4 Basic Ways to Use Personalization to Improve Your Conversion Rate

It’s no secret that relevancy improves a user experience; and that an improved user experience improves conversions, which in turn improves loyalty and retention. But the question is: what improves relevancy?

The answer is personalization.

I’m a big fan of personalization and need only look at Amazon for a good (scarily good) example of it. In fact, 82% of us believe that Amazon is leading the way in personalization of content. Amazon know what books I’ve bought and therefore what I’d be interested in based on what others like me have bought previously. They know my favourite films, genre and actors. They know what my interests are and what I wear. I would argue Amazon actually knows me better than I do. That aside, not all of us have a spare few million, or few hundred million, to invest in a personalization engine and data aggregator such as Amazon.

Unfortunately, the fact of the matter is that not many of us ‘do’ personalization despite its importance. Truthfully – it’s not that hard; we’re just tailoring your user’s experience to be more relevant. After hearing a talk by the great guys at Nosto recently – they really are very good you should check them out – I was surprised to see the lack of participation of some recommended techniques by the retailers in the audience.

  1. Demonstrate different content on the homepage to new users oppose to existing users

In ecommerce, in my experience, I tend to see a 75/25 split between new users and existing users.

Based on those figures, why are we destined to show new users the same thing as our returning visitors? Our returning users may, and often do, want something completely different than our new users, who might want to understand more about the company. For example, we might show those that are returning the latest deals or new products.

I distinctly remember a remote usability test that I undertook for a company.  A user landed on the homepage asked “Why are you showing me this content? I’m not interested in this content at all and it’s completely irrelevant to my needs”. He was talking about the banner and seemed, actually, quite frustrated. He was frustrated because the messaging was a catch-all proposition and the company in question hadn’t truly thought about its users’ needs. Banners in themselves are a bone of contention and I would recommend reading Baymard Institute’s understanding and research on carousel banners for more information.

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Figure 1. Asos remember that I am a male and therefore if I ever return to the ASOS site, I am redirected to /men because I am clearly not interested in their women’s clothing.

  1. Recommend other products on the product page; but be relevant about what you recommend

We see ‘related items’ a lot on product pages but I will bet my bottom dollar that a lot of these related items are manually inputted based on what the business owner or marketing team ‘think’ that’s what users want. We see this time and time again. Take, for example, the difference between Boots and Superdrug. If I’m looking for a product, let’s say, Sudocreme protect for my child and I select the 50g tube version I have landed on a product that gives me ample information for both stores. Great. The core difference being that Boots offer me truly relevant products where as Superdrug does not.

Boots show me what others have purchased in their purchasing journey and they are completely related to the product. In this instance, they show me, not just the product (which might be deemed as irrelevant because I’m already on that product), but products that work with that product. For example, cotton pads to allow me to apply the Sudocreme.

This in stark contrast to Superdrug who, do show me relevant products to some extent, but more in a method of “other varieties” oppose to “relevancy” and genuine thought behind the user experience i.e. Sudocreme 100g, Sudocreme 25g etc.

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Figure 2. Boots show me the product in question as well as what other users bought in addition, usually the application of that product that goes completely hand in hand.

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Figure 3. Superdrug show other variants of the product that I “might also like”. They are still relevant in some sense of the word as they are other variations on my current selection.

  1. Recommend other products on the product page; but be realistic about what you recommend

Following on from the last point, we need to be realistic about what we recommend. There’s no point selling a t-shirt for £20 but recommending a leather jacket for £200. This is clearly not within my price range if that’s what I’m looking at.

In fact, the smartest personalization engines and e-retailers will dynamically upsell so if there is that T-shirt for £20, why not upsell a T-shirt with a higher profit margin for £23? The same applies for lower prices items, on the Havaianas website, for example, why demonstrate items of a lower price to the product I’m already looking at? The user is given an expectation of that product by the price at, in this instance, £22, so why showcase products worth £16 and £18 of a lower value? We can be more clever about this through personalization.

Figure 4: A selection of Havaianas priced between £16 and £22 on a product page valued at £22

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  1. Recommend products at the basket level – but be careful

It’s interesting when I speak to clients about personalization, they often think that the only way to do this is by welcoming the user by name, such as, “Hi David”. Well, yes we can do that but we can be so much more clever than that. We can personalise at every step of the journey inc (but not limited to):

  • The homepage
  • The category pages
  • The product page
  • The basket page
  • The checkout
  • The order confirmation page
  • Email marketing

Let’s take the basket page as an example, as this is a perfect place for you  to be relevant to your users.

Taking Boot’s example above of supplementary, ancillary and relevant products we can see that Office, too, offer me relevant products to my purchase. They remind me not to forget about certain products. Brilliant. That a nice user experience, thank you Office. But wait. I’ve placed a size 3.5 Converse All Star Low pair of trainers in my bag (for the record, I’m a size 10) – why are they offering me leather insoles and a leather protector spray? This content is not relevant at all unfortunately. Worse still, it’s a prime opportunity for the user to click on these items, perhaps thinking they need it, and then not return to the basket page, abandoning their purchase. I’ve seen examples before of recommendations opening up in light boxes or, better still, being part of the entire checkout journey itself.

However, if we look at ASDA’s approach to providing personalized content they demonstrate items that you’ve bought previously that you ‘might have forgot’.  Even when this screen occurred I tried adding ASDA No Added Sugar Blueberry and Raspberry Favour Sparkling Water and upon the second time of seeing this screen it did not recommend that product to me – knowing full well I already had it within my basket. That’s personalization.

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Figure 5: Office have a ‘don’t forget’ section of items that go well with the product you currently have in your basket. Or do they go well?

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Figure 6.  ASDA tell me what I might have forgotten at the last moment…!

Summary

We have the data available to us to allow us to personalized our user experiences. Use that data to help you increase your conversion rate and increase your average order value, whilst at the same time improving your users’ experience. It’s a win-win-win scenario if implemented correctly.

David is an independent conversion rate optimisation expert in Manchester, UK. He is one of few people in the UK to be HFI certified for both usability and user experience. His focus is predominantly on the strategy of increasing your conversion rate using data driven solutions. 

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