Most B2C marketers will tell you that personalization is the future of marketing, especially in the e-commerce world where customer loyalty is a major challenge and attention spans are limited. In an ideal world, every B2C company would provide 1:1, concierge-like experiences for their visitors.

But how do you even get close to this reality? It can be challenging to figure out what first steps to take. That’s why it’s so important for marketers to have a bird's-eye view into the personalization ecosystem — to know where their current efforts stand and how to prepare for the future. We asked Evergage’s customer success director Meera Murthy to share her wisdom and biggest lessons learned from working with hundreds of B2C companies.

E-commerce Personalization Is Multifaceted

There are many ways to build a successful personalization program. As Meera points out, there are more intricacies at play than marketers may recognize from afar:

"There are operational elements and strategic elements. There’s the question of resources. And you need to make sure that you’re choosing the right partners to implement a successful program."

The bottom line is that with so many moving parts, e-commerce marketers shouldn’t be overly focused on whether they’re lagging behind compared to the rest of the market. Meera explains, “even the smallest marketing teams have done some form of personalization.”

Early Stage: Recommendations

As Meera mentioned, there is a question of resources in every organization. The size of the company or the team should not matter — every company can see success with personalization.

If you are just starting out or have very limited resources, what can you do to get the most impact from your efforts? At a minimum, you need to have the ability to provide 1:1 product recommendations and to A/B test those recommendations.

This is step one because all e-commerce sites should provide product recommendations to their visitors to meet minimum customer expectations. And leveraging algorithms that you can tweak and test allows you to provide the best 1:1 recommendations to each visitor without expending too much time and effort.

You can use algorithms to show relevant products on each of your product pages, or on your homepage, category pages or elsewhere, to enable visitors to easily find products they’ve recently viewed or engaged with the most, those that match their brand or style affinities, and more.

Mid-Stage: Segmentation

If you have additional time and resources to extend personalization beyond recommendations, you can start thinking about how to enhance your website experience by modifying content in real time. Are there different messages you’d like to share with customers that visit your site from Google vs. Facebook? Do you need to be talking to visitors from New York differently than those from Los Angeles?

Also begin to think about how you can appeal to cart abandoners to encourage them to complete their orders, or how to collect email addresses from visitors at the right time.

This phase takes a little more time because it relies on creating segments, defining rules and crafting the right messages for each segment, which is why it should come after you’ve established product recommendations. And just like for algorithmic recommendations, continuous testing and iterating is key here.

Advanced Stage: Cross-Channel

Once you have 1:1 recommendations and real-time messaging in place, you can move on to the more advanced task of creating entirely customized experiences across channels from desktop, mobile and email. Think about how to create a unified journey from start to finish for each visitor. Use any knowledge you have gained about your customers’ preferences and intent in one channel to personalize experiences across other channels.

For example, if a customer indicates a preference for a particular shoe brand on your desktop site, make sure that your recommendations bring that brand to the top of the list not only on your desktop site but also on your mobile site and in your mobile app. You can even take it one step further by personalizing your email communications to prominently display that brand for the person as well. This unification across channels ensures that your customers always have experiences relevant to them.

Final Thoughts

Even if you are just starting out with a personalization program, you want to make sure that you have a solution – and a solution provider partner – that meets your present and future needs. You also want to avoid creating silos of fragmented data, so a centralized platform is key.

As you progress through these stages and your personalization efforts become more sophisticated, you’ll want to be sure your platform and partner can support your plans and guide you with new ideas and capabilities that are proven to work.

Regardless of what stage you’re in, with the right solution and strategic approach you can realize tangible results for your organization with personalization.