eCommerce Personalization Based On Shopper Intent

. eCommerce Personalization has long been a standard, but are you personalizing with respect to the shopper’s intent? At our office, most of our conversations about search experiences feature three types of shoppers or “search personas” known as the Surgeons, the Explorers & the Wanderers. The Surgeons know exactly what they want and explorers have at least a general idea of what they’re looking for. But the Wanderers are in search of inspiration, making them the trickiest to convert. So, how do you identify and cater to each of these search personas? Let’s see.

First up we have the surgeons or shoppers that know exactly what they are shopping for. This search persona has a very specific product in mind. Hence like a surgeon, they value efficiency and precision above all other factors. For these reasons, surgeons prefer using the search box to rapidly find an exact match. One way to cater to surgeons is to set up type-ahead functionality for your search to display exact matches before the surgeon finishes typing. This saves them time if the product they’re searching for has variants or a lengthy title. However, please keep in mind that this tactic of featuring specific products via an auto-complete drop down is an exception to the rule since this tactic is best for assisting explorers. In other words, don’t use this tactic to feature specific products when the query isn’t product specific! More on this later.

Next, we have the explorers or shoppers that are interested in a general category. But they are unsure of the specific product that’s fit for them. For example, they know they want to purchase a digital camera but when it comes to brand or specific models they’re still filling in the blanks. To assist explorers one of the best methods is to provide highly relevant suggestions within their product category of interest. This can be done by featuring popular categories in response to a generic search. For example, within the autocomplete drop down as I eluded to in the previous paragraph. This method spares the explorer from wading through a massive list of cameras. Instead, they’ll skip straight to the most popular, trending or featured categories such as digital SLRs, Mirrorless Cameras and Point and Shoots.

The final search persona we’ll cover for now are the wanderers or shoppers. They have a general goal in mind but have yet to determine the details. To better understand this search persona consider the following. Have you ever shopped for someone and struggled to find the perfect gift? If you have, odds are you played the role of the wanderer. Generally, we attribute gift shopping as a wanderer specific activity. This is because it typically involves a great deal of thought when making a purchase on behalf of another. Unsurprisingly this group is the most difficult to convert! So, how do you help a wanderer? Do you show them products that others buy frequently, trending or unique?

From our perspective, we believe wanderers are looking for inspiration. After all, how good is a gift if it isn’t drawn from inspiration? To inspire wanderers, we’ll need to think differently from traditional methods such as filters and navigation. We will have to look to a more personal approach. We call it Guided Search, which offers a new way for this search persona. It helps to find inspiration and ultimately discover their ideal product. Plainly described, the guided search is like using a map with a start and an endpoint. But it would not have a fixed guide in between. Instead, the reader determines the chart with each step taken towards their goal that will eventually guide them towards their unique destination. How? The guided search experience unfolds in three steps:

  1. Detect Your Wanderers
  2. Engage with Guided Search
  3. Learn & Improve

The experience begins by detecting a wanderer, or as we previously mentioned, a customer who has spent a bit of time shopping products across categories or has visited up to 3 to 4 pages of search results.

Once you detect a wanderer, guided search kicks in. Besides showing products, it also proposes highly relevant categories that change in real time as the shopper continues to browse. In this way, every step forward will guide the wanderer towards their end destination. This is by providing suggestions that are both informative and relevant. For example, if a wander has interest in cameras they may click on the point and shoot camera category and specify further with a select brand. With guided search, future results will feature point and click cameras with respect to their brand of choice and others like it. This, of course, is just the beginning of the process. As you can imagine the more the wanderer searches the better their results become, and the guided search will continue to provide assistance until the shopper has guided themselves to their ideal product.

The third step, learn and improve, dedicates to optimization for this specific search persona. To do so we recommend analyzing customer click-through rates or absence thereof for each popular, trending or featured category suggested to the wanderer throughout their search process. Continue in this way until you’ve discovered a naturally occurring trend, which will serve to further refine your shopper’s guidance until your customer engagement matches your personal goals.

So, are you optimizing with respect to shopper intent? Essentially, if you can cover the three primary search personas of Surgeons, Explorers and Wanders your conversion will be all the better. Remember to include type-ahead functionality within your search to efficiently aid surgeons in discovering product matches, and feature highly relevant product categories via an auto-complete drop down to give your explorers ideas. To assist the most challenging search persona of all, the wanderers, take a closer look at guided search, which will serve as the map they need to reach their destination. To effectively reach all three personas we’ll be the first to admit that the road ahead will take some time and effort, but if nothing else keep optimizing and remember this famous phrase, not all who wander are lost!

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