November 30, 2011, 3:03 PM

Getting personal: Half of online retailers say they’ve got personalization down pat

But The E-tailing Group finds one in eight e-retailers rate themselves as amateurs.

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Personalization can be a key sales driver for online retailers, but many merchants are not taking enough advantage of the strategy, according to a new study from industry research firm The E-tailing Group Inc.

While some e-retailers may see the value in personalization, many lack the resources or technical expertise to implement a sophisticated strategy that maximizes sales from existing traffic, the report says.

In an online survey of 134 merchants in the third quarter of this year, only 54% rated their personalization strategy as highly sophisticated, while 33% called it moderately sophisticated and 13% said not at all sophisticated.

The most common form of personalization implemented by retailers is in post-order e-mails, with 77% of respondents saying they personalize those messages to some extent. 52% of respondents personalize their shopping cart pages, 44% personalize product pages, 41% home pages, 21% category pages and 17% search results. Survey respondents could give more than one answer.

E-retailers consider triggered shopping cart abandonment e-mails the most successful personalization tactic from a return-on-investment standpoint, with 26% of respondents saying these e-mails were somewhat to very successful; e-mails go out to consumers who have left products in online shopping carts.

Other ROI winners include personalized product recommendations via e-mail, with 14% of respondents viewing these as the most successful. 12% say recommendations on product pages are best, while 11% say retargeting (that is, presenting ads on other web sites based on consumers’ browsing behavior on the retailer’s site) and others point to personalized recommendations on the shopping cart page and home page personalization based on past browsing and buying behavior.

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