Selling to the modern individual

(by our guest author Wiljo Krechting)

Of course there are still people who see the world in black and white. Of course there are still politicians who prefer single-party systems for their simplicity, and of course there are still retailers who think that their customers are – pardon the expression – bovine retards. Attention: Those people should really avoid reading the following lines if they don’t want their beliefs to be shaken. The rest are cordially invited to read on and find out more about a key factor in modern e-commerce and how retailers must adapt to it: individualization and personalized advertising. Even if vendors, at the dawn of e-commerce, still weren’t making use of personalized advertising due to lack of technological opportunities, nowadays, operating an online shop without personalized features would be unthinkable.

How online retailers strive to meet the demands of the 21st century shopper

It’s almost as if modern e-commerce has adapted to modern life. Individualization as well as pluralization has increasingly found its way into various areas of society. Teaching methods in schools for example have been increasingly focusing on nurturing students’ specific talents. Individualization has also been a driving factor in the change in lifestyle and ways in which people live together with one another, apart from marriage, which for a long time had been considered to be the only proper form of civil union. We all love being perceived as individuals, being treated as individual personalities – even if this has not always been perfectly natural. The nphilosophical and cultural-historical basis of individualization, according to sociologists, dates back to the 18th century, during the Age of Enlightenment.

A second major step in the growth of individualization came at the beginning of the 1950s, which witnessed a surge in both pluralization and the urge for a more reflexive lifestyle.

As this phase continued on, the advent of the internet as a sales channel came seemingly at just the right moment in order to serve the individualized needs of the homo economicus. The very first online shopping systems, which arose in the mid-90s, were at the time very basic and did not comprise any measure that could have been used for personalized advertising. Shop owners were happy if their systems didn’t simply crash from the volume of visitors, which of course was miniscule compared to what was to come. Now, nearly 20 years later, online shoppers encounter personalized advertising in virtually every shop on the web.

Shop owners, on the other hand, could see this as an opportunity – to keep their shop attractive, to meet the customers’ requirements and to boost their own sales. After all, developments taking place in our society do not stop at the borders of e-commerce or retail in general, for economic life is simply a mirror of our cultural behavior.

But enough theory. What measures can shop owners put into practice to prepare their shops?


Through bundle offers, different products are combined and sold to the customer for a discount. In this way, each customer is offered his or her own personal “present”.


Every customer action (clicks, baskets, purchases, searches, wish lists etc.) as well as reactions to earlier recommendations monitored and factored into the calculation of future recommendations. Relevant product recommendations stimulate impulse purchases and therefore help shop owners to make the most of their product line. The recommendations consist of articles viewed during a session that lead to additional sales revenues with the highest probability.

Personalized newsletter campaigns

Once data regarding customer behavior is collected, targeted newsletters can also be generated and sent out to customers. Modern shop or newsletter systems support the customer and allow the creation of various target groups. This way, most relevant information can be displayed in the newsletters, which are prioritized according to the customer’s interests.

Personalized starting pages

Personalized starting pages are a great method for addressing customers’ individual interests. Every customer lands in “his or her own shop” and will be presented with those items that most appeal to them.

Personalization through geo coordinates 

Currently, the most popular form of website personalization happens through geo localization. The IP addresses of the users tell the system their whereabouts. This information can be useful for the connection with further regional data. Information about the weather, for instance, can lead to very relevant product recommendations (umbrellas, sunglasses etc.).

Dynamic price optimization   

Automatic real-time price adaptations as well as customer-specific prices can help optimize profit margins. Prices can, for example, be adapted to the buying behavior of a customer or the availability of certain products.

Varying product descriptions

Nowadays, customers cannot only be informed through individual product recommendations, but also with completely individual product description texts. Those texts are composed by the shop system according to the interests of the customer.

Content recommendations

Marketing measures such as teasers, banners, documents etc. can dynamically adapt to the customers’ buying behavior. The optimization of the advertising is based on the reactions of the visitors on the appropriate material. With this approach, the use of the best-fitting advertising material is assured.

Prevention of cancellation

If a customer has cancelled an ordering process, they can be sent a voucher or a discounted offer on the item they had intended to buy. This assures that the customer will return to the shop.

Each of the measures listed can spare customers the hassle of extensive searches and, at the same time, raise shop owners’ sales revenues. Of course there are critics who have concerns about data protection, and for good reason. The system collects a lot of data without which personalization in e-commerce would not be possible.


Despite the few critics, it is a must for shop owners to have their shops treat the customers individually. The solution is to offer the visitors a maximum level of transparency and to inform them of precisely which data is collected by the system and in turn how it is used. This way no customer has to be afraid of their personal data being abused, so long as they read before clicking. Because after all, this would be the last thing a modern individual is striving for.

(Image by jm3)

About the author

Wiljo Krechting is an e-commerce expert and spokesman for the shopware AG. As a manufacturer of highly innovative shop systems, Shopware serves online retailers of all sizes, but has focused on small and medium-sized merchants. With currently more than 8000 customers and 300 partners, shopware AG is one of the most successful manufacturers of shop software in Germany.

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2 Responses to Selling to the modern individual

  1. Jan says:

    And when can we expext these features in Shopware ?

  2. Pingback: Best of Outright Weekly Roundup: That's Over With Edition | The Bottom Line

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