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Personalization Not the Secret to E-Commerce

  |  November 14, 2003   |  Comments

Basic Web site improvements would serve e-tailers a whole lot more than personalized offers and recommendations, according to a study.

Basic Web site improvements would serve e-tailers a whole lot more than personalized offers and recommendations, according to a study released by Jupiter Research (a unit of this site's corporate parent).

The analysis shows that only 14 percent of consumers say a personalized Web site leads them to buy more often from online stores. And just 8 percent say personalization makes them more apt to visit news, entertainment and content sites more frequently.

These low consumer responses are in direct contrast to the number of consumers who say they would visit a site more often or even buy more if the company made basic site improvements. Jupiter Research analysts found that 54 percent of respondents cited faster-loading pages and 52 percent cited better navigation as greater incentives.

Which of the following features would make you
visit/patronize/buy more from a certain site?
Content Services Commerce
Pages load quickly 54% 41% 37%
Site was easy to navigate 52% 50% 48%
Ease of registration/check-out/login 28% 44% 42%
Pages are easy to read/not confusing 35% 37% 27%
Search function works well 32% 17% 30%
None 16% 22% 22%
Ability to customize site to my needs 8% 11% 4%
Personalized offers/recommendations 8% 7% 14%
Source: Jupiter Research/Ipsos-Insight

"Most Web site personalization projects fail to deliver real business benefits," says Matthew Berk, research director at Jupiter Research. "Our industry has always assumed that a personalized Web site was a better one, both for the visitor and the site operator. Our research has found that this is not the case."

Berk says the report – "Beyond the Personalization Myth" – was a painful one to write because it undercuts so much "entrenched mythology" around site building. "It's our mental model of what the Internet should be," adds Berk. "It can be great to interact with customers in direct marketing and call centers – there the idea is brilliant and highly effective. But it doesn't mean it works on a Web site."

And Berk explains that it doesn't work there because people shopping online have a task to do – buy a pair of shoes, find the CD they've been waiting for or quickly find the book they need for next week's Book Club. Web sites often clutter up that process with personalized pop-up ads and recommendations for baby gifts when they just needed that one gift for their friend's baby shower the month before.

"In travel, a consumer generally knows where she wants to go by the time she gets to the site," says Berk. "In retail, more than 80 percent of the time, they already know what they want to buy by the time they get to the Web site. Just help them accomplish the tasks they arrived with."

Berk adds that the best thing a company can do for a consumer is make sure the site is easy to navigate; make consumer service telephone numbers easy to find; make sure search engines are top-of-the-line; and help people answer basic questions.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kim MacPherson

Kim MacPherson is President and Founder of Inbox Interactive, a full-service email marketing agency specializing in promotional copywriting, HTML design, planning, and deployment/tracking solutions. Kim is also the author of "Permission-Based E-mail Marketing That Works!"

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