Whether or not you own a physical business, you know that treating each customer in the exact same manner is not ideal. The same applies when selling online. After all, you wouldn’t treat every customer who comes into your physical store in the exact same way. Some will be completely new faces –– potential consumers you know are visiting your store for the very first time. Some will be longtime customers whose friendly faces you look forward to see every month –- or however often they come in. Others won’t be typical customers at all. Instead, they’ll be partners or other merchants looking to expand their product lines or figure out ways in which they can work with your existing business strategy.
READ MORE: Attending SXSW? Hear how three Bigcommerce customers took their indie brands to the big leagues with help from customer groups and wholesale partnerships.
It doesn’t make sense to treat these customers the same way online, either. Ecommerce personalization has been a hot topic for years, though few have truly figured out how to implement it well. After all, there’s a fine line between data-driven product personalization and a customer’s natural product discovery path –– and few want exclusively one or the other.
But the data does suggest that increased customer experience personalization is the best path forward for brands looking to scale:
- 75% of consumers like it when brands personalize products and offers
- Personalized Products/Offers improve click-through rates by 14%, and conversion rates by 10%
- 61% of consumers prefer offers, even if this results in less privacy
- 56% of consumers say they would be more inclined to use a retailer if it offered a good personalized experience
- 74% of online consumers get frustrated with websites when content appears that has nothing to do with their interests
- Adding personalization experience to shopping could lift sales by 7.8%
- 40% of consumers buy more from retailers who personalize the shopping experience across channels
- 94% of companies agree that personalization “is critical to current and future success”
Your Customer Experience Personalization Options
In order to personalize your site for individual shoppers, you must first have a relationship with that shopper. Of course, there are plenty of services out there that will scrape typically anonymous user data and provide you enough information to personalize your site for every individual user –– even if it’s their first time there. Examples of this type of scraped data include geographic data via IP address, navigational personalization and third-party data.
There are multiple apps and integrations available within the Bigcommerce app marketplace for your to optimize for predictive personalization based on scraped data. Unboxd and Nosto are two great examples. These tools allow you implement ‘Recommended For You’ and ‘Recently Viewed’ widgets to help in personalizing recommendations to your returning visitors –– without a login. You can also target visitors without a high purchase intent with ‘Top Sellers’ on your homepage to showcase your best selling products and increase chances of conversion. These are just some of the ways these integrations can serve more relevant products even to relatively anonymous site visitors.
For the purposes of this post, however, we’ll be focusing on personalized experiences for individual customer groups once they have logged in to the site. This is a tactic that comes out of strategic customer segmentation. The experience using these features flow from understanding who your customers are, how they use your store and products, and how to enhance that experience based on customer profile and past behavior.
Bigcommerce Customer Groups
Within the Bigcommerce platform, we enable personalization experience for individual customer segments via our customer group capabilities, allowing your brand to give personalized site access to customers on login. The login portion of this is important: users must be given access via their email and a configured password. In creating personalization programs in this way, you are creating transparency in why an individual customer may see different pricing and building trust with your partners and loyal customers.
Now, let’s get into it. Customer groups are great because they can be used in a wide variety of ways. The most obvious use case for many merchants is a B2B or wholesale personalized set up. This would allow retail partners to login to your site and see your wholesale prices –– allowing them to checkout at those price points rather than having to call in.
Customer groups can also be great opportunity for a loyalty or rewards program. Many merchants create a group specifically for their best, most loyal customers. For instance, say you want to reward a customer with a “friends and family” discount after a particular number of purchases or average order value is reached. You can easily create discounts just for that shopper –– or the group of shoppers hitting this mark. When he or she logins, they will see their own pricing.
Customer groups can be created based on different criteria, allowing you to have multiple customer groups for different customer segments and needs. The possible criteria for customer groups includes:
- Preferred customer group: those who receive discounts on certain products, categories or the whole store
- Tax-exempt group: this is for nonprofit or governmental customers
- Wholesale group: those who get discounted prices on bulk purchases, and get access to products or categories typically hidden from retail customers
- Gating your store’s “members only” content or products: This will require shoppers to register an account before being able to shop
Below, we will dig into the personalization for each of these groups, including their differences and why they are important.
Preferred Customer Groups
This type of personalization via customer group is best used for a rewards or loyalty program. With this program, you can provide login details to specific customers or groups of customers that then show discounted prices or allow them to view new items not available to the full customer base, for example.
TravelPro Luggage Outlet, for instance, uses customer groups to offer discounts to airline personnel as part of a loyalty program.
Tax-Exempt Customer Groups
Some customers are exempt from tax laws, so you can use customer groups to allow these customers to check out without having tax applied to the order. Keep in mind, though, that typically, organizations need to provide documentation attesting to their tax-exempt status. Check with a local tax professional regarding rules and regulations surrounding tax-exemptions before enabling tax-exempt customer groups on your store.
It may help to enlist the services of Avalara, a tax software, which allows you to assign Tax Exempt Categories to individual or groups of customers.
Wholesale Customer Groups
This is the most popular use case for customer groups for scaling businesses on Bigcommerce. And that makes sense, because this features helps to operationalize your wholesale and B2B contacts. Rather than individually talking to each partner, these customers can check out on their own the same a regular customer would –– only with differences in pricing and order amounts.
Here is how Son of a Sailor is using customer groups for this exact purpose:
“We use customer groups to differentiate between our retail and wholesale customers so that we can customize their shopping experience on our site,” says Jessica Tata, co-owner of Son of a Sailor. “The customer group controls allow you to control the pages that a particular customer can see, which allows us to create a set of pages for our wholesale customers that presents only wholesale products and options.”
“Because we want our retail customers to have the simplest shopping experience possible, they are not required to login to shop,” continued Tata. “Our wholesale customers, on the other hand, have to apply for a wholesale account which, once granted, requires them to login to our website in order to shop with wholesale options. This doesn’t seem to pose any issues, though, as we have a vetting process for our wholesalers as it stands, and the extra step of logging in is far less intense than traditional process for placing a wholesale order. We have received quite a bit of feedback from our B2B customers thanking us for such an easy and painless ordering system!”
“Members Only” Customer Groups
This customer group can be used for multiple purposes, though most merchants use it for employees or friend and family discounts. For instance, if your store offers employees 30% off on all items, they would be able to use their email and login credentials to shop the discount without having to enter a coupon code.
This also works for companies wanting to use a members-only business model in which customers must sign in to see items and prices. This model works well for subscription ecommerce sites like Zulily. Keep in mind that subscription services (like Birchbox) are separate business models.
Clarion Safety, sells industrial grade safety labels to wholesale businesses. Each of their clients/accounts is tiered based on special contract pricing. Customer groups has allowed them to also customize checkout options for those groups such as “pay to account,” which is an advanced customization.
Customer experience personalization, when used strategically, can be a key driver of loyalty, increase revenue and just plain ease for a scaling business. Continue reading here to learn how to set up customer groups for your Bigcommerce store.
If you are looking for custom implementation information, Bigcommerce offers template variables for Customer Group Name and Customer Group ID, documented here. This allows developers to develop against the customer group feature and create scripts that function based on which customer group someone is logged into. This is a feature most often used by our enterprise customers for custom needs.
Do you use customer groups to drive personalization for your customers? Let us know in the comments how you set it all up.