its products to Australian customers. Using a Personalised Video as a Service (PVaaS) platform, Cadbury created a Flavour App that customers could download and connect to their Facebook account. After completing a ‘flavour match’ test, the app user received a personalised video that incorporated information from their Facebook profile such as photos, status updates, and interests.

Auto-saved shopping baskets

Abandoned basket emails are a great way to contact customers on a personal level when they leave your site without making a purchase. Another way is to add an auto-save basket functionality to your website.

This means when customers return, their products are still in their basket—saving time and encouraging a purchase.

An alternative to adding an auto-save basket functionality is using a Digital Assistant to remind customers about products they recently viewed. This can appear when customers return to your website’s landing pages, encouraging customers to find and purchase products they are interested in with ease, and is even more personal than a saved shopping basket.

Personalised customer relationships

The personalised customer experience does not end with a purchase. Creating a personalised customer experience in your contact centre is an important part of your customer’s journey, too.

Finding a customer relationship management (CRM) system that allows your agents to access customer data, such as any customer’s purchase history, with ease will empower them to use their communication skills and knowledge to interact with customers on a personal level.

One way to personalise your customer relationships is to integrate your CRM into your Digital Assistant software. A Digital Assistant can appear on the screen when customers land on your FAQ, Help, or Contact Us page. That means that their query can be dealt with quickly—so less worrying about the average speed of answer in your call centre—and, using their account details, can be personalised to their needs and purchase history.

Using customer data in your contact centres has other benefits, too. If digital or live agents have customer information at hand when dealing with enquiries, you can reduce your average handle time, saving time and money for you and your employees.

Personalisation and customer data

As you can see from the above examples, customer data plays a huge role in delivering a personalised customer experience. What data matters most when it comes to providing a great personalised customer experience?

Typical sources of customer data used for personalisation strategies include:

  • Website analytics such as click rates, high-traffic pages, and search bar uses.
  • Search analytics such as SEO reports that show how and why your customers are finding your website.
  • Personal data collected from customers at checkout such as location, purchased products, and average order value.
  • Information gathered from polls, surveys, and reviews.
  • Data gleaned from social media such as customer demographics including age, education, occupation, and gender.

Data-driven personalisation offers many benefits. Your ecommerce business will find it easier to run remarketing email campaigns, such as encouraging customers to return to your website during seasonal periods they previously purchased in.

Chart - Data-driven personalisation: Objectives vs Challenges

Before going any further, you might be thinking, “aren’t customers worried about sharing personal data?”. The consumer data scandals of recent years have certainly meant that the line between using data for helpful and exciting purposes and using it for invasive and manipulative reasons is thin.

That said, a report from Accenture found that 83% of customers are willing to share data if it enables a personalised online experience.

If you need to gather customer data, here are some tips that could help you understand your customers better and offer personalised customer experiences based on this.

Capture data at every touchpoint. Optimise your website and train your marketing and customer service teams to use every opportunity to gather data. Whether it’s asking customers to complete surveys after contacting your call centre or offering discounts to customers who sign up for an account, using every touchpoint as a chance to collect useful data is a subtle yet effective way to gain a better understanding of your customers.

Reward customers for providing information. A promotional code for completing a survey after checking out, a voucher for leaving a review, or a free product for customers who sign up for an account all encourage customers to provide information without it feeling invasive.

Be transparent about how you store and use customer data. While customers accept that businesses will store and use their data, the more transparent you are about how you are doing this will improve your trustworthiness and reassure customers that you are putting customer experience first.

Keep testing. If you spend a year gathering customer data and implementing it into your personalisation strategy, you can be sure that your personalised customer experience will be data-driven for a year.

Customer needs and wants, however, are always changing. Continue collecting data at every touchpoint and run regular reviews of your strategy to ensure it stays up to date.

The bottom line? The effective use of customer data makes online shopping more personalised, fun, and helpful for customers. What’s important is that the personalised customer experience you offer is seamless. Inconsistencies could make customers more wary about how their data is being used to influence their purchases.

Personalised customer experience and AI

It will come as no surprise that these examples of personalised customer experiences aren’t created by humans crafting individual emails to every customer who visits their site. They’re created through a combination of customer data, machine learning, and artificial intelligence (AI).

For example, personalised abandoned basket emails are a typical triggered behavioural email. Customers visit your website, log in to their account, and fill their online basket with products. Then they close their browser and forget about the products.

If you use AI to send abandoned basket emails, it uses the actions the customer has taken on your website to send them an email later that day, addressing them by name and showing the products they left in their basket. Perhaps along with recommendations for other items or promotional offers.

eBay example of saving basket items

AI helps businesses deliver a personalised omnichannel customer experience by using customer data to show relevant content across different channels and connected media.

If you leave items in an online shopping basket, for example, you might see personalised content reminding you about them by email, on social media, and when you return to the website.

How to create a personalised customer experience: A seven-step strategy

Research your typical customer journey

The first step of an effective personalisation strategy is to know your customers. How are they finding your website? How are they purchasing products? How do they respond to your current marketing strategies?

There are several tools out there that will help you conduct this research. Explore Google Analytics best practices to find out how using Google Analytics and other website analytics tools can show you the information you are looking for.

These tools can tell you what keywords customers are searching to find your website, how many clicks social media posts or email campaigns are generating, and conversion rates for different types of clicks.

Google Analytics functionality example

Another way to gather useful customer data for your personalisation strategy is to analyse customer interactions with your customer service team or call centre.

Using tools such as VoIP call recording, you can assess interactions between your team and customers via phone, email, and social media and implement what you learn from these interactions into your personalisation strategy.

Once you’ve gathered data from your website’s analytics, you can map out your typical customer journey. This will help you visualise the steps your customers are taking to find your website and buy your products. And will also help you decide which steps you should focus your personalisation strategy on, so you can guide your customers through the sales funnel.

Segment your customers and target them appropriately

Segmentation lets you split your customers by metrics such as demographics (age, gender, location, and so on), their online shopping habits, and their customer journey (social media clickers versus organic search clickers).

Segmentation and personalisation are sometimes used interchangeably since both involve collecting data about customers to target them with specificity. Segmentation, however, refers to the broader groups that you will split your customers into.

Personalisation is your broader strategy to ensure each customer feels they are being sold to on an individual level.

You might have slightly different personalisation strategies for each segment of customers. For example, imagine you provide a call centre outsourcing service. Your typical customers can be segmented into small businesses and large corporations, so your personalisation strategy, such as your lead generation marketing emails, should be personalised based on which segment that client fits into.

Virtually accompany your customers around your website

One example we’ve returned to a few times in this guide is the Digital Assistant. Digital Assistants allow you to recreate the in-store experience on your website by guiding your customer through the purchase process and offering recommendations.

Digital Assistants are useful for marketers too. Just as an in-store sales assistant gathers information about customer needs as they guide them around the shop, Digital Assistants can gather information too.

An example of Ve's Digital Assistant helping a customer

For example, if you have a product that customers are repeatedly using the Digital Assistant to find, this could tell you two things. First, that customers are interested in this product and are coming to your website specifically to find it. Second, however, it could also tell you that the product is currently difficult to find and you need to improve your website’s design and searchability with this in mind.

Optimise your personalisation strategy for mobile

If you own or market an ecommerce business, you’re probably well aware of the importance of optimising your website for mobile users. One report found that 73% of U.K. customers use their mobile phones for online shopping.

Examples of Etsy optimising personalisation on mobile

With so many customers shopping on their mobile, it is vital that your personalisation strategy is also optimised for mobile users. One of the most effective ways to implement a personalised customer experience into mobile shopping is to create a mobile app for your online store.

Not only will this make mobile shopping easier for your customers, but it will also encourage them to create an account with your shop, allowing you to gather more customer data and enhance personalisation.

Scale your strategy across multiple channels and connected media

Once you have put together your personalisation strategy, it needs to be scaled across multiple channels.

Omnichannel and connected media personalisation ensure that customers are treated uniquely but consistently, whether they’re interacting with your brand on social media, via their email inboxes, or on your website.

Scaling your personalisation strategy could include using effective email remarketing. For example, in April last year, your beachwear products were especially popular, since summer was approaching. A personalised remarketing email campaign would involve emailing your subscribers with a beachwear themed email, reminding them how much they loved your beachwear last year.

Personalise the post-purchase experience too

A well-implemented CRM system can empower your employees to ensure that your personalisation strategy is maintained when customers contact you for support. Something like using on-hold marketing for when your call centre has a lot of calls in queue is one way to personalise the experience.

How might this work? Imagine you sell leather boots. The boots take a few weeks to break in, but some customers get in touch before this to complain that the boots are uncomfortable.

A well-timed post-purchase email or a customised message if your customer is on hold to your call centre explaining that the boots need to be worn in could create a personalised experience based on shopping habits as well as reducing returns.

Another way to incorporate personalisation into your call centre is to set up an interactive voice response (IVR) system. This will ask the caller to use their phone dial-pad or their voice to select options, such as which department they need, or to provide their details and direct them to a live agent based on their responses.

This means callers spend less time waiting on hold before speaking to anyone or while agents are transferring a call, and also means agents can pull up their details right away and provide a great, personalised call.

Ensure your personalised experience strategy is long term

We’ve mentioned that customer data collection should be an ongoing practice as part of your personalisation strategy. Really, collecting customer data consistently should be part of a long-term personalisation strategy, one that is flexible and ready to be altered as customer needs and desires change.

When implementing a long term personalised customer experience strategy, it’s important to remember the difference between policy vs procedure. Procedure refers to the detail of the actions you are taking to deliver a personalised customer experience. Policy refers to the bigger picture. Make delivering a personalised customer experience part of your policy, rather than a procedure, and implement your strategy at every touchpoint.

The bottom line

The personalised customer experience has become a holy grail in ecommerce and digital marketing. It’s no secret that personalisation leads to increased sales, higher conversion rates, better customer retention, and improved customer loyalty.

Online shops may not have face-to-face communication to boost the personalised experience, but that doesn’t mean they can’t make every customer who visits their website, follows them on social media, or reads their emails feel special.

This guide has given you everything you need to know about personalised customer experiences.

Our final thoughts? Digital Assistant software, like Ve’s Digital Assistant, can offer many of the functionalities needed to deliver an excellent personalised experience for your customers. Want to find out more? Request a demo and find out how a Digital Assistant can transform customer experience and your personalisation strategy.

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