Online personalization has been blighted by the stigma that it’s something we’d all love to achieve but it’s out of the reach for the middle market.

In fact, a recent Econsultancy survey that found that 94% of companies sampled agreed personalization “is critical to current and future success” but they didn’t know where to start or how to approach it.

But the tables are turning and this is all about to change. Companies that have started to use new and accessible personalization technologies have seen up to a 300% increase in conversions.

Unlike traditional 'top of the funnel' personalization models which rely on past behaviour data to personalize the online and email marketing experience, new cloud-based technologies use real-time behaviour analytics to adapt content and engage users whilst they’re on-site.

This means the messages and communication can change depending on if the user is at lead or at the referral stage.

Personalization is fast becoming ubiquitous in online retail. Major retailers, such as the youth fashion brand ASOS see it as part of its future success strategy. Its chief exec, Nick Robertson, recently told The Telegraph online retail is about serving up what the customer really wants. 

We see online being a more relevant shopping experience. I want to know what you’re looking for before you get there. I know what you’ve browsed, your save for laters, your size you’ve returned, what you’ve kept and what colours you prefer – so when you experience ASOS it should be more relevant to what you’re looking for.”

But Rob Carpenter, from newly launched cloud-based personalization platform, Evergage, says:

Real time behavioural data can show you what that customer is doing on site right now and at what stage of the lifecycle.  A real-time behavioral targeting solution can then use that data to personalize the web experience for each visitor or customer.  This results in maximal relevance and higher conversion.”

This new technology opens up the world of personalization to a new breed of online retailers and marketers – where those interpreting the data no longer have to have technical expertise or a large team to support them.  Smaller business will now be able to give the big online retailers a run for their money.

Three simple personalization techniques that every online business can use

1. Look at the referring source:

One of the first steps in effective online personalisation is recognising where your customer has come from by looking at the referring source such as the URL/domain/keyword. The closer your site matches the experience or expectation of the user the higher the conversion rate.

Welcome messages can be an effective way to capture your customer and personalise their experience with you.

For example, US online retailer, Gardeners Supply Company, was experiencing a high volume of traffic from its Pinterest boards to its site but a relatively low conversion rate.

It decided to target its Pinterest visitors with an exclusive offer which said: “Welcome Pinterest visitor. Surprise! You’ve just earned $6 off your order over $25”. This message, delivered at the right time in the buying cycle, lead to a 6X increase in conversions.  

Max Harris, Vice President of e-Commerce, Gardeners Supply Company said: 

We recently applied technology to a large traffic segment of site visitors coming from Pinterest, increasing conversion rate in-session while providing a very effective email capture-and-trigger solution.”

2. Tracking a visitor’s behaviour on your site:

New technologies can allow you to identify a visitor’s persona, based on their online interactions on site in real time, before conversions. This means you no longer have to rely on what they’ve previously bought.

The page they are on, how long they stay there, whether they scrolled down or if they are returning visitors are all easily identifiable and means you can build a relationship with the customer instantly.

Sittercity, the US online babysitting and nanny service, recently used personalised header bars once a customer had visited their site for the third time or had clicked the homepage banner three times.

The header bar offered users a free account and a chance to call the service for a free consultation. The message was seen by 70,000 viewers (1.1% of traffic) during a couple of months. It resulted in 770 phone calls and 175 paying customers.

3. Engage with on-site messaging. Why the email will die:

Personalized emails have had their day. The big problem with them is that the customer is out of context when reading your message in their inbox. Perhaps the customer is at work or not in the buying mode while reading their email.

The new personalization technologies on the market can now allow you to personalize messages and content whilst your customer is on your site. Pop-ups, call-outs, header bars and task lists are all ways you can reach out to your customer in real time to prompt, remind, help and engage with them.

These can be segmented and pre-programmed to recognized behavior on site to deliver relevant messages. 

For example, the online innovation magazine, MIT Technology Review was experiencing a high bounce-rate which was affecting its advertising revenue. It addressed this by using bounce detection.

This meant when someone moved their mouse cursor to the URL bar or back button while on MIT Tech Review’s site a relevant pop-up message appeared, such as “have you read this blog or whitepaper it may be of interest to you”, which had great results.

According to MIT Tech Review CTO Brent Turner, “We immediately saw a 10x improvement in user engagement on key areas of our site”.


Published 29 August, 2013 by Juliet Stott

Juliet Stott is a freelance journalist, content creator and a contributor to Econsultancy.  Connect with her on LinkedIn or Twitter

21 more posts from this author

You might be interested in

Comments (3)


Miguel Roberg

I really agree with this post. Real time marketing captures the customer when they are in the buying mode. Like the article says e-mail is dying because its not always relevant. I get emails from companies all the time but I usually check my email early in the morning before work to answer any personal emails and then throughout the day at work for work reasons. I am not in the buying mode when I receive many of the emails from companies. I am when I'm on their site. Good article.

almost 5 years ago


Russell Loarridge

This is a great article that gives some really handy tips and pointers but I always feel there is something missing when people talk about personalisation, and that is identity.

How can companies claim to be offering a ‘personalised’ service when they don’t know who each individual customer is?

By harnessing the power of online data and progressive profiling, organisations can leverage the power of knowing their consumers’ identities. And as consumers grow tired of receiving untargeted communications and irrelevant content, an increasing number are happy to share personal information in the hope that it will lead to a more personalised relationship with brands.

The opportunity for one-to-one marketing is not only there, it’s welcomed by consumers and if online businesses really do want to reach the utopia of personalised web experiences, they must begin to leverage technology available.

Russell Loarridge
Managing Director Europe

almost 5 years ago


Rob Carpenter

I definitely believe web personalization is at it's strongest when you have more data available to personalize from. A comprehensive view of the visitor or customer, including both internal (behavioral data) and external (demographics, interests, etc.) not only enables businesses to understand and get to know their target audience, but also how to convert them better, build stronger relationships, and guide them to success.

I would say though that if any type of data has been overlooked when it comes to personalization, it is behavioral data.. not external data. Most personalization solutions today focus in on personalizing website visitor experiences based on geography, age, industry, etc.. information about the specific visitor. The problem is with relying on this data alone, rather than behavioral data, you assume that "who the visitor is" is the most important factor vs "what the visitor is interested in right now" which is much more contextual. I believe that personalizing based on behavior is not only under represented in the personalization space (behavioral targeting is very weak within most solutions), but it also enables businesses to put the most relevant content in front of visitors based on what they do in the moment vs what they had said in the past. So, even though I say my favorite color is blue, when viewing green products I am showing current interest in green products, and behavioral targeting picks up on this and focuses on promoting green products in that moment to increase the likelihood of me converting in that situation (maybe I am buying something for a friend that loves green.).

For SaaS businesses, behavior-based personalization is even more important. Most people think of personalization as a completely top-of-funnel initiative, because most solutions out there focus on personalizing websites to increase conversion. However, behavior-based personalization enables you to personalize throughout the customer lifecycle, from converting them at the top of the funnel to a lead or customer, all the way through onboarding them, and guiding them to a successful user experience. By knowing what product features the user has not used yet and other specific engagement metrics, web businesses are able to then communicate effectively with those users in real-time and in-context to compel engagement. In this case, behavior-based web personalization is also helping with customer retention, increasing customer lifecycle value, helping discover and leverage highly engaged users, etc.

Overall, if companies are able to leverage both internal and external data to communicate more relevantly with prospects and customers, they are going to get more conversions and drive user engagement. The problem with personalization is that tools have not really been accessible, or powerful enough, to fullfill the promise/hype of web personalization.. at least not until more recently. Solutions are definitely out there now. People just need to realize it and start adding personalization to their marketing and product mix.

Rob Carpenter
Director of Marketing, Evergage

almost 5 years ago

Save or Cancel

Enjoying this article?

Get more just like this, delivered to your inbox.

Keep up to date with the latest analysis, inspiration and learning from the Econsultancy blog with our free Digital Pulse newsletter. You will receive a hand-picked digest of the latest and greatest articles, as well as snippets of new market data, best practice guides and trends research.