What Kinds of Advanced Personalization Techniques Are Retailers Engaging In?

April 22, 2022

Retailers may be placing a heavier emphasis than consumers on website personalization, according to results from Sailthru’s 2022 Retail Personalization Index Retailer & Consumer Survey [download page]. Although consumers in the US and UK surveyed for the report said that website and email (each at 32% share of respondents) were the joint top channels through which they want to receive personalized marketing, the website (46% share) was far and away the top choice for retailers, with social media pages (23% share) next.

The results bring to mind recent research from CommerceNext, in which retailers surveyed said that personalization was the website-based growth driver with the most potential for them. Surprisingly, though, few respondents to the Sailthru survey said that email was the top channel through which they would consider delivering personalized marketing, despite email being the most common personalization channel for marketers in general.

Relatively few consumers surveyed for the report said that they believe brands and retailers excel in marketing personalization – with just 1 in 3 (34%) saying that’s the case. Instead, consumers perceive retailers and brands doing better in personalizing their customer service (47%), online website (46%), and product offerings (46%).

For their part, retailers are much more confident in their marketing personalization prowess. Roughly 7 in 10 (71%) feel they excel in marketing personalization, the top area of those listed – ahead of online websites (67%), customer service (65%) and product offering (58%).

Larger Brands Further Ahead with Advanced Personalization

Although 73% of consumers expect online brands and retailers to personalize their experiences, some types of advanced personalization tactics are harder to put in place than others. Figures from the Sailthru survey of 205 US brands and retailers indicates that larger brands are further along in the process than their smaller counterparts, with their adoption higher in 9 of the 10 tactics listed.

The most widespread tactic among larger brands ($500 million – $1 billion in revenue) is predictive personalization, with about 6 in 10 currently adopting this approach. Predictive analytics has been associated with a significant uplift in customer lifetime value, but predictive personalization should be used with some caution. Although consumers are likely to respond to tailored messages and offers based on predicted behaviors or wants, they’re less likely to want brands to automatically order products on that basis for them. Past research has shown that a strong majority of consumers find it “creepy” (rather than “cool”) for companies to understand their shopping habits so well that they are able to use artificial intelligence/data to choose and automatically order products on their behalf. Furthermore, when the same study described a form of personalization that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to provide a more personal experience by determining what products and services are most relevant and predicting what will appeal most to the shopper, the majority (56%) of respondents said this was not valuable to them.

Returning to the Sailthru survey, larger US retailers are also engaging in device-based personalization (56%), channel-based personalization (53%) and buyer journey-based personalization (50%).

Among those retailers with less than $500 million in annual revenues, the most adopted form of advanced personalization is targeted discounts/offers (49%), with email send-time personalization (43%) next.

Other Findings:

  • Almost 2 in 3 consumers are either extremely (36%) or very (28%) concerned about privacy and data protection.
  • The top concern regarding privacy/data protection is a lack of control over privacy data.
  • Consumers are more willing to share their data with trusted retailers and brands than new ones, with the biggest gaps in willingness being for home address and phone number.

About the Data: The consumer results are based on an October 2021 survey of 5,014 consumers ages 18-84 in the US and UK in a split representative of the ratio of the national populations (4:1). The retailer data is based on an October 2021 survey of 260 brands and retailers that have an online presence and that are based in the US and the UK (with the same split in geography).


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