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Engaging CE Consumers by Lifestyle, Interests

According to JupiterResearch, retail merchandisers are continually looking for ways to get key items in front of online shoppers to effect conversion and impact average order value. Recently, to influence consumers, retailers have tried "top seller" lists -- such as lists of merchant-suggested items, and lists of products that get the highest review ratings from consumers.

Unfortunately, consumers rank all these efforts low on the scale of features they find most useful when making a purchase decision. In fact, according to a recent JupiterResearch consumer survey, no more than 9 percent of online shoppers rate these features as most useful.

Though such lists are probably a good idea in terms of presenting a merchandising point of view and gaining credibility via the presence of consumer-created content, they may not be moving the needle on incremental sales. This may be because more than one-half of online shoppers don't know what they want when they begin researching their purchases.

Therefore, these lists can only be relevant to the minority of shoppers who do know what they want, but only if they include the items the customers are interested in, and that's unlikely. It's more probable that the lists retailers provide will be irrelevant to most shoppers, unless they are prone to online impulse buying. Less than one-quarter of online buyers will make an unplanned purchase to receive a promotion, and only 11 percent will make one based on site suggestions.

The addressable market is too small for such product lists to dramatically influence decision making. Retailers should evaluate the effectiveness of these features in terms of the addressable market and test their use among customer segments where a product preference might be inferred from past purchase and path behavior.

I believe that consumer electronics (CE) retailers, as an example, would greatly benefit from 'persona-centric' recommendations to their online shoppers. Granted, this is difficult to implement when website visitors can't be identified. However, when a consumer has signed-in to a customer support website, there is an opportunity to ask consumers to share details in their customer profile.

What's the motivation for the consumer? Initially, relevant and timely technical support, plus application tutorials that ensure that they can extract the maximum value and enjoyment from their purchase. Later, as the consumer shares lifestyle and interest details, then the interaction can evolve to meaningful persona-mapped offers -- "customers like you have selected this item, and here's why..."

My point: we know that selective peer group recommendations are more credible and relevant than other cross-sell suggestion techniques. Therefore, if a retailer is unwilling or unable to support an online community forum, then the automated persona-centric approach is a valid alternative. Moreover, this policy and rules-based approach can complement other word-of-mouth marketing and customer care efforts.

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