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Your Business Online
ArchiveNovember 14, 2001

Personalized and Customized
Online shoppers like personalized Web site features if they simplify or improve the shopping experience

A recent survey by the Indiana University Center for Education & Research in Retailing found consumers like Web site features that save them time and allow them to avoid entering redundant information in the checkout process. It also found shoppers like personalized features on retail Web sites as long as the features benefit the customers as well as the retailer.

Personalized and customized Web site features are nothing new. Many online retailers, such as, personalize their sites' pages to greet customers by name or offer product suggestions based on previous purchases. Some retailers also offer features that users can customize, such as wish lists and reminder calendars. Personalized and customized features can create unique shopping experiences tailored to each shopper, but they spark some debate because retailers need to collect data about their customers for the features to work.

Privacy advocates have been horrified by the ways retailers and advertisers collect customer data online. Many sites set cookies on users' computers to track what sites users visit, what ads they click on and what they do online. However, it turns out consumers don't mind having data collected about them as long as it benefits them in the end. Shoppers don't want sites to collect their information and use it to send them annoying spam e-mails or sell it to third parties, but they are happy if the information is used to create special targeted promotions for them.

According to the Indiana University study, 68% of respondents said they would like a Web site to track their purchases for proof-of-purchase and warranty purposes. Nearly half of respondents said they would like sites to keep their buying records to simplify future ordering and offer tailored promotions, and 58% would want a site to store their shipping and billing information so they can use one-click ordering. In addition, half of the respondents would like to be able to create gift wish lists on retail sites.

This is all good news for online retailers who want to use or already use personalized and customized site features. Nevertheless, retailers need make sure their customers benefit from the features, and of course, retailers need to tell shoppers what data is collected and how it is used in the site's privacy policy. Remember, there are still many online shoppers that don't want sites to store their personal information. If you want to keep these customers as well, you'll need to give them a way to opt-out of having their information collected.

- by Julia M. Duncan

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