2/25/14

A new tool personalizes sites based on consumers’ cross-device activity

BloomReach’s Snap technology allows a retailer to fine-tune the products, search results and navigation elements it displays to a particular shopper as she moves between her laptop and tablet.

Amy Dusto , Associate Editor

Teen apparel retailer Deb Shops has been using technology from vendor BloomReach Corp. to recommend products to its mobile customers based on what is trending on Facebook and Pinterest. Now the retailer is one of the first to test a more sophisticated, new tool from the vendor that doesn’t just work on mobile devices, but analyze all of a shopper’s browsing and buying activity as she moves between devices, including desktop and laptop computers. The new tool, BloomReach Snap, then automatically adjusts the product recommendations, site search results and navigation elements on Deb Shops’ web and mobile sites to fit her preferences.

For example, if a shopper has been frequently filtering “dresses” by size and color, BloomReach Snap will reorder the left-hand navigation elements to bring those two factors up higher in her subsequent searches for dresses. The adjustment won’t apply, however, if she searches for other items like “booties” or “polo shirts,” a spokesman for BloomReach says. Similarly, if she has been expressing special interest in “yellow dresses” throughout her recent browsing, for example, BloomReach Snap will fine-tune the product recommendations and search results to show her more yellow dresses.

“What excites us about BloomReach is that it provides the user with a personalized experience without them having to do anything explicitly to make it happen,” says Deb Shops’ vice president of e-commerce and digital marketing David Cost. “We are trying to minimize the time between customer desire and customer satisfaction.”

BloomReach uses statistical analysis to link a shopper’s activity when she visits the retailer on multiple devices, without requiring her to login. “Our technology is highly attuned to identify patterns,” the vendor’s spokesman says. “We have been able to study enough consumer interactions across devices—we see one billion consumer visits per week—for the smart machine to ascertain if behavior within logical time frames and locations across devices is likely the same person.”

To check if the identity is a match, the technology tests some site personalizations based on the consumers’ activity. If she engages with the changes—for instance, clicking on the products that BloomReach Snap promoted for her personally—it deems her a match; if she doesn’t, it discards that presumed match, the spokesman says.

So far, Deb Shops over the last few weeks has been using Snap on just desktop and tablets, while it continues to use BloomReach’s other personalization tool for smartphone visitors, Cost says. That’s partially a limitation of site design—for instance, changing the left-hand navigation is possible only on desktop and tablet, he says.

“Our results on mobile were very promising, and we believed that the same approach would pay off for both desktop and tablet,” Cost says. For example, after implementing the mobile tool this summer, Deb Shops has tripled the average time on site, pages viewed per visit and conversion rates for visitors that see BloomReach product recommendations versus those who don’t, he says. Revenue from those shoppers also increased 50% in January.

Deb Shops’ primary goal is to drive customer engagement with the brand, Cost says. “We’d like the customer to visit and spend time with us every day, making Deb Shops a habit, having it be a regular part of what they do,” he says. “It’s so much more powerful than trying to optimize for the one day when they are going to buy something.”

For example, a shopper who is waiting in line at a store for five minutes and wants to quickly browse for “party dresses” probably doesn’t have time to complete a transaction right there. “But, if we can show her the product in that few minutes that is relevant and excites her, she’s going to come back when she has the time to make the purchase,” Cost says. “That’s our philosophy, we want people to come back as often as they can, we want to encourage frequent visits, and we want people to spend quality time with the brand.”

Deb Shops has “looked at or tried every product recommendation technology out there on the market, and felt they all fell flat,” he continues. The way BloomReach’s personalization technology changes the page displays for individual customers, in contrast, “is the first time that we've seen anything that approximates the in-store experience—when a great salesperson watches what you shop for and gets the three or four or 10 other items that you are also going to love.”

BloomReach Snap costs between $20,000 and $100,000 on average per month, which includes both a subscription fee and a usage pricing model, the BloomReach spokesman says. 

Topics:

BloomReach, BloomReach Snap, David Cost, Deb Shops, e-commerce technology, personalization, smartphones, tablets, Technology Update

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