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How Retailers Can Embrace Personalization and Entice Consumers This Holiday Season

As retailers prepare for the holiday season, the stakes are higher than usual due to decreased retail performance earlier in the year. In order to capitalize on the holiday market, retailers should be looking to incorporate personalization into the online experience, according to a new survey by e-commerce personalization platform Qubit.

Qubit surveyed over 800 consumers in the U.S. and U.K. and found that two out of three consumers expect a personalized experience when shopping with a brand, after the first visit. Yet only half felt that retailers are currently using personalization, and 46% also said that they are now less loyal to the brands that they love. This suggests that retailers need to meet expectations early on or risk losing the customer altogether.

“Our survey data shows that shopper behavior has changed radically since the pandemic spread globally and will continue to look different during the 2020 holiday season,” said Graham Cooke, founder and CEO at Qubit.

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In addition to the trend toward personalization, consumers are also increasingly shopping online — and this is forecast to continue for holiday shopping. Qubit found 44% of consumers are using e-commerce more than in 2019, with one in four respondents reporting that they conduct at least 90% of their shopping online. This means that brands need to focus on incorporating personalization into the digital experience, in order to fulfill expectations.

“Use merchandising and personalization techniques designed to re-create the in-store experience as far as possible,” advised Cooke. “Ensure returns policies are front and center, such as by using a global banner; promote live chat to those yet to purchase; and use purchase and returns data to recommend the right size for that individual.”

Other methods could include promoting items that match a customer’s style whenever they arrive on the retail homepage, assembled by looking at their browsing and purchase history. Email marketing that follows up on previously out-of-stock items — or suggests similar products to previously purchased items — could also help improve the individual shopper journey.

Even tailoring recommendations to location, such as a “trending near you” feature, can help resonate due to specificities of season and weather. Cooke recommends that retailers look for small opportunities to improve existing policies, which can generate immediate impact, rather than introducing entirely new solutions.

“Examine proven winning tactics to identify untapped opportunities, [such as] scarcity and urgency,” said Cooke. “Seemingly subtle tweaks [to your messages] can make a significant difference to your bottom line. One example is using ‘Trending’ versus ‘Trending! 88 people have bought these today.'”

Retailers also might want to explore more interactive ways of sourcing data, as shoppers are more likely to be comfortable sharing their information than previously. Qubit reported that 70% of consumers would share more preference data with companies, if it resulted in a more personalized experience. This can be collected directly through style quizzes, polls or through requesting shoppers quickly up- or downvote items for a quick sense of their taste.

Whichever path retailers choose, the survey suggests that they act quickly and implement changes before November, because nearly half of respondents (44%) are planning to shop more online during this year’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, as compared to last year’s holiday season.

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