Website personalization is a powerful way of connecting with customers, drawing them into your website experience, and hooking them with the feeling that your brand is tailor-made for their tastes and needs.
Talking about e-commerce personalization in this episode of The E-commerce Revolution Podcast is Francis Pilon, Head of Global Partnerships at LimeSpot, the leading provider of e-commerce personalization technology. Francis was the founder of The Jibe and RISE, agencies that help online businesses succeed.
In this episode, Ramin Ramhormozi and Francis Pilon discuss the benefits of e-commerce personalization and simplify how it works. They consider the implications of using AI technology, its impact on customer privacy, and ethics.
They also provide insight into how e-commerce merchants can utilize web and email personalization to make more money while customers have a better shopping experience. Francis also shares his top three tips for e-commerce business owners.
Ramin: I’ve gathered from everything you’ve told me that it isn’t just about building a business. It isn’t about just putting technology out there. I can see by the different things you’ve done that you do something with purpose, which is an important element.
So now tell me, tell me about your bass fishing performance brand. How did you get into this? Do you fish yourself? Was this just an investment? How did this all play?
Francis: Yeah, it’s a great question. So one of the things that we were doing at Jibe is what we called venture technologism. So instead of investing capital in some of the more exciting clients that we had, we would invest in technology.
Sometimes they would be a startup that didn’t necessarily have the means to pay for a full build-out. And so what we’d say is: we take some amount of money that we found was fair and then invest through sweat equity into those projects and become investors and co-founders, almost like a CTO role and a marketing role for those businesses.
So we’ve done this a number of times. The company in question, Bucking Bass, was one of those businesses that we worked with both from the technology and marketing side. They do wonderful products there.
They have a vision for competitive bass fishing. I didn’t know anything about bass fishing before I started working with them, and it’s such an interesting world. And so many people, especially in the US, Australia, and some in Japan, are invested in bass fishing at the competitive level, which maybe sounds weird, a little bit, for those who haven’t seen this, but it is quite exceptional to see.
Ramin: So, do you advise them on e-commerce?
Francis: Yeah, for sure, both on the technology and the strategic point. So I don’t have tons of background in product development, but sometimes also a little bit of input there.
So in e-commerce, there are a lot of recipes. It’s easy to build a theme. But now, with a SAS platform, like how the tools have evolved, they’ve become easier to use for business owners, entrepreneurs, and startups.
The hump is not so much getting into business. It’s optimization and how you get better and how you can leverage what you’re hearing back from your customer through feedback, data, and fine-tune that experience to make it more worthwhile for your customer.
Ramin: You use two phenomenal words: recipe and optimization. Would you agree that e-commerce is complex?
Francis: Yes, and retention also is very important. So the role of agencies 10, 15 years ago is very different from what it is now. It’s almost like the complexity has moved upstream a little bit. It’s less about putting in no at the code block level but putting more at the app level and creating a cohesive strategy for you to be successful.
How LimeSpot’s Personalization Improves the Customer Experience
Ramin: That’s well said. So I want to talk about LimeSpot. I love this technology. I love the concept of personalization. So tell me a little bit about LimeSpot.
Francis: LimeSpot is an app available to Shopify and Big Commerce merchants. And so, there are a number of components to this, but the idea is to give the tools for merchants to create better and more engaging journeys for their customers. So whether it be helping them discover new products or designing the brand to meet the expectations of the customers, they feel more familiar with the brand. It essentially removes a lot of the friction throughout the journey to make the experience more pleasant.
And so this has a double effect of making a greater experience and greater journey for those shoppers. The merchants benefit from it as well because there are fewer opportunities to be distracted. It’s a more straightforward way to the purchase point.
Ramin: That’s interesting. Our whole goal in e-commerce is to get people off of our homepage and into the buying process, but how do they do that? They have to see something that captures their attention, and the site needs to know who they are, and it needs to know about them.
So I think those are incredible pieces of technology. And at the end of the day, if we’re not converting, we’re not building a strong e-commerce business.
Francis: Right. So there’s a lot of magic happening with LimeSpot, which I can’t reveal here, but broadly speaking, what we do is that when you install LimeSpot in your store, we crawl the product catalog.
And then, we use machine learning to understand what the products are as a human. On the other side, we’re also looking at order history. This allows us to understand the relationship between different products that have been purchased together, which could serve as the base for their “frequently bought together” type of algorithms.
But also we understand the relationship between people and products. And so, we have two sides of the equation. So on one side, we know which product is likely to be bought by who, and we know who is likely to buy which kind of price. And the third data point here is behavior on site. So we track clicks.
We see how all people are behaving onsite, where they’re coming from, where they’re going, and our AI tries to infer what their intent is. With these three data points, we’re in a position to create those personalized recommendations for this user.
And there are different types, of course. So maybe a “bestsellers” or “you may like” or trending items—a bit higher level, a bit more about helping you figure out your path through the site.
And as we go down the funnel on the product page, on the cart page, and even on the post-purchase page, it’s about giving the opportunity for upselling or cross-sell to increase the average order value, but also to guide the proposal opportunities that the customer may not have seen otherwise.
Protecting Customer Privacy In Personalized Marketing
Ramin: In the world of site personalization – how are you seeing the adoption now? What’s going on in that area?
Francis: Before this question, I want to address the idea of AI creeping into our lives.
There are certainly concerns about many AIs, and we’re worried a little bit about how they can encroach into our lives. I think there are honest answers to this. And I think the mechanism like GDPR, which safeguards users’ privacy, is really important and anonymizes customers and third-party cookies and all these things.
I’m very sensitive to this, personally. Because I value privacy a lot. But I feel comfortable working in a company like LimeSpot because this aspect of privacy and respecting individuals and what they share with us is really important.
Ramin: But I think ultimately it is done with the intent to provide consumers with a better experience.
I appreciate you bringing that up because I know that, and I get asked that question a lot by entrepreneurs. So it’s great that LimeSpot takes that very seriously and puts that at the forefront of its mission.
Personalization as Part of a Serious Marketing Strategy
Francis: LimeSpot is not the only personalization app in the Shopify ecosystem. There are many, and there is more and more every day as those AI become maybe a little bit easier and more approachable for your “regular developer.” It democratizes the ability of smaller merchants who are not the Amazons to access technology that was not accessible to them.
And so, you know, one of the things that are interesting to see is what personalization is a good candidate for. It is what I call the crawl, walk, run approach. It’s possible to scaffold, start small, and then use personalization for your upselling or cross-selling.
That’s a relatively easy thing to do. And then you can build on this. You can do personalization emails. You can do personalization for your shopping ads. We can come back to this, but we also have segmented experience. This module allows you to dynamically change any site components based on what we know of a given segment of our customers.
And so, there’s no reason not to personalize. And yet there are still a lot of brands out there who do not seem to have taken this seriously in their strategy, while some other brands are pushing their boundaries.
It’s not about the size of a merchant. We’ve seen some smaller brands that are aggressive in their personalization approach. And we see some larger brands tend to be a bit less sophisticated in how they do that.
Website Personalization for Most Traffic Thresholds
Ramin: Is there a traffic threshold where personalization wouldn’t work?
Francis: That depends on your app and the technology that’s powering it. For LimeSpot, there’s no threshold. Some other apps may see this, but at LimeSpot, we use signals.
So essentially, we use billions of signals from all of our sites, all of our customer sites, to train our AI, whereas some less sophisticated AI may be required to train on a single site. If you don’t have a lot of traffic, the warm-up time between the moment you install to the moment the AI is optimized to deliver meaningful, personalized recommendations can be pretty long.
The number of products may influence how well personalization can happen. But also how much value it can bring to the merchants.
So if I have 20 products, there’s not enough data for AIs to do a good job. And, is it worth it to pay for an app when having such a small number of products you could do a good job to merchandise it manually?
So, there’s a traffic component and the product queue component to consider when considering AI.
Integrating with Klaviyo for Powerful Personalization
Ramin: I’m a huge fan of Klaviyo: we’re Klaviyo partners. You guys list it as one of the features you integrate with Klayvio. How does that look? And how does it work? Email alone is already pretty powerful, but how does the personalization side make it even more?
Francis: It’s being used more and more in that crawl, walk, run approach that I’ve mentioned earlier: this is between the crawl and walk. So, you typically install a personalized recommendation on your site and once it’s working well, go to the next step, which typically is that email recommendation.
Through the LimeSpot app, you can create those widgets. So it could be that you choose the number of products that would appear in an email, or you choose the type of algorithm you may select as well. So is it a bestseller? Is it a trending product? What do you want to display to the recipients of those emails?
And then, widgets are created, and when you insert them in your Clearview or any of the other 15 different ESPs that we support, import them into their template. And then, when these emails are sent, we provide recommendations what we call live product recommendations.
This means that when an email is open, those recommendations are generated for that customer. So what this means is that if you send an email on a Friday to a customer of yours and that email remains unopened. Then they go on your site on Saturday and then click around and open the email you sent to them on Sunday. They will see the products mentioned on Sunday that they’ve seen on Saturday.
Their email will include any new learnings that we’ve made from their visit on the Saturday.
And now we catch this for some amount of times that not every single time they open the email, they get different types of recommendation, but this allows us to be as relevant as possible in that media.
E-commerce Business and Customers Win with Marketing Personalization
Ramin: It’s a phenomenon. Why would I not add this component, both to my site and my email marketing initiatives? It just seems like a no-brainer.
Francis: And not only from a conversion standpoint or performance overall, but the experience as a customer to have, you know, the entire funnel. From email to onsite experience and even, we have the ability to integrate with transactional emails. So your “thank you for buying our product” email could also include some personalization.
So, tying this entire journey for the customer is something that you’ve benefited from as a brand. Still, as a consumer, it’s really important that you feel understood that the brand is delivering to your expectations that you have of it.
We’ve seen a lot of little handwritten notes and packages being delivered. This is the same thing in the digital world. It makes you feel like they get you, that you’re a valuable customer, that the merchant you’re buying from actually is paying attention to you and to the experience you have with them.
Ramin: Tell me about choice overload. Elaborate on that for me.
Francis: So non-zero-sum is, in game theory, where there’s not necessarily a predefined outcome. It’s not Ramin or Francis that wins, but rather there could be a number of outcomes. And the idea is that Ramin and Francis can win that game together.
So open-source does this a lot because you’re contributing, developing code that you can contribute to the community, which your competitors could reuse to leverage in their product to compete against you somehow. So it’s the concept of frenemies. Taking this to a bit of a different level in the context of e-commerce, I mentioned the non zero in which merchants win, but not at the customer’s expense.
So the merchant makes more money, but the customer gets a better journey. So we don’t have to choose between having an excellent fulfillment process through e-commerce, selling great products, and having zero consideration for the environment. So there doesn’t need to be a loser in this game.
I think that it goes back obviously to personal values and business mission. Still, I think there’s an opportunity in e-commerce in personalization to consider all actors in the game all being winners to some degree as we move the business forward.
Website Personalization with Dynamic Content
Ramin: Fascinating. Let me jump back to the LimeSpot technology. You mentioned something about dynamic content. Can you elaborate on that?
Francis: Yeah. This product is pretty exciting. Essentially, we allow a merchant to segment their audiences and shoppers into segments. This can be based on specific behaviors, such as items in specific collections that they look at, or it can be based on what they’ve purchased in the past, IP address, for example, where they’re located in the world, or UTM parameters.
Once you have these segments, we allow you to dynamically change the site’s content to best match the expectation of the customers that are in segments would have of you.
So, a repeat customer versus a new potential customer. The new potential customer may respond well to an experience where you’re building trust with the brand, rather than, you know, here’s a 10% discount.
Maybe what they want to know is that you’re an ethical brand. So you can change your hero image to respond to this. You can change the content of the page to respond to this.
Your offer may be a bit different from somebody who’s come to your site before. Maybe there’s an opportunity to present them with a bundle instead because they’ve already established some trust with your brand and may be ready to invest a little more.
It’s the ability to dynamically align to one’s expectation of how they see your brand and you as a merchant, responding to this and presenting the most appropriate experience.
Ramin: I marvel that maybe you’re an apparel brand, and in a colder region, you’re showing that banner or that slider image of the coat because you want to stay warm.
But then you’re also selling products to people in Florida, and Florida will be much warmer. So you’re going to show a different image. And if you show that coat to the people in Florida, they will look at you sideways. Why am I looking at this? I don’t need a coat. I think it’s powerful personalization.
Francis: That’s a great example. It’s about relevance. Not only subtly aligning with their expectation but being relevant to your customer.
Advice for Brands to Grow Traffic and Convert Sales
Ramin: Let me ask you to take your LimeSpot hat off for a second. If you were going to be advising a direct consumer brand, what three things would you tell them they need to focus on to grow traffic and convert sales. What three things would you advise them to do?
Francis: Well, even with my LimeSpot hat off, I want to say personalization. It is important. If you want to compete with the Amazons of the world, that is key.
Site speed. It is important, and people don’t have the patience. There’s a great movement toward “headless.” Part of this is to address some of the challenges that the platforms have traditionally had with site speed. Although it’s still unnecessary, not all brands can afford these solutions just yet.
And then I want to say: special touch. As I mentioned earlier, those handwritten notes and packages, your fulfillment – it’s all about differentiation and being able to connect more personally, being empathetic to your customer’s problems, and helping them solve problems.
If there’s a return, be kind, even if the experience doesn’t necessarily turn into a sale. At least I’ve had a positive experience working with your brand.
A third recommendation is to focus on loyalty. We know that it’s harder and harder to acquire a customer. It’s getting more and more expensive. And so how can we delight our customers with a remarkable experience so that they’re loyal, that they continue to buy from us, and that we don’t have to spend so much money to re-acquire them?
Get in touch with LimeSpot
Like Ramin said in the podcast, website personalization is a no-brainer. LimeSpot has white papers and guides on personalizing your e-commerce website to upsell and cross-sell to your customers if you’d like to learn how to get started. They also provide ideas on segmenting your customers to provide a better experience to each website visitor. Francis is happy to connect on LinkedIn to talk about e-commerce and personalization.
SKU Agency specializes in email, SMS and mobile push marketing services. If your company is focused on the direct-to-consumer segment, is driving significant top of the funnel revenue through SEO, social or paid ads and wants email and SMS to drive more revenue, then book a call. We’ll run a free opportunity audit worth $850 on your website to identify how much revenue you may be leaving on the table and could recoup through these powerful owned marketing channels.