Personalization sounds great. You’ve got a platform that can provide what you’re looking for. You’ve got the content and functionality you can leverage to create a more unique experience. You’ve identified the audiences you want to target. But what next? How do you turn the theory and concepts into practical application?

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The key is to start small. Create a foundation, and then scale.

First, when you think about personalization, think about it in terms of levels of personalization you can enable to create an engaged and tailored experience for your customers.

To help do this, I’ve grouped the concepts of personalization into four categories. Each category has different levels that you can use to implement a personalized experience. Obviously, as you move forward in your personalization plan, combining all these efforts into a single cohesive plan would be the ultimate goal.

Related content

In its simplest form, related content can be created based on the person’s geographic location or on a pre-defined taxonomy. Similar to the experience reading a blog post, you might also be interested in another post within the same category as the one you’re currently viewing. Personalizing the related content on your site can function in a similar manner.

A more complex view into related content would be displaying information based on the activities or goals that a user has completed on the site. This could be showing featured case studies or white papers to someone that has already signed up for your newsletter (instead of continuing to prompt them to sign up for the newsletter) or displaying featured industry insights to customers because they’ve indicated they’re a member of a specific vertical or market.

Profiling

Profiling isn’t much different than how we talk about related content—you’re showing someone content, but in this scenario, you’re doing it based on assumptions. One of the great things about platforms like Sitecore is that you can look at a user’s interactions and activities on your site and then change the display based on what you think you know about them.

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So, if someone is looking at content associated with your solution for the healthcare industry, you could assume that they fit within your healthcare consumer profile and can start showing them more content related to your healthcare services. Even though you don’t know who the viewer is, and they haven’t explicitly identified themselves, you can still promote specific content based on their browsing behavior.

Taking this scenario a step further, you could drive your profiling based on your internal business intelligence data. Again, you’re making assumptions about your audience based on implicit data. However, in this instance you’re driving the featured content based on insights from existing or prospective customer data (i.e. customers that you are most like also like these pieces of content). You could also take the user’s engagement on the site and compare that with an algorithm or machine-learning services that surfaces a comparative score of that user’s expected interactions and drives recommended calls to action based on the comparative client data.

Marketing journeys

Marketing automation and/or customer journeys have different meanings depending on the context of the situation. In content management terms, it’s a tool that allows marketers to create journeys or a series of personalization actions.

One of the key components to leveraging marketing automation, and not simply displaying different content is to determine the sequence of activities you want someone to take. There should be a filter for users entering the journey, or the starting point, and there should be an ending point or conversion, which ends the journey.

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A simplified marketing automation journey could be focused around an event your company may be attending or hosting. Users who have signed up to attend the event will see your detailed event content leading up to, during, and following the event. While users who haven’t signed up to attend may see a more generic content block about the upcoming event without all the details.

A more complex journey could include automating the following activities for a customer that requests information on a service offering:

  1. User signs up for the newsletter, triggering a goal.
  2. User is entered into a nurture campaign and is sent a series of emails that align to content featured on the website that falls in line with the interests assumed about the user.
  3. As the user engages with the emails and website content, the nurture campaign adapts to help lead the user through the path to conversion (e.g. scheduling a meeting or purchasing a service).

A/B testing

Testing should be a part of all your personalization efforts. While this can seem daunting, it shouldn’t slow you down or even be a hindrance. A small test could look at how two versions of your homepage hero image perform against each other. It could also look at how two variations of a call to action or how different page layouts perform.

Taking the concept further, you can also test the performance of all of your personalization efforts. When you enable your marketing automation campaign, you can test its performance or variations of that campaign’s performance. Same goes for related content or your efforts in profiling. Each element of your marketing plan can be tested to ensure that it’s having a positive impact on your business and then refined to ensure you’re getting a return on your efforts.

Putting it all together

Looking at each of the categories above, there are many options and opportunities to provide a unique experience for your customers. By starting small, you’ll be able to put a number of small changes in place that can have a positive impact on your overall marketing effectiveness.

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Another level or layer in all of this is to accept that your efforts in creating related content and A/B testing can be varied in maturity—and that’s ok. Each of these tactics can be implemented with varying degrees of complexity and maturity. Do what you need to address your business needs and those of your online audiences.

The ultimate goal would be to combine all of these tactics at a high level and continue to refine them, creating a true marketing plan that delivers engaging experiences and increases conversions. To achieve this, you need to start small, refine, update, and iterate your way to an engaging customer experience.

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