To Understand One-to-One Engagement, You Have to First Know What it Isn’t

It is great to hear so many marketers talking about one-to-one engagement.

It is unquestionably the next wave in eCommerce. Engaging directly with each consumer online at the individual level is proving to yield double digit revenue lifts and conversion rate increases for those who are getting it right. As with any new technology, awareness is the first step in moving through the adoption lifecycle path. But as is often the case when a concept gains widespread attention, a lot of talk can come with a tremendous amount of confusion. One-to-one engagement is no exception.

So what is it? Are vendors and the companies they support really leveraging one-to-one engagement already? In most cases, they are not.

To better understand why, let’s first have a look at what one-to-one is not.

One-to-Anyone is not One-to-One Engagement

People who bought this also bought …”

Recognize that line? We’ve all experienced it and its broader sibling, “People who looked at this also looked at …”. The word “people” may be the first word in each of these all-too-familiar circumstances. But it’s a total red herring.

One-to-anyone marketing is really all about the product and not at all about people. Years ago, before technology had caught up with our aspirations, many companies leveraged the “one to anyone” model. Don’t be fooled into believing it has anything to do with one-to-one engagement.

One-to-anyone is better than doing nothing. It can serve as a guide for new users who are getting to know your site and products, but overall it is a fairly weak vestige of an earlier eCommerce era. Significant customer benefits and revenue opportunities do not come out of the one-to-anyone model.

One-to-Many is also not One-to-One Engagement

In the one-to-many model, a site is saying “if anyone from this large association of people comes to the site, provide them with the average item or suggestion that this large group of people might like.”

Initially it may appear that the site is reacting to an individual and their tastes, but in reality, it is reacting to a broad group of people who’ve been lumped together. Anyone who uses the internet on a regular basis will find this type of experience phony and ham-fisted.

One-to-many is fully dependent on averages. While averages can be helpful in many circumstances, they are not an effective one-to-one engagement solution. By definition, averages more often miss the target than hit it. Instead of being provided with an engaging experience based off the individual’s preferences, visitors are are presented with the least common denominator of the segment they are in.

The creators and salespeople of one-to-many eCommerce technology are notorious for mislabeling it as one-to-one engagement. Don’t fall for it.

One-to-One Engagement Speaks to the Customer’s Intelligence

One-to-one engagement takes into account every single digital interaction an individual has had with a site’s content and products. Clicks, add to carts, purchases, and thousands of other attributes all serve as the basis for intelligent suggestions specifically tailored to each visitor. The level of engagement that stems from providing visitors with an intelligent one-to-one experience is inline with what today’s digital consumer has come to expect. Whenever they visit a site, they want an intelligent experience that speaks to them directly.

These consumers live in world where their favorite apps are personalized and actively respond to their preferences, location and time of day. They’re used to music services that accurately predict the songs they would like, but have never before heard.

In their minds, online retailers should already be providing them with a comparable experience. When they find themselves staring down the dusty aisle of a one-to-anyone or one-to-many digital store, they’re immediately repelled by the antiquated scene of cheap, ham-fisted marketing attempts. For proof of this, look no further than the stagnant conversion rates of most eCommerce sites today. On the other side of the coin, there is a reason why sites that adhere to a one-to-one model are realizing double digit revenue and conversion growth.

Today’s digital consumer is expecting retailers to get with the program, continuously learn from the information they’re sharing, and provide them with a smarter, more intuitive shopping experience. Brands that get this right will be rewarded by consumers with return visits and increased spending.

Kurt Heinemann

Kurt is Reflektion’s CMO. His resume includes CMO positions at Marketwired and Monetate. He’s also held senior executive positions at Priceline, Time Warner and Walker Digital Companies. Despite living in Yankees territory, Kurt is a die hard Tigers fan.