Today’s savvy web visitors are
increasingly looking for that ‘little something special’ and are flocking to websites
that treat them in unique and targeted ways.

To keep your content fresh,
engaging and relevant to ensure a visitor returns time and time again, investment
in an effective personalisation strategy is key. 

I previously blogged about the five principles to consider for online personalisation, which covered the basics of
what you need to know before you get started.

This post moves on to discuss the
practical steps you should take before getting stuck into the execution phase.

Develop personalisation personas

Personas are detailed descriptions
of a typical kind of website visitor. Most web developers use them when designing
websites to improve navigation and usability. But personas are also very useful
when planning personalisation, as they will force you to really define your typical
audience groups.

Think about different visitors
that are likely to visit your site, for example, existing customers, prospects,
partners, job-seekers or even the press, and consider what each visitor group will
be looking for on your website.

A good first
step to ensure that you have the right knowledge about each group is to work
with persona maps and then begin building some personalisation rules. Persona
maps are a way of identifying a particular type of person and the individual
needs they will have. Once you understand who you’re speaking to it’s much easier
to start crafting a much more targeted and effective site.

The form
below is an example of a simple persona map that can be used to identify a
specific user group:

Use what you know

Once you know your different
audience groups, you need to work out how you can identify them when they visit
your website. To do this, you need to use any insight or piece of data you can
associate with a visitor.

This may seem challenging at
first, but you probably know more than you think. The challenge is to use the right
piece of data that will drive your content targeting decisions. For example:

  • From their profile on your site you may know their gender, age,
  • From previous interactions you know what pages they’ve
    viewed, what emails they’ve opened and what links they’ve clicked.
  • From community activities like comments on blogs, which may
    give insight into their interests, level of engagement and sentiment.
  • From their behaviour and
    clickstream you can
    build a good idea of their intent, for example which products they have browsed.
  • Their IP address can determine their location,
    or, in B2B, their company or industry (A note of caution: give your visitor the
    opportunity to change the personalisation decisions you have made about them. For
    example, they may be in London, but could be
    interested in finding your stores in other parts of the UK).

The next question to ask is: if I
had data or insights on any of the above for specific personas, what content
would I want this visitor to see? Or, more importantly, what content would they want to see? If you can answer
these questions, a personalisation rule is born.

Clearly this is an organic process
that needs to be tested. You might find that certain personalisation rules are
more effective than others at driving conversions
. It’s therefore important to
test visitor behaviour on an ongoing basis.

Map content to the purchase

Remember, your visitors will need
different things at different stages of their buying cycle, for example:

  • A
    ‘Who We Are’ video may be perfect to engage early stage visitors.
  • Case
    studies will help convince visitors to move along the purchase funnel.
  • A
    detailed whitepaper will be of interest for those about to make a decision.

Establishing where a visitor is in
their relationship with your company is a useful way to personalise the
information you give to them.

So, how do you know what stage
they’re at? 

  • You
    can ask them in forms.
  • Track
    their forum activity.
  • See
    which web pages they’re visiting.
  • Observe
    how regularly they visit.
  • Establish
    whether they’ve responded to recent offers.
  • Integrate
    the insights with your CRM system.

    Measure success

    It is only through measurement that
    you will be able to determine the success of your personalisation strategy. To
    do this effectively, you need to:

    1. Determine
      tangible business value metrics, like sales and ROI.
    2. Identify
      and record real-time or long-term shifts in customer behaviour.
    3. Build
      teams capable of monitoring the results constantly and responding rapidly to
      emerging information or customer insights.

    Personalisation programmes can
    fizzle out quickly if your web analytics team can’t evaluate the results. So keep
    your personalisation approach simple, quantifiable and measurable.

    And remember, an effective personalisation
    strategy is always evolving, so continuously benchmark and improve your
    personalisation rules to increase ROI. In contrast, while you’re busily working
    behind the scenes, your efforts should be barely noticeable to your visitors
    except in their delight in getting the information they want in the way they
    want it.