While most online retailers have a handle on the need for personalization and product recommendations, it’s not as common to find them offering personalization throughout the entire customer lifecycle.
This is a costly mistake because it can leave a lot of money on the table, and makes the customer experience less satisfying from start to finish.
Let’s explore the average buying funnel and discuss where personalization fits into each stage along the way:
During the awareness stage, the prospect becomes aware of the brand for the first time, and begins to put together a picture in their mind about what makes your brand different from your competition, and whether or not they should give it a second thought.
You can identify customers in this stage on your site if they’ve never been to the site before, they used a non-branded search term to get there, or came via an advertisement.
In this stage, it’s important that your content and marketing messages be clearly aimed at your target market, and that your preferred prospect knows he or she is being spoken to. Personalization can be achieved in various ways through dynamic smart content, targeted advertising, and strategic partnerships with other sites that have already gained the audience you are hoping to reach.
As the prospect moves on to the discovery stage, they are in research mode: looking to learn more about your store, your products, your fulfillment methods, and anything else that will factor into their buying decision.
Here you should see visitors increasing their time-on-page and time-on-site as they carry out their research.
At this stage, transparency and personalization go hand-in-hand. Your goal should be to lay out clear and simple paths of information your target prospect will be interested in learning about and get them engaged with your site and your brand. As more of their questions are answered, they will naturally draw closer to an eventual sale.
Once a prospect has reached the interest stage, you have them hooked enough to take a look at what you have to offer.
These will be return visitors who have likely already engaged with your content in some way, by subscribing to an email list, downloading information, or interacting with the site. They have likely done a cursory check of the competition, and have come back to your site for a reason.
At this stage, high-quality personalization can keep their interest by constantly offering up related but different products they are likely to be interested in. They’re still in fact-finding mode, but the more exposure they receive at this point to products they can see themselves buying, the better the chances they’ll return after the next stage is past.
One of the most dramatic changes to consumer behavior in the last few decades is the ease with which shoppers can compare specs and prices on any product almost instantly. This is the stage at which many excellent prospects will leave the store to continue their research elsewhere.
It could result in an abandoned shopping cart if they’ve been using that feature to help them make decisions, or it could just mean they click off to somewhere different. Personalization still remains an important factor.
Again, knowing your customer intimately and using technology to serve up personalized recommendations, follow-up emails, and other customized messages, can keep your brand top-of-mind even as your prospects search elsewhere. Flash sales and instant discounts tailored to the shopper who moved on can also be the tipping point that brings them back to buy.
That point at which the prospect puts a product in their cart and proceeds to checkout is a beautiful thing. But it’s not the ultimate end goal of a successful and sustainable online retail business.
The conversion stage is an excellent opportunity for two things:
- Gathering concrete data on what products, options, offers, and messaging worked to convert this particular prospect, and
- Offering subtle, personalized upsell and cross-sell options to increase the size of the purchase immediately.
Since they’ve actually made the decision to buy at this point, you’re no longer gathering speculative data. You know exactly what they like, what size they wear, what colors they prefer, and a whole host of detailed information you could only guess at before. And, you know they’re in a spending mood, so striking while the iron is hot can increase the size of each sale if you offer them another product, accessory, or ancillary item that naturally fits with what they already have in their cart.
Finally, after a purchase is made and your new customer has left the store, your personalization efforts shouldn’t stop.
This person has already traveled through the entire funnel and they’ve chosen you to give their hard-earned money to. You’ve also gathered far more valuable information about them than you could ever secure about your target market in general. So, continuing down the path of personalization through recommendations, targeted email campaigns, and other metrics-based technology, you can ensure that they will remain loyal customers.
For more great tips on using personalization to increase sales and improve conversions, download our free guide on The Foundations of Personalization.