‘Tis better to give than receive, yet gift giving can put us on the receiving end of a whole lot of stress. To help alleviate this, I often shop online where the only parking space I need is on my couch. The trouble is, most of the time it’s clear that my online experience is being influenced more by who I am and what I’ve done in the past, rather than what I’m looking for today. And that’s really no help at all, especially when I’m shopping for my five year old niece(she’s not really into martini glasses and handbags like her auntie is). In this case, no amount of profile data is going to help earn my business.

Retailers grappling with big data know that what they’re collecting possesses an incredible amount of untapped value, and they are right, it does. But the next generation shopping experience can’t just focus on who the customer is – it has to account for their in-the-moment interests, too.

E-tailers need to understand when shoppers are lost by ‘listening’ to their online behavior, followed by pointing them in the right direction, just as a sales agent would do if I were wandering aimlessly in the Polly Pockets aisle.

Instead, some of the world’s largest retailers are still weighting profile data over behavior. A Google search results link for ‘Girls Toys’ redirects me to a landing page for women’s shoes and handbags. Why? My cookie identifies me to the retailer but tells them nothing about what I’m looking for right now. And while I might pick up some espadrilles for myself along the way, I’m no closer to finding a trusted adviser to return to each time I need the perfect gift for my niece. In order to earn new and repeat business, online retailers must observe, infer, and respond to implicit cues from their visitors with relevant products, offers, and content.