The rise of personalization brings with it both promises and pitfalls. On one hand, retailers see it as a key differentiator, a pursuit worth taking to create memorable customer experiences and foster loyal customers. On the other — and this rings true for many companies — the path to creating real value for customers through personalized experiences is not as straightforward as it seems.
A Bain & Company survey aptly demonstrates this customer experience gap. It found that while 80% of companies believed they delivered a “superior experience,” from the customers’ point of view, only 8% did.
Today, brands live and die by the experience they provide, and the excellence of that experience is rooted in true personalization. Think about how nice it feels when your Starbucks barista remembers your name and knows how you like your coffee. Or when Netflix recommends a movie that seems right up your alley. It’s the same thing for users on your website.
In eCommerce, where an ocean of choices awaits customers, nothing elevates an experience more than personalized product discovery. Brands and retailers have to get it right to bridge the gap between what they deliver and what customers expect and actually receive.
What Are Personalized Product Discovery Experiences?
A personalized product discovery experience is a customer-led approach that ensures shoppers get what they want on their terms—quickly, easily, and intuitively. It streamlines the eCommerce journey, moving shoppers from product search to purchase, without any friction, ensuring that each individual customer’s preferences are identified, understood, and catered to.
True personalization allows you to deliver experiences that inspire long-term confidence, loyalty, and growth. When it comes to product discovery, this is doubly true, as discovery is the fuel that powers entire customer journeys. Regardless of the channel, device, or touchpoint they use, if your shoppers can’t find what they’re looking for, they can’t experience your brand.
How to Design Personalized Product Discovery Experiences
From homepage to checkout, you must deliver the most relevant products, content, and services for each shopper. It’s a tall order, but we’ve put together a list of some of the key steps you can take in order to create personalized product discovery experiences that will increase basket size, drive conversion, and build strong customer relationships.
1. Identify customer needs and preferences
The first step, as always, is knowing and understanding your customers. This goes beyond the basic information such as age, gender identification, education, location, and device usage. To deliver personalized product discovery experiences, you need to supplement and enrich this information with behavioral data and a deep understanding of shopper context and preferences. The more you can paint a complete picture of your customers, the better you can appeal to each person on a deeper level.
To look beyond traditional demographic data and acheive true hyper-personalization, try asking the following questions:
- How do your customers shop?
- How do they find products?
- How do they navigate through your website?
- What are their most common pain points, and where do they typically drop off your site?
- What are your customers’ needs, wants, and expectations?
- Why are they on your website? What’s motivating them?
- What are their unique preferences?
- How would you describe the products they search for and buy? What do they have in common?
By looking into the finest details of the items your shoppers love, you can understand not just what categories and basic styles they like, but you can reach deep into their aesthetic tastes and understand what truly inspires them, paving the way for hyper-personalized product discovery experiences.
2. Understand the opportunities for personalization on your site
Now that you know how to better understand your customers, the next step is to map the online shopping journey. The way consumers shop today is complex, using multiple devices and channels. But the consistent factor between journeys of all types is that product discovery never stops.
Every day, customers are inspired by the world around them—online and offline. And there’s always an opportunity to turn their purchase ideas into reality. For brands and retailers, you must be present from the exploration stage all the way to when the high-intent buying moment hits. The key to an exceptional customer experience is connecting your shoppers to the products they love at every point in the customer journey in a convenient, accessible, and seamless way.
Knowing which triggers, actions, and paths your customers take can give you a detailed structure for delivering personalization. As it continues to develop and mature, personalization now has multiple layers. This means that the personalized product discovery experience you deliver on one page of your site may differ from your approach on another. It will also depend on your customers’ shopping motivations.
However, regardless of whether you deliver these experiences through recommendation carousels, merchandising strategies, or search results, they all have one thing in common: personalized product discovery experiences are customer-led. They should all work toward allowing your shoppers to get what they want on their terms.
3. Enable shoppers to find what they want, how they want to
No two customers are the same and that will be reflected in how they search products on your website. To deliver personalized product discovery experiences, you must take the following into consideration:
· On-site search
Consumers who know what they want will often use search on your site. However, just because they have an idea in mind, doesn’t mean there’s no room to personalize their product discovery journey. From the moment a shopper begins typing a query, you have the opportunity to surface suggested searches that align with their specific preferences. The same goes for the search results themselves. Prioritize items that fit the query but also have the details your shopper likes. For example, if they search for “black jeans” and all the jeans they’ve viewed previously are high-waisted skinny jeans, ensure that the top results are black jeans that also have those characteristics.
Don’t forget that personal preferences are not just about the products, but also about how shoppers like to search. You will have goal-oriented shoppers who struggle to describe what they’re looking for. Cater to them by providing another way to find items on your website, like uploading an image and performing a visual search.
· Smart merchandising
For shoppers who don’t use search and prefer to browse, your navigation and merchandising strategy is the path to product discovery. Smart merchandising can help you prioritize personalized results on product listing pages, as well as create and promote collections based on product attributes popular with your shoppers, from cut to style to occasion to price, and more.
The result is a website and navigation experience that feels tailored to each shopper, ensuring they see the most relevant items, no matter the size of your inventory.
· Continuous product discovery
Don’t let product discovery end once a shopper selects an item. This can actually open up more doors to help that shopper find similar and complementary items. The same is true for shoppers who arrive on a product detail page with an out-of-stock item — you can recommend similar items available in their size. Inflexible product discovery journeys would consider both of these scenarios the end of the road (albeit with varying outcomes). Product discovery experiences that truly understand shoppers should cater to them and present new opportunities to spark their inspiration, regardless of how they move through your site.
4. Provide self-service options and help shoppers cut through the noise
As we touched upon above, a personalized product discovery experience will look different for every type of shopper, depending on what they need and where they are in their journey. Since there’s no one-size-fits-all technique, it’s important that you also empower shoppers to explore and sort through products on their own terms in a way that won’t overwhelm them.
· Robust Filters
Large retailers are familiar with the challenges of managing hundreds of thousands of SKUs and promoting the most relevant products at the right moment. On the shopper’s side, the pages of product listings can be similarly overwhelming. To remove the complexity, robust filtering allows shoppers to narrow down their choices using product attributes that best fit what they’re searching for.
Be sure to display multiple product characteristics as filters, beyond the usual color, size, brand, and price, including things like neckline, length, material, and more, so shoppers can get ultra-specific about what they like. You can even place the filters that you know will matter most to your shoppers at the top of the list.
· Recommendation engines
Another key product discovery tool that brands and retailers can personalize is product recommendations. By presenting “You May Also Like” carousels based on the most granular details of the items your shoppers view, click on, and purchase, you can cut through the noise of endless product listings by suggesting a hyper-personalized, curated collection of items they’re most likely to love.
When done right on category, product, shopping cart, and even payment pages, personalized product suggestions can encourage spontaneous purchases and higher average order value.
5. Be where your customers are
For personalized product discovery experiences to work optimally, your customers need to feel understood whenever they interact with your brand. You may recommend the perfect sweater on a product listing page, but it won’t mean as much if your service feels impersonal in-store.
· Omnichannel personalization
Product discovery doesn’t only happen on your website. In fact, online shopping typically starts on external search engines, social media, and online marketplaces, specifically Amazon. Shoppers get into complex customer journeys. So, brands and retailers need to offer a consistent and flawless product discovery experience because that’s what customers expect—wherever they are on the buying journey. Recommendations they receive on-site should be reflected in ads, email marketing campaigns, on your app, and even in-store. By equipping stores with smart mirrors and tablets, you can recommend items similar and related to the products that shoppers view or try on.
· Loyalty programs and re-engagement
Personalized product discovery experiences can also be used as part of your retention strategy. Great for building brand recall and loyalty, you can continue delivering highly relevant product recommendations to shoppers even when they’re not in buying mode. Consider how to package these recommendations for high-value shoppers. For example, you might consider sending top-tier loyalty program members monthly curated collections of personalized product recommendations as an email digest just for them. This keeps the discovery and purchase cycle going while making your best customers feel like VIPs.
6. Unify your data to create better experiences
To execute seamless product discovery experiences, you must be able to streamline your data and processes. Data silos in organizations are a huge barrier to a frictionless customer experience. With fragmented eCommerce tech solutions, it’s difficult to have a single view of your customers. You don’t get the full picture of how they move through your website and what data points can improve your understanding of their unique tastes and interests.
Choose a platform that allows you to implement all the strategies we’ve discussed from one centralized place, at scale. This not only reduces tech bloat, but it also makes it easier for you to create consistent experiences, whether shoppers are flipping through recommendation carousels, viewing search results, or browsing through your latest collection. Their interactions with products will continue to feed the degree of personalization across all these interfaces on your site, creating the an impactful product discovery journey.
7. Track, evaluate, and improve the experience
Having all your data in one place also ensures that you can better analyze and understand how shoppers are reacting to the product discovery experiences you create. Shopper preferences and browsing habits are complex, so make sure to take all variables into account, including the placement of your recommendation carousels, search bar, as well as the weight you assign to personalized search results, and more. Test the impact on conversion and other key metrics and continue to improve your product discovery experiences.
Personalized Product Discovery Experiences Deliver Value
eCommerce is undergoing one of its most defining and important transformations. Amid the changes it’s going through, personalization is a constant ideal that virtually all brands and retailers are aiming for due to the staggering consumer demand.
Delivering personalized product discovery experiences enables you to stay ahead of changing consumer preferences, industry trends, and competition. Understanding each of your customers’ wants and needs allows you to focus on empowering them to shop on their own terms while standing out as a memorable and fun destination that shoppers will keep coming back to.