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Web personalisation is about delivering targeted content and adaptive web experiences based on what you know about each visitor. For ambitious web marketers looking for the next leap in returns, this is a massive opportunity.

Of course, it’s not without risks. Get it wrong, and you’ll confuse visitors, waste resources and depress conversions. But get it right and you’ll surprise and delight your web visitors while driving your website to new levels of effectiveness.

Personalisation can be taken from any or all of the following sources of insight:

Users' profiles and preferences:  everything they’ve told you about themselves (if you already know them).

Customers' history with you:  what they’ve done on your site, in your community, in response to your emails, etc.

How they found you:  the search terms or PPC ads that delivered them, or a tagged URL that they clicked on.

Their immediate behaviours: what they’re doing in the current session (clickstreams, site searches, etc).

The context: including time of day, day of the week, geography and your own strategic agenda (targeted offers, surveys…).

The dynamic environment: real-time factors like the weather and commodity pricing. When the rain falls, you can show ads for umbrellas or raincoats, and when the snow lands, skis and goggles.   

Your own personalisation efforts can use as much or as little of this kind of insight as you need to drive the content you choose to present in each session.

The point is not to make every session perfectly targeted from day one, just to improve the relevance of each session so the visit is more compelling. As the project proves itself, you can grow your ambition and sophistication.   

I have previously blogged on this topic, but have since then expanded on thetopic and have established five principles to consider if you want to get started and succeed with personalisation.

Start with clear goals and objectives

The best goals are quantifiable, so write them down! Things like demonstrating a clear return on investment (ROI) of 50% within six months, increasing monthly new lead supply by 30% for nurturing campaigns, boost quarterly campaign quality index (conversions / visits) by 40% and the classic measure of personalisation impact in Customer Satisfaction Index.Do people feel the “personal” touch is providing a better service?

Assemble the right team!

The web editors will have day-to-day control of the content and should also contribute to the personalisation strategy and execution, your development team will have to know what’s going on at every stage.

Consider community owners or your social media team: if you run a forum or social feature, the people who run the community are valuable assets.

Product management will have a view on how to personalise the product pages. Sales may want to personalise the key stages of the web funnel and customer may want to personalise the experience for VIP customers. Involvement from the right people is a key factor in your success.

Simplicity  

Early web personalisation efforts stalled because they forced people to use a disconnected series of software platforms, including analytics, CRM, data warehousing, digital asset management, web recommendations engines and content management systems. Use as few software systems as you can.

Make the workflow simple and move rapidly!

Here’s what your workflow needs to do:

  • Think about your segments.
  • Identify opportunities to personalise.
  • Create a rule.
  • Test it.
  • Go live.
  • Analyse the results.
  • Tweak.
  • Repeat.

Personalisation workflow

All this needs to take place in days instead of weeks, so you need to get your people, processes and technology in sync.

Start small

Personalisation projects often die because they try to do too much too soon. Pick one or two of your low-hanging fruit and make them work before moving on to trickier stuff.

  • Returning customers should always be treated like returning customers. Even the smallest acknowledgement that you know who they are goes a long way.
  • Geography can be a simple start to targeting. One hotel chain improved bookings by serving up different offers to visitors from different countries.
  • For B2B marketers, starting with vertical industry targeting is a no-brainer. If you don’t yet know the visitor’s market, you can use an IP-lookup plug-in to find out, in real time.

The guiding principles are speed and iteration. If you consider these five steps, then you have a plan that you can execute against. In coming posts, I will look further into the some principles to consider in the actual execution phase. 

Maria Wasing

Published 18 January, 2011 by Maria Wasing

Maria Wasing is VP of Marketing Europe at EPiServer and a contributor to Econsultancy. 

24 more posts from this author

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Essex SEO

This is certainly something we are starting to implement.

I personally like visiting a website and feeling as if they remember me, feels like another level of trust in their services or products.

over 5 years ago

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Brennan

Great article and good, concise advice on how to get started. Starting small is very helpful to work out the kinks and fail in isolated fashion--and you will fail. Accept that now and mitigate it up front. Process and People are integral to the success of any personalization effort, big or small. Having the right people and process in place to help manage the scalability of the technology will help assure success as your personalization efforts grow. I look forward to future posts! Brennan MarketofOne.blogspot.com

over 5 years ago

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Mark Copeman

Hi Maria - you're so right to bring up the subject of personalisation - it's everything these days. Bulk/mass/impersonal just doesn't cut it anymore in the B2B world in my opinion. We've been getting personal for a while now - helping companies to generate personalised approaches to targets and turn them into prospects. Getting cut through in the inbox is hard - but using personalised URLs and even personalised video can be really effective. We practice what we preach and help clients to use the techniques we've learnt for a while now. You can see this in action at www.targetstoprospects.com (It does what it says on the tin ;-))

over 5 years ago

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Dennis

Love this article. It gives a clear overview. Most important is indeed have a defined goal. What I miss a bit is... action part. You drag reader to wow moment and then leave it at that... Whats next? Maybe follow-up article?

over 5 years ago

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Maria Wasing

Thanks for your comments. @essex SEO - glad to hear you are implementing personalization. Would be very interested in hearing more about your results, as well as the road to get there Food for thought - when you visit a site with great personalization, and you are a first time visitor and they only have for example geographical info, you should not even notice that it is personalized.

@brennan - thanks, much appreciated. Agree with you, people and processes are key to success!

@Mark Copeman will check it out for further inspiration on the topic

@Dennis did not intend to do a cliff hanger:-) But I understand what you mean. Had planned to write a follow up post on the execution phase or action part and based on your comment, it seems like would be of interest. Will get started on that as soon as possible

over 5 years ago

Nick Allen

Nick Allen, Online Marketing Manager | Harcourts International Ltd at Harcourts international Ltd

This is a 2011 must for B2Bs.

We're accustomed to it in Amazon, and its infiltrating our industry publications.

  • Finding the balance of how much customisation vs. getting your client to things you still think "they might like" is one key point.
  • The other being getting the data right. I'd hate to be forced into the wrong vertical.

I'd shy away from implementing extreme customisation, in case the target is looking to switch verticals or location, I'd be looking for a prominent "toggle off" switch.

over 5 years ago

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Patrick Steenks

Very nice article indeed. Next week I will be starting a personalisation project for a customer and this post will definitely help me structure the meeting.

over 5 years ago

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Maria Wasing

@nick allen - great point about finding the right balance, it is exteremly important

@patrick steenks thanks for the feedback. Glad you found it useful!

over 5 years ago

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Paul Davis

Incredibly useful. Thanks! Now please pray I can successfully do it. Until then I still give 20% for all paid speaking engagements, consulting, and life coaching worldwide I obtain through your referral. http://www.PaulFDavis.com

about 5 years ago

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