Consumers have come to expect online experiences that feel personal. Think about it, Facebook delivers curated news feeds and Netflix makes recommendations based on your viewing history. Those types of experiences have made consumers expect personalization all over the web, and retail brands are hoping to capitalize on the paradigm shift.

In fact, 70% of retailers cited personalization of the customer experience as a leading customer engagement priority for 2017, according to the Boston Retail Partners 2017 POS/Customer Engagement Survey. Personalization ranked highest among all responses, beating out popular initiatives like responsive mobile design, disseminating data across all channels in real-time, and in-store customer-facing technology (like digital signage and smart fitting rooms). Boston Retail Partners surveyed 500 retailers in the United States and Canada.

But there’s a serious gap between the personalization features retailers are currently offering and what they hope to offer in the future. Just 7% of retailers currently suggest selling based on social media posts and activity — but 36% plan to offer it in one to three years. When it comes to selling based on online browsing history, just 7% currently do so, but 30% plan to within the next 12 months.

Browsing history and social media activity are some of the most telling things people do online. They’re portals into how people discover the products they hope to buy or learn more about. If retailers can leverage that data, they’ll have a much better chance of turning discovery into conversion.

Retailers are much further ahead on other personalization efforts. For example, 34% of retailers already offer personalized rewards based on customer loyalty and 23% currently make offerings based on previous purchase history.

“Personalization is one of the top trends to watch this year. At the National Retail Federation’s annual Big Show, this January, marketers from Macy’s to Walmart discussed customization through technology as a critical strategy to help attract shoppers and customers’ need for ‘instant gratification’ as a way to ramp up profit,” according to eMarketer’s February 2017 report Personalization in Retail Roundup.

How can marketers implement the personalization features they want?  Almost two-thirds (64%) use personalization technology, whether they license it or built their own, according to a recent report from Clearhead. But that means 36% don’t use personalization technology at all.

What channels are they using for their personalization efforts? More than half are doing so via email and their websites, while mobile website and apps lagged behind at around one-quarter, according to a study of 250 marketers by Evergage and Researchscape.

“Personalization has been tying itself well with email marketing efforts lately. Certainly not a new channel, email has recently gained greater value among other channels by incorporating more tailored and dynamic content,” according to eMarketer. “In fact, retailers are big on this; creating email content that factors in gender, location, age and more.”

Interested in personalization for your brand? Curalate’s capability to source high-quality content from fans and micro-influencers helps brands find visual content that feels personal and authentic to your community. Request a demo to learn more.

One way to get your commerce experience to feel more personal is by leveraging user-generated content. Learn how British luxury brand Farfetch leveraged fan photos from Instagram and reduced friction in the buying journey.