As Bob Dylan famously sang, the times are a-changin’. The pandemic has shifted consumers’ digital shopping expectations, requiring customer-centric brands to transition from self-service searches to added-value, personalized online shopping experiences.

This shift to better digital experiences has been intensified by the increased switch from in-person to online shopping. According to econsultancy, “70% of Britons surveyed prefer online shopping to in-store, up from less than half pre-pandemic”. Even B2B companies – once dominated by in-person selling strategies – saw their ecommerce sales grow, up 10% in 2020.

As customers’ habits change, so too do their expectations about what online shopping experiences should provide, where 80% of shoppers are more likely to buy from a company that offers personalized experiences.

Are you and your team prepared for today’s customer – and the customer of tomorrow? Before you write your company strategy and delegate projects and tasks, start by involving your team – to help them rethink and reprioritize their responsibilities and focus. We suggest embedding these 5 strategic changes to your ecommerce approach:

1. Transform online shopping from transactional to an experience

Even before the pandemic hit, researchers were tipping the 2020s to be the decade of ‘customer committed’ instead of ‘customer focused’. Covid has accelerated customer-centricity as the key strategy companies need to address to succeed.

Companies that adapt quickly to meet customer expectations surrounding the big three – personalization, ease, and speed – gain the potential to increase their market share and brand value for the long-term, increasing the value of every customer. A good approach is to ask your team what your company’s brand should stand for in terms of the differentiating value you provide to your customers, both what you provide today and what you want to stand for tomorrow.

Addressing the individual needs of your online visitors is essential to improve your customers’ experiences in 2022 and beyond. To deliver 1:1 personalization at scale, you need to have a clear strategy to manage the change from a transaction-focused business to providing added-value driven digital shopping experiences.

As a base, you should capture the right level of data to build personal profiles of each web visitor. This will enable you to create precision marketing campaigns that hit the mark with your customers.

2. Establish a cross-functional processing and use of data

To be a leading digital brand, businesses need personal customer connections driven by technology and data. Achieving this shift will require your teams to work together across functions to identify the ways in which your 1st party data can be used to optimize the visibility and presentation of your products in front of the right customers.

On the road to personalization it’s important to ensure these prerequisites:

  • Commitment: Involve your team in planning how to use your data intelligently. Encourage them to build new skills – the more their autonomy and involvement, the greater the success.
  • System preparation: Ensure your team and IT infrastructure is ready to support adaptations of our data layer, API, as well as frontend and product data.
  • Project management: Ensure a sufficient amount of staff resources to manage the change, and that people are accountable for project delivery and success.
  • Awareness: Create internal awareness and supporters. Share your strategy and planning with your stakeholders and wider team – highlight the opportunities it presents for the business.
  • Learning: Results will not occur instantly, particularly when using AI-based systems as the data needs to train algorithms to refine results. Make sure you have a realistic timeline for delivery and improving performance.

3. Rethinking products to create real online shopping experiences

A product is more than a list of attributes. The wider the appeal of your products, the more you can call upon to develop marketing campaigns that target more than demographical data, responding to users’ personal search preferences and their intent.

Your team should expand on the detail of each product, particularly those that will be central to your product steering strategy. Explore how you can improve the use of images, features, reviews and ratings. High quality descriptive contents that are available on a granular level in real-time enable the AI to respond with the most relevant messages shaped to each user’s needs.

Upgrading your digital infrastructure to support personalization begins by automating many manual processes such as product data crunching, audience segmentation, compiling promotions with inspirational copy or activating highly targeted campaigns at the right time.

Every product sold has a DNA – built by a unique combination of attributes/features and numerous additional data points gained by the engagement of your clients with these products. The more your system knows about your products, the easier it can match products to the interests of each user. For example, if it’s a cycling or kayaking holiday, it can automatically be shown to someone predicted to have an interest in an activity or sports vacation and a corresponding level of intended spend.

4. Preparing for communications managed by AI

In order to achieve a high level of customer-centricity which prevents customers from dropping off and not converting, it’s important to present clear and accurate messaging, relating at the right time and place to your audience.

AI-driven personalization draws from a bank of available content compiled by product and marketing teams to present the most relevant content to each user. For example, loyalty card members can be shown discounted premium products with distinctive messages – or families will receive ‘hand-picked’ family packages promoted with the key benefits relevant for them.

The key thing to understand is that both strategies can be valid for the same user – who is visiting your sales channel with different interests within a short time interval. Only a predictive user-profiling based on 1st party real-time tracking data is able to figure that out and respond accordingly.

This means your teams can spend more time optimizing the content and products – and do not have to craft countless slightly adapted campaigns for somewhat typical user segments. The individual product promotion can now be based on results from AI-driven engagement analytics. This saves valuable time in activating campaigns and compiling performance results since the AI does the heavy lifting for you.

5. The right place, at the right time

Capturing visitor intent in real-time is essential to understanding what your online visitors want – and also when they want it. By detecting the buying stage of each customer, you can prevent churn on your website by being more aligned in your messaging to what target a user has in their mind for a particular shopping session. It might not be a purchase yet – maybe they are after inspiration or additional information at this stage of the buying funnel.

From taking a targeted approach to promotional offers, to personalizing search result lists, AI can build on your business knowledge to react in real-time to the multitude of users you have on your site at any time.

Learn more about how to shape better online shopping experiences

Discover more about how BD4 is helping companies build profitable and meaningful relationships with their online visitors on our personalization blog or sign up for the BD4 newsletter to get the latest insights right in your inbox.

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