Practical Ecommerce

Personalization: Letting Shoppers Decide

In “Personalizing the Customer Experience,” I addressed how that strategy can increase revenue and customer loyalty for ecommerce merchants.

In this article, I’ll take the concept further. It’s time to move from the model of the merchant defining what the shopper wants to one where the shopper defines his preferences to the merchant. Successful portals and dashboards allow users to define the elements that are important to them. Why not empower shoppers in the same way?

Here’s the buying experience that triggered this article. I went to Amazon recently to look at prices for hybrid golf clubs. Here is what I saw.

Zoom Enlarge This Image

Amazon.com, as experienced by the author.

Amazon.com, as experienced by the author.

Amazon clearly knew who I was as my name appears above “Your Account” — “Hello Dale” — in the top right section of the image, above. But Amazon’s priority for my visit was the new Prime Instant Video. I’m not a Prime member, and I don’t rent videos from Amazon. I also am not shopping for women’s sandals or a Kindle Fire HD, both of which appear on the right side of the page. Further down, Amazon was trying to sell me the same items I recently purchased: thumb drives. It was promoting the wallet I viewed previously on the site, but purchased elsewhere.

In short, Amazon failed to personalize my visit. It incorrectly assumed things about me by my past shopping. It promoted its Prime offer ahead of my shopping experience.

Here’s the problem. Amazon never asked what products are important to me. It did not ask how I would like things sorted – by price, ratings, or best sellers, for example. It didn’t ask about my privacy preferences. So, I have to filter through information to get to the bits that matter to me as I make buying decisions.

‘My Persona’ Plugin?

What the ecommerce industry needs is a “my persona” plugin or app for ecommerce shoppers to use. Take the notion of a universal login — which never took hold since vendors don’t cooperate well — one step further.

Buyers could create a persona that includes, at a minimum, the following items.

  • The primary products they are interested in, such as categories, what’s new, what’s on sale, and seasonal items.
  • The information that is important to them — images, videos, reviews, ratings, features, detailed description, specs, or related items.
  • How to prioritize — best sellers, price, reviews, or ratings.
  • Shipping preferences.
  • Personal details. Name, addresses, preferred payment methods.
  • Email preferences, such as whether they want to receive the email newsletter or not.
  • Privacy settings for how the site handles cookies and other information.

This information could be bundled into a tight, secure package that shoppers could share with online stores.

‘Persona Sign-in’

The concept could work like this. Say I shop regularly at Amazon and Target.com. I could log in to those sites using a “Persona Sign-in.” They would know how to adapt their websites’ content to fit my persona. They could feature the promotions that are relevant to me. They could deliver the content I care about for products in the order that I want. They would know not to use cookies and that I want to sign up for their email newsletters. You get the point.

I would want to use the same “Persona Sign-In” no matter where I shop. Online stores and their underlying platforms would need to understand and interpret my shopping rules and preferences. Hence, we flip the typical shopping model by 180 degrees and put the power in the shoppers’ hands for defining their customer experiences.

Online merchants should adapt to what their customers want. We’ll likely start seeing this in shopping apps if this type of application doesn’t exist already.

Under this scenario, merchants can still leverage some of what they know about me — if I let them. They can still offer promotions.

Let’s start a movement. If you know of a company with this idea, at least let me know so I can contribute.


Dale Traxler
Dale Traxler
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Comment ( 1 )

  1. Elizabeth Ball June 8, 2013 Reply

    Dale, I love your ideas from a online retailer’s point of view – it makes it easy for us – but I am not quite sure it would be make life easier for our customers as there are so many variants.
    For example, I might want to buy what’s in season for me, but seek what’s on sale for a gift. I might want to pay via credit card when funds are tight on one occasion but be free to use my Paypal account to pay for goods on another. And so on.
    This would apply only to repeat customers, wouldn’t it? There are many websites out there people have bought from once for a specific event and need nothing further from…

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