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Walmart, Other Retailers Step Up Personalization on Their Websites

2 min read

NEW YORK — Shoppers will see more personalization based on where they are and what they’ve bought before on the Walmart website, as the retailer and several other stores try to build stronger connections with shoppers used to the customization of Amazon.

Walmart says it’s including a section that highlights top-selling items in a customer’s location, feature services like online grocery that are available in the area, and make it easy for people to buy again items they’ve bought most often in stores and online. It’s part of a site overhaul set for next month.

Building an emotional tie with shoppers starts with emotional content, and that will make people more likely to shop there, said Marc Lore, CEO of Walmart.com’s U.S. division. “We’re going to continue to get smarter over time,” Lore said, though he declined to offer details about further personalization.

Several retailers have made efforts toward personalizing their websites for customers, but large-scale success has been elusive. Often, customers get deluged with offers based on an item they bought just once.

Amazon set the standard with recommending products based on what shoppers bought or searched for early in the dot.com years. But now personalization involves localization and even customizing products, says Sucharita Mulpuru-Kodali, an analyst at Forrester Research.

Some smaller online retailers are farther along in customization. At online clothing retailer Stitchfix, customers fill out questionnaires that allow stylists and algorithms to find appropriate fashions. At Wayfair, shoppers who have been browsing modern furniture won’t be presented with more traditional designs.

Still, some major brick-and-mortar retailers are making inroads. Macy’s CEO Jeff Gennette said last month at a conference that the company will take “a big step forward” this year in tailoring its merchandise on the site based on the customers’ past shopping and searches. At Best Buy, customers who log into the website and have a local store selected can see if what they’ve searched for recently is available at a nearby location.

“There are different spins of personalization,” said Mulpuru-Kodali. “The challenge for retail is to figure out what, based on all the data, is actually useful.”

Walmart has been relying on Lore — who founded Jet.com, which Walmart later bought — to update its online feel. The company is trying for a more upscale look, and later this year will launch a dedicated Lord & Taylor page as part of their partnership.

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