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Making new friends and building new relationships when you are an adult is not easy. Anyone who has ever moved house, city or job can testify to this. There are reams of advice columns in magazines about how to do it.
Even the New York Times covered the topic in an article it published this summer. One interviewee stated she had a friend for every segment of her life.
Your website can use this basic principle to make new friends and keep them too. Designing, personalising and segmenting the content on your site for each user allows you to build a relationship with them that will last.
Personalising content on your site engages each customer by using technology that will mimic how you would do it face to face. Online web personalisation is akin to you making a new friend, only digitally.
My guide to building a digital relationship that lasts:
Strike up a conversation
Like the beginning of any new relationship you need to start by saying something about yourself. What has your brand/company/organisation got to say? What are the key messages you would like to talk about?
Find out what they like/dislike
Your website can engage and connect with your visitors on a deeper level by asking for their opinion on a topic. Pizza Express’s marketing team was spot on in doing just that when it launched its design your own pizza competition in 2010.
It had 500,000 entries and then allowed the pubic to vote on the best ones.
Listen, respond and act
Show that you are listening to your new friend. Be digitally intelligent. Get under the skin of the data you’ve just collected about them. Combine this with what you already know - their past online journeys, their Google searches, IP address or Facebook profile data.
Their patterns will tell you what they are interested in. Act on this in real time by giving them relevant, fun and informative content.
Arrange to meet again
Like with any new friendship you need to keep meeting to build a stronger bond. So you need to give your customer a reason to come back to your site.
Perhaps you are hosting a webinar, launching a new product, holding an event or having a sale in the near future? Email them inviting them personally to an event that you know will interest them.
Again, Pizza Express has done this brilliantly with its “happy birthday” email.
Remember their name and previous conversation
There’s nothing more embarrassing than forgetting your new friend’s name and the awkwardness this creates. When your customer comes back to your site show them that you remember who they are.
Personalise their landing page and banners to reflect their location, preferences and previous behaviour. Airlines, such as easyJet and BMIbaby, and train operators like East Coast Trains, are particularly good at this.
Every relationship benefits from a timely and thoughtful gift. Brands, business and organisations would be nowhere without their customers. Recognising and rewarding loyalty – such as money-off deals, discounts on purchases, freebies - will keep your visitors coming back to you.
Supermarket giants with loyalty cards have been doing this effectively for years. As too has the retailer Boots where its customers can spend their points on anything in store.
Suggest things they may like to do
Amazon and iTunes are both adept at this. Use the technology to recommend products/services/information that your new friend may be interested in based on their previous site behaviour. Also predict their future likes (based on data gathered by similar people and what people go on to do).
Give them local geographical ideas/info/offers that you think may suit their interests.
Socialise in other places
No one wants to meet in the same place each time. So keep your contact with your friend varied. Reach out through the hundreds of different mediums – such as on Facebook, Twitter and Google+ and many more.
Take the BBC’s i-player - it had 1.9bn tv and radio requests in 2011 which it made available on more than 550 different devices, including mobiles, games consoles and connected TVs.
Solve their problems
We all need our friends and family to support us in times of need. But your site can do this too by providing advice and positioning it as a trusted source with their interests at heart. Show them how to save them money/take a short cut/ give latest info on the subject.
With its 5m weekly subscribers Martin Lewis’s moneysavingexpert.com is an excellent example of how this can be done.
Introduce to friends
Innovate and use social media platforms as a way of building an audience. Social media sites are an ideal medium for customers to review their experience with a hotel/retailer/products.
Sites like Twitter, Facebook and TripAdvisor encourage this interaction and enable personalised responses. These will lead to further engagement. But beware of the Waitrose effect.