Website Personalization: Walk Before You Run

Data is the foundation of website personalization, but since there’s so much to pull from, starting small is the best path to success.

Website Personalization: Walk Before You Run

I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it: The foundation of website personalization is data. But once you’ve spent time to get the right data in place, build your user profiles, and create segments that are relevant to your business … what’s next? How do you turn that data into customized digital experiences that intrigue your visitors and your customers coming back?

The data you’ve collected in the early stages of your digital personalization journey means you have insight into your visitors beyond just explicit characteristics like geolocation or device type. You also have an understanding and visibility into your audiences implicit preferences, like content and experiences that drive them to action. Knowing these things, your most active segments, the most common geolocations, and what their preferred topics or products are means your roadmap is right in front of you.

Learning How to ‘Walk’

Personalization can’t be done all at once. There’s no instant solution; it needs to be ramped up over time. We refer to it as the Crawl, Walk, Run approach. Even within the “walk” stage of Crawl, Walk, Run, personalization is a process. You’ll see a lot of marketing speak and big talk around one to one personalized experiences, but the reality is most organizations aren’t there yet. And that’s OK.

The real objective of personalization for most organizations today is to move away from the generic, one-size-fits-all experiences, and it can take time to do so. Keep in mind that you want to continue moving to targeting and delivering experience to smaller groups, so it looks like: one to all→ one to many→ one to some→ one to few→ one to one. That’s the goal.

When you enter the “walk” phase, you can start slowly, focusing on lower effort and low to medium impact activities, such as:

  • Location-based personalizations: A retail store promoting top five fashions for fall in the Northeast but continuing to show most popular bathing suits in California.
  • Device specific personalizations: A university displaying a map to mobile users vs. a virtual tour to desktop users.
  • Visitor frequency personalizations: Delivering newsletter sign-up promotion to a first-time visitor to capture email, or directing them to download an app for a different user experience.  

Once you’ve begun to understand what personalizations see positive results and have built out additional content based on active segments, popular locations, and other data you are collecting, you can begin to focus on higher effort, higher impact personalizations such as:

  • Viewed page X times: A B2B technology company shows conversion content to visitors who have looked at three pieces of awareness content.
  • Browsing behavior: A tourism company shows promotions and content for European vacations rather than Asian because a visitor has viewed top 10 cities in Europe and five off-the-beaten-path European vacations content.
  • Event-based / funnel-based: A nonprofit organization promotes attending a local meet-up after visitors have signed up for its email newsletter.
  • Combined use cases: Show us B2B case studies to visitors from us who came through in B2B PPC ad.
  • Initial and intermediate use cases: Conversion video to a mobile visitor who has viewed awareness content more than three times in 30 days.

Personalization in Action: Tennessee Department of Tourism

I like to use Tennessee Department of Tourism, as an example because not only have they done this really well, but their use case is a really tangible one. They are learning more about their visitors each time the come to the site, segmenting users by region of interest, and experiences.

When a visitor comes to their site, they engage with content relevant to Memphis, Nashville, or Chattanooga, and receive personalized content based on that behavior in real time as they continue to engage. When they touch on experiences, like food, history, music, or outdoors, that’s another component they are segmented on, as well as any derivations of those two primary segments, like food in Nashville, music in Memphis, or history in Gatlinburg. By segmenting on behavioral interest they can also incorporate device type or location data, segmenting their user base into much more specific groups they can continually target and test content against.

In addition to delivering experience that have increased engagement on their site, Tennessee Tourism also knows more about their website visitors, and can use this knowledge of most popular locations or experiences to continually inform their content and personalization strategy.

Read the full Tennessee Tourism case study here, or learn more about how Acquia Lift can help you can deliver data-first personalizations to your most important customers.

One final note, as you transition from “walk” to “run,” you’ll have an inherent understanding and visibility into your audience’s implicit preferences like content, experiences and so on, resulting in a completed action. Keep in mind that your goal is to use your technology to not only move your customers along the funnel but deliver great experiences every step of the way.

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