Personalization has become the modus operandi for online retail. A 20% increase in sales can come from personalized experiences.1 But the perfect 1:1 relationship between retailer and customer still eludes the market. The most recent search capabilities are not for the weak of heart – especially since mega-retailers mastered the recommendation engine and search space as their first course of business. Personalization remains a top three investment for retailers across the board according to Forrester analyst, Brendan Witcher. Research firm Gartner just launched their inaugural report on personalization, while analysts in all fields recognize the impact of personalization as a key factor in driving value. Personalized search is a differentiator for the most efficient sites and permeates throughout all digital retail.
So where does personalized search capability fit in with Oracle’s cloud platform? The advancement of enterprise and site search has not declined since Endeca’s purchase. Endeca was a search technology phenom and set in motion the next generation of search capabilities leveraged by over 600 marquis names in the retail industry. Forrester, IDC, and Gartner considered Endeca a best-in-class leader in the space. Oracle’s billion dollar investment in Endeca enabled the best Endeca search engineers to focus their expertise and the latest tech to be built into the Oracle Commerce Cloud (OCC) framework as part of the platform. The search capability development has quickened, not slowed. Oracle continues to invest in expanding with faster and continuous improvement in OCC search functionality. OCC provides highly advanced and thoroughly vetted personalization capabilities in the market. Endeca drove search and recommendations and made them key factors for commerce, OCC has taken the best search to the next level of cloud delivery.
The latest updates to OCC now include dynamic curation capabilities where the system engages with adaptive intelligence to use relevant customer data – including AI-based personalization engine functionality. OCC includes weighted averaging and prioritization of product lists built in. OCC also makes it easy to rapidly execute product delivery across millions of SKUs. Guided search tools complement dynamic curation and enables the OCC platform to offer capabilities such as type ahead and visual search plus intuitive boost and bury capabilities. Upcoming development will include deeper business logic and more automated functions that enhance and optimize the search experiences.
The AI component is an important differentiation for retail and tools like OCC that can provide this kind of service will become the gold standard in the commerce world. BrightEdge surveyed 500 search, content and digital marketers and identified consumer personalization as the top application (29%) for Artificial Intelligence in 2018.2 Retailers need to expand their abilities beyond basic business rules and just gathering data to being able to use that data to impact the customer’s experience in the moment they are engaging with the retailer – this is where the real differentiation comes into play. Unfortunately, with thousands of customers and millions of transactions, the real-time engagement task is not simple. Walmart, for instance has 265 million customers per year.3 The complexity of retailer systems today expands the challenge further. Modern retail simply doesn’t allow scaling of the old town general store manager who knows every customer coming into the store and what they might want. The solution: machine learning and artificial intelligence.
Beyond general personalization, AI is also transforming recommender systems. Almost every website today incorporates some form of recommender system into its search capabilities. Whether placed on a category page or on product pages, search is a mainstream disruptor. Customers expect curation. According to McKinsey, “Personalization reduces acquisition costs as much as 50%, lifts revenues by 5-15%, and increases the efficiency of marketing spend by 10-30%”.4 Think about any well-developed ecommerce website for instance. Most enable personalization at all levels – from faceted search to variations of recommendations on a typical product page. They make sure to get very personal – right up to exactly what the customer is looking for and offer many combinations of what the right offer might just be to drive sales and customer satisfaction.
The nature of most modern web pages today are dynamic – fast changing and highly focused on data known about the customer (or prospect) who visits. Rarely is the experience identical – even for the same customer. The customer experience focus has always been to push options for customers to select – giving more assortment, and at the same time continue to drive revenue from the engagement. Gartner writes 89% of companies expect to compete mostly on the basis of customer experience.5 Every click on the modern site has value to the retailer and the customer. Recommendations are no exception.
Retailers seeking ways to differentiate have triggered customer adoption and acceptance of personalization, perhaps even a demand for personalization. The customer expects personalization to play a significant role in their buying process. The typical customer is already familiar with the recommendation engine when buying online, and expectations such as reviews and social media have become the norm. There is a level of trust customers provide when entering their contact and billing information. Customers expect the retailer to know about them and their specifics – especially the information they’ve already shared. When ordering a replacement shipment, customers expects the retailer to know where to ship it – even if the address changes. According to a Parcel Industry report, More than half (55 percent) of online shoppers expect order status updates to be current as of a few hours ago or even more timely.6 The high expectations extend to search and recommender engines as well, making the dependency on AI ever more important to scale to the broadest customer set. The next generation of AI-powered search and personalization will be a battleground for retail success – only the best tools will give you an edge.