Imagine walking into your favorite neighborhood store. The owner greets you by name with a smile. She knows right away what you're looking for and helps you find it. Helpful and knowledgeable, she answers any questions you have. She shows you some delightful new items that you didn't even know you wanted.

At this store, you get just what you want when you want it. You get attentive, personalized service, and you discover and learn new things. In other words, you're a happy and loyal customer who will be back for more.

Now imagine that this entire interaction took place online. Instead of a friendly storeowner, a Web site gives you the relevant information you seek. With ever-evolving Internet technology comes a new era of personalization (or P13N for short).

Useful and sticky Web sites find out what's most important and relevant to their customers—and then customize their experiences in a meaningful way. By giving customers more of what they want, when they want it, Web companies can use the power of personalization to increase customer engagement and retention.

Let's look at some personalization principles that work, and Web companies that are doing a great job of applying them.

1. Keep it simple

Amazon has done a masterful job of keeping personalization simple. Returning customers get recommendations based on previous site purchases and browsing. One-click ordering makes repeat shopping a breeze. Customer reviews and related purchases help customers find more of what they're looking for. Emails give customized alerts and reminders of new products. And an easy-to-use account page lets customers quickly view and change their orders and personal settings.

If you work on an e-commerce site, why reinvent the wheel? Look and learn from Amazon's simple and effective approach for giving customers a personalized shopping experience.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Suzanne Taylor is a marketing strategy consultant. Contact her via staylor@serrano.com or visit www.suzannetaylor.com