More than four out of five consumers believe personalization has at least some influence on what they purchase so start customizing content today.
In a world of seemingly limitless digital content, marketing managers need to offer more personalized – and hence relevant – content to keep people coming back and engaged while visiting a Web property. But what does personalization mean beyond marketing parlance? Let’s take a look at a few practical steps content managers can take to give a Web site a personal feel.
The concept of personalization is all the rage among marketing professionals who make a living out of trying to cut through the noise of digital content – from online ads to email and social media – to reach buyers. The more information you have about a prospect the more relevant you can make a targeted offer. A simple example is an insurance company offering boat insurance to people aged over 50 who live in sea-side areas.
Consumers are also more accepting of personalized content. A 2014 study by Harris Interactive in the US found more than 80 per cent of consumers are prepared to share more information about their shopping preferences if it improved the types of messages they receive. Furthermore, a 2013 study by Infosys, found 86 per cent of US consumers believe personalization has at least some influence on what they purchase.
On the Web, personalization can be used for much more than a simple “Hi Sally” at the top of a Web page. Regardless of whether your prospects come from inbound or outbound marketing efforts, when they land on your Web site the more personalized and relevant the content the more likely they will engage and identify themselves. The goal of personalization is to move visitors from anonymous to known and use as much data as possible to improve their onsite experience to convert them from prospects to customers.
With personalization becoming more prolific and sophisticated, there is a limited number of “out of the box” tools for developing a tailored experience for a visitor. This has resulted in a mash-up of different tools and processes to meet custom requirements. Thankfully, personalization features are integrated into content management systems to give Web site owners a smoother path to visitor satisfaction. When considering a CMS platform for you Web site, make sure it offers options to personalize content to anonymous visitors in addition to customers, or members, that are signed in.
Begin your personalization journey with:
- Previous interactions and segments: Perform analytics on the information you already have about your visitors. Should you segment your audience? If there is a clear need then define audience and customer segments to make personalization simpler.
- Links and search information: What are people searching for that brings them to your Web site in the first place? A good understanding of why your visitors are here can be fed back into the type of content you promote on your home page and write about on your blog.
- Cookies and browser information: What interest do visitors have and what type of device do they prefer to visit with?
- Site usage: Each visitor will spend some time on the site looking at areas of interest. This behavior can then be used to present timely and sought after content.
- Surveys: A short (even VERY short) online survey helps gauge people’s interests.
Armed with an array of visitor preference information you can begin to build up a persona of a visitor which, if managed well, will keep them coming back for more relevant content.
Shut the gate! Or keep it open?
Content should be personal, not prohibitive. There is a huge debate (one for another blog post) going on as to whether content should be used to nurture a potential buyer by being freely available (no forms to fill out) and enable people to do their research to build trust and reciprocity, versus putting everything behind online “gates” to capture leads regardless of where the buyer is in their decision-making journey.
The benefits of identification and authentication are clear – you can use implicit and explicit information to target content and further enhance personas – however the biggest problem will always be getting people to fill out a form or sign up in the first place. A prudent personalization strategy would not gate information for customers or members as that would just annoy them and be counter-productive.
If your priority is customer retention and cross-selling consider using personalized content on a portal where people log into to pay an account or receive an offer. In the case of an insurance company, it is likely to have a large pool of customers who already use the online portal to pay an account or update their address. Your customer profile information can be used to display relevant content when they are logged in or just visiting.
Beware of personalization pitfalls
With people spending more time online, it’s easy to see a lot of ambiguity with personalization. If someone is looking for an “apple” do they mean the fruit or the computer company? And people are often looking at content for work, social activities or a friend or relative which can be in contrast to their own interests.
There’s no easy way through the sea of visitors and their preferences, but what site managers can do is “rank” the things they definitely know about a person and promote these interests above information that is considered marginal.
A good CMS with content personalization features will dynamically present content to anonymous visitors based on what is happening right now on the site which may be different to their last visit. This contrasts with the use of stored profile data only that doesn’t account for changes over time or utilize the behavioral data over the profile data. For example, stored profile data might indicate someone is interested in cheese, but their current session on site suggests an interest in chocolate. The CMS should present content on chocolate not cheese on this occasion. This is also where the use of simple pop up questions can help clarify interest and intent and used to tweak relevant content delivery.
It’s an exciting time for content personalization and Web site stakeholders have a significant opportunity to redefine how they manage their content. Taking the time to personalize content will reap the reward of better engagement and potentially much better customer acquisition and retention.