For many startups, selling online is at the core of their strategy - even if you're a bricks-and-mortar retail business, ecommerce may well still be important to you. It's no longer enough though to put a website up and hope for sales to come through. It's time to get smart with your ecommerce strategy, and an important element of this is personalisation. Here's advice from Abi Davies of ecommerce marketing platform Ometria on making it work for your business.

We think it’s fair to say ecommerce is probably one of the most exciting, and promising, industries to be part of right now. According to the Office of National Statistics, in the UK, the average weekly spend online in May 2017 was £1.1 billion—that’s an increase of 14.4 per cent compared to the same time last year.

America is much the same story, with over 90 per cent of consumers preferring to shop online. But whilst these stats confirm the market is definitely booming, they also tell us competition is fierce.

So how can ecommerce startups stand out from the crowd? By listening to what the customers want.

According to Ometria research, the majority of today’s consumers dislike it when they’re targeted with irrelevant products (this is especially true of younger shoppers).

This tells us that, in order for an ecommerce startup to start making sales, personalisation is key.

Personalisation 101

If you’re new to the industry, personalisation basically means tailoring your brand’s marketing messages and overall customer experience to each customer (as opposed to sending each customer the exact same marketing message every time).  

There are inevitably different levels of personalisation out there—ranging from basic segmentation to one-to-one personalisation.

Segmentation refers to the process of using aggregated data to split your target market into groups according to their shared attributes, and targeting them accordingly. One-to-one, on the other hand, uses algorithms to create dynamic content blocks that change according to each recipient. Whichever you choose, the overall aim is to send the right message, to the right customer, at the right time.

For young businesses, this may be a daunting prospect: it's still early days for your brand, can you really face taking on the ever-changing world of technology…maybe even AI?

Luckily, it’s really not that scary, and needn’t be resource-intensive. There are simple ways you can start practising personalisation without breaking the bank. Listed below are a few ideas to get you started:

The importance of having a single customer view

But first, a note on the importance of data.

In order for ecommerce marketers to carry out any form of personalisation, they first need what we call the “single customer view” (SCV), in which every interaction that a customer has with your brand—from the purchases they make to the things they browse when they’re on your site to their demographic information and more— is centralised.

This process isn’t as cumbersome as it sounds; there are many platforms out there (like Ometria) that combine a single customer view with the ability to send marketing messages.

Four simple ways online retail startups can start using personalisation to boost sales

1. Sending lifecycle-based emails

At Ometria, we’re big believers in the importance of customer lifecycle marketing (CLM) (details for our upcoming event on the very topic can be found here!).

CLM is an approach to retail that focusses on the notion that different stages in the overall customer journey require different marketing messages and strategies.

In other words, lifecycle marketing is all about using data to develop campaigns that are relevant to where each customer is in their journey with your brand (and therefore most likely to drive a purchase).

A few examples of CLM include:

Welcome series

Acknowledge new customers by sending them a welcome email (or series of emails). A welcome campaign will usually include: your brand’s core values and/or your brand’s “story”; a welcome message; a discount for the recipient's first-purchase and social media account details to encourage follows. The overall aim of this campaign is to nurture a new subscriber and encourage them to make a first purchase.

Post-purchase email

Segment your post-purchase email according to where a customer is in their lifecycle. For example, if this is their first purchase with your brand, say thank you and encourage them to come back again. Likewise, you may want to tailor your post-purchase emails depending on whether a shopper returned the items or not.

Win-back campaign:

There will always be a few customers that slowly but surely stop shopping with your brand and, for no explicable reason, open your emails less and less. We call these customers “lapsed” customers.

A winback email is a way to reach out to customers that haven’t shopped in a certain period of time and let them know that you miss them—perhaps offering them a cheeky discount to try and get them back on board.

Replenishment campaign

If you’re a brand selling replenishable items, regular customers might appreciate reminders when they’re due to reorder or top up (if you’re sending a replenishment email to a brand new customer, you can use the average repurchase time or “order gap analysis” - more on that here).

VIP recognition:

If you have a customer that’s been shopping with your brand from day one, show you appreciate their loyalty by offering exclusive perks, such as free shipping, or access to an in-store event.

Five tips to increase your ecommerce sales

2. Responding to individual behaviour

Another way to personalise your correspondence with a customer is by sending triggered messages.

A good place to start are cart and browse abandonment campaigns. These are emails and/or social/display ads that are triggered by a prospective or existing customer browsing products (or adding an item to their cart) but abandoning the site (or cart) instead of making a purchase.

These types of emails are similar to the lifecycle emails above, but instead of sending campaigns based on where an individual is in the customer journey as a whole, they are based on very specific actions. You can personalise them even more by including product recommendations tailored to the recipient.

Another good example of a triggered email is a birthday message, celebratory discount included.If you want to send this sort of personalised campaign, remember to ask subscribers for their date of birth during the signup process.

3. Personalising newsletters

In the world of ecommerce marketing, there is a huge list of ways ecommerce brands can make their newsletters more personal, but to give you an idea here are just a few examples:


Personalise your subject line and preheader text by using (or alluding to) a recipient’s name, location, lifecycle stage and/or taste profile (i.e. their likes/dislikes).

You can also use dynamic content blocks (blocks that change according to each individual customer) to personalise the heading and/or overall message of your email.

For example, for a reactivated lapsed customer, it could be: “Hey Sarah, Good to have you back!” with an upbeat, sentimental image (such as an illustration of members of your brand waving and smiling).


Display the right discount or incentive according to each recipient’s lifecycle stage or customer profile. For example, 10 per cent off for a lead or free shipping for a VIP.

Product recommendations:

A good product recommendation engine enables you to personalise your recommendations according to either a) your brand (e.g. what’s in stock, items you specifically want to promote) or b) your customer.

For example, looking at the latter, dynamic product recommendations display recommended products that change, in real-time, according to factors such as which items a recipient has recently viewed.

4. Going cross-channel

Cross-channel marketing is all about putting customer experience first—using the data available to ensure each journey is seamless and consistent across all channels.

Using the aforementioned single customer view, it works by analysing each customer’s favourite touchpoints with your brand and implementing the best ways to communicate with them accordingly.

The foundation of cross-channel marketing is the idea that all channels are looked at as a whole, instead of in isolation. An example of this could be, after a customer browses a dress on your site, you send them a browse abandonment email but they don’t respond to it, so you retarget them with the same (or a similar) dress on Instagram or Facebook.

Going cross-channel also ensures your brand isn’t made to look silly by ensuring no duplicate or contradictory messages are sent from different channels; an example of this could be emailing a customer saying thank you for their purchase, only for the customer to stumble across the same item, now discounted, on Facebook straight after.

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