Why are online retailers still ignoring personalisation?

Amazon has long been lauded as the darling of online personalisation so it comes as no surprise that 82 per cent of UK shoppers agree that it leads the way. What is highly shocking, however, is the fact that just two per cent of online retailers think offering a tailored shopping experience is important, according to a new study published today.

lucy tesseras

I find it astounding that of the 122 UK ecommerce brands interviewed, fewer than three believe providing consumers with a more personalised experience is significant. Particularly when you consider that a third of the 1,000 shoppers surveyed reckon recommendations and tailored content would increase their propensity to buy.

The study, conducted by personalisation platform BloomReach, which of course could be considered a little self-serving, nonetheless highlights the complete disparity between what consumers want and what online retailers are offering.

Using data to adapt the shopping experience to predict and meet consumers’ needs should be a no-brainer. Online retailers are able to gather so much information about their customers that it seems almost self-destructive not to take advantage of that knowledge to better the business in the long run.

If I went into a coffee shop and ordered a large black coffee from the same barista every morning I’d actually find it insulting if after a month they continued to ask me what I wanted. Even if there are occasions when I actually want to buy something different, the fact they remember who I am and what I want makes the whole experience faster, more efficient and generally more enjoyable. It also means that if a competitor opens up next door I’m less likely to switch my allegiance, as I will feel like a valued customer.

It’s the same principle online, the only difference being that instead of a few competitors within a one-mile radius posing a potential threat, it’s actually every online retailer with a similar proposition anywhere in the world.

Considering the amount of data online retailers are able to collect on their customers, even after one purchase – which in comparison to what bricks and mortar stores have access to is vast – the value of bettering the experience by making it more targeted shouldn’t be overlooked.

Of course Amazon’s algorithm isn’t perfect. I still get shown pictures of Christmas jumpers two years after buying one, and as the time frame for wearing the one I own is already limited I doubt I’ll be buying another any time soon. But generally the recommendations I get do offer inspiration.

While writing this column I logged on to my account to see what would pop up, and yes, the obligatory festive jumpers were there, but there was also a book that caught my eye and a potential present for my dad’s upcoming birthday.

The fact that 59 per cent of consumers surveyed for the BloomReach study believe that online experiences tend to better match their needs should tell retailers something because, like me, they have come to expect this level of personalisation.

Of course brand reputation is critical too but if, as the study suggests, just 2 per cent of retailers think personalisation is important, some serious re-evaluation of priorities is called for or there are going to be some very red faces in a few years’ time.

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