I am a photography hobbyist who once bought all my camera equipment at Keeble & Shuchat Photography in Palo Alto.
Although I migrated toward buying online about five years ago, even after all this time, I still remember how knowledgeable and personable the K&S sales staff were. I came into their shop every few weeks, and they knew everything about me as a customer—what I had bought from them previously, what I already owned, what I liked, which of my camera bodies and lenses had been repaired, even my skill level and style of photography.
I always ended up purchasing more than I had planned, and yet, I was always happy about it. Because every experience was so personalized, I knew that my money was well spent, and this kept me coming back again and again.
Although online shopping is more convenient, one major challenge that comes with it is parsing and filtering through hundreds, even thousands, of products. I like to be thorough and carefully consider every possible option before making a purchase. I look at ratings, reviews, Q&As, anything I can find that sheds light on the quality of the product.
However, this takes a copious amount of time and research, and more often than not, I give up without buying anything at all. I have zero loyalty to the vendor and focus more on the price at the time of purchase, rather than the total cost and experience of owning the product.
It’s nearly impossible for e-commerce companies to provide the same level of attention that I received at K&S to millions of online customers. But what if they could?
Getting To Know Your Users
As I mentioned, the K&S staff knew everything there was to know about me as a customer, based on my traits and behavior. Traits include the users’ demographics, where they are from, which devices they use, what they say in surveys, ratings, and reviews, what they own and what they need, and their values, interests, and opinions. This behavior shows how a customer uses a product.
There are a number of ways to get to know your users. Consider looking at:
- Click, purchase, and browsing history
- Product ratings and reviews
- Attitudinal data from surveys
- Key search terms that led them to your site or app
Gathering all of this information opens up a world of possibilities for personalized engagement. You can cluster users with similar traits and behaviors together into segments—for example, by grouping them as loyal, under-monetized, attrition-risk, or churned users. This allows you to macro-analyze and create custom action plans and prediction models for each segment.
Earning Users’ Trust
Before you do anything with your users’ information, you must establish a sense of trust. K&S never sold my information to third parties, and I trusted that they would never exploit me for their own gain.
If you aggregate consumers’ information, tell them up front as clearly as possible, without using too much legalese. Apps that ask for permission and clearly explain why they’re asking tend to have a much higher rate of acceptance.
In an era when it’s becoming increasingly difficult to keep personal information safe online, it’s absolutely imperative to earn your users’ trust and respect their privacy.
Turning Information Into Action
Once you gather this information and develop a thorough understanding of your users, you can create personalized experiences by segment or on an individual level.
K&S would contact me about specials, offer discounts on products I was interested in, and inform me when famed photography expert Scott Kelby was in town for a photography session. They really cared about my photography.
Much like the ways to get to know your users, the types of interactions that you can personalize for them are endless. Examples include:
- Product recommendations
- Special promotions, discounts, or coupons
- Warranty expiration or product recall notifications
- Alternative products if the user makes a return
- Feedback surveys
With so many options at our disposal, it can be easy to get carried away, so it’s important to focus on quality over quantity.
The rise of artificial intelligence and chatbots shows that we want our online digital experiences to mimic the authentically human interactions we have in the real world. In order to create digital experiences that embody this, digital marketers must develop a profound understanding of their users and then use that understanding to make every digital touch point delightful and engaging.
This is what keeps users coming back.