Looking at e-commerce trends, personalization is probably the single most important topic in the online business today. Personalization includes many different aspects such as individually tailored, local newsletters, personalized promotions in mailings including complex recommendation systems in the online shop that process customer data and behavior to show him or her the right set of products at the right time.
From a technical perspective, it is fairly easy to get the customer’s location by either simply asking for it or by narrowing down the location through various technical measures (e.g. browser settings, geocoding user’s IP address, etc.). As soon as you know where your customer comes from, different types of information are available to you. In order to better explain how you can use this data to influence the customers experience in your online shop, let's group them as the 3C’s – Currency, Culture and Commute.
A pretty basic information you can derive from a customer's country is its currency. It is fairly straight forward to switch to the customer's local currency for him or her to get a better feeling for the prices. Having done that, you have to take into consideration how exchange rates can affect your profit margins while recalculating prices and on top of that, you don't want prices to change too frequently and be stable for at least a certain period of time. At the same time, currencies need to be managed differently when it comes to control elements such as changing price ranges by moving slider controls. It is important to consider the individual steps that a user can change: While one Euro-steps might be enough in Germany, for other currencies, like Norwegian Crowns, 10 NOK-steps are the norm. If your search can understand price ranges, it also needs to consider that: 100 to 1000 Euros is a quite different price range than 100 to 1000 NOK.
The displaying of cents (or Øre) may also be handled differently: while it’s common in Germany to also display cents in the price, this is not the case in Norway where prices usually are rounded up to a whole number. The same applies to thousands separators, which can also vary from country to country.
Based on the country or even a specific region, different types of information in regards to culture can be deducted: first and foremost the language. While most countries only have one official language, there are some special cases like Switzerland where three languages must be taken into account.
The language should be primarily derived from the browser's local settings, so that users are shown information in their preferred language regardless of their current location. Along with the language not only the content, but also controls and buttons have to be adapted. The same goes for the search function in the online shop where queries then must understand the local language as well: “Rock”, for example, has a totally different meaning in German than in English.
Besides the language, there is additional information that can be deducted from the culture. For example, the general wealth of a country can be decisive in determining which products are highlighted and how the shop is sorted - we are already familiar with this concept from the retail trade, and should be able to apply it in the online shop, too: Based on the expected customer group, the layout of the shop is adapted and individual products are highlighted. Exactly the same levers must be used online.
A country's or region's climate can also serve as an influencing factor and determine which products are shown and which are not. A winter jacket has a different meaning for a customer in southern Italy than in Finland...
The third component is the radius: This simply shows how close the nearest store is to the customer. This category is particularly important for retailers with an online shop, as it allows the customer to be redirected from the online shop to the offline store.
In some countries there is only a poorly developed postal delivery network, or the customer simply needs the item immediately: both circumstances offer the local branch an opportunity to take advantage of! The customer should be able to select a store in the online shop itself, or a store in his or her vicinity should be automatically suggested. As soon as the next store and its product availability are known, the available products can be displayed first or simply marked accordingly. Information such as local offers or opening hours are also relevant for the customer. For the sake of simplicity, this information, if available, should be stored on a content page and in the search index: customers may search for individual stores by city, and expect an overview of the closest stores.
Considering a long commute, the user might be grateful for services like product reservations or Click & Collect which make sure that the products are there when the customer arrives. These omnichannel services are key for customer satisfaction and additively services like repair and return can save money and costs for both sides - reseller and customer.
Should the nearest store be quite a distance, a customer will be grateful for services such as reservation or Click & Collect, which will ensure that the products are available when he or she arrives at the store. These omnichannel services are the key to greater customer satisfaction. In addition, in-store return or repair services can save costs for both sides - customer and retailer. Apart from this, the local retailer will able to suggest and sell additional products in direct consultation with the customer.
Anyone who calls the local retail trade a dying business, needs to take a closer look. It is true, that the total number of shops is decreasing, but at the same time new stores are being opened.
There is a shift in the retail industry, from online to local and from local to online. Some online brands are now addressing end customers directly and are opening exclusive stores for their brand. This is causing large department stores such as the traditional American chain Macy's to close, while mono-brands like Adidas are opening new stores. These are usually smaller and primarily serve as showrooms for the products. They enable services such as Click&Collect or personal services such as the individual measurement of running shoes or other sporting goods, and allow customers to experience the products effectively staged up close and personal.
Brands are opening pop-up stores for short periods of time to lure customers into a store and analyse their interests. Stores offer the great advantage that camera and sensor technologies can be used to track and analyze customer behavior very precisely. Demographic information can be collected and at the same time, it is possible to analyze where customers stop, which products they look at and which ones they try on or try out.
This new omnichannel presence of brands has created two new patterns of behavior among customers: webrooming and showrooming.
Webrooming describes a customer journey that begins in an online shop with a customer who finds a product online but hesitates before making a purchase decision - therefore tries on or inspects the item on site and then buys it there. The opposite is showrooming: Here, the customer journey starts while the customer is shopping in the retail store. But for various reasons, such as prices or availability, the customer does not buy on site. Once back home, the customer then buys the item online.
Loyalty programs ensure that individual customers can be identified regardless of how they purchase the item. The program can be used to lure customers to events or to the introduction of a new collection in a store. Once the customer is inside the store, staff can provide individual advice and possibly sell additional products.
The location of your customer is important and can play a significant role in your online and offline experience. If not properly managed, it can have a negative impact.
The location can help you to personalize the online experience and also to create potential bridges to local retail. For a superior user experience, inventory levels in each store must be transparent and displayed accordingly throughout the online store. Components such as search, navigation, filters and product sorting should also use this information to display, prioritize and highlight products.
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