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Product page personalization through AI-driven recommendations

Website personalization is incredibly important. We all know that customers are more likely to buy from an online store that provides personalized experiences than from one that does not. Personalization is the core part of the experience that online businesses provide and aims to perfect the customer experience.

Recommendations remain as one of the most powerful tactics to personalize product pages. Using recommendations on product pages aim to increase average order values (AOV), but also to keep the customers in the sales funnel.


Why personalize the product page? 

First, it’s important to understand how a customer arrives at a site. Data suggests that about 20-35% of retail website traffic lands on product pages since most people shopping online use search engines and follow ads. Hence, a product page is often the first step in a customer journey where they spend the most time browsing and choosing the products they want to purchase.

People who land on product pages have a clear need they are looking to fulfill, so this presents a good opportunity to begin a great relationship with them. Personalization on product pages enables retailers to reach out to customers in a way that directly and precisely meets their needs and desires. It’s about giving your customers more power, and reasons to come back for more.

Product pages are also an important part of SEO and SEM, and getting the best out of product pages will improve ROI of your campaigns. Personalization on product pages, combined with SEO best practices will improve the site’s visibility and ranking on search engines and will put it on the fast track to success.

Product pages have a significant long-tail impact on your business through products that are not best-sellers and usually not visible in standard recommendations. A clear strategy in personalization will keep you focused on your goal: whether to offer complimentary items to increase the average order value, or whether to offer alternatives to help improve conversions. Most companies use a hybrid of strategies that can be A/B-tested to achieve the best of both worlds.

Typical goals for product page personalization 

    • Aim for more product page clicks, views, conversions, and reduce bounce rates
    • Make it easy to view all comparable products in the category
    • Enrich product information with other useful insights
    • Create trust and affinity by presenting relevant content to start the customer journey
    • Present more options for customers who land on product pages

 

Recommendation strategies on product pages to maximize your success

Make sure you have the basics of a product page covered

Make sure you have the basics of a product page covered

  1. A great-looking product image on a white background that loads fast, with easy clicks to the next image and as many product images as are available
  2. Price should be seen immediately and clearly, with discounts highlighted, in numbers and percentages, if possible, also in the corner of the product image
  3. CTA (add-to-cart) should be visible and as high as possible, and sticky on mobile
  4. Product availability
  5. Delivery information is crucial so it has to be clear and visible
  6. Product rating and reviews by other customers, options and very short description next to the image on the desktop, below the image on mobile
  7. Product recommendations
  8. Further product information


Leverage the powerful features of a product page

Leverage the powerful features of a product page

  1. Product videos
  2. Links to the product catalog or information and other product reviews around the web
  3. Additional recommendations: complementary products if available, 
  4. Information about your company and why to choose you 
  5. Customer images and customer videos
  6. Articles, blog posts, other content about the product
  7. Sense of urgency or fear of missing out on some features, for example, prices or free shipping available only at a certain time, or only a limited number of products left
  8. Social proof features such as products that other customers have bought recently or  bestseller tags

 

Utilize the exit intent feature

Utilize the exit intent feature

If the customer is about to leave the product page, personalize the experience with the exit-intent feature. Use an exit popup when the customers attempt to leave without purchasing. Give them a reason to complete the checkout process. Offer discounts, a coupon code, or some freebies.

Exit intent can be:

  • A pop-up, ribbon, drop-down, etc.
  • Asking for an email address to let them know of the future similar offers.
  • An offer of a discount coupon for other products
  • Testing another recommendation, for example, a best-seller product within the category.


Take advantage of the 404 error page

Take advantage of the 404 error page

If your customers end up on a misspelled URL, a broken link, or a product page that doesn’t exist anymore, make something good out of an almost bad shopping experience. These 404 pages are still part of your online store, so create a nice-looking page and offer other products. Test different recommendation strategies, and add an image describing your brand and your value proposition. An optimized and well-strategized 404 page can help you convert visitors into customers and perhaps convince them to sign up on your email list.

 

Maximize the impact of the product page on the homepage

Maximize the impact of the product page on the homepage

Traditional customer journeys no longer exist. Today, customer journeys are non-linear and unpredictable. Customers don’t end up buying a certain product the first time they visit a particular site. Brands need to realize this new reality and take engagement to a deeper, more complex level.

One of the most unused personalization features is the impact that a product page visit should have on the homepage. Many customers are more interested in browsing than looking for a specific item. Even those who do have a particular product in mind may change their mind after learning more about it.

Customers will usually look at more than one product page during a single session so you can remind them of previously viewed items. For example, a customer has visited a product page and after a few hours or days, returns to or visits the same site, but this time, the front page. To increase conversion rate, the front page hero banner should scale and the last viewed product is visible on the right side of the homepage. This is a great way of targeting new potential customers with customized recommendations.

Front page recommendations should also change accordingly. You are in the best position to offer the most relevant content. For first-time visitors on your site, you can recommend the most viewed or trending products but for second visits, you should remember and show the products that the customers have viewed recently.

Use a strong call-to-action, say “Pick up where you left off” to remind the customer about the items from the last session and deliver an uninterrupted shopping experience. Recommending similar products, and other new brands, trending items, and other categories to explore, based on my recent browsing activity.

 

Ensure conversions of add-to-basket

Ensure conversions of add-to-basket

Directing the customer to a new page once a product has been added to the basket can increase AOV. On the top of the new page, there’s a summary of what has been added to the basket and a possibility to check out. The rest of the page is filled with different recommendations, about 5-8, of which the first ones should be complementing products/features. The others should show a broader set of products available. At the bottom of the page, there should be recommendations about previously viewed products.

You can recommend the bestsellers, or if the customer has purchased several dresses in the past, you can recommend other similar styles that she might like. The upsell could also be items that go with the products they want to purchase or have already purchased. By including category suggestions, you will broaden their choices as widely as possible, and increase the likelihood that they see an option they want to explore further.


Increasing customer lifetime value with personalized overlays

Increasing customer lifetime value with personalized overlays

A powerful alternative way to increase AOV is to load an overlay on top of the product page. This overlay confirms what has been added to the basket and recommends complementing/matching products. The overlays need to be relevant to the customer. Target each customer with something relevant to them to push them into the action you want them to take. You risk losing a potential customer if you interrupt the customer journey with a random ad about something they don’t really want. Learn more about your customer, and focus on driving the action that you want them to take.

Personalize every touchpoint through smart product recommendations

You don’t need to redesign your whole ecommerce site to offer customers personalized experiences. One of the best approaches is to add lots of small but powerful elements that together transform the way that new and existing customers interact with your website. Utilize personalization through recommendation tactics on product pages. Engagement will deepen, sales will grow, and revenues will increase.

It’s not easy to create messages and offers that feel truly personal and relevant to potential customers, but utilizing personalization through smart recommendation strategies can become a very powerful marketing tool with many benefits to both customers and businesses.

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Delivering product recommendations that customers can trust

Helsinki is located on a peninsula and surrounded by the cold waters of the Baltic Sea. So half of the year means freezing wind and temperatures fluctuating between +5C and -5C. And now that winter is fast approaching, I have to make sure that I have the proper outdoor wear. 

This year, I was on my search for a new winter parka jacket as the current one has finally reached the end of its lifecycle.

I went through many options and utilized highly relevant product recommendations related to similar products by many retailers. In the process, I also came across a few irrelevant recommendation strategies.

The first interesting one was on a mobile page of one retailer, where they clearly had an issue regarding what level of product information is used for recommendations. The image shows the example of a green winter park size 38. The recommendation engine had decided that the top three recommendations for me would be:

  1.  A winter parka of the same brand, but three sizes bigger, the product itself was relevant, size not so much
  2. The exact same product, but two sizes smaller
  3. The exact same product, but five sizes bigger

product recommendations

What a shame. Mobile is a challenging user interface, as the screen is so small and often, the visitor browses quickly through pages so it would be extremely important to make the most of the real estate available.

After going through price and availability options, I decided where to buy the parka jacket. I would have been the perfect candidate for add-on products, such as gloves or scarves, in the last stage of my purchase journey, but guess what they recommended for me?

  1. Exactly the same jacket, but a different color
  2. Another jacket, less than half of the price

product recommendations

At Frosmo, we advise our customers not to make their visitors get confused and doubt their purchases during the whole customer journey. Instead, we consider offering complementary products all the way through the funnel as a form of good customer service. 

As I now wait for my order, I’m having second thoughts as to whether the green parka is better than the black one.

How to do smart and effective product recommendations

In the example mentioned, the company lost potential add-on from a customer who would have been willing to buy additional products. The recommendations failed to create a good customer experience that would help the customer trust her purchase and to find products that would nicely complement the jacket that’s already in the shopping basket. 

It’s crucial to pick the right kind of product recommendations to significantly increase average order values and effectively boost conversions. At the same time, smart and effective recommendations build and instill confidence in customers and ensure them that they made the right purchase. By showing the right content at the right time and in the right place, customers will also have unique customer experience tailored to their interests during the buying funnel. 

Read how international retailers Clas Ohlson and Reima use smart recommendations. 

Download the comprehensive guide to recommendations.

Comprehensive guide to recommendations


About the writer:

Maija Erkheikki has over 15 years of experience in the international software industry and is driven by a passion to use technology to improve the quality of life. This passion was best exemplified in her role as a consultant for healthcare companies, working on business processes and performance management. This led to a career in the partner-driven software business, where it is critical to build win-win-win models. Currently, she is fascinated by the digitalization of commerce and how artificial intelligence reshapes all industries.

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My first Gartner IT Symposium


This morning, it was snowing on my way to work. Sunny Barcelona seemed to be a million miles away. It’s still just a couple of days ago since I participated in the Gartner IT Symposium for the first time. For me, that meant three days full of information and inspiration. In this post, I want to share my thoughts and main takeaways.

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail” is a quote attributed to Benjamin Franklin and fully applicable to the IT Symposium as well.

My initial thought about planning was making sure that I get a flight and a hotel. Not a trivial task when 7000 people want to make their way to Barcelona at the same time. If I’m going again, definitely the first thing I would do is to book everything as early as possible as there were some challenges with the travel arrangements. What proved to be equally important was going through the agenda and selecting the sessions I wanted to attend. I don’t know how many sessions were offered in total during the week, but just with a filter “AI & Machine Learning” I got a list of 65 sessions, “Leadership, People and Culture” gave a list of 98 sessions. As it seemed feasible to squeeze seven sessions into a day, I had to do some serious prioritizing to decide the most relevant ones. 

As I made my way to the convention center on Sunday, I was feeling excited, but also a bit lonely because I was traveling alone. It had not occurred to me that I might run into people I know at the symposium because of the large number of attendees. After bumping into an old friend at the registration desk and thereafter having a super interesting discussion with the person sitting next to me, my worries were gone.

Drivers for innovation for Retail

Sunday was an industry day which meant there were separate tracks available for nine different industries. As my key area of interest is personalization, I decided to attend the retail track. The retail sessions I selected varied from the changing nature of retail to using AI and hacking the culture. Overall the retail track can be summarized with AAA: Amazon, Alibaba, and AI were mentioned in all presentations as drivers for innovation and disruption.

An overall theme was “techquilibrium“, a term to be introduced the next day, describing the balance point of traditional and digital capabilities. As one analyst phrased it: “some customers want a tech experience and some don’t”. The challenge for retailers to know their customers and find the balance point.

One interesting Gartner prediction was that “By 2023, e-commerce will cease to be a differentiator in the retail marketplace.” During the last session sat next to a former colleague who reminded me to come in early on Monday to secure my seat for the official opening keynote. I thought that it meant being on time, but I was wrong.

The value of networking

On Monday I arrived at the convention center about an hour before the keynote and saw a huge line of people waiting for the doors to open. Luckily, I managed to get a seat at the balcony and 30 mins before the session began, it was a full house. The opening keynote was themed under “Winning in the Turns: Leading in a Digital Society“. It introduced terms such as “TechQuilibrium” and the “Everything Customer” who wants to be served by any device, at any time, but at the same time, keep their data and privacy safe.

On Monday, I was invited to join a fairly small, sponsor-hosted networking lunch. I think sponsors get to invite people they think might be interested in their offering to discuss over lunch. Clearly, this sponsor wanted to avoid making lunch “salesy”, so they talked briefly about industry trends, but never introduced the company. So at least I and a couple of people at my table never understood what they do. I honestly don’t think it would have been too pushy to introduce the company briefly. That’s a lesson for me for in the next event we are sponsoring, to not assume that everyone knows you.

In addition to really high-quality sessions hosted by analysts, I also had a couple of one-to-one meetings to discuss Frosmo’s questions related to our personalization software and go-to-market plans. It really amazed me how quickly the analysts were able to comment on a topic I presented, even though we had no preset agenda for the meetings. I would place the one-to-one meetings as the most valuable part of my symposium experience.

Networking: The only meetings I had prebooked were two one-to-one sessions with analysts. All my other discussions were more or less random based on who I happened to sit next to. This was more powerful than I thought it would be. Often, sharing a session meant sharing some interest and I got to have such interesting discussions with people whom I’d otherwise never speak with.

To know where the world of IT is going

The great value of Gartner is its broad view into different topics and the ability to create frameworks that can be used as checklists for many different purposes varying from organization-level digital transformation down to deploying AI in a retail organization and organizing product marketing in a software company. 

The entire symposium ran from Sunday morning to Thursday afternoon. I left on Tuesday evening after being filled with information from all aspects. Unfortunately, this meant that I missed a keynote by one of my favorite authors Daniel Pink. He talked about “The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing” and I’m sure that was a super interesting talk. For anyone attending all five days, it’s really a load of information and discussions and will for sure take some time to analyze and process everything.

The entire symposium was extremely well-organized. I want to give special thanks to David Chamberlain at Gartner for making everything work smoothly and answering all my questions. I would recommend the Gartner IT Symposium for anyone interested in learning where the world of IT is going and networking with IT professionals from all countries.

Download the ebook of the power of personalization to learn more about the examples and practical tips for different industries, such as retail, media, and iGaming.


About the writer:

Maija Erkheikki has over 15 years of experience in the international software industry and is driven by a passion to use technology to improve the quality of life. This passion was best exemplified in her role as a consultant for healthcare companies, working on business processes and performance management. This led to a career in the partner-driven software business, where it is critical to build win-win-win models. Currently she is fascinated by the digitalization of commerce and how artificial intelligence reshapes all industries.

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How personalization transforms online retail in 2020

Better optimized shopping funnels, lower bounce rates, better ROI in advertising spend, larger average order sizes, better cross-selling, and the list goes on. Do these challenges in your online retail sound familiar? These are the pain points we see our online retail customers tackle every day. We strongly believe that the best way to tackle the challenges and get the best possible business results is the website personalization.  

In this article, we’ll explain what personalization is, why is it important, and what are the best practices to optimize your online retail business in 2020 and beyond.

What is personalization in online retail?

Personalization is about creating a custom-tailored and seamless customer experience based on what you know about a person’s needs, wants, and preferences. Personalization enables online retailers to move away from the one-size-fits-all approach by presenting the relevant message at the right time across all touchpoints along the customer journey.

When customer needs can be anticipated, it’s easier to enhance customer satisfaction and drive impact to the bottom line. Personalization establishes the foundation for the ultimate omnichannel experience, paving the way to enhanced customer experience across all channels and devices.  

In practice, two dimensions are needed for a meaningful personalization. First, you take the history of the visitor, i.e. the earlier purchase and exit history, downloads, product, and content searchers. That information is coupled with contextual information such as day of the week, season and weather, location, device, and campaign.  

When you combine the history and the context information, the real personalization starts. Personalization is the core part of the experience that online businesses provide. Continuous testing is needed to optimize the experience as well as to find the optimal elements to drive conversions and other KPI on the website.

history and context in personalization

 

Why is personalization important?

The attention span of an average consumer is getting shorter and shorter. On desktop but even more critically on mobile, the “real estate” of providing the relevant content to your web visitors is really small. The first message needs to be personalized to get the attention of the web visitors and present to them the next clear steps to follow. 

Think of personalization as a very good customer service. All website visitors have unique circumstances and therefore, they are in different stages in their buying journeys i.e. one is visiting the website for the first time, one is visiting the website through google ads campaign, and one has abandoned the shopping cart twice already. 

So, it really makes a business sense to provide dynamic content to meet the needs of different people in these distinctive stages of their customer journeys. Simply put, personalization is helping your customers to find the most relevant content to move through the buying journey in the most efficient way. 

For retail brands, personalization can be quite challenging not only because of too many competitors, but also due to the number of places, and ways that customers can shop.

A recent BCG study found that with personalized online retail stores, consumers are 10% more likely to add additional items to their baskets and 40% more likely to spend more than they had planned. Moreover, when asked to rate a particular retailer, customers who experienced a high level of personalization provided net promoter scores that were 20% higher than those of customers who experienced a low level of personalization. Customers are increasingly willing to share personal data with trusted brands in exchange for tangible benefits, such as an easier and faster buying process.

 

The business benefits of personalization

It’s important to think of a business case on two levels; one is about making more conversions and revenues, and the other is reducing the expenses. The KPIs that most online retail businesses are looking for are increasing conversion rates, average basket sizes, and loyalty

Expenses can be reduced by faster experience optimization thorough hypothesis creation and with algorithm-based experimentation. Ecommerce customers also report having to do less front-end development work as it’s easier and quicker to do that with personalization software.  Marketers also report a reduction in acquisition costs and improvements in conversion rates from advertising.

Real business value of personalization

Benefits to consumers:

  • Better overall customer experience
  • Increased and improved relevancy of content and experiences
  • Reduced clutter when visiting the site, which allows for faster interactions with the brand
  • Easier to find relevant products and services
  • More control over the customer experience, which leads to improved brand trust and loyalty
  • Improved engagement with the brand 
  • Better connection between personalization brought by marketing automation tools and  website personalization

Benefits to online retail stores:

  • Optimized shopping funnels
  • Reduced bounce rates
  • Brand credibility and enhanced authenticity
  • Improved customer insights and data
  • Increased conversion rates and more opportunities for customer engagement
  • Improved customer retention and customer acquisition
  • Increased customer satisfaction and better customer support
  • Empowered salespeople
  • Increased revenues, sales, order values, and subscriptions
  • More traffic to the site and more customers through referrals
  • Improved brand association and loyalty

In omnichannel businesses, many customer journeys might begin online and lead to in-store purchases – or even the other way around. The correlations and KPIs get slightly harder to measure, but the same basic principles still apply. These lead to increased revenues and profit (assuming pricing, performance, availability, shipping, assortment, etc. are up to par).

The positive experience (that in the first place led to the visitor’s transaction) in the service consequently increases loyalty and word of mouth based brand recognition.

 

The anatomy of personalization in the online retail

By now, we’ve established that for the online retail business to thrive, the customer experience needs to be exceptionally good and personalized. Personalization starts by knowing who your customers are. 

Most commonly recognized customer segments for retail are based on: 

  • Origin (campaigns, other sites, etc)
  • New / returning users
  • Purchase frequency, recency, and volume
  • Individual interest areas
  • Past behavior
  • Collaborative recommendations
  • States in the purchase process
  • Demographics, location, weather, device, etc. 

Secondly, you need to think of when personalization happens in the online store. What is the most ideal point in the customer journey for the dynamic content to be shown to the segment or individual? It’s important to Identify the typical points where the visitors may abandon their cart, leave the site, or bounce. This is the first step to design a strategy for inviting visitors to carry out the transaction or to continue the session. Contextual and dynamic calls to action (CTAs) give the visitor the motivation to proceed with an action or transaction.

A good time to show personalized content can be, for example, after the visitor has spent some time on the site, added a product to the website and is about to exit or leave the shopping basket. Combine these triggers to create, personalize, and implement the entire user journeys on your online stores. 

The third dimension is to define the place where to show personalized content. Homepage, category page, product page, and shopping basket to name a few. 

To complete the personalization, you need to think of what content you want to show your segments or individuals. Dynamic content can include banners, pictures, textual content, components, content blocks, or navigation adapted to different audiences explained earlier in this article. Relevancy of the content displayed for the visitor increases conversion and engagement while improving the customer experience. 

Anatomy of personalization

Recommendations for optimized shopping funnel

When many of your products are similar, it’s essential to help customers pick the right product for their needs. Product recommendations are a powerful tool to drive discovery, promotion, and cross/up-sell in online retail without the need to manually define the related products. AI-powered recommendations ensure that you’re harnessing all of the data available on every touchpoint of your online shop. You can leverage this data to start predicting what the web visitor would like to see next. This continuous combination of learning from a product interest, their profiles, and the context of their visit, means that you can offer highly targeted, relevant, and engaging recommendations. 

Accenture has stated that 91% of consumers will remember a brand and be more likely to return when they have been provided with relevant offers and recommendations to engage with. We’ve seen brands experienced a 20% increase in customers engaging and viewing casino content when in the sport lobby with personalized recommendations.

Case study: On the front page of Clas Ohlson’s webshop, the Frosmo Platform is used to show the most viewed and most bought products. When buying a product, there are many different ways of recommending other products to accompany the initial item of interest. For example, if you buy a robot lawnmower, your recommendations will show the right add-ons for your lawnmower such as cables and tools to complement the product; extras such as a storage unit, accessories; and finally, what others have bought with the lawnmower. With add-ons, upselling, and recommendations, Clas Ohlson sees an 8% increase in average order value and a 27% increase in bought articles.

 

Make a data-driven decision with continuous testing

Experimentation is always crucial as many improvements can cumulatively turn into big conversion rate generators. Testing helps you to gather data to show what should be developed next, reduce risks in costs, understand the audience on a deeper level, and solve the pain points that your visitors might have. 

We recommend to start testing with a solid hypothesis – know why you want to test, what are the conversion rate goals, and the end expectations. Use A/B/n testing to find out which variations perform better on a website. Examples of what you can test are banners, recommendations, navigation, CTA’s, social proofs, and content.

Customer case: With customers’ expectations increasing, Reima wants them to experience positive surprises when shopping online. For example, Frosmo is helping Reima to explain the uniqueness of the clothes by highlighting hero products and bringing extra stories to support faster decision-making.

This involves continuous smaller improvements to the site and thus A/B testing has increased its importance. Continuous analysis of the test results running on Reima’s sites has been crucial to making data-driven decisions. Frosmo plays an important role as it offers the testing capabilities and allows fast time-to-market for visitors to see continuous new elements on the site.

Multi-armed bandit testing makes testing faster and smarter with machine learning. With multi-armed bandit experiments, you’re able to continuously learn and optimize your site whilst running your test. You’ll be earning while conversion rates are going up.

 

What’s next?

Still wondering if personalization could improve your online business? Use our business case calculator for retail businesses to quickly and easily evaluate the business impact of personalization on your online business. This is a specially-designed tool carefully put together from more than a decade of knowledge and experience with implementing personalization for retail businesses. Actual results vary between businesses.

 


About the writer:

Katja Kokko is passionate about strategically developing digital businesses and creating memorable digital customer experiences on a tactical level— what she gets to do as Customer Success Director with her clients and her team. She is a growth hacker by heart and with her exceptional interpersonal and leadership skills, she thrives in challenging business cases as these challenge her to think differently and out of the box.

 

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