Be careful with retargeting: and 4 other ways to personalize your customers’ experience

personalize you customer experienceFacebook COO Sheryl Sandberg put it best when she said a website that isn’t tailored to a specific user’s interest will soon be an anachronism.

While the concept of personalization isn’t new, it will be the single most important challenge for marketers to manage this year and for many years to come. With the world going digital so quickly, consumers will soon expect each of their digital experiences (on the web, mobile, email, IPTV, and so forth) to be 100 percent relevant to them while not infringing on their privacy.

To better understand what digital marketers should be doing differently to keep pace with real-time consumer demands around personalization and relevancy, Baynote recently surveyed 500 U.S. shoppers about their web experience during the recent holiday shopping season. Albeit the holidays are behind us, the lessons we learned apply to digital marketers year-round and are a good indicator of where personalization and digital marketing strategies are headed. Shoppers provided their thoughts on online retailers’ behavioral retargeting and privacy practices, mobile and social features, offers and promotions, and product merchandising approaches.

Here’s what we learned:

  • Holiday shoppers struggled to find what they were looking for
    Retailers fell short in meeting their customers’ expectations on the fundamentals of the online experience. Fifty-seven percent of respondents said they would like sites to improve their site navigation, and 54 percent said the same for site search.
  • Shoppers are less likely to disclose personal information for more personalization
    Eighty-four percent of consumers are either hesitant or unwilling to share their personal information with retailers to personalize their online experience.
  • Retargeting is widespread but can damage brand equity
    Fifty-eight percent of holiday shoppers recalled experiencing retargeting, which is the practice of targeting consumers with advertisements after they clicked on a product or promotion on a website but did not make a purchase. Fifty-four percent of shoppers said they felt that this season’s surge of retargeting was an invasion of their privacy, with 48 percent saying retargeting turns them off of retailers.
  • Mobile purchasing is showing promise
    Thirteen percent of respondents used their mobile phones to make holiday purchases this year, while 18 percent used them for comparison shopping.
  • Non-traditional promotions are showing promise
    In the battle of the social sites, 31 percent of respondents were influenced by promotions through Facebook, while 17 percent were swayed by those on Twitter. Twenty percent of respondents said mobile-based promotions influenced their holiday shopping.

The results are intriguing, but what can we actually learn from these findings?

Here are five helpful tips you can start using today to align your marketing strategies with consumer demand and give your customers a more personalized digital experience:

  1. Use what you know about customers to improve site search and navigation
    Making it easier for your visitors to find products is a basic but important way to increase margins and keep customers coming back to your site. Conduct regular tests to ensure your site is easy to navigate.
  2. Prioritize personalization but be careful not to violate privacy
    A large majority of consumers are hesitant or unwilling to share their personal information to receive a more personalized experience. Marketers should make it easy for visitors to opt-out of personalization features that require extensive personal profile information in order to maintain their trust.
  3. Tread carefully with retargeting
    Retargeting can cause serious damage to your brand reputation. To avoid appearing like you’re stalking customers, Forrester analyst Emily Riley has recommended marketers prioritize data testing to find factors that generate lift first and only then cautiously test targeted creative.
  4. Expand digital promotions to social media
    While the survey proved most consumers’ purchases were not influenced by Twitter and Facebook promotions, the percentage that was is too sizeable to ignore. The opportunity to reach buyers via social media will only increase as it becomes pervasive to online experiences.
  5. Formulate a mobile strategy
    Although consumer behavior still lags retailers’ investments in mobile commerce strategies, next year we expect to see many more people using smartphones to research and purchase products. Digital marketers that capitalize on the opportunity will thrive.

To see the full results of the study, click here.

Carlos Carvajal is vice president of marketing for Baynote.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

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