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How to Protect Shopper Data While Personalizing the Experience: Coveo

Shoppers want to protect their data but still expect brands to personalize their online experience.

That’s according to intelligent search platform Coveo, which surveyed 4,000 shoppers about their digital experiences and expectations for the 2023 E-commerce Relevance report highlighting the challenge of balancing the consumer preference for anonymity online against regulations tightening up data collection policies.

Notably, most digital shoppers (57 percent) are only vaguely aware of how much data they share when buying online, from Gen X to Gen Z. Another 68 percent are concerned about the way online retailers will use their daya.

Seventy-two percent said they only log into a site at checkout, while 32 percent opt for guest check out. Nearly half of respondents (48 percent) said they’ve fully abandoned their digital carts when prompted to create an account. “This means the majority of a shopper’s buying journey is anonymous,” Coveo said. That makes personalization, like offering targeted promotions and product discovery opportunities, more difficult.

The right incentives still work, however. Over half (52 percent) said they’re willing to share their data in exchange for better deals and offers. “In other words, retailers need to make it worth their while to share that data,” Coveo said. “If the shoppers pony up, retailers need to as well.” It also noted that in-session personalization using AI can provide targeted product recommendations even if shoppers only log in at checkout—or not at all.

Ninety-three percent of respondents said they have high expectations of the online shopping experience, and expect it to be superior to purchasing in stores. However, 92 percent said they often encounter issues online, from poor site performance or slow loading time (33 percent) to trouble finding what they’re looking for (32 percent), missing product information (27 percent), disorganized navigation (26 percent), lack of mobile-friendly site design (25 percent) and irrelevant recommendations (24 percent).

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Gen Z consumers are the harshest critics, with 96 percent reporting poor experiences. They’re bothered by problems with product discovery (46 percent), and no options to filter their search (11 percent).

Improving the online experience can also affect on a brand’s physical retail business, according to Coveo. Omnichannel remains top of mind, with shoppers showing “a strong preference for researching products before purchasing.” The majority (79 percent) do so online and using social media, and 37 percent look at products online before purchasing in store.

This means retailers must communicate product availability information, which requires implementing these cross-channel backend inventory data systems. Coveo said 22 percent of respondents complain that they don’t have the option to see if stock is available in local stores.

Mindfully using consumer data is key to “boosting trust and creating a motivator to buy,” Coveo added. A consumer browsing a brand’s e-commerce site should have access to critical inventory insights, such as whether product is running low. “A person taking time to shop on your site—finding items and deliberating whether they are the right ones—needs to know if there are just two items remaining,” Coveo said.

Such data, along with information about how other consumers are transacting, can encourage shoppers to buy. Sites can use artificial intelligence to provide insights about how many others have purchased a product that day, or even how many currently have it in their carts. Reviews and recommendations from other shoppers are also valuable. “Social proof is becoming a decision maker and breaker, as younger demographics look to their peers for transparent endorsements,” Coveo said.