Avoiding the Black Holes of Personalization


blackhole_smallADOTAS – As retailers navigate through the recovery and look for a rebound in 2010, it’s more critical than ever that brands invest in quality, holistic personalization strategies that make every dollar count. Retailers across the board are in agreement that personalization can significantly boost marketing performance and create a unique and memorable online shopping experience for consumers — so why are some retailers still struggling to find a solution that works?

There are a multitude of black holes that retailers can fall into when deploying personalization strategies — it’s actually quite easy to unknowingly adopt strategies that aren’t effective for your company, pick solutions that don’t drive sales and get saddled with vendors that have little proven experience. As you move forward with your own personalization action plan, below are some of the most common blunders retailers make in personalization:

Jumping on the Bandwagon. Many personalization vendors are popular because they offer cheap, mass appeal “cookie-cutter” solutions. Most won’t offer the customization to meet your unique needs or goals and frustration with the entire process often hinders any forward momentum.

Making the Homepage Your Favorite Child. Presenting personalized product recommendations on the home page can often be very effective, but presenting product recommendations on “money pages” — product detail pages and product list pages — is the most effective way to increase average order size (AOS) and revenue.

Not Tracking Consumer Behavior. Retailers are not yet tapping into the ability that the Web provides to track what consumers do on their site — what consumers searched for, what pages they navigated to, which items they investigated further, what items they put in their shopping cart and most importantly — what items they purchased.

These “indicators of interest” help retailers make more relevant up-sell and cross-sell recommendations that increase AOS while helping online merchandisers push products and merchandise based upon business rules, promotional pushes and other criteria.

Leaving a Moat Around Online Shopping. Retailers need to build a bridge to the in-store experience. It’s important to remember that for many consumers, there is no differentiation between shopping in-store, online or via direct mail.

For them, cross-channel shopping is an extension of the everyday shopping experience. They want (and expect) synergies between those channels and assume that the retailer knows who they are, what they purchased and can provide — at a minimum — an easy and worry-free shopping experience no matter where the purchase is made.

Missing: Consistency. The shopping experience must be consistent and coordinated between all channels whether in-store, online, via direct mail or on the phone with customer support. And, it must employ customer data and the inherent knowledge the retailer possesses to make that consumer feel like they are the most important customer at all times: even if they’re not currently in-market to purchase an item.

Succumbing to Data Fatigue. Without a doubt, one of the most powerful weapons in a retailer’s arsenal is customer data, but with so many data points, there is the danger the retailer can be overwhelmed. There is a distinct possibility a retailer may not understand which relevant data is best to use to create personalized promotions or marketing programs aimed at creating the “next opportunity to purchase.”

Remaining ImMOBILE. Some retailers are already a little late to the game with their mobile strategies – a recent Forrester report confirms that the “mobile web” is on the cusp of becoming a game-changer for both web and brick-and-mortar retailers. In fact, Forrester’s research found 42% of smartphone users research products while in store. If retailers personalize offers and promotions for those smartphone-enabled shoppers, they can move more products.

Choosing Bargain Over Quality. There are plenty of personalization solutions that can meet your needs and do not break the bank — going straight for the bargain basement model might end up costing you more in the long run.

Forgetting Who the Boss Is. It’s not Tony Danza, it’s the consumer. What really lies at the heart of a successful strategy for personalization for multichannel merchants is the understanding that the customer is in control. Perceived truisms, rules and assumptions regarding correct merchandising and promotion methods are fast becoming passé as consumers frequently demand more, and in an effort to maintain sales and market share, retailers always give in.

At the end of the day, site personalization CAN provide the means to maximize online and in-store revenue opportunities, engage shoppers and build brand loyalty. It’s all about what to watch out for and determine how as a retailer, you can best leverage technology to optimize your site personalization strategies.


  1. The easiest way that a merchant can promote their brand is through a major shopping portal. Sites like Onewayshopping.com and Shopzilla can be helpful.


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