We are all consumers, so it is not that difficult to put yourself in the shoes of your customers. What do customers expect from you in 2020? They want you to discreetly offer relevant content, products and information that adequately match their interests and preferences. Moreover, customers want to be surprised. 'How nice, they know exactly what I'm looking for!' That's why personalization such a hot item for several years. In a technical sense, almost anything is possible. Why do we still see many online stores struggling with this matter? Because choosing personalization tools is a tough challenge. Especially now that the supply continues to increase.

The larger platforms have known for some time how it works and that it works. In addition, Amazon is the forerunner when it comes to personalization of content based on customer profiles and real-time search behavior. With every visit to Amazon, you as a consumer see that the offer is geared to previous experiences. Amazon recognizes you, as it were. That feels good, because that way you don't have to work your way through selection menus through products that are completely irrelevant to you. With this comfortable customer experience, the chance of an actual purchase increases significantly.

It just gets more fun and better

For a long time, Amazon seemed to have a monopoly on the personalized customer experience. The technology used was exclusive and expensive and was continuously improved. But the nice thing about technology is that even the big boys don't manage to keep their toys to themselves in the end. The Ecommerce and software industry is resourceful and innovative. Amazon's example has been and continues to be imitated at all levels. You no longer have to be a global player and invest millions in technology and IT to give shape to the personalization of the customer journey. Personalization is everywhere. And it just gets more fun and better.

Just think about the last winter sport or city trip you booked, before the corona pandemic threw a spanner in the works. Chances are that your journey on the internet started with providers with whom you had good experiences before. They were able to remember all kinds of relevant information: man, woman, two children, previously searched for destinations in Austria and Switzerland, preference for hotels in the higher price range. You see packages that perfectly match your keywords and previous experiences, including real-time flight dates and fares. And if you postpone the booking for a while, you will receive personalized emails that will remind you of the possibilities. Just resist that.

Choosing smart personalization tools is democratized

Is this only reserved for the largest travel organizations and brands? No, the personalized customer journey went through a fast democracy process. Thanks to the acceleration that the software industry and innovations in AI and Machine Learning in this area have experienced, every organization can choose at its own level for the use of personalization tools that fit the target group and strategy. From a simple start with customer segmentation to hyper personalization, everything is possible to tailor the content on your website or app to your audience. Your success starts with the first step.

It is essential that you have your data management in order. Your database is your fuel tank for personalization. If you are going to choose personalization tools, it is a good idea to map out how insightful and accessible your customer data is at the moment and which tools fit in well with it. There is little point in investing in expensive, state-of-the-art personalization tools that require fuel that your systems cannot (yet) deliver. In this context, it may be interesting to orientate yourself on the power of a CDP (Customer Data Platform). This creates a central, integrated database that provides direct insight into dynamic customer profiles, purchase, search and click patterns and real-time interaction. Here, too, the range is wide and solutions are becoming more affordable. Essential personalization software is often already built into a CDP, which makes choosing personalization tools a lot easier.

Most Ecommerce platforms on the market also have data and personalization technology already integrated to some extent, with some solutions more than others. This often allows you to take the first step towards personalizing content - segmentation. And you probably already put it. Based on cookies and click behavior, customers are automatically divided into categories, so that they are offered products and information that reasonably match general characteristics and preferences.

Choosing personalization tools? Dare to take the next steps

But to stay ahead of the competition and provide your customers with a similar individual customer experience as Amazon and other dominant global players do - a CX that demonstrably results in a higher conversion rate and more engagement with your brand - you need to take more steps. Think of the use of data for personalized product recommendations (recommendation), stimulation techniques (persuasion) and increasing customer value (lead scoring and loyalty programs).

Choosing the most suitable personalization tools quickly becomes more challenging with these in-depth steps. Many providers promise maximum plug & play-easy, but integration practice is often more difficult than it seems. And there are major differences between the different techniques. With personalization techniques such as recommendation and persuasion, a successful application stands or falls with the intelligence of the tools to be chosen. In short, you can say this: the more intelligent the tool to be used, the less you have to pre-program and control yourself.

Treat existing and new customers with a relevant and personalized offer

But at its core, the challenging journey that personalization tools is to choose starts with reflecting on you current business and strategy and formulating clear data and personalization goals in the short and longer term. In that sense, 2020 is a year of truth. The outbreak of the corona pandemic at the beginning of this year resulted in a huge boost in online shopping. Everything indicates that this boost is permanent, as new, intelligent or otherwise, lockdowns are looming all over Europe as a result of the second wave.

Not only were the large platforms allowed to welcome many new users, smaller brands and web shops also saw their customer base and turnover grow. A striking trend is that consumers not only buy via existing online channels, but also orient themselves towards new web shops. It is also important to realize that both existing and new customers expect the same: a relevant and personalized offer. Only then can you hold them. Choosing and implementing the most effective personalization tools can no longer be delayed.