Back in the day, shoppers were used to waiting. Waiting for help in a store, waiting on the phone for customer service, and even waiting for a catalog to be mailed to your home so you can order something by mail… which you’d wait for. Today’s shoppers wait for almost nothing (we even get miffed when we can’t get 1-day shipping!), and they especially don’t want to wait for the most important aspect of the shopping experience today: personalization.
Brands and retailers now understand that the shopping experience is no longer just about selling products, but rather about creating personalized experiences to foster loyalty and repeat visitation. A study from McKinsey underscored the importance of this, stating that a majority of customers (71%) anticipate a high level of personalization from companies. When companies fall short of this expectation, it often results in customer frustration.
But what about on the ecommerce side? It’s the same story. Another study from Coveo revealed that today’s visitors are more likely to bounce off websites that don't offer a satisfactory level of personalization more than ever before. And since shoppers only spend a short amount of time on a brand’s website, achieving real-time personalization is the new holy grail for retention and conversion.
So how can your retail brand get there? Let’s examine some strategies.
Omnichannel Retail: Bridging the Gap with Instant Communication
Omnichannel retail is not a new concept, but its importance has been heightened in the era of personalization. An effective omnichannel strategy means that a brand communicates with its customers seamlessly across various touchpoints, be it on their website, in-store, via mobile devices, or social media.
This cross-channel messaging facilitates near-instant communication that helps to provide real-time personalization. For instance, a customer might browse an item on a mobile app while in the mall and instantly receive a promotional offer for the same item when they walk into the physical store. Or an online shopper may put an item into their cart, but closes their session before checking out. This can trigger an immediate reminder email about the item in their cart.
Such synchronized communication ensures that the brand remains top-of-mind and the customer feels seen and understood. A robust retail CRM that enables omnichannel messaging can enable this level of real-time personalization that can lead to much higher purchase rates.
In-Session Personalization: AI and More
The moment a shopper lands on your website, the clock starts ticking. Brands have a limited time to capture their interest and cater to their needs. In-session personalization is basically as real-time as it gets. For example, by utilizing predictive category suggestions, a website can instantly highlight products or categories that are more relevant to the user, in some cases even if they are first-time visitors.
Add to this the power of intent-aware product ranking, and the products that are most likely to resonate with the user's immediate needs are prioritized. Click a few baby items on Amazon, and guess what: you’re shown all the baby items you could ever dream of during that session.
Another way to personalize in real-time is using machine learning and AI for query auto-complete. This feature not only makes searches faster but also more relevant, guiding users to products they may not even have been actively thinking of.
More AI tools are emerging in the marketplace for retail brands to use for in-session personalization each and every day. The Shopify App Store is a great place to start to find plugins that can work for your ecommerce store.
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The Power of Chatbots: Real-Time Assistance with a Data-Driven Edge
Chatbots are no longer the clunky, scripted tools of yesteryear. Today's chatbots, especially those integrated with a brand's CRM, have the ability to provide genuinely real-time assistance that is actually helpful to shoppers. When a customer has a query or needs guidance, the chatbot can immediately respond, leveraging data from past interactions, purchase history, and using predictive analytics. This means that the guidance offered is not generic but tailored to that specific customer's needs and history with the brand. The result? A chatbot conversation that feels personal, immediate, and more human.
Even better is actually connecting real-time online shoppers with a human representative. Bringing that clienteling experience that sales reps can provide in-store to the brand’s website is perhaps the best way to provide real-time personalization because, well, it is literally just that.
This was the thinking behind Endear’s own SalesChat, a chatbot that connects online shoppers to real human reps who can help answer questions quickly and guide them to the products they are looking for.
AI in Retail
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With today’s technology, real-time personalization in retail is not just a lofty goal; it's a tangible reality. By harnessing the power of omnichannel strategies, in-session personalization tools, and advanced chatbots, brands can offer customers an experience that is both personal and immediate. As we move forward, those brands that can seamlessly weave these elements into their customer journey will undoubtedly stand out in the crowded retail landscape.