E-commerce is booming and customer expectations are rising when it comes to relevant experiences. While e-commerce brands know there is a significant opportunity to gain revenue and increase customer loyalty if they can get it right, there is more work left to do. To truly deliver value to each customer in the e-commerce transaction, brands need to ensure that they utilize data to provide relevant experiences. With this approach, it’s possible to exceed customer expectations and gain a competitive edge.
Relevant experiences are important
E-commerce is thriving, with three quarters of shoppers reporting that they rely on online shopping more than ever before. And this trend isn’t going to slow down. In fact, it’s actually accelerating as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. When Forrester polled shoppers of different ages and locations across the nation, two thirds said that even when things go back to normal, they will continue to shop online more than they did pre-pandemic. There is a significant opportunity for brands to capitalize on this increase in online shopping and gain a competitive edge by meeting the rising customer expectation of a relevant purchase experience.
But what is a relevant e-commerce purchase experience? As shoppers, we all have different interests and preferences that guide our purchases. Customers reward brands that recognize this and add value through relevance. The potential is significant: 91% of all customers are more likely to shop with brands who recognize and provide them with relevant offers and recommendations.
Relevance is defined as an experience that frames, guides, extends, or enhances interactions with a customer based on personal information such as history, preferences, context, and intent. To provide a relevant experience, companies must ensure that the most pertinent offers and recommendations are being shown to each customer, at every opportunity, across many different areas: from design, the message, or even more simply, the type of offer shown.
E-commerce brands are missing the mark
Despite the clear value of relevance today, the majority of e-commerce brands miss the mark. In fact, only 52% of customers say that their shopping experiences online are personalized to them. This failure to meet customer expectations is a missed opportunity, and represents a threat to the bottom line – if you don’t provide relevance, you will lose customers.
36% of customers reported that when brands fail to deliver relevant, personalized experiences, they would stop shopping on that site and are likely to switch to a competitor who provides a more personalized experience.
Relevant experiences are rewarded
Customers reward discounts, with 82% of customers reporting that they value brands sharing discounts or offers on relevant products or services they are interested in or have purchased. This pays off for brands with higher average order values and decreased abandoned cart rates. Rewarding relevance isn’t just limited to owned products or services, though. It also occurs with advertisements: 75% of customers value discounts and offers from other brands that are relevant to them.
There is a significant opportunity to drive long term value by increasing loyalty with relevant experiences. The majority of customers report that when a brand delivers a relevant, personalized experience, they are more likely to join a loyalty program, make another purchase, and recommend the brand to a friend.
Deliver relevant purchase experiences
To truly deliver relevant experiences and value to each customer in e-commerce purchase journeys, brands need to utilize data. With this approach, brands can deliver individual relevance, going beyond the limitations of personalization at a group level.
But leveraging data to create more relevant experiences is easier said than done –– in fact, most brands see the issue of leveraging data for more relevant experiences as complex and needing significant resources.
The most important requirement is to determine customer identity using identifiers such as email address and phone number. These identifiers are ‘sticky’ meaning that customers will rarely change them when logging into sites across the web and across devices. Using third-party cookies on the other hand, are becoming increasingly less reliable due to the lack of transparency and legislative restrictions, and failure to track across devices, browsers, etc.
Brands can then leverage solutions that take many factors into account to create relevant experiences in real-time. It’s important to include the following factors in a decisioning engine to deliver relevance:
- History: the customer’s history of interactions across the brand’s site (e.g. previous purchases, programs they are a member of, etc.), which can be used to suppress irrelevant suggestions.
- Preferences: the customer’s likes and dislikes (e.g. types of offers or programs they ignored or previously opted into, design they are more drawn to highly visual or text based, etc.), which can be used to more accurately understand their likelihood of engaging with particular products, programs, or offers.
- Intent: the customer’s state of mind as it relates to a specific action (e.g. progression through purchase stages to which impacts excitement, lookalike customers, etc. ), which can be used to predict a customer’s likelihood to engage with any given eligible product, program, or offer.
- Context: the customer’s current interaction (e.g. current purchase stage, what they are purchasing, what device or browser they are on, date and time, etc.), which can be used to infer what would enhance their experience or distract them from their primary objective of making a purchase.
- Experience: the customer’s holistic experience (e.g. visual and interactive components, how long it’s been since they last saw a specific message, etc.), which can be used to ensure that anything shown is additive and clear, thus protecting both the customer’s experience and the brand’s image.
To activate their data across all the factors previously mentioned in real-time, the most successful brands will choose a software provider that includes machine learning as part of their solution. By taking advantage of software on the market, e-commerce brands can solve the complex challenge of creating relevant experiences without needing significant internal resources.
Exceed customer expectations
Now, more than ever, is the time to capitalize on the increase in online shopping. By utilizing data to create individualized, relevant experiences, brands can carve out a competitive advantage and deliver true value to customers throughout each purchase and be highly rewarded.
Tarana Mehta, VP of Marketing at Rokt
[1 -2] A commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Rokt. Unlocking Value in E-Commerce Through Relevant Experiences. Forrester Consulting. July, 2020.
 Making It Personal: Why Brands Must Move From Communication To Conversation For Greater Personalization. Accenture, p. 3. 2018.
[4 -9] A commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Rokt. Unlocking Value in E-Commerce Through Relevant Experiences. Forrester Consulting. July, 2020.