Personalization & Customization are two terms heard a lot in eCommerce. Whilst often used interchangeably, they actually refer to two separate strategies that can improve the customer experience in different ways. Understanding the subtleties of each is key to maximizing your marketing efforts and driving business growth. 

In the world of online retail, experience is now everything. A positive experience convinces shoppers to convert and turns them into loyal, repeat customers. It encourages brand advocacy, and ultimately sets you apart from the competition.

On the other hand, customers who have a bad experience are more likely to abandon their purchase and go elsewhere. They may leave negative reviews or share their frustration with friends and family, and are unlikely to return to your store in the future.

The customer experience is not just transactional. It covers every single interaction between you and the consumer, from product discovery through to post purchase support and beyond. Browsing your store, reading product reviews, interacting with your social media - it all contributes to how a customer feels about your brand. 

So where do personalization and customization fit in? To understand that, we need to know what each term actually means, and how it applies to your marketing efforts. 

Personalization: What is it and How Does it Improve the Customer Experience?

In eCommerce, personalization is the practice of tailoring your store and marketing efforts to the specific needs and preferences of each individual customer. It can take many forms - such as recommending products based on past purchases, displaying content based on browsing history, or sending targeted email campaigns based on interests and behaviors.

What personalization does is create a more engaging, relevant and convenient experience. Customers feel seen, understood and valued, because every interaction they have with a brand speaks to them on a personal level and meets their individual needs.

This leads to a host of outcomes that benefit your bottom line, like improved customer retention, higher average order value and higher lifetime value. 

The key to it all is data. To provide personalized experiences, you need to collect, analyze and use customer data effectively. Not just transactional data - like purchase history and browsing behavior - but also demographic and psychographic data. For example, first-party data collected using the REVIEWS.io Surveys tool, means that  customer profiles and segments can be created, allowing brands to build a more personalized customer experience.

This information helps you build detailed customer profiles, enables granular segmentation, and powers AI systems - all of which help make every interaction unique to every customer.

Key Personalization Tactics

Now we know what it is and why it matters, here’s some actionable ways to implement eCommerce personalization:

Product recommendations: one of the most effective ways to personalize the customer experience is by offering relevant product recommendations. By using browsing and purchase history, demographics and review data, you can suggest products that are interesting and relevant to each individual customer. 

Email campaigns: email campaigns are another great way to personalize the customer experience. By segmenting your email list and sending targeted messages based on the customer's interests, personal attributes and behaviors, you increase the likelihood of engagement.

Search results: personalized search results make product discovery quick, easy and unique. They increase the likelihood of a customer actually making a purchase, and may even prompt them to buy something they weren’t originally looking for.

Loyalty rewards: you can further personalize the customer experience by offering exclusive discounts and rewards based on past purchase behavior. This is a highly effective way to build long lasting and profitable relationships. For instance, Influence.io's loyalty program provides a personalized rewards experience for its users, resulting in a more customer-focused approach to incentivizing customer loyalty.

Customer service: you can even use data to personalize customer service, offering tailored solutions based on past interactions. For example, by integrating tools like REVIEWS.io and Gorgias, your customer service reps can see past purchase and review data to better understand customer pain points.

Customization: What is it and How Does it Improve the Customer Experience?

Customization is the process of giving users the ability to create a product that meets their specific needs and preferences. While personalization uses data and algorithms to create a unique experience for each customer, customization is more hands-on and involves giving the customer control over the final product.

Obvious uses of customization in eCommerce include enabling shoppers to add specific details to a product - like a name or date for example - allowing them to make design changes like color, or to upload custom images. Customization can help shoppers feel more invested in the product and ultimately increase their satisfaction with the purchase.

But not every business has the capacity to offer this service, or indeed products that lend themselves to this type of customization.

There is however another use applicable to all brands, and that’s customization of your eCommerce technology - i.e. the ability to adapt the tools you use to suit your brand identity and business goals. 

How does this improve the customer experience? 

Let’s say you're a fashion brand for example. Using customizable tools you can create a unique size chart that accurately reflects your sizing standards. You can then support this by customizing review widgets, such as Review Attributes, to allow shoppers to filter reviews based on certain criteria - like height, body type and size of purchase - making it easier for them to find relevant content.

What this does is allow for informed purchase decisions. It keeps the customer happy - because they have the information they need to buy with confidence - and it keeps your returns to a minimum.  

Customization can also be used for consistency. Let's say you’re using Shopify Plus for your store, REVIEWS.io for review collection, and Klaviyo for your marketing. Because each of these solutions allows for advanced customization, you can make everything ‘fit’. In doing so, you create a cohesive customer experience that reinforces your brand identity and builds trust.

In short, when you’re able to customize the tools you use you’re able to create a customer experience that’s consistent, seamless and informative. 

Key Customization Tactics

This all depends on the tools in your tech stack, but some key applications for customization include:

Store design: this is perhaps the most obvious. To stand out as a brand you want a store design that reflects your identity and values, as well as one that’s intuitive and easy to navigate.

Email templates: generic email templates are impersonal and typically ineffective, so customization is key here. On a basic level, templates should have the same look and feel as your store. With more advanced customization, you can include dynamic content like product recommendations and shoppable UGC galleries in Klaviyo email campaigns.

Widgets: these should fit seamlessly into your store design. Customizable elements here include colors, fonts, placement and functionality to allow all review widgets to be on-brand.

Email flows: you can customize email flows by setting tailored sending conditions - where certain actions trigger certain messages at a particular time. This means you can control what your customers see and when they see it, rather than a ‘one size fits all’ approach to marketing. 

Loyalty programs: a customizable loyalty solution (such as Influence.io) means you can design a program that better serves your best customers - like custom loyalty tiers for example. It improves their experience because they’re rewarded in a way that’s reflective of their personal relationship with your brand. 

How to Make Personalization and Customization a Part of Your Growth Strategy

Your personalization and customization efforts all rely on your tech stack. To capitalize on these opportunities you need to invest in best-of-breed solutions in each niche - eCommerce platforms, email marketing, review management, customer service - everything you use. 

Importantly, these tools should be able to talk to each other, allowing you to share customer data with ease to personalize your sales and marketing. And of course, they should all offer advanced customization to support your needs as a brand. 

REVIEWS.io is a market leading review solution that integrates seamlessly with all the best eCommerce tools - like Shopify Plus, Klaviyo, Gorgias and Nosto. 

You can tailor our solution in multiple ways, with customizable widgets, custom review requests, custom surveys and automated email flows. 

You can also customize our price plans, with powerful bolt-ons including Influence.io - our innovative solution for loyalty and referrals. Try us out with a free 14 day trial.

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