how to personalize your ecommerce store experience

Microsoft’s new retail playbook is out, and they’re calling 2020 for personalized customer experience. Eight in 10 shoppers are more likely to buy when retailers offer relevant suggestions and remember their past purchases. Shoppers who click on personalized recommendations are more likely to come back to your online store. 

Now’s the time to start creating a personalized experience for your customers. 

Ready to earn repeat business and stay competitive? Here are the basics on personalization in eCommerce and how to get started with your online store.

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Why Is Personalization Such a Big Deal Now?

You can thank Big Data for the personalization trend. There’s so much information available about how customers behave that it’s easier than ever to create an individualized shopping experience…

…unless we look back at the days when local shopkeepers knew all their customers in real life. Not many people today want their choices limited to what’s behind the counter at the town mercantile. But people do love to be recognized by the stores they shop with, whether they’re on Main Street or online. 

Data-driven eCommerce personalization creates the same positive responses as knowing your local customers. For example, Microsoft’s 2020 Retail Trends Playbook notes that 91% of consumers say they’re more likely to shop with merchants that know who they are, remember what they’ve bought and make recommendations and offers tailored to their interests and needs.

In the competitive world of online retail, customer loyalty is crucial. And personalization can help build that loyalty from the very first visit. A Salesforce report cited by Microsoft found that “37% of shoppers who clicked a personalized recommendation during their first visit came back.” Among shoppers who didn’t click a recommendation, less than 20% returned. 

What Does “Personalized Customer Experience” Mean?

First, know that personalizing the customer experience (CX) is different from personalizing specific products. The goal here is to let each customer know you know them. There are two main ways to do this, per Microsoft: personalized outreach and anticipatory support. Both depend on your ability to collect, organize and analyze customer data.

Where does your customer data come from? All the interactions (touchpoints) your customers have with your store can help you personalize their experience. That includes purchases, returns, product searches, customer service inquiries and more.

But your store isn’t the only place where customers can interact with your brand. Email campaigns, web searches, social media posts, mobile ads and other touchpoints outside your store can also give you useful data. 

For example, Customer A has bought a dozen t-shirts from your store, but today she clicked through your social media post about your new line of hoodies. You might want to follow up with hoodie recommendations in her size and preferred colors when she visits again. You might also want to send her an email offer for a hoodie discount. 

In-store recommendations and email offers based on behavior and preferences are types of personalized outreach. More than half of U.S. shoppers say they like personalized messages from retailers and sign up for them, according to Microsoft. That means more than half of consumers are willing to share information you need so you can offer them things they want. 

What about anticipatory support? Anticipatory support can be as simple as an email offer for the new batteries your customer will probably need soon for the portable Bluetooth speaker they bought a few months ago. Or it can be as complex as Amazon’s 2018 patent that lets its voice assistant, Alexa, tell if users are sick based on their speech patterns and then offer to shop for medicines for them.

Another type of anticipatory support is the virtual shopping assistant. This type of chatbot can help customers find what they want quickly without having to navigate your store, just as a salesperson would in a physical store. 

Plugins and Tools for Personalizing Your Customer Experience

There are lots of tools you can use to personalize your online store’s CX. Here are a few to consider.


WP-Chatbot is free. It integrates with your WordPress site, Facebook Business page and Messenger account to send personalized recommendations for your product pages and help customers select items. 

Acobot AI Chatbot is an inexpensive ($9 to $29 per month) option for stores that don’t rely on Facebook. Acobot acts like a virtual shop assistant and makes personalized product recommendations that get more accurate over time, as the bot’s AI gets more data to work with. 


Customer relationship management tools collect, track and analyze all your customer data, then help you use that data to personalize offers and recommendations. A good eCommerce CRM includes customer purchase tracking, personalized marketing capabilities and a recommendation engine. Three of the most popular options are:

  1. Zero BS CRM. This inexpensive ($11-$30 per month) CRM integrates with WooCommerce and other eCommerce platforms to collect data, show customer behavior and total purchases, segment customers for better email campaigns, and trigger email campaigns based on purchases. 
  2. Metrilo has a higher price point ($119-$299 per month). Like Zero BS, Metrilo integrates with multiple eCommerce platforms. Its least expensive Essentials plan lets you see new customer and repeat customer behavior. It also lets you send individual email offers tailored to the customer’s device type, like personalized newsletters, offers, cart abandonment reminders and product recommendations. 
  3. If you’ve got more room in your budget for powerful personalization tools, Pure Clarity (starts at $299 per month) lets you turn over your personalization to the app’s AI. Pure Clarity pulls data from on- and off-site customer behavior to provide real-time, dynamic product recommendations and personalized offers and campaigns.

Whichever personalization tools you try, be sure to benchmark your key metrics first (repeat customers, order value, offer click-throughs, etc.) so you can see how effective they are at getting your customers to come back to your store and buy more.

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Casey Kelly-Barton is an Austin-based freelance B2B content marketing writer. Her specialty areas include SMB marketing and growth, data security, IoT, and fraud prevention