Consumers are increasingly time-strapped, suffering from shorter attention spans and shopping on the fly with mobile devices.

The distracted nature of online retail is showing up in the data, and it’s sobering:

  • Bounce rates, or the share of visitors who view just one page before leaving a website, are on the rise. The median bounce rate for retailers ranked in the 2020 Digital Commerce 360 Top 1000 was 48.9%, up from 47.5% in 2019 and 40.1% in 2018, according to traffic data from SimilarWeb.
  • Smartphones also accounted for the most traffic to retail sites–58.0%–during the 2019 holiday period, up 14.0% from the previous year, according to research firm Adobe Analytics.

Coupling visitor impatience with a small screen that can make navigating and checkout more challenging only add to the headache for online merchants trying to reduce friction and close sales. These trends mean it’s crucial for retailers to make it quicker and easier for shoppers to find what they want. Experts say the solution is to help steer consumers to the right products by putting “guard rails” in place with the use of personalization tactics.

At its core, personalization is the tailoring of website features or emails with content that’s the most relevant to a particular visitor rather than a static web design or email template that each and every shopper sees. This can take the shape of dynamic homepage banners, product recommendations on various pages and cart-abandonment email messaging, among other levers that can be pulled. The content that appears is dictated by data a retailer or vendor collects on a shopper–often geographic location, device type, page clicks, search terms used, purchase history and more. Using machine learning and algorithms, the retailer builds a shopper profile for each visitor to better predict her purchasing intent and match her with a product that is most pertinent to her mission.

Personalization is directly and strongly correlated with conversion rate, according to Harry Roth, a former customer success manager at Dynamic Yield, a personalization technology provider. If a consumer is shown correct products that pique her interest using messaging that makes sense to her and doesn’t have to wade through pages upon pages of category landing listings or search results, conversion will increase “tenfold” because the process is simplified, Roth says.

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