Customers buy experiences, not products. Still, plenty of brands limit themselves to personalizing product recommendations, mostly making dated assumptions about the actual process of organically discovering products. Shoptimize works with 100+ brands across verticals. The Shoptimize Aarya personalization engine, coupled with deep customer insights provided by Shoptimize Polaris, attacks problems at the root, going beyond product recommenders, and allowing brands to personalize experiences across the customer journey. It also addresses the emerging trend of the channel-less customer, providing a seamless, personalized experience across channels.

Customers buy experiences, not products. Quoting the CEO of Adobe, Shantanu Narayen: “Today, people buy experiences, not products,” Narayen said. “Products [aren’t the main] differentiator anymore.” Instead, he told attendees, companies are competing for the hearts and minds of all customers and should aim to exceed their expectations during every point of the journey.

E-Commerce companies fork billions annually on digital ads and other marketing channels in an attempt to get an equivalent of a foot-fall on their website. Flipkart went on record that they spend as much as 30% of their revenues on advertising. While firms like Amazon and Flipkart can justify that amount of ad spend, this is hardly an option for brand stores. At the same time, the cost of acquisition (CAC) keeps growing. It gets costlier every year to acquire new customers.

Whether, or Amazon, they face multiple challenges:

1. How do we retain these hard-earned customers, and keep them coming for more?
2. How do we affect the experience across the entire customer journey, thus converting customers to passionate advocates of the brand?
3. How do we provide consistently great experiences across channels in the era of the channel-less customer?
4. Customers are interacting with brands on multiple channels, often simultaneously. Who has a complete picture of the buyer at their fingertips?

Personalization begins with products but ends in Customer Experience.

Given that customers buy experiences, generic experiences don’t cut it anymore. An E-Commerce site that does not personalize experiences to end-users is doomed. Personalization is the holy grail of E-Commerce.

By 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator. In an era where opinions are formed fast and people trust word-of-mouth advocacy, creating a great experience is key.

Amazon-ish Personalization is for Amazon, not for Brands.

What is needed is true personalization across the customer journey. However, plenty of personalization products still focus only on providing product recommender engines or automated email marketing.

Amazon was once known for their product recommenders. Amazon recommender has an uncanny ability to surface more and more of somewhat relevant products, once the customer declares their interest in something – either by browsing a category, clicking on a product or buying something. The customer is then bombarded with similar products on their site, apps, emails, and ads. Amazon now also provides their recommender engine for use on other eCommerce properties via AWS Personalize but doesn’t fix the core problem of product discovery for brands.

Product discovery is a crucial part of every online shopping experience. Most product recommenders make a shallow attempt to guess the process of product discovery from the user’s perspective. There’s, however, a difference between just displaying some slightly relevant items on a product page and mimicking organic discovery. That difference is what matters when converting a prospect to a customer. Amazon’s recommendation technology has become outdated, as the site seems unable to differentiate between actual user circumstances that prompt a purchase. For example, the user could be buying gifts for friends and family or other one-time purchases, versus things users regularly search for, desire and buy. A few humorous tweets like this one went viral highlighting this problem. Walmart recently redesigned their website to counter these issues.

Brands should emphasize the customer’s circumstances to improve product discovery. Then think about the customer as someone who is going along the customer journey trying to discover new products that delight or fulfill a need that, sometimes, they may not know they had. If you have trouble imagining this, imagine how a mom-and-pop store, knows precisely what you need, even before you attempt to explain to them.

Customers buy an Experience, not a product.

A great customer experience starts and ends with a great customer journey. The future of retail begins and ends with the customer. A useful tool is to map the customer journey, possibly, into these areas:

1. Being aware of the brand – search engines, emails or social platforms
2. Engaging with the brand – product discovery
3. Intention to purchase – evaluate specifications, reviews, and make comparisons
4. Customer experience with sales, eventual purchase, and customer support
5. Repurchase – not just transactional anymore
6. Die-hard evangelism

At every step of this customer journey, brands can add value through people, process and technology. As an example, they can make shopping faster and easier by showing those items that customers are trending, what’s seasonal or popular within a specific region. Brands can also highlight products that are only available in their area for faster delivery or pickup.

Now, if these customers, are repeat buyers you already know a bit more about them to make stronger recommendations. Crucially, brands need to strike a delicate balance between personalized content based on history, and general trends. Also, you can learn a lot about the user’s interest and intent from their real-time activity like search and browse. However, this is an area where even the most powerful personalization engines falter. Re-ordering, payments and shipping are other areas where brands can improve customer satisfaction via personalization.

Personalized Experience for the Channel-less Customer

A customer journey map is an excellent tool for defining an experience. However, it is hardly sufficient when the customer is interacting with the brand across several channels, sometimes simultaneously. For example, the customer could be responding to an email, while on the phone with a customer representative. They are simultaneously browsing products on the mobile app. It is crucial to build a standard profile of the customer across channels and keep it updated in real-time on every interaction.

Shoptimize Aarya

Shoptimize Aarya is the machine learning tool for personalized experiences. Shoptimize Aarya combines the power of the underlying CMS, provided by the Shoptimize eCommerce platform, with advanced targeting capabilities to dynamically change web/mobile content and shopping experience on site and off site. Aarya allows brands to:

1. Dynamic relevant messaging based on real-time segmentation and historical profiles.
2. UX alterations based on user profiles and real-time behavior.
3. Product recommendations at various points in the customer journey

Similarly, brands get access to predictive analytics from Shoptimize Polaris to look through their customers’ data, and predict purchasing behavior or churn via intelligent cohorts.

Polaris aims to provide a single profile across touchpoints, where behavioral information is captured. The Shoptimize Platform provides transactional information, which coupled with profile information provides more profound insights into customer behavior and personalized experience in every interaction.

In conclusion, Shoptimize attempts to replicate the one-on-one experience that you would expect from your favorite mom-and-pop store in every interaction.