Is Shop Direct building the world‘s most personalised shopping experience?


Digital retail group Shop Direct can now give customers a fully personalised homepage at flagship brand, in what is understood to be a retail first, and what Michael Ross, Chief Scientist at Order Dynamics, says is a vision all retailers should have.

The breakthrough is a step towards Shop Direct‘s goal of building the world‘s most personalised digital stores, which will give customers an easier, more intuitive shopping experience. Personalisation initiatives are expected to add over £20m in sales at Shop Direct in its current financial year.

Visitors to Very can now be greeted with homepages designed specifically for them. This means that the twenty something who shops with Very for a dress can find her favourite fashion brands ‘front of shop‘ whilst the homemaker looking to furnish their abode can view electrical and homeware offers.

Shop Direct, the UK‘s fourth largest online retailer can serve 1.2m versions of the website to its customers, based on which of Very‘s suite of promotional messages are used and in what position. With continued innovation and experimentation, Shop Direct expects this to rise to 3.5m by the end of the year.

Shop Direct has achieved this level of personalisation by harnessing its customer data. Its team of data scientists have developed a suite of complex algorithms to predict customer behaviour and therefore optimise the homepage with targeted products and offers.

The algorithm produces 200m promotion affinity scores, which rank the relevance of offers for each customer. Tailored homepages are just one part of Shop Direct‘s major push into personalisation, which forms a key part of its growth strategy. Shop Direct has already introduced personalised website navigation across all of its websites, using browsing behaviour and purchase history to order the department store categories based on their relevance.

Customers who regularly search its sites for items for the kids will be presented first with the toys and child & baby categories, at the far left of the navigation panel. The initiative has delivered a significant uplift in conversion and has added £5m to the gross revenue in its current financial year.

In addition, Shop Direct‘s suite of algorithms recommend department categories that the customer is likely to be interested in based on the behaviour of similar shoppers. For example, customers who browse furniture regularly could see the homewares category prominently, regardless of whether they‘ve shopped it before, because it proves popular with similar customers.

The personalisation has been driven by the digital retail group‘s investment in data science. Shop Direct has been on a recruitment drive to build a market-leading analytics team over the past two years. Shop Direct group Chief Executive Alex Baldock said: “We know that relevance wins in retail and right now customers are drowning in a sea of irrelevant choices.

We‘re making it easier for them to shop by tailoring our websites for them. This is the digital equivalent of Selfridges laying out their Oxford Street store for each shopper. We‘ve set ourselves an ambitious target to build the world‘s best personalised shopping experience – this is a major step towards that goal.”