Which shopping experience would you prefer?
- When a retailer serves your products based on your interests, browsing and shopping history, behavior, location, etc… OR
- When the retailer serves you generic products and offers that are not tailored to your needs and preferences, and may not be relevant to you.
Let’s look at some interesting statistics to see what retailers are doing in terms of personalization, and what customers are looking for in a personalized experience:
- 33% of customers who abandon business relationships do so because personalization is lacking. (Accenture, 2018)
- 81% of consumers want brands to get to know them, and understand when to approach them. (Source: Accenture, 2017)
- Last year, personalized homepage promotions influenced 85% of consumers to buy while personalized shopping cart recommendations influenced 92% of shoppers online. (Source: Kibo, 2017)
- 95% of those that get 3x ROI from their personalization efforts, increased profitability last year. (Monetate, 2017)
- 79 percent of organizations that exceeded revenue goals have a documented personalization strategy, compared to 31 percent of those that met revenue goals and 8 percent of those that missed revenue goals. (Source: Monetate, 2017)
- Retailers have less than eight seconds to engage a user on their website or app. (Microsoft, 2015)
All these statistics point to the one major shift in the eCommerce experience:
What does it really mean?
How can businesses implement it?
In this post, we will explore this in detail and will help you better understand personalization techniques used by some of the world’s best brands.
What does UX personalization mean and why does it matter?
Personalization is a way by which a system identifies a user as a specific type of individual and then delivers relevant content and functionality to that user. Personalization can also be defined as the real-time individualization of a website or app, in order to suit the unique needs of each visitor and guide them through a custom conversion funnel.
Personalization is anticipation. When you personalize your website, app or any product, you anticipate what your users need or want. When you give them something useful, without them having to ask for it, you take them to a new level of user experience. How is this helpful?
We feel inclined towards people, things or services that prove that we are being taken care of.
Waze is a traffic and navigation app, and a great example of personalization. It monitors its users’ usage patterns so that it can make things easier for them. If a user leaves work every day at 5 pm, then the app identifies it as a pattern and asks them at 5 pm if they are heading home.
How does this work for the users? Users are normally tired by the end of the day and just want to get home as quickly as possible. When the app asks them if they are ready to head home, it helps users in skipping steps such as repeatedly putting in the same data. Waze just made its users’ life easier. That’s what people want, someone looking out for them.
Personalization is dynamic. It learns and adapts. When you personalize a user experience, you are offering something useful based on users’ characteristics, behaviors, attributes and/or data analysis. UX personalization is about creating an individualized experience that is relevant to and targeted towards a user’s needs.
There are many brands that are doing this successfully and in real-time. Google keeps track of your upcoming flight, train and bus reservations, appointments, interviews, etc., and notifies you before the scheduled time, given that this information is stored on your phone.
Personalization is different from customization. When a user is given a set of features in an interface from which they can choose what they want, it is called customization. Whereas, when data and technology are controlled behind the scenes to tailor an individual experience in real-time, it is called personalization.
Now that we are clear with what UX personalization means, let’s find out how it matters to both users and businesses.
Personalization can only matter to businesses if it matters to users. It is an obvious but important fact. If your website’s or app’s UX personalization is done right, it will have a major impact on the success metrics in the following ways:
- There will be increased user engagement such as increased page views, more interactions per session, etc.
- Customer retention rates will blow up.
- Your brand’s image will improve.
- There will be an increased number of loyal customers and leads, resulting in higher revenue.
- There will be more sales through cross-selling and upselling, resulting in higher order values.
The ability to automatically present the users with the information they need results in higher conversion rates and more sales because they don’t have to browse through endless options.
Two very good examples of brands that are doing personalization in the right way are Amazon and Netflix. They are delivering rich experiences to the customers and benefiting from all the points mentioned above. In the upcoming section, Brands That Are At The Top Of The Personalization Game, we will talk in detail about how they are doing it right.
Key points for creating a great personalized UX design
Personalization is not a one-time thing, and it is not something that can afford to be just average. UX personalization done wrong can actually negatively impact your brand. UX personalization is an evolving thing and because of the competition, it has to be top notch. Now how exactly are you supposed to create a great personalized UX, which will ensure ongoing success?
UX Personalization strategy
The most critical part of creating a personalized UX design is how you create the outline of your strategy. A well-thought-out strategy will help you clearly set an objective for your product. It is important to implement personalization in a way that has a positive impact on how your users perceive your company and brand. It can be achieved through thoughtful planning, detailed execution, testing, and continuous optimization. Start with brainstorming, and find answers to the following questions.
Who is your target audience?
You can personalize your UX after you decide on your target audience. If you know who you are serving, you can do it better. You need to group the target audience by demographics, segment, interests, attributes, past behaviors, or stage, in the customer journey or buying process.
What are you trying to achieve?
You need to figure out what your goal is with personalization. Are you looking at it from a marketing, sales, or business, perspective? Do you want more leads? Are you aiming for higher sales? Do you want to increase your brand’s popularity? Are you trying to retain customers? It might also be all of the above. The point is, you need to set a goal for what you are trying to achieve by targeting an audience, and deciding how much effort is required.
Which elements will be personalized?
Once you have identified the target audience and set a goal, you will need to list the elements of the website or app that need to be changed or personalized, based on users’ profiles or behavior. Content, features, images, and functionality can all be personalized. It can be as simple as referring to users by their name, and it can be as elaborate as creating a personalized homepage based on a user’s activities.
The most common approach is to personalize the homepage. But what if a user navigates to a deeper page through a search result? Consider personalizing high-traffic pages and landing points throughout the site or app, by studying the typical user flow and pathing patterns.
How to personalize user experience?
Personalization is not a one-size-fits-all method. It varies from site-to-site or app-to-app because each has its own unique objective and goals. That is why it is important to have a clearly defined strategy before beginning with the personalization process. One brand might base its personalization methods on a user’s location, and another might base it on a user’s purchase history. You can use the following methods as per your goals.
Now let’s personalize your site or app’s UX.
Collect users’ information
To collect user information, you will have to ask users to create their profiles on your website or app. As soon as they register and start using your website or app, you will get to know their name, age, interests, behavior, etc.
Personalize the content
Once you have collected users’ information and understand their needs and interests, you can personalize their profile accordingly. You can refer to them by their name, show them content based on their interests, recommend similar content based on behavior, etc. Ensure that forms are auto-filled with information submitted by the user.
Identifying the location of a user is one of the most important factors in personalization. Google is one of the oldest examples. If a user is in India and they type www.google.com, they will be automatically taken to www.google.co.in. Also, if a user is in a particular city and searches for a restaurant, they will be shown results for their current location.
Taxi service apps such as Uber and Ola also use geolocation for personalizing their users’ experience. If a user wants to book a cab through Uber, the app will automatically search the location of the user and show available cabs nearby.
Personalize the recommendations
An eCommerce website or app can upsell or cross-sell products using personalized recommendations. Other types of websites or apps can use a link to other relevant content such as videos, blogs, etc. Recommending products according to the weather is another smart way to personalize the recommendations. For example, when it’s hot outside, sunscreens, sunglasses, etc., can be recommended.
Start where the user left off
This is a feature used by Netflix. If a user is unable to watch a program or movie till the end and exits the app, then the app will start it from the same point it stopped the last time — when you log back in.
There are some eCommerce websites or apps that show you what you browsed through on a previous visit, and some even send you notifications regarding any products you added and left in the cart.
This makes things easier for the users because they don’t have to keep track of their journey on every website or app. It’s all being taken care of them.
Use push notifications
Push notifications can be considered annoying by users, but it is a good way to engage with them, even when they are not using your website or app. They can be used to keep your brand’s name fresh in a users’ mind, by updating them about new additions to your website or app.
Show content related to the app history
YouTube personalizes its homepage by showing content based on what the user watched previously. If a user watches English music videos, listens to meditation music, and enjoys stand-up comedies, then YouTube will show a mix of such videos on a user’s homepage. Users appreciate having a homepage curated based on their behavior.
Identify other opportunities
As mentioned earlier, each website or app is unique and has its own goals. There can be many other opportunities to personalize the UX. Find these opportunities by going through users’ engagement with your website or app.
Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter, collect information such as mutual friends, work/education information, your networks, etc., to suggest people to users that they may know. This is also a good personalization tactic but should only be used with users’ permission.
Don’t personalize all elements at once; start small by personalizing a few at first. Then observe the analytics to understand whether or not the users are reacting positively to the changes. This data will guide you in iterating and improving and growing.
Brands that are at the top of the personalization game
Amazon is an e-commerce giant, and one of the reasons for that is personalization done right. It has personalization spread into every corner. If we talk about the homepage alone, we’ll find the following features:
- The Amazon homepage addresses users by their name. That’s the first step to make your user feel welcome and connected.
- They greet their users by their name. It’s a traditional approach but still leaves a lasting impression.
- Next comes the reminder for recent orders and the top categories curated as per the user’s activities.
- If you have Prime, then it will suggest that you continue watching a video you left mid-way.
- Based on your video watching history, it comes up with a list of video recommendations.
The user is also presented with product recommendations based on both purchase and search history, and these recommendations keep showing up throughout the site or app. Not all recommendations may be relevant, sometimes users browse random stuff too, but there will be enough recommendations to keep the user’s interest.
Amazon is making $543 per user through its highly targeted personalization techniques, which is the highest among online retailers. Any website or app can benefit from personalization but when it comes to eCommerce sites or apps, users expect it as a standard feature. Therefore, an eCommerce brand can’t afford to not personalize.
Netflix is another gamechanger. Millions of users are hooked for several reasons; personalization being one of them. First of all, more than one person can create a profile on the same account. Based on the viewing history of each profile, Netflix creates separate recommendations for them. It learns about users interests and adapts. Users not only like having a space of their own, but it is something that keeps them excited to come back.
Another feature of Netflix that makes things personal for users is keeping a record of videos left midway. If a user is watching a video and doesn’t finish, when they come back to Netflix they can play where they left off. Netflix asks you if you want to continue watching the same video you were watching earlier.
Netflix has over 100 million subscribers. Need we say more?
What is the main highlight of a good B2B eCommerce website? To make it easy for customers to work with a seller. At Grainger, it is the ease of ordering that makes them a leading provider of industrial supplies.
The following features make the entire process easier for business buyers:
- No logging in is required; you can check out as a guest
- Product availability is clearly shown
- The ordering process is easy and succinct
- There are extended search filtering options
- Estimated product arrival times are mentioned on all the product pages
- There is also a well-thought-out mobile app for convenience
Users can upload images and chat with agents on the mobile app, and can also scan a barcode to promptly re-order a previously-purchased product. This feature makes it irreplaceable in terms of order accuracy, and also makes the purchasing process easy and convenient by reducing the time for re-orders.
Components such as ease of navigation, quick access to categories, and the product list, are intuitively tied together. The search feature is very clear and doesn’t fail to attract users’ attention. As one of the best B2B eCommerce retailers, Grainger has some outstanding advantages over the majority of its competitors.
A rich customer interface resulted in gigantic website traffic; their online product range has recently exceeded one million SKUs.
Every color, image, and piece of content on ACME’s B2B eCommerce website, evokes an emotional response from shoppers.
When a user visits the website, they can clearly see what it’s target audiences are shippers, retailers, and corporate logistics officers. Once on the second screen, the user can see several blocks, each of which represents a particular kind of service. This way, each user is guided to that section of the site, which they are most interested in.
High-quality photos of products and a unique and stunning layout showcase their products and services effectively. ACME is one of the most striking examples of how a good B2B eCommerce website is designed.
How to NOT do personalization
If you abuse the availability of user data, it will result in a negative perception of your brand. Don’t personalize just because you can. It will be a waste if it doesn’t serve any purpose. UX is personalized so that the user benefits from it. If a user sees unnecessary cluttering with no purpose, you will lose your credibility.
If you are not being careful while creating a personalized experience, it can not only damage your bond with your users but also the trust they built with you. Collecting user information is not enough for creating a great user experience. It is important to know what you are serving, how much of it and when, only then can it be effective and ensure your users are happy and loyal customers.
It is never smart to assume that you know your users completely and can send any kind of information to them at any time. What happens when something like the following happens?
You may think that it is just a simple personalization mistake and will not affect the image of your brand. Unfortunately, when such errors happen, it will hurt your brand image and you will lose customers.
This example shows how personalization can go wrong and negatively impact both you and the user, even if it wasn’t your intent. Sometimes assuming too much can result in targeting gone wrong.
- Do not use personalization just because you can, because you have to, or because everyone else is doing it; do it to add value to your brand.
- Never make assumptions about your target users. Do your research! Then test what you have until you are sure the information is accurate.
- Remember that personalization can go too far, which is never a good thing.
- Rule of thumb: Personalize in a manner that is subtle and makes your users feel connected.
Personalization is a tool that can make your website or app more powerful, but only if it’s done right. When it comes to personalization, empathy plays an important role. Understanding your users’ needs and preferences can go a long way in creating an enriching UX.
About the Author
Hi, I am James Wilson, I love writing on various topics, be it a technical or non-technical. I have started out as a quality analyst and moved onto business analysis, where I discovered my passion for information architecture, wireframes, and user experience. I have solid experience in business analysis and am now interesting myself in day researching rapid prototyping methods.