June 17, 2008, 12:00 AM

Personalizing shopping experiences can turn browsers into buyers

By offering relevant content at the right time to the right person, retailers can increase conversion rates, order values and the chance the customer will return to shop again, said an ATG executive at IRCE 2008.

Instead of a one-size fits all approach to web visitors, online merchants can benefit by using personalization techniques that deliver information based on user behavior, product relevance, product popularity and merchandising strategies, said Cliff Conneighton, senior vice president of e-commerce technology provider ATG, at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition 2008.

Throughout the shopping experience, retailers can present offers based on click-through sources, a shopper’s purchase history or participation in a loyalty program, Conneighton said at last week’s session, “Personalizing the Web Experience.” For example, if there is a promotion for a sweater on a web site’s home page and a shopper leaves and returns from a bicycle site, the home page offer could be changed to a bicycle-related product to increase the chances of piquing the shopper’s interest, Conneighton said.

Search results can also be personalized by delivering products based on a shopper’s browsing behavior, a products’ popularity and the type of customer browsing-such as placing the newest style of sweaters higher in results for users who are fashion conscious, Conneighton said.

Content and approach don’t necessarily have to be specific to an individual. “One of the things that got personalization off track is the notion that it was one to one. The merchant doesn’t, nor can they, respond to a segment of one. They have to respond to segments, to personas. The one thing is don’t go too far down a fine-grained path. You can accomplish a lot by having two segments: old customers and new customers,” Conneighton told attendees.

An effective personalization tool is a click-to-call feature which can reduce shopping cart abandonment by 30% and increase conversion rates and order size, Conneighton said. The majority of shoppers also notice recommendations. About three in four shoppers say they find recommendations valuable and about a third of those that noticed recommendations purchased products based on them, Conneighton said.

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