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Re-thinking ecommerce personalization

Ten Chu's headshoot
By Ten Chu

Remember a time before ecommerce? When shopping choices were limited to local store offerings and large chains? Price or convenience may have drawn you to the nearest Walmart, but small businesses were the place to go for that personal touch. 

The advent of ecommerce flipped this balance on its head. Suddenly, Amazon knew everything about your purchasing history and patterns, while small and medium sized businesses played catch up online. In the transition, many retailers lost that in-person connection with their customer – that relationship and affinity that had sustained their business and carved out their niche. 

At Searchspring, we want to restore this balance. We want to give the power of personal touch back to independent retailers. We’re re-thinking the concept of ecommerce personalization in a way that’s not just another faceless, AI-powered algorithm. We want to put the merchandiser – with all of their personality, insight, and decision-making abilities – back at the helm of ecommerce personalization.

Merchandiser-controlled personalization

Personalized online shopping experiences are nothing new. A quick Google search will lead you to any number of solutions in this space. But if you look closely, you’ll usually find a clunky personalization engine with endless apps and integrations that make merchandising an afterthought.

As a retailer, this can lead to unexpected problems: your ecommerce team has a firm idea of what’s best for your customer in a given moment, but your personalization engine wants to override their intuition and creativity. Rather than eliminate the merchandiser from this process, we believe personalization should enhance their powers without taking away their control. It should remove manual processes and preclude the need for developer intervention, without resorting to a set-and-forget approach.  

We like to think that by perfecting search and merchandising first, we have a better understanding of what retailers really need when it comes to personalization. That’s why we acquired 4-Tell’s personalization technology, which we’re now weaving into the foundations of our full suite of solutions.

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What will personalization look like at Searchspring?

Segmentation, individualization, 1:1… the ecommerce industry is rife with buzzwords when it comes to personalization. Really, we believe it’s about shopper intent. An individual customer’s intent could span years based on long-standing preferences, or it could consist of single-session interest in a one-off purchase. You can’t assume that a customer who purchases Nike sneakers in one visit will want to buy more of the same when they return, after all.

Ultimately, personalization is about understanding and fulfilling a customer’s intent in a specific shopping moment. Yes, you can get down to a granular 1:1 level when it makes sense to do so, but why wait until you have collected extensive behavioral data on a shopper? Personalization can, and should, begin from the moment a user engages with your brand. New visitors that discover your site via an ad should be greeted with different messaging and imagery to a loyal customer who clicks on a campaign link in an email, for example.

Grouping users based on their shopping journey allows you to tailor their experience with very little information, before progressively narrowing down their results and recommendations. Relevancy is in the eye of the beholder. As you observe and learn a shopper’s preferences, your store can evolve from making one-size-fits-all suggestions, to offering those inimitable personal touches that small and medium sized retailers do so well.

What’s next?

Early adopters are currently using our beta personalized product recommendations, with a waitlist available for those who would like to take part in the next release. A full rollout is coming in early 2021, with more personalization updates to follow across the full search and merchandising suite. If you’re an existing Searchspring customer and would like to learn more about what this means for you, you can reach out to your Customer Success Manager at any time. Interested in gaining these superpowers on your store? We’d love to hear from you.