Why Personalization & Mobile Commerce Are More Important Than Ever

For retailers and brands, the holiday shopping season often requires a bit of patience — and waiting with bated breath to see if deployed solutions do, in fact, work.

This past season was no exception. If anything, the message was overwhelmingly clear: AI-powered personalization and mobile commerce have been cemented in the market as necessary. According to Salesforce data, Christmas Day saw the highest rise in mobile shopping, with 68 percent of traffic and 50 percent of orders coming from mobile devices.

What’s more, according to the tech provider’s analysis, 62 percent of all traffic and 46 percent of all orders were placed on mobile devices during Thanksgiving.

In the personalization arena, consumers are slowly catching on to the benefits of catered content. According to Salesforce’s data, though only 5 percent of shoppers engaged with personalized material, their spending made up 30 percent of revenue during the week of Black Friday. With this shift toward online and mobile shopping, retailers and brands are now in the position of readying themselves for the new world of commerce.

Here, Rick Kenney, head of consumer insights at Salesforce, discusses what key lessons and strategies should be devised from the holiday shopping period, how millennials are driving the personalization boom, and what to expect — and deliver — for mobile commerce.

How will mobile shopping evolve in the next 12 months, based on holiday shopping analysis?

RK: “Holiday sets the stage for the next year of shopping. That means shoppers’ mobile migration will continue. The highs that we saw during the season — 68 percent of traffic and 50 percent of orders on Christmas Day — will be surpassed early in the year, and we’ll see the rise of mobile-only by more shoppers.”

How will omnichannel shopping experiences evolve for holiday 2018?

RK: “One often-overlooked area of omnichannel opportunity is the influence of a phone for shoppers within a store. Seventy-two percent of shoppers (18-44) are using their phones in-store; however, retailers have not done enough to engage that shopper on her phone. Using the phone to connect with the shopper while in-store will be a prime area of focus this year. By doing so, retailers will improve their execution on omnichannel tactics, and shoppers will see an uptick in in-store experience like product discovery and personalization.”

Consumers shifted their shopping to mobile over the holidays. How can retailers and brands maintain this momentum throughout the year?

RK: “As we continue to see mobile drive online sales, we expect to see retailers investing in initiatives that ‘flatten’ the shopper’s journey by merging steps. For example, online shoppers can now buy merchandise from a product detail page without having to tap their way to the checkout page on their mobile phone. That’s thanks in large part to integrated mobile payments like Apple Pay and Android Pay. In fact, Apple reports that the number of Apple Pay users is growing by 1 million per week. On retail sites that have Apple Pay available throughout the journey, we expect that more iPhone orders will flow through Apple Pay this year.”

What are the biggest pitfalls for retailers in 2018? 

RK: “The biggest pitfall is absolutely ‘going it alone.’ We’re seeing a shift in how brands collaborate across enterprises to create meaningful experiences and products — call it ‘peer-tnership’: New Balance and Stance Socks coming together for a collection. Birkenstock and Barneys New York creating pop-up boxes. A brand’s ability to collaborate will be central to its success. Those that remain insular and try to control every aspect of the experience will fall behind.”

What does the consumer behavior from the holidays signal to the industry?

RK: “This year, we learned AI-based personalization is quickly becoming a cornerstone, and a real growth-driver, of digital commerce. While personalization may not be synonymous with the holiday shopping season, it drove real impact this year. Over the course of the week,
5 percent of shoppers engaged in personalized product recommendations, and those shoppers contributed 30 percent of the revenue from the week.

“This year, we expect shoppers’ appetite for personalized product recommendations to continue to grow. As retailers integrate AI ‘beyond the box’ of the product detail page and into more impactful areas like category pages, personalized landing pages and even site search results, shoppers will come to rely more on product recommendations over older techniques like navigation.”

What are the key new features and/or technologies that retailers and brands should consider?

RK: “What’s most surprising this holiday season is the rapid embrace of voice-enabled digital assistants such as Amazon Echo and Google Home, used by 40 percent of millennials as they research merchandise before buying online. The role of AI in the shopper’s path to purchase becomes even clearer when we look at how shoppers continue to research products across all digital channels before making a purchase.

“In fact, according to our Connected Shopper Report, 79 percent of shoppers research products prior to purchasing from a retailer in-store, and 85 percent research products prior to purchasing online. As shoppers continue to turn to multiple channels before making a purchase, while still expecting a seamless shopping experience, retailers need a unified commerce platform to deliver connected, consistent and personalized experiences across all channels, including marketing, commerce and customer service.”

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