eCommerce personalization: everything you need to know

by Jan Schulte, Head of Group Consulting at Magnolia
May 22, 2019 | 5 MIN

Retailers have long understood the value of personalization, but as we move into 2019, it’s fair to say that many retailers have failed to meet the standards expected by consumers.

In a world where Amazon is dominating with hyper-personalization, we can see online retailers taking the “one-size-fits-all” approach to their eCommerce strategy. While some major retailers display products for customers based on their browser history and previous purchases, others lose out on the chance to showcase products and services based on their customers’ preferences and intent.

What is eCommerce personalization?

The term “eCommerce personalization” relates to the set of practices in which an online store displays dynamic content based on customer data, such as demographics, intent, preferences, browsing history, previous purchases, and device usage—for instance, whether the customer is shopping on a mobile, tablet, or even a smartwatch.

For example, Magnolia CMS fulfills these practices through its targeting, personalization and optimization capabilities. You can define audiences and customer segments, personalize content based on both implicit and explicit customer data (including third party data, like weather services), test your personalized content, and fully individualize the customer experience based on user journey tracking.

The benefits of eCommerce personalization

As with most eCommerce efforts, the primary goal of eCommerce personalization is to increase the site’s conversion rates. Depending on the industry, a “conversion” can mean that the visitor makes a purchase, signs up for an account, or sets an appointment. When the site displays content that meets the visitor’s needs, the site’s conversion rate often goes up.

Another goal of eCommerce personalization can be to increase revenues on each order. When you know what your customers want, you can use your eCommerce CMS system to up-sell or cross-sell customers on complementary items they may need. These efforts can increase the value of the average order.

Finally, a personalized experience is a better customer experience, leading to higher degrees of customer satisfaction and retention. I’ve written in a recent article about how personalization boosts customer satisfaction and the types of personalization strategies to achieve this.

What elements of an eCommerce store can you personalize?

Due to technological constraints, many marketers have had to settle with a basic level of personalization—like using the customer’s name in their email campaigns, for example. However, the modern consumer now expects far more when it comes to bespoke shopping experiences.

With the right technology stack, marketers can take advantage of eCommerce personalization by delivering personalized content across the customer journey. Here are three ways an eCommerce website can be personalized:

  • Localized and targeted content: Customers will want to return to a site that delivers content relevant to their region, language, demographics, and interests. That includes banner content, blog posts, and even product descriptions.
  • Recommended products: If a customer makes a purchase from an online camera equipment store, the site can generate personalized recommendations that would coincide with a product the customer bought. For example, lights, lenses, and photo editing software.
  • Targeted discounts: Your eCommerce CMS can offer discounts on products the customer has previously purchased, or you can create bundles of related products at a lower price than the customer would pay for purchasing each item individually.

Where does a CMS fit in?

Marketers often attempt to use their eCommerce platform to manage content as well as commerce. The only problem is, enterprise-grade content management, and content personalization in particular, is where most eCommerce platforms fall short. While stellar eCommerce platforms certainly exist, they’re often (understandably) more focused on the product catalogs and streamlining the checkout process.

Thankfully, with an eCommerce CMS to hand, you can either leverage the CMS’s innate eCommerce features or integrate the CMS with an eCommerce software, giving you the best of both worlds.

For example, numerous brands use a combination of Magnolia CMS and systems like commercetools, Magento, IBM WebSphere or SAP Hybris Commerce, to deliver content and commerce to the end user. This combination enables retailers to leverage two powerful technologies simultaneously; Magnolia CMS for its content management and personalization features, and the e-Commerce system for its catalog and shop capabilities.

Headless commerce: How a headless CMS helps with omnichannel personalization

Integrating two technologies is one thing, but to open up a new world of opportunity, you’ll want to be sure that your enterprise CMS has headless capabilities.

A headless CMS delivers content through API calls—which means content can be delivered to any channel or device, without limits. In an eCommerce environment, a headless CMS empowers marketers with the ability to send content and products to touchpoints like smart speakers and kiosk screens. Read more on what is a headless CMS and the advantages it brings.

Those headless capabilities can be leveraged to create a seamless omnichannel personalization strategy, which could include:

  • Offline personalization: Link a customer’s online behavior and history to your brick-and-mortar store, giving them personalized messaging through push notifications, through in-store screens, or at checkout. Then, link their offline purchase data back to their account, which will help to further personalize future online and offline experiences.
  • Mobile and smartwatch app personalization: Extend your website’s personalization to apps and wearable devices, and send relevant push notifications leveraging geofencing.
  • Omnichannel personalization: Create a completely unified customer data platform and bring in every single interaction that a customer has with your brand, from discovery, to purchase, to loyalty. This way, you can offer an individualized and continuous experience—no matter if the customer moves from an online touchpoint to an offline or vice-versa. No matter how many new touchpoints you create, the experience will not feel disjointed.

See MOO’s eCommerce personalization strategy in action

MOO, a UK-based bespoke business stationery company, leverages Magnolia to deliver personalized content, products, and offers.

The MOO homepage serves up one example. Based on a customer’s past purchases, the homepage dynamically changes its banners to offer relevant deals and products. MOO is also using location-based personalization rules to serve customers personalized content depending on their city or country.

The company used Magnolia CMS to ensure that marketers could update the content and establish the parameters for personalization, without having to rely on their IT team at every turn. For instance, MOO’s in-house content editors quickly grasped Magnolia’s marketer-friendly interface, and can now drag-and-drop modules around the page more easily, affording more opportunities to promote particular products and pages.

Magnolia is a million times faster and easier, and has given freedom to our creative, marketing and developing teams. Our potential for conversions has increased dramatically.

Magnolia CMS: your content and commerce solution

Online retailers are quickly learning that personalized content is the key to a memorable customer journey.

From the initial visit to the final checkout, a great customer journey must include content that appeals to the customer’s intent and needs. The level of personalization that retailers have found in Magnolia’s eCommerce CMS platform addresses those needs, and furthermore, those needs are addressed not just for today’s channels, but for any future touchpoint or experience they create, thanks to Magnolia’s headless content management capabilities.

Jan Schulte

About the Author

Working at the intersection of business and technology, Jan helps Magnolia clients succeed with their content management and digital experience initiatives, framing solutions to their custom challenges and opportunities.