There are two marketing truths universally acknowledged:
- Companies are looking to get the biggest bang for their buck on their websites.
- Buyers are savvier. More than half of consumers and B2B buyers do research online before buying.
Marketers want to create great marketing that gets their customers to feel great by engaging with their company. That’s the key to website personalization: implementing smart adaptations that help visitors find the solution to their problems—serving both customer’s needs and the company’s bottom line.
But how do you start personalizing your website? How do you offer relevant messaging and offers at different parts in your visitor’s journey, and test which variables are the most effective at delivering your intended results?
Well, you plan for it as you begin executing.
You probably already know that website personalization is one of the most valuable trends in marketing. McKinsey analysts estimated that personalization stands to create $1.7-3 trillion in new value for companies. Creating a personalization strategy with the following elements will help you prepare for launch, so you can realize value more quickly.
Here are five things you need to know before you get started with website personalization:
1. Decide on your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
Before you do anything else, you have to consider what kind of results you and your executive team are looking for.
If you don’t know what you’re trying to do better, you’ll never know if you did better. So you have to set benchmarks, create the plan, test, and see if your hypotheses were correct. The whole point of personalization, apart from catering to your customers, is to improve, iterate, and learn. Working backwards from business goals ensures you’ll make your team valuable and your boss happy.
When you know better, do better, as they say.
Here are some KPIs our biggest B2B clients focus on:
- Getting more high-quality leads
- Moving visitors through the sales funnel
- Increasing leads to sales
- Generating more form fills on B2B landing pages
And here’s what ecommerce teams tend to work toward:
- Increasing cart conversions
- Increasing basket size
- Reducing the time it takes to purchase
- Reducing abandoned carts
These are just examples, however, and you should pick the right KPIs for your business.
2. Really get to know your customers
After you decide on your goals, you need to understand what motivates your customers the most. Learn what values resonate with them most and align best with their needs. Understand how they currently interact with your website.
To start, get access to any form of customer interaction and data in your company: these could be customer calls, emails, reviews, demographic data, website analytics, surveys, feedback loops, or interviews. These interactions and resources will help you dive into their motivations, objections, pains, and desires.
Here are some questions that could help you better understand your customers:
- What paths do site visitors follow on your website as they move toward the actions that drive your KPIs? Which points along the path are the most common drop offs?
- Where do they spend the most time on your site before they convert?
- Where do they bounce from your site? Why?
- What about the product or service experience stopped buyers who almost purchased but didn’t?
- What do new customers love about the product or service? What keeps customers coming back?
- What are the biggest concerns you hear in your customer care emails, calls, and support tickets?
- What customer lifecycle stage are they in? How aware are they of your company and your product or service?
- Where were they at the exact moment of purchase or conversion? What device were they using, which location were they in, or what day of the week was it?
These insights will help you identify opportunities for improvement, and help you focus as you start personalizing your website.
3. Get your team aligned
Next, you need to identify the resources available to you internally, and help them understand that personalization is an ongoing, iterative process that changes as your customers and business plans change.
All companies have different approaches to marketing, so the key stakeholders should be on board with your website personalization plan. It’s valuable to have executive alignment and support for making continuous learning a core component of marketing and growth strategy.
Once executives are on board, give some early insight to your broader marketing org, often including team members working on content, creative, and product marketing. They’re often the ones that will be developing and implementing creative ideas, so it’s important they understand your goals, processes, and the impact of your desired personalization plan results. Other teams, like sales and customer service, may also be affected by and have ideas for personalization and should be made aware of the plan and the opportunities personalization can bring to their departments.
Getting expectations aligned will make your life as a marketer a lot easier. With organizational support behind you, you have a mine of knowledge and support.
Here are the team members that may help you drive successful web personalization projects:
- The executive: who helps the main team identify the goals, checks in on the progress, and approves the overall strategy
- The creatives: whose copy, psychology, photography, design, or video production is crucial to the success of your variable testing
- The product marketers or product managers: who knows all the nooks and crannies of your service or product, and the hooks, leads, and messaging for all your customers
- The customer care and sales teams: who are intimately involved in the day-to-day lives of your customers and can offer invaluable insights for creating on-target messaging
4. Brainstorm some creative testing ideas
Once you have your creative and executive teams on board, it’s time to circle back to those KPIs.
Why? Because your business goals and key performance indicators should guide your entire creative approach. If you’re thinking of brainstorming clouds, “increasing quality leads” (for B2B) or “Increasing cart conversions” (for ecommerce) would be in the very center, with your team’s ideas shooting out like lightning bolts.
It’s not just about testing “headline A” versus “headline B” for no good reason: you need to do it strategically by creating a hypothesis.
Let’s use the first example above: increasing quality leads. You might believe, for example, that leads aren’t high-quality because:
- Your marketing is in the wrong places, and thus, reaching the wrong audiences
- Your messaging isn’t convincing the right people, or
- Your messaging is short-circuiting somewhere and not helping customers follow through
With those assumptions, you could start building out tests to confirm or refute your hypotheses by creating variations of:
- The landing page images and copy
- The continuity in the messaging and images from source to the landing page
- The presence of a navigation bar
- The cart process pages
- Visual layouts
- The “Thank you” page
The list goes on and on. After you’ve identified your most valuable tests tied to your KPIs, it’s time to decide how you’re going to run the actual testing.
5. Choose your approach
This is the biggie. You have three options for personalizing your site:
- Rules-based personalization, which focuses on very specific rules-based scenarios, like “if visitor X came from social media network Y, show sales page Z”. This is useful if you already know the exact parameters you’re personalizing for, but takes a lot of time to set up and manage more than just a few of these scenarios.
- A/B testing, which allows you to compare the performance of two competing ideas on one element of your website for all your visitors. This is useful when you want to answer a single focused question and don’t have many options to test.
- Predictive personalization, which uses machine learning to automatically personalize your web pages and dynamically adjust them over time. This allows the team to try far more ideas with far less effort.
Rules-based personalization and A/B testing seem simple and quick, but complexity compounds as new rules are added on top of old rules, and tests take too long to reach clear answers for each experiment.
Personalization rules are often based on:
- Location of visitor
- Technology used
- What website they came from before visiting your site
- What social network they came from before visiting your site
- New/repeat visitor
- Time spent on website
- Abandoned cart
The mix and match of creating those rules, and the upkeep of those rules, usually become burdensome for the marketer, which is why we recommend predictive personalization.
With predictive personalization, you maintain creative control over copy, design elements, and video. The difference with predictive personalization? Machine learning determines the personalizations to be shown, using all of these same data types listed above and more. However, predictive personalization personalizes for each unique visitor, making it feel like you’ve automatically created a rule for each visitor. Additionally, as conditions and behaviors change, predictive personalization automatically adapts to find the personalization variations that will work best in the moment for the then-current audience. By simultaneously testing many ideas at once, predictive personalization learns at 25x the speed of traditional A/B testing. This approach manages the complexity for you, and delivers results at unparallelled speed.
Regardless of the approach you take, the most important thing to remember about personalization is that it shouldn’t be a one-and-done project, but rather a process that iterates every day and week over time. Your customers will change, your business plans will change, your industry will shift, and best practices will adapt accordingly: so should your team’s website personalization.