Site personalization has room to grow among Top 500 retailers

Only 47% feature site personalization, with 39% also offering recommendations.

Paul Demery

Personalizing web site content to cater to shoppers’ interests has been a goal of online merchants since the early days of Internet retailing, but even today fewer than half, or 47.0%, of the sites in the Internet Retailer Top 500 tailor site content to individual visitors. Although 76.4% feature product recommendations, only 38.8% say they offer both product recommendations and site personalization, according to figures in the 2013 edition of the Top 500 Guide.

While personalization has become one of the basics of operating a web site, it’s still only one of many site features retailers must address to provide a more appealing online shopping experience, says Peter Sheldon, senior analyst for e-business at Forrester Research Inc. “Personalization has matured over the years and will continue to do so, but it’s still not the be-all and end-all,” he says. A personalized shopping experience, along with e-commerce sites that make it easy to navigate and find products, have become part of the table stakes of e-commerce, he adds.

Among the Top 500, a total of 382 e-retailers, or 76.4%, offer site personalization, which, for example, will greet a site visitor with product displays and other content known to appeal her by her past shopping behavior as recorded by software tracking cookies, or by the ZIP code associated with her IP address.

235 of the Top 500, or 47.0%, offer product recommendations, which serve up suggested items based on an individual shopper’s known interests, such as those tracked by software cookies, or items known to have high conversion rates with other shoppers who display similar shopping patterns.

Interestingly, catalog retailers are most likely to personalize their web sites, as 72.3% do so, with 81.5% offering product recommendations and 46.9% offering both. By comparison, only 37.9% of consumer brand manufacturers offer site personalization. Although 68.2% of consumer brand manufacturers offer product recommendations, only 28.8% offer both site personalization and product recommendations.

The new Top 500 Guide also shows the following about how many retailers offer site personalization and product recommendations, by merchant type, including the percentage of retailers within that merchant category and the number of merchants:

Web only retailers (total of 195 in Top 500):

● Site personalization, 79, 40.5%

● Product recommendations, 145; 74.4%

● Both features, 65; 33.3%

Retail chains (total of 158 in Top 500)

● Site personalization, 84; 53.2%

● Product recommendations, 126; 79.7%

● Both, 72; 45.6%

Catalog/Call Centers (total of 81 in Top 500)

● Site personalization, 47; 72.3%

● Product recommendations, 66; 81.5%

● Both, 38; 46.9%

Consumer brand manufacturers (total of 66 in Top 500)

● Site personalization, 25; 37.9%

● Product recommendations, 45; 68.2%

● Both, 19; 28.8%

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2013 Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, Forrester Research, personalization, Peter Sheldon, product recommendations, site personalization, Top 500 Guide, Top 500 Insider, Web content