How Retailers Can Unleash the Power of Onsite Personalization


 In the age of Amazon, Netflix and Airbnb, there are a handful of digital leaders that have set the bar for consumer expectations. And they’ve set the bar extraordinarily high by offering groundbreaking experiences that others have struggled to match.

Most notably, these leaders have changed the game by serving their site visitors truly relevant content, whether it’s through onsite search, featured products or anything else. Consumers now expect this type of onsite personalization and retailers must find a way to deliver.

Why onsite personalization is a must for retailers

To meet consumers’ heightened expectations, retailers need to take notes from the digital leaders that have mastered the fully personalized onsite experience.

This type of personalization is critical for two reasons. First, consumers now expect it, with 45 percent of online shoppers reporting that they are more likely to shop on a site with personalized recommendations. Second, onsite personalization can help increase engagement and revenue. eMarketer reports that onsite or mobile app personalization has increased revenue by 10 percent or more for nearly half of U.S. marketers.

Where retailers struggle with onsite personalization

Despite the growing importance of onsite personalization, most retailers struggle to deliver the type of experience that consumers now demand. That’s because the vast majority of retailers were not born in a digital-first world and suddenly need to rethink their strategies to adapt.

While getting personalization right across all digital channels is something with which retailers must contend, the onsite experience has proven particularly tricky due to team organization, technology and channel requirements. Specifically, most digital channels, such as email and social, fall under the marketing team, whereas the site typically falls under the e-commerce team. That means that two different parts of the organization manage these experiences and use different technology to do so.

And the challenges don’t stop there, as retail websites have different requirements than other digital channels, which are generally fast-paced and have only a few stakeholders. In contrast, most websites follow a slower pace of change and require buy-in and collaboration from stakeholders across the business. Additionally, website teams must balance revenue objectives with requirements around site speed and uptime.

How to deliver a personalized site experience

The key to meeting consumer expectations for onsite personalization lies in acknowledging each visitor’s intent and serving them relevant content based on both that individual’s interests and intent.

For example, when I’m on a site ready to make a purchase, I want to take the most direct route without getting sidetracked by pop-ups. On the other hand, when I’m in discovery mode, those pop-ups can prove helpful to finding new items of interest (assuming they consider my preferences).

To understand user intent and personalize the experience accordingly, retailers need to look at signals such as the channel from which visitors entered the site (e.g. Facebook vs. email) and the number of times and ways that they’ve engaged with different products over a period of time (e.g. did someone click on the same product multiple times in one week?).

In addition to evaluating intent, retailers also need to ensure relevance by segmenting audiences based on factors like including

  • Category preference: Determine customers’ affinity to categories, brands, products and even colors to direct visitors to relevant pages.

  • Predicted customer lifetime value: Identify valuable customers based on past and predicted behavior and provide high-value visitors with a unique onsite experience featuring VIP offers.

  • Discount preference: Differentiate discount shoppers from full price buyers and tailor offers accordingly (e.g. by showing no offers or smaller offers to full price buyers).

  • Lifecycle stage: Pinpoint at-risk customers with reactivation messaging while targeting non-buyers with first-time purchase incentives.

  • Email-identified visitors: Separate visitors who have signed up for emails from those who haven’t and serve email collection boxes only to those who have not yet opted in.

With that understanding and audience segmentation in place, retailers can then personalize the site experience through:

  • Hero images: Alter the hero images that appear on the homepage and other landing pages.

  • Banners: Add unique banners to the top of web pages that only appear for certain audiences.

  • Lightboxes: Make lightboxes appear on any page (not just a set landing page) for specific audiences.

  • Redirects: Automatically redirect certain audiences from the homepage to a more relevant landing page.

Getting onsite personalization off the ground

The bar for onsite personalization has been set, and it’s been set extremely high. In the past, retailers have struggled to deliver what consumers want, but it’s time to change that. When retailers approach onsite personalization correctly, for example by serving relevant content based on visitor intent and preferences, they can deliver a stellar experience that boosts engagement and revenue.


Fayez Mohamood is the co-founder & CEO of Bluecore, a decisioning platform for commerce.

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