One advantage of in-store trade over e-commerce is the personal factor. Website operators now try to offer their users the best individual user experience possible.
No more F-layout for every visitor – static websites belong in the past. Particularly in e-commerce, website operators are trying to find possibilities to display their products to customers as if a sales advisor was presenting them. Your users want to find as much individual content on your site as possible, and to have the feeling that you really understand their needs. Content personalization offers you a way of doing this.
Recommended products which are mentioned in newsletters or displayed in the nearest store are examples of content personalization. Users can be shown individual content on the basis of the existing data and information about a user. We all know Amazon’s methods of adapting a website for a user according to their user behavior and previous orders.
However, personalization can go much further than just recommending products. Real-time data can be used for content personalization, and collected data can be combined with information from the CRM and thus targeted more specifically.
The goal of personalization is clear – to get the user to stay on the site longer by displaying offers suited to them, thereby increasing conversions. Both sides benefit from this (assuming the personalization has been done well). You improve your user experience as you provide your customer with an extra service by offering them the content that they want. With specific targeting, you can optimize your lead generation and conversion rates and thus the ROI.
But be careful: if you do this wrong, you might either put off the user with unsuitable content, or chase them across the internet with personalized content. That’s why you should carefully plan your content personalization campaigns before implementing them and targeting them towards particular customer segments.
Recommending related products is the most well-known example of content personalization. However, displaying related products isn’t actually content personalization, but simply a recommendation based on the purchased product. In this case, similar products are either manually or automatically allocated based on the main product, and they will be shown to every customer.
These recommendations are only personalized if they are explicitly based on user behavior or collected user data, for example the provider of electronic equipment, Conrad:
Figure 1: Typical product recommendations based on the user behavior (Source: conrad.com)
In this example, the customer searches for a laptop when visiting the website for the first time. The customer then leaves the website without purchasing, and returns a few days later. With this second visit, the product that they viewed the first time is displayed on the home page, along with suitable alternatives. Conrad assumes that the customer has returned because they want to buy the product. The user behavior was saved in the web analytics system on the first visit, and the second time, the user was identified from their Cookies or fingerprints. The customer can be offered the best possible service by using this data, and the customer journey can continue.
Further evaluation happens in real-time on the basis of the click behavior of the user. Personalized content can be displayed on dynamic websites for every customer according to their needs.
Successful content personalization needs a database which can be constantly built upon. But what if the customer visits the page for the first time and doesn’t communicate any information about preferences? Lots of websites, online shops from the fashion segment in particular, get a self-assessment from the customer. With H&M, this looks like this:
Figure 2: H&M gets a self-assessment from a new customer (source: hm.com)
When the user visits the website for the first time, they have a choice between women, men and child fashion. H&M notes their decision, and with the next visit, shows the user the chosen category (in this case women’s fashion).
Figure 3: The collected data is used when the customer visits again
With every click on the page, H&M coordinates the offers on the homepage according to the user interest, so that the homepage is shown personalized. This personalization can then be carried out on the basis of all available data, either current or based on previous actions.
The more data available, the more the homepage can be personalized. Registered and logged in users are particularly valuable, as they can be analyzed based not only on their user behavior, but the data from the web analysis can be combined with information from the CRM. Aside from the user behavior on the website, name, email, address, gender, place of residence or age can be used for content personalization.
This is a useful strategy particularly in email marketing. The content personalization begins with addressing the customer personally, and then displays individual newsletter content according to the particular customer.
Depending on the branch, advising customers personally may be a particularly important part of your business, and you therefore want to provide the customer with a sales advisor / give the customer the option of speaking to a sales advisor – this is also possible. Ideally, the customer should sees the contact details of the contact person clearly. If your company has a store, it would be a good idea to display the next store, including opening times.
Google AdWords offers users the option of personalizing adverts for remarketing campaigns. With this, you will be able to display suitable advertising to customers who have already visited your page. Products that the user has already seen can be displayed, leading the customer quickly back into the sales funnel. The problem with this is that even after a purchase, adverts will often be shown to users displaying the item that was already purchased. The user is probably no longer interested in a product after purchasing it. You should therefore carefully consider how far this campaign should be implemented to avoid annoying the user with advertising that is no longer relevant.
Lots of performance marketers include certain visitors to the website in their remarketing lists, thus increasing the volume. They frequently forget to exclude purchases and leads from the advertising actions – the exclusion function is often used too tentatively. You could even end up convincing customers not to buy the product again. Proceed cautiously with remarketing campaigns, and consider where you personally wouldn’t want to see a banner from a company which you recently had contact with, and was maybe even satisfied with.
For successful content personalization, you need a data base. When visiting a website, every user leaves behind traces which show their preferences. This data must be utilized to be able to identify the customer behind the data, and this is possible with a web analysis tool which records the user behavior on your page. You can create customer segments using a web analysis tool, to which targeted personalized data can then be displayed. At the same time, the web analysis tool can measure the success (or failure) of your campaign. If you want to display content personalization automatically, you should use a tag manager as well as the web analysis tool. New personalization set-ups can be implemented with a tag manager.
At the forefront of every successful content personalization campaign are new users or new customers. You should already be aware of who actually uses your product and who your target groups are. If you don’t know this, it’s about time to find out. Customer personas have proven to be particularly useful for allocating typical customers.
The most important target groups are identified and are allocated a typical attribute. Possible attributes can be age, gender, average value of shopping cart, frequency of returning to the website, favorite brands. With the attribute, you define what condition the customer has to fulfil to be allocated to the appropriate segment.
Then, the relevant customer data will be analyzed over a period of at least 90 days. Frequently, customers won’t purchase anything when visiting your website for the first time. Depending on the branch and complexity of the product, the decision to purchase can take many months. To be able to include this customer, a longer time period would be recommended. Moreover, you want to create a database based on the most extensive data possible. Before implementing your campaign, consider carefully which data you need to identify your customer personas.
Organize your customer data into segments. You create the appropriate segment in your analysis tool, and allocate the conditions. If a customer fulfils the specified conditions (for example returning customer / value of shopping basket at least xy / number of visited pages), they will be allocated to a segment automatically.
With a suitable content personalization system, personalized content can then be displayed to the individual segments. Whilst the bargain-hunter will want to be informed about special offers, the trend setter is more likely to react to an offer from the category “new”.
Regarding which data you should use as the basis for your personalization, you have many options:
When providing personalized content, for example personalized pop-ups, you should firstly ask which offer stimulates the user the most. Look at your website from the point of view of the customer, and think about the following questions:
The customer journey is of great significance here, because with the right tool, it can be documented across all channels. In what phase of the customer journey is the customer? Depending on the customer’s position in the sales-funnel, varying content will be needed. Should personalized content be displayed at every Touchpoint, or just at particular points?
If the user is a registered customer and is logged in, user data from the web analysis can be combined with data from the CRM. There are many more ways of being able to trace the customer journey online because it is possible to record the entire journey online channels and devices, for example, if the customer switches from the website to the app.
Content personalization sounds like a lot of work. It can be implemented successfully with good preparation, careful conception and the right marketing automation system. Preparing a sensible segmentation takes up the majority of time and resources, but it will pay off: you’ll end up with more profit and happier customers. An adequate system allocates the customers automatically to the specified segments, and displays the personalized content on this basis.
As with any marketing campaign, you should regularly monitor your content personalization. By using A/B tests, you can test different variations of content personalization, and with web analysis tools you can analyze the impact of your campaign.
Personalization offers marketers many possibilities. However, it can also go wrong. Don’t harass your users with personalized content and phrases. Certain types of customer will feel under surveillance and be scared off. A/B tests can provide information regarding which customer segments personalization works particularly well for, and where certain types of individualization won’t work as well.
Badly implemented content personalization will annoy the customer and have a negative impact on the conversions. Customers don’t want to be chased around the web by personalized content; they just want to see offers that are suitable for them.
Don’t overestimate yourself – surveys have shown that marketers evaluate the impact of personalized content very differently to the target group.
Figure 4: Results of a survey from the CEB Blog.
"My goodness, how do they know that?" Everyone who surfs the internet has probably had this thought at some point or another. Good personalization should therefore not be noticeable, should happen discreetly, and the benefit of the personalized content for the user should be very clear. Your goal is to increase conversions or increase the average value of your product – with personalization, the improved user experience is a means to an end.
That's why: don’t harass your users, but make them useful offers! The more relevant the offers are, the more positively the user will react.
Personalizing content can give you significant advantages over your competitor. However, don’t just fling yourself unthinking into a campaign and neglect your data analysis. A sound preparation is key. Monitor your campaigns continuously and adapt them to the needs of your users. Above all, get yourself a suitable tool to keep the work levels as low as possible and to display content automatically – then the personalization will work.
Practice makes perfect!
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Published on 08/30/2017 by Saskia Wollenberg.
Saskia is Content Marketing Manager at Piwik PRO in Cologne. She juggles with texts, pictures and other media, and is responsible for Piwik PRO's Content Management in Germany.