Expert Interview Series #4 with Nidhi Desai, September 2020
I started in eCommerce over 10 years ago, beginning on the business side and then moving on to Product Management within digital technology. I have spent my time working primarily with owned brands, department stores, and luxury retailers. I have extensive experience specifically around search technology, personalization, and apps.
eCommerce personalization is the use of user data - browsing history, purchase data, personal preferences, etc. - to deliver dynamic experiences. These can include site content, product recommendations, prices/offers, and emails, among others.
I think at the moment everyone understands the need and value of personalization, but beyond the larger players like Amazon, Target, etc. not many retailers have comprehensive personalization across all channels. There is still a lot of opportunities out there.
Without a doubt, Amazon is a leader as far as on-site personalization; users see and feel that they are accessing a unique homepage when they reach the site - in a way that is not true for other eCommerce sites. The powerful use of personalization is evident across all of their channels including Amazon Fresh, PrimeNow, etc. One area where I think Amazon needs to do a better job from a personalization perspective is with its Prime Streaming app.
Nordstrom also does a great job with personalization, though a little more subtly. It’s deeply embedded across their site and app, but not as in-your-face as Amazon. They especially do well encompassing their loyalty and credit card programs in their personalization efforts. It’s a very seamless experience that doesn’t feel too invasive.
One of the big challenges with personalization is the issue of becoming an echo chamber for your user. As much as customers want to see things they know they will like, they also want to be introduced to new things - new styles, new brands - not just what they already know and love. You see this challenge with music subscription services, users start out getting introduced to great new music and over time it becomes repetitive and they begin to see only what they already know.
Another challenge is the sheer volume of data available and being able to properly parse this into meaningful insights. You need a strong foundation and strategy for personalization in order to manage this in the most optimal way.
Personalization is a feature that requires constant work and refinement, it’s not something that is “set it and forget it”.
I think in order to continue to be a strong feature, personalization efforts will need to be adjusted and become more refined. As people become more knowledgable about how their data is gathered and used, it will be important for companies to leverage personalization in a way that does not feel intrusive.
Personalization is a huge revenue driver and when done correctly can drive purchases and repeat engagement. Users have so much choice these days that it’s important to make an impression on them so that you stay top of mind, personalization is a good way to do that.
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By 2025, Artificial Intelligence will be driving the biggest technological advancements across e-commerce and many other industries. Companies that successfully use the power of AI will have a competitive advantage over other businesses in their industry.
Imagine a virtual shopping buddy who deeply understands a customer’s preferred styles that can quickly find the right item! That capability can be on your website now, but at what cost?