Who among us does not enjoy the delight of unboxing? Your friendly parcel delivery person (or drone, as the case may be), leaves your package by the door and you delight in gently taking it apart or (as the case may be) ripping the cardboard to shreds with a serrated hunting knife. Inside is the thing-a-ma-jig you’ve ordered (free shipping, of course) but wait…there’s something unexpected. Once you realize the extra item is a free gift, your curiosity takes over and you unearth a cool surprise that leads you to say, “How did they know?”
In a data-driven age where digital commerce experiences are guided by gobs of granular behavioral information, I put forth the notion the most captivating part of a personalized digital commerce experience is serendipity. An unexpected treasure guided by a robust blend of consumer information and clever curation is a winning formula that applies to online merchants from the megastores to mom and pop operations. “I know what you want but am going to take you somewhere unexpected,” should be more than a line from a hit country song; it should be the mantra for digital marketers looking for an edge in commerce.
If you have not been following the latest in culinary commerce, subscription boxes in which your gourmet cravings are satisfied each month with cookies, pickles, whiskey or an array of healthy snacks, are a hot commodity. A new take on the venerable “Fruit of the Month Club,” (Harry & David’s 1936 innovation), with a contemporary, digital twist can be seen in Mouth (pickles, sweets, etc..), Pastoral Cheese Club, Craft Coffee and others who boast a wide assortment of difficult-to-find, expertly tested wares as well as the stowaway surprise that comes in the monthly box. The scenario goes like this: You like pickles? It’s a good bet (based on our data about your buying habits), you also like craft beer. Just for being a loyal club member, here’s a trial size of the latest seasonal ale. You like the brew? — We have plenty more where that came from. Here’s a coupon for $10 off your membership to our new craft beer club.
Supply-side, content-rich, curated commerce is a key driver to this new wave of subscription-based merchants but the lessons from this segment have practical application to all areas of digital commerce. Consider these points:
• Serendipity: You want to surprise and delight your customer, but stay within the boundaries of your product category. It would be unwise to add a sample of the latest elk jerky to a box intended for members of your “Hair Brush of the Month Club.”
• Be Smart with Data: You can elevate your monthly extras to an art form using your customer data to create offers for products that appeal to your target demographics. If you are a purveyor of men’s neckties, start off with a sample size of high-end cologne in your delivery. Include a coupon for an initial purchase and carefully track the response.
• Content: The vast majority of subscription commerce sites boast powerful visual elements as well as well-written product descriptions that include a consistent personal narrative—we tried this product and liked it, so we’re passing it along to you. A number of these specialty digital retailers, such as the aforementioned Mouth, extend their customer relationship with content in the form of digital or print publications.
Personalization has become a term, whose meaning has become obscured with an overdose of finger-in-the-wind theories, and greater reliance on endless surveys more than common sense. Any salesman who lives on commission knows that personalizing a shopping experience by having detailed knowledge of a product line and suggesting the right shoes that go with a pinstripe suit is just smart (and potentially lucrative). Those same principles apply to digital commerce—the carefully crafted personal touch creates loyalty. And profits.
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