Looking Past Product Recommendations: Consumers’ Evolving Attitudes Toward Personalization | Sponsored Content

This post was contributed and sponsored by Sailthru.

What makes a strong personalized retail experience? Historically, that meant product recommendations. Having popularized collaborative filtering, also known as “Those who bought this also bought that” recommendations, Amazon was a pioneer there, contributing to the company becoming the world’s largest retailer. But as more retailers have improved their personalization capabilities, Amazon is no longer an anomaly in this department. Consumers have come to expect product recommendations as their preferences toward personalization have evolved.

Every year, personalized marketing automation technology provider Sailthru embarks on an exhaustive research project in which 250 retailers’ personalization capabilities are evaluated across website, email, mobile and even offline. Cross-referenced with customer sentiment, Sailthru’s proprietary methodology results in the Retail Personalization Index, a definitive ranking of retailers based on their overall personalized shopping experiences.

Omnichannel Personalization Leads to Satisfaction

Sailthru’s proprietary methodology and exhaustive research includes a survey of 1,500 consumers. The study evaluated consumers’ satisfaction with their most recent purchase, and likelihood to make another one and recommend retailers. This factored into brands’ overall scores, and drove the customer experience evaluation of the 250 brands across channels.

Omnichannel personalization had a strong correlation with customer satisfaction. The stronger the connection between digital and in-store channels, the more likely people are to enjoy their shopping experience with the brand.

Just 16% of the 250 retailers use customers’ digital data to personalize their in-store experience, mostly through mobile devices. However, that number is 100% among the top 10.

Unified Profiles, Not Product Recommendations, as the Differentiator

Product recommendations are no longer enough, and retailers are getting better at providing the relevance customers are looking for—and more. Of the 250 retailers evaluated, 44% boast a digital personal shopper or robust search or recommendation engine. All but two allowed shoppers to log in and create profiles, and 34.5% offered personalized homepages to logged-in customers. Brands are listening and improving at a rapid clip.

More than product recommendations, unified customer profiles are indicative of a truly personalized customer experience. Consumers expect brands to provide consistency across every touchpoint, but only eight brands tie all their different channels together to create one cohesive experience, including all of the top five ranked retailers: Nordstrom, Rent the Runway, The Home Depot, Best Buy and three-time Index champion Sephora.

Personalization Pros Master Triggered Messages

The Index places a lot of value on triggered messages, which are largely behavior-based responses to customer actions such as abandoning an online shopping cart or making a purchase. Inherently, more personalized than generic batch-and-blast campaigns and triggered messages account for 77% of email ROI, according to the Data & Marketing Association.

The top performing retailers excel at both sending triggered messages and capitalizing on them. Of the 250 retailers ranked, 50% send abandoned cart emails and 24% include personalized product recommendations within those messages. Among the top 25, 84% sent cart abandonment emails and 68% made additional personalized product recommendations within them, underlining the missed opportunity there.

Who were the top performers and what else set them apart? Click here to learn more about Sailthru’s Retail Personalization Index, including how you can get your own email personalization score.