How To Recommend Content and Offers the Right Way
by Reena Leone
Your customers not only understand that you collect information about them, but they expect a customized experience based on that data. You, the digital marketer, have tested your website, adjusted based on the results and segmented your audience accordingly. But what's the most effective way to use this information? As Tony Haile, CEO of Chartbeat told Time, you only have about 15 seconds to grab a reader’s attention. One way to give your customers what they want is by recommending content and offers personalized to their tastes and interests.
Recommended articles, stories and products are nothing new but the keys to success are accuracy and automation. Providing your audience segments with relevant, recommended content extends the personalized experience and is a win-win for both your customers and your business. However, recommending content that isn’t personalized and appropriate for your audience can drive them away.
Why Accuracy is Important
According to a 2013 study released by Janrain, 74% of online consumers get frustrated when they are presented with content that is not relevant to them or their interests. For example, you don’t want to recommend an article on say, to someone living in San Diego, California. To avoid customer frustration and to ensure truly deliver relevant suggestions, it is not enough to just recommend content. You need to recommend the right content.
Amazon is a great example of a company that understands recommendations. Products are their content and their “library” is quite vast – maybe limitless. When you’re a one-stop shop for various product categories, personalized recommendations and offers are even more important. Just because you bought your nephew a football for Christmas, doesn’t mean you want to be inundated with sporting goods.
The image is above is from my Amazon account. Amazon knows I like comic books and Batman, as I just purchased a Batman symbol cookie cutter and I recently searched for Batman: The Long Halloween. Looking at my history, it has recommended the Batman: Arkham Asylum. When it comes to comics, I usually buy trade paperbacks (and usually at my local shop), but I’ve been downloading a lot of eBooks to my Kindle lately (as you can see from the Outlander series) so it is recommending the digital version based on my recent behavior.
Further scrolling reveals other comic book recommendations like The Walking Dead, Saga and Watchmen. These are not just based directly on book purchases, but toys I’ve bought and shows I’ve watched. So, they’re making recommendations that don’t annoy or frustrate me, and in fact are offers that I appreciate. Amazon is getting it right.
Why Automation is Important
As a content marketer, the goal is to have whatever you produce -- articles, blog posts, photos, videos, etc. -- engage your customers. You want people to read what you wrote, to share it, to comment on it. You want it to help increase conversion on your site. In order to get your desired results, your content needs to be served up to the people who are most interested in the subject matter.
Producing useful and engaging content for your audience is a task all in itself and your focus should be on building out your content library. But once you have the content, how can you then be sure that you’re delivering it to the audience segments that it aligns with? The best way is through automation. Using the customer data you’ve collected through testing and targeting, you can then leverage complex algorithms, designed to deliver that content to the people who would be most interested in it.
In addition to recommended content, personalized calls to action not only benefit your customers but your business as well. General, sitewide offers are not as successful as ones specifically tailored to your audience segments. For example, 20% off your order might seem like a great offer to promote across all segments, but consider that some customers might prefer free shipping if they live across the country from your warehouse. A personalized offer might encourage them to add more to their order and boost loyalty if they know that you consistently offer promotions that are of interest to them.
Part of the reason that personalization is important to your customers is because it helps cut through the noise of the Internet. Your audience is bombarded with ads, promotions, articles, etc. every time they open their browser. By providing them with content based on their interests, you are providing a better digital experience; one that saves them time and gives them what they are looking for. By delivering a personalized experience through content recommendations and offers, you can also help your audience discover something new, adding an extra level of utility to your website.
Besides providing your customers with what they want, recommended content can serve your business goals as well. By tailoring content recommendations, you can help increase time on site, page views, and engagement. Personalized offers tend to have a higher conversion rate, leading to more revenue. A 2012 survey conducted by MyBuys Inc. and research firm The E-tailing Group Inc. found that out of 1,108 customers surveyed, 39% said they buy more from a web experiences that present them with personalized product recommendations based on their previous site activity and purchase history.
When your customers return and see the content that they want to see, you are also building loyalty. Customers trust you know what they are looking for, that you know who they are and that you care about what they care about. And that’s a great way to keep them coming back.