By now, we’re all on the same page about testing and personalization. We know that using data to determine the optimal experience for each visitor across all of your digital channels is a necessity to stay relevant and competitive. We also know that by offering a one-size-fits-all customer experience staunch loyalists and advocates of brands may ultimately feel lost in a crowd of millions. Still while some retailers know that personalized commerce is the future of shopping, many are still unclear about how to get there.
The question, then, for a retailer who is just starting to get their feet wet with online customer experience optimization is – How do we take our digital optimization program from Point A (think along the lines of minimal modifications to button colors, sizes and home page positioning via A/B testing) to Point Z (a seamless, personalized and integrated experience that adapts to each and every visitor along the entire funnel and across every device/channel)?
This is where we strongly advocate for retailers to devise a comprehensive roadmap to climb and conquer each step on the Retail Customer Experience Optimization Pyramid – the framework we have developed for prioritizing customer experience initiatives. By following the six steps I outline (in order of most tactical to most strategic), retailers will be able to ensure that that each layer of the optimization pyramid receives the attention it truly deserves, while continuing to generate incremental growth through their digital optimization program.
Each retail site has dozens of important one-off business questions they can answer through A/B and multivariate testing. These can often be addressed via a self-serve solution that offers online testing services at all layers of the funnel, so just about any important question may be addressed without constraint. What’s our optimal free-shipping threshold? Do video testimonials and customer reviews truly add value for my site and our visitors? These are examples of the types of questions that retailers will be able to answer in this first step on the climb up the retail optimization pyramid.
So you’ve conquered that first daunting step and have dipped your toes in the customer experience optimization pool. You’re seeing some benefits, but now your senior management asks – What’s next? It’s now time to optimize the beginning-to-end visitor journey by running a series of sequential multivariate tests at each major phase of your engagement funnel with the goal of moving a larger percentage of visitors deeper through to purchase confirmation. It’s important to measure the actions that each campaign is intended to drive, such as an increase in traffic from the Home Page to the category page, from the category page to product details page, from the product details page to the checkout process, and ultimately, an increase in purchase confirmations.
This is where segment discovery is critical. You have to understand who each segment is, what they are doing while navigating through your site, what types of content drive conversions, what types of social activity they’re engaging in and so much more.
At this stage, it’s beneficial to pause, catch your breath and take stock in the hurdles you’ve stepped over and learn from the lessons about every segment of your audience. Then create manual rules to not only attract (and serve) new visitors with preferred content, but also to retain and reward your most valuable customers (who likely shop with your brand in-store, online, via their mobile devices and even advocate your brand via social networking sites).
You may be wondering why mobile – which has been a hot buzz word among the digital marketing community – appears at this stage of the retail optimization pyramid. While mobile traffic and sales are growing as a percentage of total online traffic and e-commerce, it still constitutes less than 30 percent of overall traffic for most retailers. Additionally, many of these digital visits do not directly drive sales and revenue growth, but instead support transactional activities intended to occur via a different channel – such as using their tablet to research a product prior to pulling the purchase trigger, or using their smartphone while standing in Times Square to find the nearest physical store. It’s at this stage that retailers should be identifying the mobile channel’s true role in their digital strategy and intently optimizing for whatever role it’s expected to play.
At this point of your optimization trek, you’re feeling determined and can even see victory in the faint distance. It’s now time to roll up your sleeves and take personalization to the next level. Don’t just focus on differentiating between generalized categories of “new” and “visitor.” That won’t help you reach the top of the pyramid. You should be digging deeper, asking more questions, quantifying the value of each customer across the entire funnel, and then personalizing the experience based on a combination of predictive attributes. As important as this is, it’s unfortunate that many retailers today who consider themselves to be innovators in e-commerce and personalization are adopting this as a stand-alone digital tactic, as opposed to integrating it into their larger digital strategy.
Ultimately, retailers should be offering visitors a seamless experience across all channels that reflect each visitor’s unique preferences. Let’s take, for example, a customer sees a posh 20-something fashionista carrying a Michael Kors handbag at a café and, in the immediacy of the moment, taps away on her smartphone to locate and find the best deal on Macy’s mobile site. So ask yourself – what do we know about this shopper and her digital persona? We know she has an affinity and preference for Michael Kors fashion and accessories; she’s apt to spread her online shopping experience across multiple devices (and periods of time); she has unique times and days in the week when she’s browsing vs. purchasing.
Some of these attributes will be predictive, while others are not. Take the time to analyze and sort through the attributes which are, in fact, predictive and then identify and present the optimal experience for her specifically during subsequent visits to your site. It is, therefore, important to show this shopper the same bag as well as other designer handbags with similar attributes when she visits the Macy’s website on her desktop/laptop computer.