a city skyline at sunset

Philadelphia will serve as the stage for the upcoming Shop.org Digital Summit from October 5-7, where retail professionals will convene to network, learn, and well… shop. Personalization continues to be one of the hottest topics at this the event.

The premiere event for the retail industry, Shop.org is just around the corner. If you are one of the 5,400 professionals attending this year, be prepared to embrace a lot of chatter and excitement around personalization, the lucrative practice of dynamically tailoring content and experiences to the wants and needs of your customers.

The promise of online personalization has been dangled in front of retailers for years and yet most consumer-facing companies know very little about their customers.

But this needn’t be the case. Just as a good salesperson can pick up on small cues, like the cut of a customer’s slacks or the quality of their shoes to create a picture of their customer’s persona, online retailers can use the explicit and implicit signals their customers share online to deliver optimized shopping experiences.

Here are 7 tips to help you translate what you know about your shoppers into revenue and long-term customer satisfaction.

These 7 tips first appeared on the Internet Retailer blog.

1. Connect the data dots.

Think of your entire funnel as a conversation. If a customer is searching for black belts and silk ties on your site, then this should inform the ads that they see, the emails they receive and the landing pages they are directed to. Every action a customer takes along the sales funnel should halo across your channels to help you better understand and personalize their experience.

a store front with signs2. Create a sense of urgency.

Just as brick-and-mortar shops incentivize customers to buy NOW with 24-hour-sales and limited-time-offers, you can sway an undecided buyer online. Perhaps you can target undecided buyers—customers that have items in their shopping carts but have not hit the Buy button—with a promo code for an additional discount or free shipping if they complete their purchase within the next day. Here are 21 ideas to increase revenue from your online store.

3. Focus on behavior.

Many retailers think that they need to target customers based on census data; are they a 45-year-old female from the suburbs or a 22-year-old male from the city? While these characteristics are inherent to who they are as individuals, what really matters to your business is their behavior. That 45-year-old woman might buy all of her husband’s button-down shirts on your site and that 22-year-old male might use it to buy perfume for his girlfriend. If you were personalizing their experiences based off of who they are—not what they buy—then you would be sorely off the mark. Let their shopping behaviors, not their demographic makeup, be your guide.

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4. Look for the norm—not the exception.

When personalizing the shopping experience, it’s important to identify relatively large and actionable audiences. If you try to target shopping behaviors that only describe a small subset of your customers—like people who have bought size 9.5 brown leather women’s sandals with a 4” heel for $317.00 and live in Wichita—then chances are you will not see very meaningful results.

However, if you are able to identify relatively large, actionable audiences—like everyone that has purchased brown leather women’s sandals for $100-$200 in the United States over the last six months—then you will be able to personalize and optimize more shopping experiences more effectively. Optimizely Personalization will even use machine learning to recommend audiences to target.

5. But don’t forget the high-value exceptions.

While identifying broader audiences will help you personalize more experiences more effectively, don’t forget your big-spenders. While these individuals may only represent a small, select group of your website traffic, they also represent a disproportionate percentage of your revenue. These individuals might come to your site once a week, once a month or even once a year, but if they are spending above a certain threshold, you want to be sure to give them the VIP personalized treatment.

6. Ask questions.

A good salesperson knows that asking a few key questions can go a long way in creating a better, more tailored shopping experience. Give people a few options to choose from on your site, and then let those choices inform future shopping experiences. For example, if someone selects clearance items from a list of sections, chances are they will appreciate being sent a promotional code to get 20% off their next purchase. If they selected outdoor-wear when visiting your online store, then they might want to hear that you just released a new line of parkas.

7. When in doubt, test again.

While curating customers’ shopping experience might make them enjoy visiting your site more, how do you know whether this impacts your bottom line? Make sure you are using a platform that lets you measure the impact of your personalization efforts. So if you are targeting customers that have looked at high-end purses but none of them increased their spend on your site despite your personalization efforts then maybe you need to tweak your variables. Perhaps you were focusing on the wrong audience or maybe they were more interested in other items on your site.

Don’t just personalize, but also optimize your customers’ experiences and measure the impact of your campaigns.

As we’ve seen from working with hundreds of online retailers, personalization is becoming integral to how retailers approach their e-commerce strategy. In fact, 75% of eBusiness and channel strategy professionals surveyed recently by Forrester (subscription required for access), name personalization as their top commerce technology investment priority. And this is a two-way street, with a survey by Retail Touchpoints showing that 40% of consumers say they buy more from retailers that personalize the shopping experience consistently across all channels.