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WEBINAR REVIEW Personalising the user journey for premium retailers

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In a recent Internet Retailing webinar, Sitecore and Blueleaf joined forces for an exploration of different ways that premium retailers can create the rich, peresonalised brand experiences that their customers demand. The speaker was Rob Smith, strategy director at digital agency Blueleaf, which is a Sitecore partner.

It was clear from the outset of a recent Internet Retailing/Sitecore/Blueleaf webinar, that personalisation was a key concern for the audience. Asked in a poll how important an issue this was to them, 34% said it could revolutionise their business, while 66% said it would be “very important” to theirs.

“We at Blueleaf believe it does have the power to make a massive difference,” said Smith, “especially for premium retailers and people that have a very intimate connection with their customers. Having said that, it can be very hard to achieve.”

In the webinar, then, he set out to explain how retailers could put personalisation into action for themselves. He started by showing a simple John Lewis use of personalisation, based on what the customer has looked at, that had helped to drive a sales uplift of 27.9%.

He cited poll results showing that 64% of people would prefer to have a personalised experience. “We already knew and suspected that privacy is less important to people than I think the media sometimes suggests, and less important than having a fantastic online experience.”

Approaches to personalisation

Implicit personalisation

A customer looks at Brazilian holidays on the website, and when they return to the site the next day, promotional banners on the site show Brazil or have a South American focus. It’s a simple example, said Smith, but one that shows how retailers can profile their users to show them more relevant content, such as promotional banners or tailored customer reviews and even personalised emails. “Using that profiling we can change the website subtly, adapting to what the customer is looking at,” he said.

Explicit personalisation

This kind of personalisation is based on what the company knows about the consumer, from the data they have registered with the company to their previous order history. Smith cited the example of Pizza Express, spelling out the customer’s name in flour on a pizzaiolo’s table and offering them a bottle of Prosecco on their next visit in order to celebrate their birthday.


Where a customer is in the world and, when equipped with a mobile device, a locality can help retailers, restauranteurs and hoteliers target them with relevant information and local offers when they visit their website. Premium retailers can very quickly offer local offers to shoppers who are “just around the corner,” said Smith.

Device-based personalisation

It’s important to play to the strengths of the device and also recognise that users may use one device in a different way to another. For many internet users, for example, the main event may be happening live or on a larger screen, while they then use a second-screen to find out more background information. It’s important to recognise, said Smith, that while smartphones and tablet computers are mobile devices, many tasks completed on them will be carried out on the sofa, with two pairs of eyes watching the screen.

Timing-based personalisation

Simple personalisation between the hours of 6pm and 9pm has been found to lead to more sales of high-end goods, while lunchtime purchases are more likely to be for more basic goods. Retailers can reorder the results that they show in response.

Issues with personalisation

Over personalisation

Returning too many results for the same or similar items takes personalisation too far, said Smith, showing one retailer’s page that featured five types of Velcro. Developing a personalisation strategy can help to avoid such pitfalls, by marking off areas that can be used for personalisation. “The more area you give over to personalisation the more danger you get of this type of activity where you’ve pigeonholed yourself too much,” said Smith. Measure the effect of personalisation and do not go too far, since personalisation can reduce consumer’s ability to discover new products.

Single customer view not easy

If online and offline data cannot be reconciled, then it can be difficult to take full advantage of personalisation. Starting slowly helps ease retailers into the personalisation journey, said Smith, suggesting that retailers can introduce implicit personalisation online and then, for example, start to add in geographic personalisation and in-store events later on.

Individual vs group

The promise of personalisation is individual relationships, but ultimately personalisation is still about segmenting people into groups. It’s important, therefore, not to make rules that don’t make sense. “We need to be very conscious that we don’t make a lot of personalisation rules that only one person would ever trigger,” said Smith. “We need to be looking towards broader rules. We’re talking about better and better targeting.”

Ice your cake

“Personalisation can only go so far if you’re just doing it on your products or website information,” said Smith. What you really need on top of that is content to produce a personalised experience, rather than just a personalised website.” He illustrated how retailers such as Gucci leverage content to extend their brand and offer a personalised content experience. Meanwhile Net-a-Porter has an iPad magazine with content that tracks trends, gives information on products wrapped around interesting content, both written and video, and Asos has user-submitted content from shoppers showing looks they’ve seen out and about.


Plan journeys, but measure to make sure that the experience is working for customers.

Joined up data is needed to power personalisation, but retailers can start small.

Content is the icing on the cake, which engages shoppers and helps to sell products.

Personalise by timing and device in order to make personalisation more relevant.

“The voice of the customer is shining through,” said Smith. “They prefer personalised experiences and don’t mind giving their data for fantastic experiences.”

The webinar ended with a question and answer session that covered subjects from geographic data and privacy through to the probability of purchase across different devices.

To hear the webinar for yourself, to view the accompanying slides and hear the question and answer session in full, visit the Sitecore/Blueleaf webinar page. For details of our other webinars visit our webinars page.

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