How Nike, Rootine, Tarte, and other brands are capturing consumers’ hearts with personalization
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What’s the hottest marketing trend for ecomm brands? Personalized online shopping experiences.
Relevant stats say:
- 91% of consumers are more likely to shop with brands that provide relevant offers
- 71% of consumers are frustrated with impersonal shopping experiences
While these stats are powerful alone, reflection on your own shopping preferences offers more convincing evidence. Here’s what I mean.
This week, I signed up for Rootine, and I couldn’t be more pleased. Rootine provides individualized supplement plans for each customer based on the customer’s DNA, blood panel, and quiz answers.
Rootine gets it. Everyone’s body chemistry is unique. No one wants to take any supplement, spend hundreds of dollars visiting doctors for blood tests, self-dose vitamin intake, and—heaven forbid—trust their own online <insert supplement of choice here> research.
Rootine solves common problems customers experience when shopping for vitamins, and they do it with sensible personalization—personalization that is worth the money and makes other “here are some vitamins, buy a few” supplement brands look like a limp noodle in comparison.
Why ecomm brands must personalize the shopping experience
In an age where consumer demands are high, and eCommerce is innovating in unpredictable ways, personalization is critical. Here’s why.
1. Ad tracking is becoming increasingly more difficult
The privacy revolution is here. Google is eliminating tracking cookies by 2022. Apple changed the privacy landscape with its iOS 14 update. Search engines like DuckDuckGo see double-digit growth every year.
Online consumers love privacy, and popular platforms for marketing and search are obliging by making third-party data difficult/impossible to access and use. Here’s a quick snippet from the Chromium Blog for more context.
While privacy enhancements across the web is great news for consumers, it makes traditional advertising more challenging.
But all is not lost—not even close. These privacy updates give brands an opportunity to connect with consumers in more meaningful ways from the get-go (read as: serve up more personalized onsite shopping experiences).
“The most success we’ve had with personalization is through high-value quizzes. We encourage our clients to solicit a few pieces of personal data from a web visitor—gender, activity preferences, body metrics, travel preferences, etc. There are a million different ways to creatively word these quizzes to capture data and personalize the ongoing shopping experience,” -Zachary Wilson, the Managing Partner at Gulo Solutions.
2. Customer loyalty is key to repeat business
As it becomes more challenging to acquire new customers through traditional third-party tracking, ecomm brands can lean more heavily on first-party data to personalize online shopping experiences and boost customer loyalty.
“By selling directly to the customer, the retailer owns the customer data, and the brand immediately captures important demographic details. Brands can then use this data to personalize the shopping journey over time, like personalizing what a customer sees when they land on the retailer's website, for example.” - Megan Wenzl, Content Manager at Linnworks.
The best news is many customers don’t mind offering up data in return for more personalized shopping experiences.
“Fifty-one percent of customers say they enjoy the personalization that sharing data brings, and 82% of consumers are likely to be more loyal to a brand that offers seamless experiences,” says Wenzl.
3. Personalization mitigates unnecessary returns and improves the customer experience
Last year alone, US shoppers sent back $102 billion worth of products bought online, according to NRF. IRL calls this phenomenon the “ghost economy.”
One main contributing factor to the ghost economy is problems with fit. The hair dye color was too light. The facial cleanser was too oily. The shades were too small.
But here’s the thing. If you personalize the experience the right way, your customers won’t be fleeting ghosts.
Personalization tools and tactics make it possible to provide a spot-on fit for online customers, all while capturing hyper-relevant first-party data in the meantime. Better fits for customers = reduced return costs for retailers.
Take Zenni Optical, for example.
Zenni uses different personalization techniques on its website so customers can easily find the right frame fit.
Zenni’s most impressive personalization tools?
- An educational video from the social influencer, Silvia Reis, explaining how to measure your unique face shape
- A complementary quiz to help you identify your face shape
- A shopping guide divided by face shape and gender to help you get the right glasses
While personalizing the online shopping experience helps mitigate returns for the wrong fit, it’s essential to remember not all returns are bad.
Making the returns process a breeze is a great way to connect with your customers and boost loyalty, explains .
“People that have an awesome return experience, on average, have a 40% higher LTV and are more likely to make repeat purchases. Why would a company want a customer to be stuck with a product they don't love? It is more important to provide customers with as much information as possible so they can make an informed decision about their purchase and also make sure the return experiences match customer expectations.” -Marquis Matson from Sozy.
4. Differentiation in a highly competitive eCommerce landscape
You know the story because you lived the story. Two years ago, online purchases only accounted for 13% of sales.
Then, the pandemic hit, forcing several businesses to shutter the doors of their brick-and-mortar stores, and move sales online. Other entrepreneurs started ecomm businesses to take advantage of the drastic uptick in online shopping trends.
As a result, there’s been a 45% increase in eCommerce market share over the past two years alone. Moreover, reports project further growth to the tune of another 21% by 2024.
As eCommerce continues to grow, so does the competition. Investing in personalized shopping experiences and products is one way for brands to stand out in a growing crowd of eCommerce companies.
Hecht-Leavitt says, “People have come to expect personalization during their shopping experiences. At Rootine, personalization is at the root of everything we do, and we go further into personalization. We look at DNA, blood, and lifestyle data to create a product completely tailored to your body and your goals. This is where the future of the health and wellness market lies: the intersection of health, science, and technology.”-Lily Hecht-Leavitt, Head of Brand at Rootine
She continues, “Creating a personalized product ensures brands are staying ahead of the trends and anticipating the data-driven future of the eCommerce landscape. The health and wellness competitive landscape is cluttered, but personalization allows for solutions based in science and personal data instead of guesswork when choosing from the many products available.”
As brands strive to connect with customers and edge out competitors, personalization strategies are becoming more and more attentive and creative. Here are five brands that provide incredibly innovative personalization solutions.
5 brands with creative online personalization strategies
What do boobs in your 20s, in your 30s, during pregnancy, after delivery, while nursing, after nursing, during middle age, after augmentation, etc., have in common? Literally nothing.
Shopping for a bra that fits is challenging enough in person and *nearly* impossible online.
That’s why Le Mystère’s dedication to helping online shoppers find the perfect fit for a unique body is so impressive. Here’s what Le Mystère is doing on its website to make every shopping experience individualized.
1. Using pop-up technology to promote customized fitting
Pop-ups can be invasive and annoying, but not when you’re buying a product that everyone sized A-I needs, and you’re not sure where to start.
Le Mystère uniquely leverages pop-up technology—to encourage a one-on-one fitting with a Fit Stylist via telephone, in-store, or in a virtual meeting.
2. Centering live chat and virtual fitting sessions around sizing
It’s easy to tell Le Mystère is in tune with customer pain points. Namely, fit issues. How? Its live chat technology is dedicated solely to answering sizing questions.
Live chat stylists go above and beyond to ask every customer the right questions to help determine size.
I chatted with a live agent (not a bot), and every question was tailored to me, my individual concerns, and my typical problems with fit.
“Showing your online shoppers that you care about their experiences by being present in real-time to answer questions creates brand loyalty and more sales. In fact, eCommerce stores that use live chat agents to answer notifications in real-time experience an average increase in sales conversions of 3x and see a 60% boost in their average ticket value. This is not the case with automated chatbots."-Mike Christie, Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing at JetSpring.
3. Guiding customers through a quiz to determine the right size
For customers that don’t have the time for a live chat or virtual fitting but still want to make a purchase, Le Mystère takes a popular personalization approach, and offers a fit quiz.
The quiz asks a series of questions to help customers find the perfect fit.
But, that’s not all!
The quiz is also infused with helpful fit tips to help customers answer the questions correctly.
At the end of the quiz, Le Mystère offers personalized bra recommendations that suit the individual consumer based on that particular customer’s answers to fit quiz questions.
It’s no wonder why THE YES secured $30 million in funding from New Enterprise Associates, True Ventures, and Forerunner Ventures.
THE YES takes a drastically different (better) approach to the shopping experience than any other app.
Instead of listing hundreds of products and asking customers to scroll endlessly, THE YES starts by guiding customers through a series of Yes/No questions that helps the app understand individual preferences.
Then, THE YES evaluates the responses and creates a store perfectly tailored to each individual customer. “No two feeds are alike,” reads the homepage.
THE YES has thought of everything. The app starts by asking yes/no questions about personal fashion preferences, including:
- Brands you like
- Colors you wear/don’t wear
- Clothing styles you wear/don’t wear
- Shoe styles you wear/don’t wear
- Looks you would/wouldn't wear
This data tells the app how to customize your personal feed and only serves up products you’ll love. As a very tall woman with terrible balance, I never have to look at heels over 4” ever again. Yay! 🥳
On a privacy-related note, the app starts by asking the less-invasive fashion preference questions before asking about body type.
For me, this helps me gain the trust THE YES because I know the focus is on providing me with a personalized fashion feed, and not capturing my personal data.
That being said, it is important for online shopping apps to capture body type data. Different brands cater to different body types, and THE YES knows this.
It wouldn’t make sense for THE YES to show a slew of plus size fashion brands to a particular petite shopper, and vice versa.
An added bonus of THE YES is it learns as it goes. The more you check “Yes” and “No” on products, the better the suggestions get.
THE YES app is unmatched in terms of personalization and the consumer benefits are abundant.
Personally (and this probably isn’t the norm), I don’t enjoy shopping at all. The hunt stresses me out. Finding the right fit is frustrating. Knowing what is trendy and not frumpy doesn’t come naturally to me. Above all, the last way I want to spend my time is by going from store to store only to turn up empty-handed.
When I go shopping, I prefer the convenience of online shopping. Turns out, many of my Twitter friends also prefer online shopping.
While shopping online is mostly convenient, it can present some of the same problems as shopping at a brick-and-mortar store.
Online shopping is time-consuming when you’re not a fashionista, aren’t familiar with many fashion brands, and don’t know how to conduct relevant direct searches.
Once you do find a brand you like, it’s nearly impossible to filter out styles you know look like garbage on you. It’s difficult to know how a particular style and size from various brands will fit your body type.
And, it’s hard (for me at least) to find trendy clothes—clothes that always look good on the model—but that don’t make me look like a cartoon character.
It’s easy to tell THE YES understands these common shopping pain points when you look at their personalization approach.
Here’s how THE YES and its personalization strategy has helped me as a consumer:
- I don’t have to set foot in a physical store
- I can select which styles, sizes, and clothing colors I see on the app (no orange or yellow, please)
- I can shop hundreds of brands at the same time
- I only see styles that match my body but are still fashionable
- I get to discover emerging brands
- I get better recommendations the more I use the app
“I love the personalized recommendations from THE YES. Product discovery can be so overwhelming online and they make it so simple to find new products based on your interests,” says Kaleigh Moore.
Mizzen + Main
“I often wonder why the whole world is so prone to generalise. Generalisations are seldom if ever true and are usually utterly inaccurate.” – Agatha Christie
While Agatha Christie passed away long before the days of personalized online shopping experiences—her words speak volumes in today’s high-tech world. This is especially true when applied to the online shopping experience.
When consumers shop for themselves, they want to find something that suits their preferences and unique features.
Mizzen + Main does a killer job personalizing what could be considered one of the most tedious shopping experiences—buying men’s clothing.
“Shopping in stores gives me anxiety. I don’t like shopping, the hustle and bustle of the store make me uneasy, and I usually end up grabbing a pile of shirts and hurrying out of the store, only to find the shirts don’t fit, and I have to return them. I like Mizzen + Main because I don’t have to deal with a crowded store, and the website gives me the tools to purchase the right products for my body shape. It’s easy and accurate, and it helps me get the right fit the first time,” says Brandon Scott.
The shopping experience at Mizzen + Main starts with the “Shirt Finder” tool, a quiz that helps customers find the right shirt style, size, and color.
The quiz questions gather info on:
- Regular size
- Body type
- Shirt style, color, and pattern preference
- How you like to wear your shirt
- What you don’t like about current shirts
Mizzen + Main refines your results based on your answers and matches you with the best products.
Here’s where it gets interesting, though.
When you click on the shirt, the website redirects you to the shirt’s product description page that includes a customizable 3D model.
This tool shows you how the shirt would look on you, based on your height, weight, age, body type, etc.
If you pick a size that doesn’t fall within your selected options, the website will notify you that it’s not a great fit.
The best part? You can change the body options at any time, making it possible to buy shirts for all the men in your family, all the groomsmen at your wedding, or your entire prom squad—all in one purchase.
Like many other ecomm brands that rock at personalization, Tarte Cosmetics also uses quizzes to help consumers find the perfect skincare or make-up products.
Tarte evaluates your answers and hooks you up with a product recommendation that matches your needs. Here’s my recommendation based on my eyelash quiz.
But, Tarte doesn’t start and stop the personalized shopping experience at the quiz like several other brands do.
Tarte has adopted virtual try-on technology called YouCam make-up. Remember Cher from Clueless circa 1995 and the closet we all wanted? YouCam make-up is kind of like Cher’s clothing matching tool, only it’s for make-up, not clothing.
YouCam make-up not only personalizes the shopping experience, but it solves two big problems:
- You don’t have to go in-store to try a product and use a sample everyone else has used
- You can try on as many different products as you want without having to use a make-up remover between applications
Tarte also gives you multiple try-on options, including selecting a live photo, trying it on a model, or uploading a still image, enhancing the overall experience.
The personalization process continues once you click your cart. You’ll see complementary products you might be interested in based on the product you added to your cart.
Custom product recommendations are a stellar addition to Tarte’s shopping cart, especially considering 91% of people are more likely to shop with brands that provide relevant recommendations.
Some brands are raising the personalization bar by making it easier to shop and allowing customers to have a hand in the design of their products.
We see this approach a lot with subscription boxes where you can pick the products you want and don’t want to include.
Nike takes this idea a step further by allowing customers to design the look and feel of their own shoe.
Meet the Nike Metcon 7 By You shoe.
Nike knows customers like Metcons and original sneaks. So it boosts excitement around the Metcon line by letting customers build their own pair of Metcons.
When you click on “customize,” you can customize everything from the color of the stitches on the shoe to the text on the heel and everything in between, creating a unique shoe that’s perfect for you. Here are “My Shoes” by me.
Allowing customers to personalize the actual design of a product resonates well with customers.
“If I can have access to something one-on-one or exclusive, it makes me feel empowered. It helps me display my creativity and express myself,” says Ariana from Smoove.
How do eCommerce brands win at personalization?
In the highly competitive eCommerce world, personalization isn’t an option; it’s a must. Brands that want to edge out other companies have to understand their customers’ pain points and cater to their needs with personalized solutions.
Traditional advertising will continue to get more complicated and more expensive, requiring eCommerce brands to continually innovate. Brands that will win customers' hearts will be brands that prioritize customers and find creative and responsive ways to meet consumers’ needs.