Despite much talk of a focus on customer experience, most eCommerce sites still fail to provide effective recommendations to consumers. There are several reasons for this.

Although product recommendations by eCommerce sites have become a familiar sight to online shoppers, it seems many of these retailers are still missing the mark. A recent global survey by SAP has indicated that three out of four online shoppers worldwide fail to regularly see product recommendations that interest them.

There are numerous reasons why so few shoppers receive meaningful referrals, but perhaps the single biggest one comes down to personalization , according to Amrish Singh, customer experience solution architect at SAP.

He explains that true personalization is all about the brand connecting with the customer on a personal level. It is about understanding their past, knowing what they are doing now and, most crucially, how to influence their future through personalized messages and recommendations.

“The vast majority of marketeers believe that personalization is the key to customer experience (CX) success. After all, it is believed that at least two thirds of online customers prefer to buy from brands that deliver relevant recommendations. Of course, the challenge is to do this without invading the customer’s privacy,” he says.

“In fact, there are three challenges to be overcome to ensure that you have the right customer and are targeting them correctly. Firstly, the data needed to achieve true personalization is found in different systems and departments, so it is essentially siloed. Therefore, it is necessary to find a way to integrate this or to create a centralized data management platform to provide a true 360-degree view of the customer.”

It is important to know your customer at every possible touch-point, in order to deliver personalization that creates lasting loyalty. This, in turn, boils down to the company’s ability to collect customer data effectively and then to analyse it to gain deeper insight, suggests Singh.

“Remember that when you have information silos, you will always have a fragmented view of the customer. Without a single view, your customer engagement strategy will miss critical opportunities – basically, you won’t know when the exact right time is to market something to them.”

“The second challenge is data privacy, as regulations governing this are very strict and any failure on your part here exposes you to legal and brand reputation risks. The way to solve this is to give the customer the tools needed to manage their own data. That way, they can tell you what products they would like to have marketed to them.”

Finally, there is also the issue of the inability to manage data volumes. Singh points to a plethora of touchpoints that exist, which create vast amounts of information. However, many organisations don’t have the flexibility or agility to manage these many and varied touch-points properly.

“There is one other important part of personalized CX, and that is to ensure that you keep the promise you offer to customers in terms of the service or delivery you are supplying. You need to understand the back-end processes – such as invoicing, delivery schedules and what is available in the warehouse – and connect this expertise to the front end. In this way, you can ensure the customer receives the product that they ordered or a suitable replacement, and delivered according to the estimated delivery time or quicker.”

CX is all about creating a living, breathing customer profile that delivers a 360-degree view, adds Singh. For this you must gather three forms of data: first party, where the customer tells you about themselves; second party, which is about what they are doing; and third party, which is more in-depth data from social media platforms.

“True personalization is about much more than sending a client an automated ‘happy birthday’ message. It is about knowing specific details so you can deliver a specific service. A good example might be knowing the client recently bought a new phone from your store, because you have that data, so send them a personalized birthday voucher offering them a discount on a new phone cover. This is the ultimate aim of CX – to create hyper-personalization, or the so-called ‘Segment of One’. Remember the key to engagement: the right content at the right time via the right channel at the right price,” he concludes.

Amrish Singh is customer experience solution architect at SAP.

This article first appeared on IT Web.