Customer Focus

‘First’ fully personalised homepage greets customers of Very.co.uk

Shop Direct has launched fully-personalised home pages that greet every customer to Very.co.uk in what the retailer believes to be a world-first. Visitors to the site see homepages that reflects their interests, so that twenty somethings who have looked for a party dress will see their preferred fashion brands on display, while those looking to furnish their abode will see electricals and homeware offers.

It’s a step towards the digital department store retailer’s goal of creating the world’s most personalised digital shop, and part of a push towards personalisation that Shop Direct expects will add £20m in sales to its bottom line this year.

In total, Shop Direct can serve 1.2m versions of the website, with variations in which promotional messages are used and in what position. It expects to have 3.5m different versions by the end of this year.

“We know that relevance wins in retail and right now customers are drowning in a sea of irrelevant choices,” said Shop Direct group chief executive Alex Baldock.

“We’re making it easier for them to shop by tailoring our websites for them. This is the digital equivalent of Selfridges laying out their Oxford Street store for each shopper.

“We’ve set ourselves an ambitious target to build the world’s best personalised shopping experience – this is a major step towards that goal.”

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Underlying the personalised homepage is an in-house developed approach to customer data. Shop Direct’s team of data scientists, built up over the last two years, have created complex algorithms to predict customer behaviour and show targeted products and offers on the home page. Some 200m promotion affinity scores are generated, ranking offers by relevance for each customer.

The personalised home page adds to personalised website navigation that uses browsing behaviour and purchase history to order department store categories based on their relevance. Thus, customers who regularly search for children’s products will see the ‘toys’ and ‘child and baby’ categories at the far left of the navigation panel.

So far, says Shop Direct, the initiative has delivered a “significant” uplift in conversion, adding £5m to the top line in its current financial year.

Its suite of algorithms also recommend department categories that the customer is likely to be interested in based on the behaviour of similar shoppers. For example, customers who browse furniture regularly could see the homewares category prominently, regardless of whether they’ve shopped it before, because it proves popular with similar customers.

Our view: Personalisation has been a buzzword over recent years, now we’re starting to see its potential in action. The sheer number of options in play in this Shop Direct example shows how the technology is moving on from segmentation to individual pages. We’ll be watching to see how this develops in future.