Is preemptive buying the next step in personalized e-commerce?

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In the age of the customer, personalization is more pressing than ever. In the age of data, it is becoming increasingly possible to meet this need. Indeed, data-driven personalization is one of the hottest trends in e-commerce.

But are we ahead of ourselves? A new wave of customer-focused personalization, known as preemptive buying, suggests this.

What is preemptive buying?

Preemptive buying is a customer-led personalization opportunity powered by automation software. It allows customers to automate their shopping experience for personalized results.

An example of this comes in the form of the Tesco and IFTT partnership, which allows customers to create convenient “if” purchase rules. (For example: if my favorite brand of chocolate is listed, add it to my cart.)

In other words, preemptive buying allows your customers put in place rules on their basket. If a condition is met, a product is automatically added or removed.

It is important to note here what preemptive buying is do not. Preemptive buying does not add items to a customer’s cart without warning or confirmation. Nor is it driven solely by data – the customer must remain in control.

Customer-centric or data-driven personalization

Personalization is powerful, but we too often forget why. Personalized service, products and experiences are so appealing because they give us a Sense of control. A feeling that we are special. This is where the strength of customization options like preemptive purchases lies.

Preemptive buying is customer-driven rather than data-driven. This is a key difference from other personalization techniques. Customer-centric personalization does more than provide the illusion of control to the customer. He actively and explicitly entrusts this control.

This can trigger something known as IKEA effect. The IKEA effect is a phenomenon in which people place more value on things they helped create than on things they did not create. Preemptive buying could therefore increase the value the customer places on their experience.

While data-driven personalization is powerful, so is giving control to customers. The sweet spot of e-commerce is how much convenience and customization you can add to that control.

Use preventive purchases

Preemptive buying lends itself to conditional purchases and the search for product alternatives.

Conditional purchases would be those that depend on external factors. For example, purchases depending on the weather. Think “if the weather is over 22 degrees Celsius, add this sunscreen to my recommended cart”.

Another example of a conditional purchase could be deals or offers. For example, “if the price of this pair of boots drops below £15, add them to my recommended basket”. Or, “if there’s a deal on pet supplies, email me.”

Alternatively, customers can configure rules to generate alerts and alternatives. For example, an environmentally conscious customer might create rules to avoid harmful products. For example, by asking him to preventively remove products with Palm oil and replace them with an alternative offered without it.

Similarly, a customer with allergies could filter allergens from their list. (A preventive alternative added in place of a product containing their allergen.)

Risks of preventive purchase

Preventive waste: One problem with preemptive purchases is that you might end up adding something you no longer want. This could confuse customers or increase the return rate.

However, you can avoid this by asking the customer to confirm any added or changed products before final payment.

Not all customers will want to use it: As with any use of automation, preemptive shopping comes with the risk of displacement and anxiety. As such, some customers won’t want to use it.

Advantages of preventive purchases

The convenience of automation: Allowing customers to set up preemptive buying rules means they don’t have to spend time looking for alternatives. They also don’t have to check the weather forecast before buying that barbecue lighter fluid.

Respect for the morals of customers: Given that 73% of millennials are willing to pay more for ethical products, that’s nothing to complain about.

Give the power back to the customer

It remains to be seen whether preventive purchases will be a game-changer. But out of the idea comes something worth considering.

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that personalization is about what the customer wants. So, in addition to our data-driven personalization, why not empower them?

Maybe it’s letting customers automate their mundane shopping tasks, maybe it’s not. Either way, let customers share the personalization of their experience.

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