Personalization

How Do You Tackle Personalization in Online Retail When Your Shoppers are Anonymous?

Personalization in the retail experience was traditionally driven by sales associates, who — if they were good — could make educated guesses about a customer’s preferences and make memorable connections that resulted in return shoppers. E-commerce retailers (and tech companies in general) address personalization by attaching purchase history and other metrics and demographics to every user account, which over time yields rich sets of individualized data.

Personalization

How Do You Tackle Personalization in Online Retail When Your Shoppers are Anonymous?

Personalization in the retail experience was traditionally driven by sales associates, who — if they were good — could make educated guesses about a customer’s preferences and make memorable connections that resulted in return shoppers. E-commerce retailers (and tech companies in general) address personalization by attaching purchase history and other metrics and demographics to every user account, which over time yields rich sets of individualized data.

But what about anonymous shoppers? Personalizing the shopping experience for them is a steep challenge, especially for new retailers who can’t draw informed guesses from an existing customer base. Delivering a personalized experience under those conditions is challenging and requires creativity, but it’s possible. 

Create Personas as Proxies for Real Customers

One early step any retailer can take is to personalize their online experience using personas that represent your target demographics. If your primary demographic is millennial curvy women who want fun, colorful clothing, that’s a starting point. You can leave it at that, or you can break out various subgroups by age, income level or any other factor that strikes you as meaningful. Build multiple personas based on what you do know. 

These personas can inform your early marketing decisions while you wait for actual empirical data to start flowing in. Once you have that data stream, you’ll be in a position to assess how well the personas represent your real-world customers and adjust your marketing (or your product mix) to reflect that reality. 

Track What You Can

Consumer-behavior surveys from major consulting firms have shown that users are ambivalent on the subject of privacy. On one hand, they may perceive tracking efforts as “creepy” or intrusive, but on the other hand, a majority say they’re willing to trade privacy for a better user experience. In practice, many users will simply click to accept your cookie policy without question. 

This means that while they’re not identified as specific people, you can associate their browsing behavior with their individual phone or computer. This gives you actionable data from the first interaction, and when they do eventually make a purchase you can apply that data to the real-world shopper. 

Consumer-privacy laws like the European Union’s GDPR and California’s CCPA impose limits on what data may be collected and how it may be used and shared. If you’re subject to either of those statutes or any newer laws that follow in their wake, compliance with the law of course takes precedence.

Optimize Your Website

The identity and behavior of shoppers is outside of your control, but your website is something you do control. That’s important because it can influence your shoppers’ behavior, which is after all the end goal of personalization. Optimizing your website around two main priorities — minimizing friction in the shopping/purchasing process and maximizing data-gathering opportunities — should be your goal.  

Chart out the purchase process through a customer journey map. The more steps and complications that are involved in finding a suitable product and making the purchase, the less likely it becomes that browsers will actually become buyers. You can verify your map by recruiting outsiders to shop your site and explain where and why they found it frustrating. Take that information to your web-design team and tweak the site to remove obstacles where you can. Assess your filters and facets as well. Do they make sense? Are there enough? Can you replace something based on what you’ve learned about your consumers’ engagement behavior? 

Leverage Your Inventory’s Untapped Data-Generating Potential

How many tags or attributes do you assign to each item in your inventory: Two? Four? Five? None? Tags generate data your analytics can use, but they’re costly and time-consuming to apply manually. The larger and faster your growth, the more difficult it becomes. 

This is an important point. The deeper the data that’s attached to your products, the more you can eventually learn about your customers. The less anonymous they become. The more tags you apply to your products, the more ways you’ll be able to distinguish between individual customer preferences. This gives you insight into why shoppers choose one product over another, and what characteristics drove that decision. To coin a metaphor, your inventory is an untapped personalization engine, just waiting to be fueled by deeper and more thoughtful tagging.

This is where Lily AI’s proprietary machine-learning algorithms come into play. Our software can analyze your inventory and automatically apply deep tagging to your products, so each click or purchase can generate much more data that will begin to provide insights on your customers’ emotional context and personal style preferences. You won’t need to do any manual tagging or deal with its attendant costs, inconsistency and inaccuracy. Plus, our customers typically see at 5% to 10% revenue lift simply by attaching more and better attributes to their inventory. 

The Importance of Psychographic Personalization in Retail

This is more important than you may realize at first, depending on how you think of personalization. Yes, the “You bought/viewed this, so you might also be interested in that” works to a certain extent — but that’s personalization at a very basic level. The gold standard is psychographic personalization: a user experience rooted in a deep understanding of the psychology that drives each individual shopper’s decisions. 

Constructing that kind of deep profile for a given user takes thousands of data points. If your product data is too thin, you’ll struggle to engage psychographically meaningful personalization. But what if you can generate thousands of data points in just a few minutes’ shopping? That empowers you to begin tailoring the shopping experience and responding to your users’ unspoken wants and needs after their very first site visit. 

Leveraging psychographics as a detailed segmentation tool helps brands differentiate between groups of shoppers. The ability to gather granular insights that are meaningful, and assess how they’re different for each individual consumer, may seem like an aspirational goal. But Lily AI customers are using (and benefiting from!) this ability right now.  

From Browser to Buyer to Booster

We know online sales is a funnel, one that’s open wide to casual visitors but quickly (you hope!) encourages them to make a purchase. Personalization can accelerate that process by making each customer feel uniquely seen, understood and valued as an individual. When it’s done well, it accomplishes that and more. 

Your shoppers may not be familiar with the concept of psychographic personalization, but they feel the results of it. It doesn’t come across as “look how well we know you!,” it just means that when they come to your site, they find the things they’re looking for, products that speak to them. It’s what quickly leads them from “just looking” to buying, and then to recommending your brand to their friends —  a key driver of purchase decisions. 
Every retailer has to start somewhere when building a personalization strategy, and Lily AI can bring you up to speed. Contact us today to learn how we can help take your online experience up several notches in just a few weeks.