Think Like the Customer (Part 1 of 2)

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For all of the amazing conveniences that online shopping offers, the customer is still one step removed from physically seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling or touching the actual product. Personalizing the shopping experience engages the human senses in ways that are essential to making any purchase decision. When done properly, it not only answers every question on a shopper's mind, but also improves the average order value.

This two part series will explore simple strategies companies can employ to personalize the online shopping experience for their customers and improve their overall conversions.

Engaging the Senses
In the competitive online marketplace, general product descriptions have zero traction, especially in attracting new customers or promoting a new product. Basic information is important - such as the height, length, depth and weight of the item as well as material and color options - but descriptions cannot end there. Every product needs a visual component that allows the user to really grasp the dimensions of the product and how it looks and feels in real life.

For example, consider a user that is shopping for a ring. If the product description page offers various photos, a 360-degree panoramic view or, better yet, a 3D video of it on a human or mannequin hand, the ring will be more appealing than if it is only displayed in gift box. Visualizing the ring on a hand gives customers perspective and helps them imagine the ring on their fingers. Or something as simple as displaying the ring on different color backgrounds may be effective. The color change could accent a facet of the gem that catches the eye of customers, moving them to consider which outfits in their wardrobe match the piece.

When a product is placed into its appropriate context, it makes it more compelling for the customer. And anything that helps the customer connect the product with their lives moves them closer to conversion. Vision is our most dominant sense, but that doesn't mean that the other senses should be excluded.

For example, anything with mechanical components emits some type of sound. If that is something that concerns your customers, it needs to be addressed. It's one thing to specify the sound in terms of decibels or emitted frequency levels. It's quite another to provide a video of the product being turned on and operated near a sound meter. Better yet, provide some type of sound comparison with another item.

The more familiar you are with your inventory and your customers, the easier it is to determine the senses that must be used to describe a products on your eCommerce website. Consider what customers do when they have the item in hand. Do they just hold it in their hand or might they brush it against their face? If so, texture and sheen may be important to them. How do they test the item and determine whether or not it adds value to their lives? Your goal is to replicate that experience via your website by providing the best verbal descriptions, photos and videos needed to engage to engage their senses.

Customizing Related Products
How often do you walk into a store to buy one item and walk out with five? Why does this happen? You stroll up the aisle for your desired product and then see a related item that you forgot or didn't even realize that you needed.

A personalized shopping experience can virtually replicate this by showcasing products that complement the item for which the user initially searched. Whether it is an accessory, an adjacent part or a product that performs a similar function, the relation to the initial product must be obvious in order to be effective. Again, success in suggesting related products stems from close familiarity with your company's products and customers.

The data that your company collects on viewing and purchasing trends plays a key role in customizing the related products suggestions. While Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) integrations offer pre-set algorithms that generate related product suggestions, better results are derived from having a stronger control of the business and carefully combining related products.

Bundling
Very closely related to providing customized product suggestions is incentivizing the purchase of multiple items. The opportunity to bundle a conversion is built on the personalization done with regard to the previous points. When the description of each viewed product - whether the one initially searched or a related product - appeals to the senses, customers can grasp the value the items bring to their lives.

They are more likely to want more than just the initial item, but the unexpected expense of the additional items may hinder adding everything to the shopping cart now. If it means a larger order than initially expected, why not sweeten the deal? A discount of 5 percent to 10 percent, which might not be available if the items are purchased separately, may sway a customer to go for a bundled offer.

Bundling introduces a dynamic aspect to your eCommerce website, which can set it apart from the competition. The key to successfully bundling products requires a solid understanding of ever-changing consumer buying behaviors and trends.

A personalized shopping experience that engages the senses is more likely to produce satisfying results, both for customers and online retailers. Part two of this series will explore how online retailers can engage past customers and potential customers in creating a personalized shopping experience. It will discuss:

  • Incentivizing customer reviews and ratings to inform at-a-glance decision making
  • Encouraging photo and video submissions from average users (non-models) that portray the item in common use
  • Implementing advanced technology so that customers and virtually "try on" products