Personalizing the shopping experience for today’s savvy customer requires much more than product recommendations based on past purchases or slapping their name on a promotional email. Consumers expect a smart shopping experience with low or no barriers to discovery and purchase. Tomorrow’s consumers – you know, those high school kids with the Bieber bangs – expect brands to go far beyond traditional personalization practices to facilitate the discovery of new products, relevant content, deals and offers. Simply making product recommendations just won’t cut it anymore.

The recent eTail West show provided a perfect opportunity to gather together a group of eCommerce pros to talk about the peaks, pitfalls and future of personalization. Baynote customers Bluefly, XO Group (formerly TheKnot Inc.), and Aurora Fashions led an interactive session with their peers over lunch. The panelists spoke candidly about the future of personalization – not only their personal perspectives as practitioners, but the perspectives of their respective organizations as well.

Sudev Balakrishnan, Product Manager at Bluefly, is honing in on improving the buyer’s journey by structuring the navigational path in such a way that it minimizes the click path to purchase. In the case of straightforward product recommendations, Balakrishnan folds in suggested content closer to the point of purchase, where his experience has been that these suggested items are leveraged at a greater rate.

Tom Williams, the Group Head of eCommerce at Aurora Fashions, believes that the key to advancing personalization is simple: Listen. Technology has caught up with the needs for segmentation based on location, device type, and social interaction, and it’s the eCommerce head’s job to leverage it.  One way to begin is to monitor user behavior by device type and leverage different algorithms to optimize the customer experience. For example, reduce the number of recommendations that are shown on smaller devices because the screen is smaller.

Cassie Troiano, the Director of eCommerce at XO Group no longer simply relies on algorithms to guide users to the right content. XO Group is now leveraging the data it gathers on user behavior across the site and leveraging it to determine which content is most appropriate to surface at each point in the buyer’s journey. Instead of just implementing an algorithm that recommends cake toppers to brides browsing champagne flutes, XO Group can determine the right point in time to surface the cake toppers to brides, regardless of the items they’re browsing or the article they’re reading.