For much of the internet’s existence, a website was simply an online marketing and sales brochure designed to relay generic information about a company and what it sells. Thanks to technology advances such as reverse-IP data enrichment and firmographic enhancements, website personalization is now possible, and in fact a staple in differentiation against competition.
Website personalization means serving content specific to the visitor. The website experience becomes an experience that is defined by the visitor’s demographic, location, or profile that is built over a period of time and interaction.
The Importance of Website Personalization
There is general consensus among marketers that website personalization drives higher conversion rates and more revenue. If these two benefits aren’t compelling enough, McKinsey analysts estimate that personalization stands to create $1.7 to $3 trillion in new value for companies. It stands to reason that companies that do not personalize their website experience will lag behind the leaders in their respective industries and ultimately lose market share to those who embrace website personalization.
While the importance of website personalization may be perfectly clear, the misconceptions on getting started suggest a difficult planning and implementation effort. In reality, it’s best to keep it simple out of the gates. Here are a few things to consider as you examine website personalization as an option.
- It doesn’t have to take a long time to get started. We recommend you start by identifying three elements of a landing page or homepage to personalize (ones that you believe will have an impact) and test three different versions of each element at the same time. This allows you to get up and running quickly and helps you identify which personalizations are having the biggest impact on performance.
- You do not need first-party data to start website personalization. First party data can almost always help improve performance, but it’s not required. Contextual data such as geography, device type, time of day, first visit/repeat visit, day of week, and device type is available on every visit to your site. It’s easy to overlook the value of this contextual data because it seems so basic on the surface; however it’s common for these attributes to enable double digit lift for marketers.
- Website personalization will not create messaging inconsistency. Personalizing your site experience enables you to engage each of your customers in ways that are relevant to them individually. Each potential customer has different questions and considerations in their mind before making a conversion decision. Website personalization enables you to take a consistent message and focus on the aspects of that message that are more impactful to each individual visitor.
Importantly, there are some fundamental differences between rules-based personalization, which relies on marketers to create segment-specific definitions for each personalization, and machine-learning based personalization that leverages the power of AI to deliver unique experiences personalized to every single visitor. These are two important considerations for any marketer that is evaluating a machine-learning based approach:
- Your audience segments do not have to be predefined. Personalization through machine learning does not require you to predefine segments, unless you want to. Unlike rules-based personalization, AI-driven personalization automatically discovers segments by observing how your ideas perform for different audiences.
- You do not need technical and engineering expertise to start website personalization. Building your own personalization engine in-house is resource intensive and requires specialized expertise. Integrating your internal systems and programming machine learning algorithms can be time consuming.
Because of the incredibly high technical bar in creating AI-driven personalization systems, until now, this approach has only been possible for some of the largest and most familiar technology companies in the world, like Google, Amazon, Microsoft and others. The good news is that Intellimize is now bringing the power of advanced personalization technology to marketers at scale. Today, conversion obsessed marketers can implement an AI-driven personalization solution by adding just a single line of code to their website. With this approach, getting started with personalization can be as simple as providing the creative ideas that will be unique to each audience or segment..
With these aspects of website personalization in mind it’s time to get started and that means exploring data. Data is the fuel that powers personalization.
Getting Started with Website Personalization
With some of the misconceptions of website personalization behind us, it’s time to start thinking about implementation and that starts with data. How do marketers use data in their efforts? We’ve culled some best practices thanks to working relationships with a host of organizations across a number of industries. Here are 5 best practices for using data to build successful website personalization:
- Leverage the data you can see on every impression. It’s easiest to start with data that is commonly available on every impression. This includes data such as device type, time of day, day of week, geography, and more. To most marketers’ surprise, high performing segments are often there to be found in this routinely available data. When you’re considering personalization, make sure the tools you are using can efficiently make use of this data.
- Take advantage of paid media data. If you are using paid media campaigns to drive traffic to your site, you can use UTM parameters to pass the targeting information to further enhance personalization. Data such as the creative content, keywords, and the referring site can be quite useful in creating a seamless experience across your paid media and your web site.
- Use first party customer data to personalize on lifecycle. Your most valuable customers expect to be treated differently than a first-time visitor to your site. Recognizing these customers with special, limited offers and unique offerings reinforces their special relationship and can increase conversions and loyalty. For first-time customers, providing incentives for a trial makes sense, and testing several versions makes sense as well. Additionally, first party data can be used beyond the lifecycle as well.
- Leverage third party data for better relevancy. Third party data can be particularly valuable when used to create relevancy for visitors to your site. There are many data providers offering a wide variety of consumer and B2B data. Some of this data can be demographic, such as age and gender, behavioral, such as past purchases and interests, and firmographic, such as reverse IP lookups.
- Predictive Personalization can deliver! Given the rich set of data and number of potential segments based on the data above, using an AI based tool is particularly valuable at automating segment discovery and simultaneously learning which variations perform best for each segment. And it will save you an immense amount of time!
AI and Machine Learning for Website Personalization
As we’ve pointed out above, website personalization doesn’t have to be a daunting ordeal. Gone are the long, arduous and lengthy A/B testing protocols that many marketers have relied on to date. With AI and machine learning technologies now available, website personalization can truly take hold.
Much of the work of conversion rate optimization is in managing experiments; design, setup, implementation, analysis, and application of learnings. This work is important, but also sometimes administrative and repetitive. Predictive personalization automates the rote tasks involved in website testing, automatically applying learnings and freeing up marketers to focus more energy on generating new ideas.
Automation does more than take the mechanical work off of marketers’ collective plates. In some cases, automation is able to do those jobs to a degree no marketer ever would. Where teams using A/B testing are typically able to test a few ideas at a time, predictive personalization allows teams to test dozens of ideas over a comparable period. In fact, in our first year, our average customer tested 25 times what they could have achieved using A/B testing.
Website Personalization Resources (Blogs and Videos)