Retailers Embrace Personalization To Ramp Up Content Investments

As shoppers become more empowered and educated, retailers are tasked with the challenge of ensuring each consumer has a satisfying and memorable experience. Today’s consumers have different shopping goals and preferences, and they now expect their browsing and buying journeys to align directly with their wants and needs.

To meet and exceed the expectations of choosy consumers, best-in-class retailers aim to display content that personalizes the shopping experience and helps build long-term relationships with shoppers. After all, 71% of retail consumers report that they like receiving personalized offers as they shop, according to the Adobe Retail Personalization Survey.

Retailers and brands such as Del Monte Foods, Gardener’s Supply and VILLA are among the businesses creating enriching campaigns and initiatives that reach consumers on a personal level.

Crafting A Relevant Content Strategy

Before moving forward with a content strategy, retailers have to understand prior and present consumer behaviors if they want to truly stay relevant in the eyes of their consumers. Nearly three quarters (74%) of online consumers get frustrated with web sites when content, offers and promotions are not aligned with their interests, according to research from Janrain, a customer identity management solution provider. Therefore, retailers not only potentially risk losing the sale, but the overall lifetime value of the customer.

These brands have to adapt to evolving customer tastes if they want to acquire a significant portion of that lifetime value. While traditional advertising campaigns have been central to past buying trends, today’s consumers have moved far beyond these traditional channels to learn about brands and products.

Confirming this point, only one third of consumers worldwide trust traditional advertisements, according to a 2013 Nielsen report. This indicates that shoppers need to be influenced in alternative ways that do not come in the form of standard print, televised or online ads. For example, peers, tastemakers and like-minded individuals can help inspire today’s consumers. The Nielsen report indicated that 84% of consumers trust recommendations from people they know, while 67% trust editorial content while browsing and shopping.

With the help of personalization solutions that deliver offers and promotions based on consumers’ prior purchases, 100% of retailers reported at least one key ROI benefit, according to an Infosys study, titled: Rethinking Retail. A handful of these benefits include increased sales (74%), increased profits (61%), increased online traffic (58%) and increased customer loyalty (55%).

VILLA Boosts Revenue By 46% With Personalized Search

Footwear and urban lifestyle retailer VILLA separates its most prominent consumers into two different demographics to tailor the online shoe-buying experience and recommend proper products for repeat customers. These two types of shoppers include “sneakerheads,” or customers who define themselves by their footwear, and “dream makers” who are traditionally customers from local urban neighborhoods where VILLA stores are located. The retail site includes a blog with content designed to inform the shopper of brand release dates, and tie the brand to popular culture trends.  

To create a true one-to-one experience for these consumers, VILLA partnered with web site personalization solution provider Reflektion and deployed its site search and product recommendation capabilities. With these solutions, the retailer allows consumers to sift through products that accurately reflect what type of shopper they are. Visitors also can receive recommendations for products that are either similar or complementary to the items they are viewing. With the advanced functionality, consumers receive images as they are typing in the search bar.

“Our partnership with Reflektion allows us to interact with the whole community using content,” said Patrick Walsh, VP of Marketing at VILLA. “The customers say ‘Wow, they actually do get me.’ As soon as they click on the search bar they will see a few base items that are aligned with their tastes. And when they do type in the information in search, whether it’s a blue boot or a Nike product, they’re going to see the products that pertain to their needs.”

Since implementing Reflektion’s one-to-one personalized site search, VILLA has increased its revenue per online visit by 46% and conversion rates by 43%. VILLA generates 78% higher revenues per online visit among consumers who specifically use the new search capabilities.

“The concept of ‘most popular’ is a deterrent,” said Kurt Heinemann, CMO of Reflektion. “They are looking for an individual element of them to bring to their sneakers or apparel, which makes them unique. That’s what’s really important about one-to-one personalization at a certain level.”

Nearly 70% of web site traffic at VILLA comes from a mobile device, according to Walsh. The retailer is currently testing the mobile platform to capitalize on the new search capabilities.

“The next step is understanding how we engage our customer, and how we give them a great experience from a mobile platform,” Walsh explained in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “We’re consistently working with Reflektion to identify ways that we can use personalization to elevate the experience for the customer and help them get to the items faster and assist them in the discovery process. In researching our customers, they’ve told us that whether inside the store or online, it’s just as much about discovering something new in the process as it is about getting the product they want.”

Gardener’s Supply Triples Conversion Rates By Educating Consumers

As seen with VILLA, building true one-to-one personalization through the e-Commerce site can start with a balance of content and product recommendations. Gardener’s Supply Company, a retailer of gardening and yard products, employs this model to sell products and give its consumers the information necessary to be successful with the items they purchase.

“We have writers on staff that are producing content on a regular basis,” said Rick Renaud, Director of E-Commerce at Gardener’s. “We pride ourselves on being really hands on, so we have a whole team here that does research and development. We produce many of our own products and manufacture them, and we’re always working to see the next innovation that we can come up with.”

Every month, the retailer sends out an email titled “Gardener’s News,” which includes materials such as online articles, guides and tips directed towards consumers and serves as a differentiator to big box alternatives that do not focus primarily on gardening products.

After realizing the difficulties of measuring ROI from this branded content, the Gardener’s team leveraged its partnership with real-time web personalization platform Evergage to distinguish which, and how many, consumers ventured to the site after clicking on content or commerce links.

Within months of deploying Evergage, Gardener’s tripled conversion rates among users that initially landed on content pages, according to Renaud.

“When you look at people who enter via a non-commerce link — not PPC, email or an affiliate ad — typically they come through Google,” Renaud said in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “The purpose, value and conversion rate for traffic landing on a content page is just a fraction of our typical traffic that lands on a category or product detail page. It’s been a struggle over the years to continue investing in this content.”

Gardener’s uses the Evergage solution to isolate individual shoppers who have not previously purchased items on the e-Commerce site. Upon recognizing these consumers, the site will automatically send them a message containing a promotion related to the page. Understanding the consumer at this level reinforces the value of the content, making it easier to gauge which avenues to entry are working properly.

As an example, an article about handling Japanese beetles gathered the most views of any piece of content that Gardner’s hosted during the 2014 gardening season. This came as a surprise to the retailer because it had not been promoting Japanese beetle products with the article, even though other pest control products were included on the page. With Evergage, the retailer could capitalize on this opportunity, and serve a personalized inline ad highlighting best-selling Japanese beetle deterrent products for users who reached the article organically.

“We’ve increased the sales on that product, but we didn’t really hit the true numbers we wanted until after the gardening and pest season, so we’re really excited to run that one again in April and May 2015,” Renaud noted. “We’ll probably evolve that approach more, and potentially put a promotion in with the product if the product by itself isn’t selling.”

Del Monte Foods Improves Brand Awareness With Content Marketing  

Content marketing and personalization do not just go hand-in-hand for retailers; CPGs that manufacture and sell globally through retail partners also have as big of a stake in personalizing content to reach consumers.

During the 2014 Thanksgiving holiday season, Del Monte Foods developed an online campaign for their green bean canned goods to drive interaction and engagement. Del Monte partnered with cross-platform advertising solution provider Vibrant Media and online media network POPSUGAR to extend the campaigns to more than 80 million people.

“During our Thanksgiving drive period, we had our green bean TV commercial running, but we really wanted to extend that conversation to create a deeper relationship and provide our consumers with real value,” said Virginia Moon, Associate Brand Manager at Del Monte. “In order to achieve that goal, we really felt that content marketing would do that for us.”

The online campaign included an original green bean casserole recipe displayed on the POPSUGAR custom hub, alongside guest recipes from different bloggers. Del Monte designed the recipes, along with the additional cooking how-to guides and tips, to assist consumers in making their Thanksgiving meals.

The campaign took place from Nov. 3 to Dec. 2, 2014, with the content reaping an average dwell time of more than 150% above the average piece on the site and achieving consumer interaction rates 220% higher than the average CPG content marketing campaign.

“The holiday time frame is pretty cluttered as it is,” said Carla Henderson, a VP of Sales at Vibrant Media. “Delivering this message to the consumer with relevant content as they are already searching for tips and tricks during the holiday season is another way to hit the consumer in the right mindset.”

To Personalize Successfully, Personalize Intelligently

On average, businesses that personalize their online experiences see a 19% uplift in sales, according to data from Monetate.

The key benefit of personalizing content marketing campaigns and resources is that retailers do not have to silo them. Rather, they can extend this content across a variety of channels to achieve the results they desire. Whether through search, product-related articles, advertisements or attention-grabbing images and videos, compelling content can boost a brand’s image if it reaches the right consumer at the right time.

Part 2 of the report, Content Marketing & Next-Gen Personalization, will appear in the April 14 newsletter.


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