Are you married to your customers?

Every e-commerce shopper is unique. This teaching is something that we learn from “Designing for 5 Types of E-commerce Shoppers”, by The Nielsen Norman Group. There are different types of e-commerce customers: some visit with a specific product in mind, others want to explore what to purchase, and others navigate your online store just to kill time. Identifying different user types is critical for the design team to ensure that they build appropriate experiences for all sorts of shoppers. In other words, different users have a distinct relationship with brands, their type of relationship can directly influence a purchase decision.

Many buyers believe their choices are a result of rational analysis. However, in reality, emotions can profoundly influence — and even determine — their decisions.

Do we really need the latest iPhone every year? Why do people buy a Ferrari? Would a cheaper car not do the same thing? Brands and products have the power to evoke our emotions and the way you treat your customers can define the type of relationship you are having with them.

What kind of relationship are you having with your customers? Just a one night stand, dating, or are you married to each other?

One night stand

We have users who usually come with one goal in mind. They have no intention to return to your website after their first purchase; they are visiting only due to a one-time need. They do not relate to the product or brand, and they do not feel the need to return because they do not see the benefit of buying again. They also can be gift or gift-card buyers.


These users know what they want, which is not an exclusive relationship, but the best deal possible. They usually love items on sale, and they may research on multiple stores before committing to a purchase. They typically search for the best price or the right combination of features, because they are not in love with any brand or website. Today they may buy a product from you and tomorrow from a competitor. However, because they are shoppers and they may come back, you have the opportunity to make them fall in love with you.


You and your customers have fallen in love. In other words, you share a commitment and a strong emotional connection. You met the expectations, and hence your customer is loyal to you. The opportunity, in this case, is not just to make the best deal with these users, but to build the best loyalty program and turn them into married customers.


These are your VIP customers. People who go from dating to marriage. They have fallen in love with you. Engaging your customers on an emotional level is the key to achieving a successful marriage. We tend to consider all the logical and rational reasons for a customer to buy something, but in many cases the purchase decision is made on an emotional level.

Love is powerful, so harnessing these emotions can create such an incredibly devoted customer base that they will become your best advocates for free.

I have learned how important it is for people to feel that others have empathy for their feelings, thoughts, and how upset they can be when they feel misunderstood. We all love to feel understood. It creates connections, attachments, a sense of belonging and happiness. A happy customer will spend more with you and will recommend you to their friends if they empathise and relate to your ideals.

The more you understand your customer, the more you care, the more you can tailor the experience, and make them feel special. Here is where personalisation comes in.

I have been seeing many people believing that an immediate and mirror-like response to a customer’s needs provides a personalised experience, but it does not. That is providing a customisation service.

Is customisation not the same thing as personalisation? No. Why?

It becomes easy to understand the difference, when you think of customisation as being reactive and personalisation as proactive.
When I walk into a boutique and I ask for a shirt and the vendor only gives me a shirt, this is not personalisation; this is customisation. In a different scenario, a skilled vendor can observe how someone shops, what this person is wearing, their style, the color of their eyes, hair, skin and then offers a relevant suggestion for purchases. If the vendor knew that my favourite colour is black, then on a future visit to the store I could be presented with the newly arrived black shirts. The same happens in an online store.

If you are on a listing page of an e-commerce website with a thousand products to find what you want, you will probably use and apply some filters. You customise it and the service will provide what you asked for. Nevertheless, if next time you receive product recommendations based on applied filters and purchases that you made in the past, you have a personalised experience. By using different data and tools, you can cater specific messages, product suggestions, and much more to your customers.
That is why personalisation can create memorable customer experiences and awaken the feelings of love.

These differences and examples are everywhere, even in a simple call-centre service.


– Thank you for calling me, how may I help you? (…)

– Yes, great! Are there any other issues that you have?

A customised service could be an unsatisfied client, you handle it, you react, and you solve it.


Just when a client said your goodbyes and are ready to hang up, the vendor suddenly remembers or offers something essential for you.

– One more thing, and then I swear I will let you go (…)

– Oh, thank you! You are so kind! I loved it!

People usually have a very personal reason for why they like or hate a brand, and it is often related to the customer experience. Customer experience is about optimising the customer’s journey before they become unattached and implies a customer involvement with you at different levels. It provides stimulation to all sensory, emotional, rational and physical aspects which can help you to create a relationship with your customers. The way you treat your customer will define who you are for them.

To pinpoint user thoughts and feelings and to make your products more fully human, you need to listen to your customers with the intent of knowing them and not only reacting to their needs. It is mandatory to understand what they need, what they want and who they are.

“The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.” Ralph Nichols — father of the study of listening.

So, if you want to marry your customers, you should invest in personalisation and explore the personal touch. Users are not all the same and they usually do not want to feel treated like a robot. Since many shoppers needs are usually emotional, a personalised service can identify these emotions and make the right connections to build loyalty, retention and a possible marriage. For that, it is crucial to listen, interpret and evaluate before responding. Personalisation takes customisation a step further. It helps you convey the right message, at the right time, to the right person. Over time, that curated experience becomes more relevant and more engaging, and one time your users will ask to marry you!

Having a personalisation strategy is no longer a nice-to-have, it is now a must-have. Make magic and make your customers fall in love with you.

Are you married to your customers, or are you just having a one night stand?


Credit to Pedro Gonçalves