In the face of Google’s infinite possibilities (and Google’s efforts to make results more bland), many of us are panicking and searching less, going shallower, relying on bestseller lists and simple recommendations. This is why personalization, curation and discovery is so important to ecommerce now. As we make a decision to search for or buy something online, we are trained to go to Google and search by keyword, and sort through results to eventually make a transaction. In order for that to work, we have to first know what we want. But how do we know what we want in the first place? While Google makes money at the bottom of this decision funnel, the top of the funnel is where discovery happens. Facebook facilitates serendipitous discovery through friends posting what interests them. Pinterest does this even more because it’s based around curating things including products to purchase.
What Pandora does with music and Netflix does with movies, ecommerce sites are doing with their products. They are taking their seemingly infinite options and whittling them down to a small selection, catered to an individual’s taste. There are different ways of doing this like using implicit data like Amazon does with their recommendations of similarly viewed or bought items based on your browsing history. Facebook Connect can pull your social graph into the site and show you what friends have purchased in the past. Or products can be curated through explicit data which is information you actively offer with questionnaires or quizzes.
Wantful will guide you through a questionnaire to help you pick a tailored gift for anyone on your list. Questions range from style to organization to the frequency at which you sign along to music.
Shoedazzle takes you through a questionnaire that allows you to define your interests based on the styles of shoes and brands that speak most to your sense of style.
Nextpedition builds a “traveler profile” that defines the kind of traveler you are to pick the best kind of vacation.
This process of personalizing the shopping process is a messy one still but it will continue to be a huge part of ecommerce going forward. The part that I think is really interesting is using your personal data as a form of currency. The site Personal.com is trying to enable individuals to own and sell their own data:
“In years to come, people will look back and wonder how companies ever thought they could control or own all of our personal data. The current system is ineffective: according to the Direct Marketing Association, over 97% of online advertising fails to reach the right person at the right time. Let’s change that by letting people take back control of their data and by giving companies a better way to connect with consumers.”
This is really cool, it’s my data why shouldn’t I be able to own it and do with it what I please? And if advertisers want to market to me they can pay me for the privilege and I’ll only see ads that are relevant.