Lesson from Netflix: How Marketers can Enhance the Ecommerce Shopper Experience

When you open Netflix, you’ll likely see suggestions based on your recent viewing, whether it’s “Top Picks for You” or “Because you watched [insert show or movie].” Similarly, on Spotify, you’ll see curated “Daily Mix” playlists that cater to your musical taste.

These streaming services know how to expertly guide users to discover new content. As a result, customer expectations have changed across all parts of their lives — including the online shopping experience.

Now, online merchants need to take a page from Netflix and Spotify’s books and make every shopper feel like their site was specifically made for them. This requires a few key steps that marketers can implement in their ecommerce strategy.

1. Collect customer data.
The first thing that marketers need to create a personalized shopping experience is customer data. Customer data is key to understanding shopper behavior and preferences. It enables marketers to deliver tailored recommendations to shoppers that get the right products to the right person at the right time.


This data can include customer IDs, site activity (e.g. search requests and page views), shopping cart contents, purchases and email addresses. With these insights on hand, marketers can start delivering personalized recommendations based on actual shopper behavior and not a gut feeling.

2. Personalize recommendations.
These recommendations should be personalized based on the shopper’s behavior and the retailer’s existing merchandise. This can be done by highlighting factors like:

  • Recently viewed products on the homepage
  • Last-minute suggestions at checkout
  • New brands, colors and styles on the sidebar
  • Personalized products in email campaigns

By using data from real behaviors, not random rules, marketers can reach customers at multiple parts of the shopper journey. That means what shoppers see in their emails, what they browse on the website and what marketers recommend to them at checkout are all personalized based on that moment, history and current trends.

3. Optimize search results
Online shoppers get frustrated when they visit a site and can’t find what they want. These shoppers won’t convert — they’ll jump to a competitor and never come back. Instead, merchants need to find a way to deliver tailored, highly relevant recommendations, improve new product discovery and enable faster purchasing with search.

This is made possible with a simple and high-performing site search. For example, consider a typical search in which a shopper is looking for an item that the merchant doesn’t carry. Hypothetically, they shouldn’t get any results at all. But marketers can use this opportunity to boost products a shopper previously viewed, complementary products to the items in a shopper’s cart, or preferred categories or brands based on a shopper’s previous views and orders.

Additionally, the order in which the product results are displayed should make sense for the individual customer. For example, when a woman searches for boots on a shoe merchant’s website, the algorithm should know that she’s not looking for men’s or children’s boots. It can also put products that the shopper already previously viewed at the top.

These custom search results and category page recommendations are powerful conversion tools that keep customers coming back.

4. Take advantage of online merchandising
Beyond great search results, today’s ecommerce customers want the entire product discovery process to be easier. Online merchandising is another way to create a better shopper experience, convert more customers and grow revenue.

There are several ways retailers can create solid online merchandising strategies, including:

  • Customize results based on location: Use the shopper’s location to predict what they are most likely to buy based on climate and trends.
  • Highlight and hide products: Boost and demote products to highlight bestsellers and related items while making sure not to promote any out-of-stock items.
  • Create an omnichannel merchandising experience: Create a consistent shopping experience across every customer touch point, aligning marketing campaigns on the website, in a brick-and-mortar store, across social media and third-party marketplaces.

The Smart Approach to Ecommerce

Incorporating personalized recommendations, search and merchandising using powerful customer data transforms the shopper experience from a single transaction to a meaningful relationship. These tactics are a way for merchants to become a pattern in shoppers’ lives, much like Netflix and Spotify.

By following the recommendations outlined in this article, merchants can create an amazing shopper experience that drives more traffic, higher conversion and greater lifetime value. This is the smart approach to ecommerce.

As Chief Marketing Officer at Searchspring, Jason Ferrara brings 30 years of marketing experience, including building high-performing teams, applying core fundamentals and KPIs as well as driving progressive company cultures. With extensive knowledge of growing brands, Ferrara is an expert at leading go-to-market initiatives including communications, demand generation and branding.

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