Why personalization is way more than product recos

By Marc Hummel

April 8, 2015

Monetate Personalization Rant

An unseemly tirade for retailers with ambition: Part 2

There’s something we’ve been seeing a lot of lately and it’s really making us mad. We hope this doesn’t come out wrong.

Lots of ecommerce marketers throw up an automated product recommendation box and say “that’s it, we’re done. Open up the “Goals FY 2015” spreadsheet and place a big red “X” into the cell labeled “personalization.”

We think that’s not only wrong; it’s also choosing to pass up on a big opportunity.

Here’s what we said in our personalization rant:

Retailers also know that personalization is much more than a product reco here and a “Hi Sophie” there. Every part of the customer experience can now be personalized. Any web page. Every email. All interactions on mobile sites. Anything and everything can be personalized (and even linked across channels). There’s no excuse for delivering a generic version.

Now don’t take this the wrong way. We’re not saying product recos themselves are bad. The simple act of providing more products for your customers to consider will probably increase sales, period full stop. But not all product recos are created equally. We won’t name any names, but some startup companies out there promise no-hassle fully-automated product recommendations right out of the box. Just set it and forget it, they’ll tell you.

We think marketers need to be more proactive. If all your competitors have product recos, what are you doing to set your business apart?

That’s why the product recommendations we ship with Monetate for Merchandising feature powerful algorithms that deliver results without any fiddling on your part. They just work right out of the box. But you can also tweak the product assortment customers see based on session behavior, past interactions with your brand, and other contextual and behavioral insights. Just set up a few dynamic business rules, and then you can forget it.

It’s part of our overall approach to personalization. We think it’s about the entire experience. Nav bars, heroes, on-site messages… you can personalize anything on your site or mobile app, and you can combine Monetate’s behavioral and contextual data with your first-party data to help make an even more engaging experience.

One of our clients, an apparel and accessories retailer, is constantly testing and refining the functionality of their product reco boxes across the shopping funnel. For instance: On the homepage, returning visitors are shown top-selling products from the category they viewed on their last visit, while new visitors are shown top-selling products selected from all categories.

On the product page, they found that showing top sellers from a manually chosen category works better in some cases than the results from the standard “viewed-also-viewed” algorithm. They’ve gone even deeper by testing each audience group to truly understand behaviors and show them the right mix of products. During the 2014 holiday season, this retailer A/B tested male cross-sells. One split saw a 10.5% lift in AOV and a 3.8% decrease in cart abandonment. The winning split was pushed to 100% of visitors during the peak days of holiday and helped the retailer capture additional revenue.

Now that you have an idea of what’s possible now, aren’t you a little upset that more marketers aren’t taking advantage of this? Check out the rant to learn more about our frustrations and our take on the myths that may be holding you back. Then sign up to be the first to know when the first chapter of our ebook about personalization is released. You can also check out part 1 and part 3 of this 3-part series.

Marc Hummel is a former Content Marketing Associate for Monetate. He's also a part-time grad student at the University of Pennsylvania. He enjoys biking to work, reading, listening to podcasts/music, and eating ice cream. Usually not all at once. For more about Marc, go here.

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