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Website Personalization for the People

Personalization is a must, but it can easily become daunting. Here are five questions to ask when attempting the personalization endeavor.

Picture this: you walk into a store and instead of having to shuffle through the shelves to look for the item you’d like to purchase, you would only see the products you want to buy. So why not do the same with the customers coming to your site?

Website personalization encompasses the process of creating a custom website experience for each visitor, or group of visitors. Instead of presenting a generic view of the website, personalization allows brands to provide an individualized real-time experience for each user. For marketers, personalization isn’t anything new; It’s not the concept itself that’ll win over your customers, it’s what you do with it that counts.

While traditionally, website personalization is more common in B2C companies, there’s no reason you can’t incorporate it into B2B brands as well. If you plan your steps carefully, it could accelerate businesses across any vertical. As a company with deep roots in personalization and an ongoing motivation to ‘practice what we preach,’ we realized we needed to take personalization and segmentation to the next level and give our own customers the personalized experience they deserved.

The thing is, website personalization can feel incredibly daunting: where should we begin? What should we focus on? In this blog, I’ll look at why, where, who, how, and what marketers should do when starting the process of personalizing your site. My best advice? Do it now. Assuming website personalization is right for you, it can do wonders for your brand.

Why even attempt this massive endeavor?

The importance of website personalization is abundantly clear; connecting with your existing and potential customers should be your organization’s number one priority. Users today are savvier and are already receiving personalized experiences wherever they go – on their social media feed, newsletters, and even their newsfeeds. They expect a personal digital experience that reflects their wants, needs, and their particular journey.

Study after study proves that personalization done well drives conversion. Your website is the storefront, it’s your chance for a first impression, and nailing it may turn that elusive visitor into a customer. In many cases, this is what determines the user’s impression of the company overall.

Where do you hope to end up?

The first thing you need to define: where do you want personalization to take your business?

Is your goal for users to stay on your website for a longer period of time? More clicks on a specific CTA? Can you tie any of these to an increase in sales? For us, a B2B company, we ultimately want our visitors to “request a demo.” If you’re selling something, whatever it is – whether it’s a product, a service or even a content piece – there’s always a way to measure your success. Before you start, decide on your main goal and make sure you are properly measuring the results.

 Who’s receiving these personalized journeys?

The next step is understanding who’s on the receiving end of these efforts. Map your website users. Segment them into smaller groups based on attributes that make sense for your personalization efforts. At Optimove, we initially focused on quick wins. We began with the easiest segmentation and worked our way up to the most complex: first, we tagged repeating visitors to our website, then we moved onto the next segment and marked visitors by geographic location. Only once we set these groups, we started building the more complex segment, where we implemented a script to tag existing users’ vertical as marked in our CRM, showing them their relevant website scenario.

There are many other ways to segment your website users – VIPs, personalization, time of the day, type of device they’re using, age or gender, previous shopping habits/patterns, and so on. Consider your company DNA and its main needs. We suggest adopting an agile approach. Look for quick wins, start by building easy segments, publish the relevant version, and only then think of how to capture more complex target groups.

How do you personalize your website?

When planning your strategy, first devise a plan for how you’ll segment your users and then think about how you’ll collect the necessary data for identifying them. Personalization is worthless without proper data and you need to have a game plan in case you don’t obtain all the necessary information. There are many tools out there that can help with your personalization efforts – Optimizely, Evergage, Marketo, Bunting, and others. At Optimove we use VWO. To be able to identify repeat visitors, we use the VWO browser cookie tracker. To understand a user’s location, we use their IP address, and to segment them according to verticals, we use a cookie that collects data from our CRM system, HubSpot.

Without data, it becomes virtually impossible to properly segment your audience and personalize your website. Map the important attributes and if you don’t have a sufficient amount of data, invest in a data enrichment tool.

What does this look like in practice?

After building the foundation comes the interesting part – thinking of what you want your messaging to convey. You might want to tell them about a specific sale in their region or give a coupon to VIP customers. If you have a competitive advantage in a specific industry, tell your audience about it!

For example, on the left is Optimove’s website in the default setting. On the right is the homepage personalized for a user in the Gaming Industry:

We also personalized the logos on the site based on the user’s segment. The logos on the right are the ones we present to US-based users, letting them know up front that we know their location and will use it to get their attention (check out the addition of the phrase “including the best and the brightest in the U.S.” to the tagline). On the left are logos from the default homepage display:

As users ourselves, we all appreciate a personalized touch. For repeat users, we included this tactic to let them know we see them, and ultimately found that those who landed on the personalized homepage version stayed on the site 22% longer than users who didn’t.

Personalization is one of the leading tools you have as a marketer to build a stronger communication channel with existing and potential customers, and it must achieve two things: showing your customers “I know you” and “this is how I can help.” Stay agile, don’t wait until the entire operation is neatly cemented from start to finish. Start small, work on a simple scenario, publish it, get the incremental quick win, and only then move on to the next scenario. A positive website experience is one of the most crucial tools in a marketer’s arsenal. As Oscar Wilde said, “you never get a second chance to make a first impression.”

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