As technology has advanced, so has the online marketer’s ability to shape website utility and brand perceptions.

Product recommendation engines were the first real move away from a one size fits-all website, but it wasn’t until the introduction of A/B testing that ecommerce professionals started to look at personalisation as more than just algorithmic product curation.

Ecommerce is graduating into a new phase of personalisation where customer segmentation capabilities and the ability to serve targeted content in real-time are a viable reality for most online businesses.

The bricks-and-mortar store is no longer the only place the customer can see the personal face of the business as personalisation bridges the gap between the clicks and the bricks.  

This guide aims to identify some effective personalisation tactics that ecommerce businesses can implement to improve the customer experience and drive conversions.

Targeted upsell

Upsell involves suggesting higher priced products to customers considering purchase. In most cases, customers are open to the idea of purchasing other items but to drive upsell you must target them with the right message.

Drive purchase and conversion rates by offering discounts, recommendations, free shipping or extra services like gift wrapping and insurance.

Think about tailored offerings and making the purchasing process for valuable in the eyes of the customer.

Recommending accessories, for example, allows customer to benefit from the natural synergies between products without having to travel all over the website, while free shipping (particularly over a certain threshold) increases average order values as customers purchase extra items to avail of the offer. 

You can also offer customers an additional free item once they spend over a certain threshold and personalise it by making it relevant or useful.

Toys R’ Us, for example, automatically sends any customer that spends over £100 a free £15 voucher. Not only does this encourage increased spending first time round, it also gives customers an incentive to return.

The six principles of persuasion

There are six principles of persuasion:

  • Reciprocity.
  • Commitment.
  • Social proof.
  • Authority.
  • Liking.
  • Scarcity.

Using on-site nudges directed at these principles can persuade customers to act in your favour.

Urgency messaging such as limited-time offers, countdown timers, live updates indicating low stock levels and information on current observers and recent purchases are easy to implement on your site and are highly effective in driving conversions. No one likes to miss out on a deal, after all. 

Similarly, information surrounding the number of current observers and recent purchases instils a feeling of scarcity in customers and encourages them to buy now.

Recent purchase information acts as a best sellers list of a sort, causing people to flock to popular items and validating the purchase decision.

Naked Wines, for example has a feed showing the wines that people have bought in the past few minutes. Customers can see the popularity of given products in real-time. Improve the ease of shopping by allowing customers to filter search results.


Too much choice can paralyse a customer and lead to abandonment, so allow them to view a more specific, relevant range of products.

Ian McCaig

Published 27 May, 2014 by Ian McCaig

Ian McCaig is Founder at Qubit and a contributor to Econsultancy.

29 more posts from this author

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Comments (3)

Pete Austin

Pete Austin, Founder and Author at Fresh Relevance

Good article, and you're right about the move to real-time personalization across Web, Email and Social.

I think personalisation basically about giving people the best opportunity to purchase, by showing a good number of products that will appeal to them personally, which is my day job:

Where I'm less convinced is about the "six principles of persuasion - Reciprocity. Commitment. Social proof. Authority. Liking. Scarcity."

For example, authority and social proof are all very well but they assume that people discuss products. Last weekend I bought bread, cheese, pate, papayas and a wheelchair ramp - and nobody I know talks much about those. I'm sure there are bread clubs, where people discuss the finer points of baking, and for those people authority and social proof are really important. But for the rest of us I don't see it.

And, if scarcity worked well, you would expect to see empty shelves in supermarkets, but in fact there is a lot of effort to keep the shelves filled. The reason is that shoppers have a choice: if any store or Website tries to use scarcity to increase buying pressure, then they can switch to a better-stocked competitor instead.

about 4 years ago


zain ali, Marketing Executive at LiveAdmins JLT

If you are offering best options and easy to customer to use your product then you can gather more traffic. No doubt, gifts are also valuable but offers while using your product is a good thing to target. For example, you have a company website and you have added live chat service or window on website to answer queries of your customers then it will be really helpful and it attracts your visitor as well. This post is informative and good to learn more about business success.

about 4 years ago


Mark Hammersley

Thanks for the article. We have actually had some great results in doing an up-sell immediately after purchase on the order thank you page and follow up email.

Also split tests have shown that a higher priced up-sell is not always best. We tried different up-sells on the 'add to cart' pop up and found that manual up-sells worked better than data based on 'what others' bought which was a surprise to us. Just shows you have to test.


about 4 years ago

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