Amazon founder Jeff Bezos — who transformed an online bookstore into a data-driven empire — is the richest man in the world. In the years since, the brand’s customer-focused ecommerce marketing strategy has helped generate more than 150 million Prime members.
But the key to Amazon’s success is customer data — specifically, personalization. By tracking what customers do on the site, Amazon can offer tailored recommendations to each shopper, such as recently viewed items, related items, and items inspired by shopping trends, which together encourage customers to buy even more.
That’s personalized marketing in practice, though the textbook definition is an act that incorporates consumer data and targeting to enhance conversions and customer loyalty.
Interestingly enough, research shows nearly 75% of consumers want to buy from brands who know them (and their preferences), but a separate study found 60% of marketers struggle with personalization.
The good news is personalized marketing is not just for brands like Amazon with seemingly unlimited resources — any brand can tap into the power of personalization by following these six steps:
Your ecommerce marketing strategy starts with data
Brands have access to ample consumer data from every interaction point, including websites, emails, and social media. This data then fuels better content, taking ad targeting to the next level by closely matching the ads consumers see to their exact wants or needs. For example, Facebook and Google help advertisers use data to serve ads on their platforms based on specific user characteristics and interests.
Nevertheless, the better your brand understands a customer, the more likely you are to help meet their needs. That’s why the most successful companies treat data acquisition as an ongoing process.
Segment consumers into personas
As you start to gather data, you’ll notice customers have different wants or needs. That’s why it’s important to separate consumers into buckets — called segments — based on the characteristics and/or behaviors they share. The precise buckets will vary by brand, but generally speaking, they can include demographics, browsing behavior, past purchases, and/or stage in the purchase funnel. From there, you can map content to each audience to ensure they receive the emails and ads that are most relevant to them.
Breaking down consumer segments helps brands avoid the old “spray-and-pray” tactic, where every customer receives the same blanket message. It also helps brands better nurture their customers and prospects.
Send emails from an actual person
An easy way to further personalize emails is by sending them from an actual human at a brand, rather than the company name. When marketing software company HubSpot tested sending emails from someone on their marketing team instead of just HubSpot, their click-through rate improved.
This shows that consumers respond better to people than seemingly inhuman brands. Pro tip: Make sure the messages you send from a company representative sound like they’re written by a real person — or else you might blow your cover.
Factor time zones into your ecommerce marketing strategy
If you’re not A/B testing when to send your marketing messages, now is a good time to start. Another aspect to consider when A/B testing is where each recipient is located — and when they prefer to receive messages. The U.S. alone spans five time zones, so if your brand is sending emails at 8 a.m. E.T. to reach East Coast residents settling into their morning routines, you’re also contacting West Coast recipients at 5 a.m. and those in Alaska and Hawaii in the middle of the night. It’s even more complicated if your brand is international.
Just like you shouldn’t send a single message to all recipients, you should also avoid a single send time if your market includes customers in different markets. Instead, figure out the ideal time for each and adjust your scheduling accordingly.
Utilize location to cater content
Use location data and geo-merchandising to customize what your site looks like for each visitor. For example, say you’re a clothing brand with site visitors throughout the U.S. Based on their specific location, you can display sweaters, coats, and hats to consumers in Alaska while showing shorts and t-shirts to customers in Florida. Another tactic is to ask customers what they’re looking for, such as a bridal site asking first-time visitors if they’re shopping for their wedding or someone else’s, then adjusting the experience as needed.
Meanwhile, you can use location to send more personalized emails, including information about store hours or what products are in stock at a nearby location.
Tap into automated behavioral trigger emails
To proactively respond to customer behavior in real time, set up email triggers for certain behaviors, such as cart abandonment. This takes a page right out of Facebook’s playbook — the platform emails users who haven’t logged in for a while to gently encourage them to return.
Research shows these personalized messages have a 152% higher open rate than regular emails. And, based on the data that brands already have on consumers, it’s a great way to ensure you’re reaching the right consumer on the right device at the right moment. What’s more, there are plenty of email marketing platforms that allow you to automate the process, so it doesn’t have to be a heavy lift.
Marketing personalization has evolved far beyond using a customer’s first name in an email. But remember: Bad personalization might be worse than no personalization at all, which you probably know from your own experience as a consumer — especially if you’ve ever received one of those “Dear %%FIRST_NAME%%” emails.
At the end of the day, it’s worth the effort to get it right: Research shows that brands that invest in personalization as part of their ecommerce marketing strategy benefit from more valuable insights, which they can then translate into more loyal customers. Consider it an all-around win.