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INDUSTRY REPORT 2019 Leading Vendors to the IR Top 1000 E-Retailers

Bringing the Personalized Customer Experience to Life with Vera Bradley

Bringing the Personalized Customer Experience to Life with Vera Bradley

In a world where the ‘next big thing’ in tech can rise and fall like MySpace and Palm Pilots once did, it’s impressive to see how far personalization has come in recent years. Once an industry buzzword, personalization solutions are having a moment in the spotlight – and for good reason. Retailers are experiencing phenomenal results stemming from personalization. This was seen loud and clear at this week’s Shop.org Digital Summit where thousands of brands gathered to discuss innovations in ecommerce. The trendsetting powerhouse Vera Bradley is among the forward-looking brands taking personalized customer experiences to new heights. The company’s vice president of eCommerce, Tom Giacalone, presented alongside Certona’s CEO Meyar Sheik to discuss the impact that personalization has on the customer journey online. Vera Bradley’s success also demonstrates that personalization done right can turn online clicks into profits.

Here are a few takeaways from their presentation ‘Reaching the Next Level in Customer Experience with Smarter Personalization’.

Setting clear goals and strategies

Vera Bradley set clear and targeted personalization goals from the onset. From there the company could focus on selecting the right tools and implementing tactics that would achieve its business goals. For instance, one of Vera Bradley’s goals was to deliver an exceptional shopping experience online that would engage customers and build loyalty, driving them to return again and again. This influenced the company’s decision to select a flexible personalization solution from Certona, which allowed the retailer to test and optimize personalization across their website. The ability to deploy multiple strategies within a container and customize algorithms in a slot or two put Vera Bradley in the driver’s seat, aligning with their goal to combine profile-driven personalization with curated merchandising options.

Taking a smart phased approach

Personalization is proven to be a powerful tool for retailers and marketers, and like anything worth doing, it is benefited by a smart and strategic approach. Launching personalization into every channel at one time can seem daunting. Vera Bradley chose to take their personalization journey in stages, starting with web recommendations and honing in on their strategies before moving on to another solution or channel. Vera Bradley focused on strategies that engage shoppers with relevant product discovery and move them through the purchase process, while exposing new product lines in support of promotions and overall business goals. They found following Certona’s best practice guidance with testing of flexible strategies across category, search results, no search results, product detail, cart overlay and cart pages did just this. By displaying the right and most relevant product recommendations for discovery, comparison, cross-sell and up-sell at the right time, conversion increased by 44%.

Being innovative

Retailers will benefit greatly from adding variety into their personalization strategies as Vera Bradley did in the first phase, as well as looking to new and innovative solutions that raise the customer experience bar. In their second phase the fashion retailer eased the discovery process even more, with a fun and interactive approach to shopping. Leveraging Certona’s personalized guided discovery solution, Product Finder, Vera Bradley launched their back-to-school Style Seeker. Consumers looking for a backpack during the back-to-school season were presented with a quiz, through which they answered a series of engaging questions such as, ‘What do you enjoy doing on an average Friday night?’ and ‘How do you consider your personal style?’. Responses revealed important insights into the shopper’s tastes and immediate intent, which when synthesized with Certona’s patented behavioral modeling and predictive analytics delivered product recommendations tailored to each shopper for back packs, as well accessory and add on items. Customers took to Style Finder right away. Over 66,000 quizzes were taken in the first month of Style Finder’s debut with an 87 percent completion rate. In fact, the seasonal back-to-school Style Finder was such a success that Vera Bradley plans to debut a Gift Finder to guide shoppers in their holiday and year-round gift-finding efforts.

Continuing to build great customer experiences

With their website strategy successfully in place, Vera Bradley is looking forward to entering phase three of their personalization journey in which they’ll start connecting channels, beginning with turning static emails into personalized email campaigns. By dynamically delivering personalization when the email is opened to capture all behavioral activity—even that which occurs between the email being sent and opened—cart and browse abandonment emails will deliver personalized recommendations tailored to each shopper’s immediate intent, transactional email will cross-sell individually relevant items related to purchase, and promotional email will deliver the promotion-aligned recommendations that best match each shopper’s individual tastes and preferences.

It’s clear that brands have embraced personalization and are finding new and creative ways to integrate this solution into the customer journey. As Vera Bradley explained, delivering great customer experiences is an ongoing effort. There are always new ways to improve or provide exceptional experiences online or offline. Brands just need to think outside the box and adopt new and tried and true solutions to bring their goals to life.