Personalisation is a trend that will intensify

by Johann Van Tonder: CEO at Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) agency, AWA digital.
“We need to do personalisation.”

This has become the most popular request we get from ecommerce clients. Not just in South Africa, but around the world.

The case for it is compelling. Consider this: 71% of consumers expect personalised experiences, according to McKinsey. 

The reality is more nuanced. Getting decent ROI on personalisation is hard. I base that view on real-world data, stripped of all the BS like hidden variables and vendor spin. Ask anyone in CRO who has tested this at scale with statistically rigorous controlled experiments.

“I blame the tools who are selling this dream (that personalisation is easy),” says David Mannheim, author of The Person in Personalisation.

To be clear: like David, I’m an advocate for personalisation. We see good results with it, measured both in terms of customer satisfaction and revenue-based KPIs. It’s a trend that will intensify. My views on how you can take advantage of it:

Get on board with personalisation

Do it. You will be left behind if you don’t.

Your competitors are buying into it, albeit with crazy expectations and arguably for the wrong reasons. Some of it will be executed well, without coming off as creepy, and that will become the default expectation for your customers.

Strategy before tools

The most common mistake we see brands make is to invest in software, and then start throwing mud at the wall.

As David says in his book, stop “reducing it down to a single tactic or add-on strategy designed purely to make money…”

Why are you doing personalisation? A useful starting point is not what’s in it for us, but what’s in it for them. What are your customers trying to get done? How can you help them do that thing better?

That will determine what software you should consider. It might not even be necessary in the initial phases. Either way, you have options, ranging in capabilities and price.

Define audience segments

Let’s quickly clear up the misconception that personalisation = 1:1 interactions. Think of it as a spectrum, from 1:Many to 1:Few and finally 1:1. For maximum ROI, start on the far left of that scale.

Armed with customer data and having considered the earlier questions about your “why” of personalisation, the fun starts.

Develop a theory about how you can improve the experience for different segments of your customer base. We use this format:

Because we observed [data]
We believe that [change]
Will lead to [impact] for [audience]
This will be good for the business because [value]

Be clear about how you will measure [impact] and connect it to [audience]. Usually, this will relate to an aspect of the user experience.

Ground hypotheses in real data, both quantitative (what is happening) and qualitative (why is it happening, what are customers trying to achieve etc). Get a sense of returning visitors across segments, because for many personalisation use cases that is assumed.

Don’t skip this final step: test it. Measure the outcome using the metric linked to [impact] in the above framework. Some initiatives will work, most won’t. Weeding out the ones that could have a negative impact is also a win.

Useful resources:
AWA Digital
Reach out to me on LinkedIn for free guidance regarding your personalisation strategy and/or software selection.
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