The Personalisation Principle
Personalisation tailors your website content to suit individual customers. Personalisation acknowledges who the customer is and what they want from their visit. It helps the customer find what they need… and see what you want them to see.
You might begin by locating them geographically and displaying content local to their region. As you get to know them better, you could greet them by name and make purchasing recommendations. At any level, personalisation can have a dramatic impact on conversion rates, campaign success and customer satisfaction. To realise the power of personalisation, let’s first consider it from the customer’s perspective.
The Personalisation Experience
Imagine you’re planning a romantic weekend getaway for you and your partner. You type ‘romantic weekend break’ into Google and follow a link to a hotel you like the sound of. However, despite this particular hotel providing a manner of relaxing holiday amenities, its landing page shows off its elegant golf course. Golf is not what you had in mind! You hit the Back button and the hotel loses a potential customer.
But imagine if the site were personalised: it recognises your keywords and displays a ‘romantic’ version of the content. That looks more like it! You explore the site and book a spa weekend. You feel good about your choice… unaware of the mechanics that lead you to your decision.
Profile your Customer Personas
Web designers often use customer personas to define user journeys. These personas can also be used to refine content by visitor type. The categories can be broad (such as ‘first time visitor’ or ‘press agency’) or very specific indeed. Take the hotel example again… two personas would want very different things from their hotel stay, but a personalised website can make sure they each receive the appropriate message and service. So… how do you match the visitor to the persona?
Identify your Visitor
- Even a first time visitor has a personal history. You can follow the search terms they used or the PPC ad or tagged URL that delivered them. Their IP address can give you their location and business sector. With this information, personalisation can begin.
- As they start interacting, they define themselves further. Clickstreams and site searches customise content: they may also follow targeted offers or links. Bookmarks, wish-lists, shopping baskets, forms, forums and emails all give away explicit or implicit information. This allows you to further refine the content you present.
- Returning visitors already have a profile. This could contain anything from their date of birth to their income bracket and political views.
You can use this information to match the visitor to a persona.
Tailor your content
Once you’ve identified your visitor’s needs, you can plan their visit.
A first time visitor is still getting to know your business. They may want to see testimonials, case studies, an introductory video etc. Offering these moves them along the purchase funnel.
For example, a new customer has arrived at the hotel’s website. They are connecting from a brewery HQ in London. The CMS presents the sports version of the website, displays positive customer feedback and… runs an advert for cheap flights from London.
A returning customer will want to see their chosen preferences. They are browsing with a purpose, so purchase routes need to be well-tailored and clear.
For example, a returning customer logs in. They’ve taken away-breaks before and always booked spa treatments. You greet them by name, display the spa version of the site and present an advert for a discounted massage. You ask them to rate their previous experience and enter a prize draw for a Pamper Hamper.
This level of personalisation is powerful. But the visitor should also be able to customise their preferences themselves. If you once booked assisted transport for your mother-in-law you won’t want to see adverts for stair-lifts every time you return.
Use a CMS with Personalisation Power
Personalisation involves tracking and storing user input and behaviour so it can be cross-referenced against the persona rules. A high volume of data may be involved. This is best managed through a single integrated technology, which is easy to set up and update. Poor maintenance can kill off excellent personalisation initiatives. So consider using a Content Management System with personalisation functionality, such as EPiServer.
EPiServer allows you to define different personas by dragging and dropping various criteria to create a group (in this case ‘First Time Visitors from the UK’). The in-built criteria include geo-IP, visited pages, numbers of visits, time of day, referring search word, user profile and landing page. E-commerce criteria include recent orders, customer spend and basket contents. You can also add your own criteria. The interface makes it easy to create and update any number of personas.
EPiServer then allows you to tailor your content accordingly. You can create regional promotions or offers targeted to particular groups. You can run personalised advertising for specific locations, purchasing habits and lifestyles. You can reward returning customers. EPiServer’s built-in social platform allows you to turn a static website into a thriving community.
Getting Results: Assess, Adapt, Augment
Personalisation isn’t a cosmetic change: it should produce measurable results.
Detailed personalisation involves a matrix of interdependent rules. If the effectiveness of a strategy is to be assessed accurately, it should be introduced incrementally. Start with small changes and build upon them. Reviews should be carried out regularly, in accordance with your digital roadmap.
And finally, a note of warning: your customer’s persona will evolve. Their context and needs will change and so will their relationship with the site and your business. Personalisation should keep pace with the customer’s evolution: your site should remain fresh and relevant.