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Content Personalization: What It Is & How To Do It Well

This is a guest post by David Rosenfeld. David is an analyst at Infinite Conversions, a conversion rate optimization agency focusing on real-world financial metrics impacting websites. He has experience as a lawyer and in funds management. He can be contacted at or you can give his site a visit at

When you log on to, do you get the feeling that you’re a special customer?  You’d be forgiven for thinking so – after all, they’re constantly hitting customers with stuff that they think you’ll like, or new releases from bands or authors whose work you’ve bought before from their site. Why does Amazon bother? If you nip into a large bricks-and-mortar store, there’s never anyone at the door to greet you and say “Hey Jim! Have you heard the new Daft Punk album? You really love these guys, right??”

Amazon personalizes because it makes money. And others are starting to take note. A survey by Adobe and Econsultancy discovered that 52 percent of the digital marketers they interviewed though that personalization was a pretty hot thing to consider when working out their marketing strategies.

If you’re looking to up your conversion rate, then content personalization and behavioral targeting are two topics that you’re going to need to cover. The more individual love and attention you give a customer, the more likely it becomes that they’ll come through your digital doors time and time again.

What is Content Personalization?

Each visitor to your site has different intentions. Some are looking to buy immediately, some are doing product research, others may be looking for job openings or contact information.  If you treat everyone the same, they’re going to feel that you don’t really care that much.

While this may seem obvious, the vast majority of sites on the web still take the “one ring to rule them all” approach. They try to appeal to as many visitors as possible, and end up targeting no one in particular.  This vanilla approach doesn’t cater to people who prefer chocolate, pistachio, and definitely not to people who prefer double coffee cream with butterfly sprinkles and raspberry sauce.

Content Personalization Is Worth The Effort

1. Personalization Increases Conversions

If you own a retail website, the chances are you own it to make money. You make money through conversions. So, to make more money, you need more conversions. Personalization will help you do just that. After a joint venture switch-over in 2011 which saw them adopt personalization, Co-operative travel saw a massive 95 percent increase in visitor traffic, and an eye-popping 217 percent increase in revenue.

2. Personalization Improves Customer Retention

Once you’ve snagged a customer, you’re going to want to keep them coming back for more. Research by Econsultancy shows that tailoring a customer’s online experience based on their previous purchases and other aspects was an important factor in securing their loyalty. This is another no-brainer – customer retention is built on relationship, familiarity and user experience, and this has been the case in retail since well before the internet, as the longtime existence of loyalty programs and membership schemes will attest.

3. Personalization Increases Your Marketing’s Effectiveness

The internet is not like your local Main street.  Unless you’re the world’s only retailer of hamburger-scented candles carved in the shape of Justin Bieber, you’re likely to be in competition with an awful lot of retailers who do just what you do.  Consumers have never had so much choice, so it’s up to you to do everything you can to make yourself heard above the noise.

Most marketers are aware of the benefits of personalization as it makes for a better user experience, and that good marketing can be made even better with the addition of a few personal touches.

What Can I Personalize?

The first thing you’ll need to do is collect data about your visitor. Don’t make them fill in online surveys detailing every last aspect of their life down to whether they were breast-fed or not ? they’ll just run away casting odd looks over their shoulder as they do so. You can gather enough info just from how they behave on your site, and the information that is automatically generated when they visit.

9 things to consider personalizing are:

1. Location – where are they coming from? If your product or service is attracting a lot of interest from Poland, for example, perhaps you should adopt a Poland language site, or gear messages toward that segment by way of specified promotions based on Polish culture.

2. Browser – which browser are they using? The days of Internet Explorer monopoly are long gone. Make sure your site displays properly in all the popular browsers: Firefox, Chrome, IE, Opera, Safari etc.  You’re simply losing money if your site looks wonky for a certain segment of your visitors.  It looks unprofessional and untrustworthy. Personalizing your site to meet the needs of browsers is more important than ever, as web shoppers become savvier and more critical.

3. Device – how are people viewing your site? Desktop PC, laptop, tablet, mobile? A huge and growing number of people now make purchases via their mobile or tablet, so it really pays to have special, mobile-optimized versions of your site. Plus device can seriously affect the speed at which your site loads.  This is a crucial factor in conversions: figures show that 47 percent of people expect a site to load in two seconds or less. Your site may be lightning fast on a desktop PC, but sluggish on a smartphone.

4. Operating System – which OS are they using? Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android? Every system has its own oddities (for example Linux and Adobe Flash are not the most cuddly bedfellows), so it’s worthwhile taking that into consideration.

5. Keyword Search – what did they type into Google for them to end up at your site? If you are getting a lot of visitors who are hunting for the latest Dan Brown novel, it may be worth pushing an offer catering to those visitors, leading them onto similar purchases.

6. When Do They Come? – If you get a visitor who pops along around the same time each month, maybe that’s because they’ve just gotten their paycheck and are feeling flush. If you can get them to opt into your emails, then a gentle, personalized nudge landing in their inbox a couple of days before “pay day” may be worth pursuing.

7. Where Do They Come From? – What is the referring URL? Perhaps you are receiving a lot of visitors from a blog post your site was mentioned in. In these cases you could tailor your site in tandem with the theme of that blog for such visitors.

8. Where Do They Go? – Which pages on your site do they visit? If you sell hundreds of products but certain visitors spend all their time viewing porcelain vases, the next time they visit they could be greeted with a banner telling them all about special deals on vases.

9. What Do They Buy? – This is perhaps the biggest opportunity. You can tell so much about your customers by what purchases they make. They next time they pop along you can offer them similar purchases, or even offer them tailored discounts to really make an effort to retain their custom.

These nine ideas are just a start. There’s almost no limit to the amount of personalization you can aim for when attempting to increase your conversions, and the more info you have, the more tailored the user-experience can become. To increase the amount of data you have to work with, you could run programs like contests or special sale in which entrants are required to fill in their gender, age-range and income bracket on the entry form. Knowledge definitely equates to conversion power.

How do I personalize?

Your first choice in pursuing content personalization is whether you?ll do it manually or with the help of a service.

For manual implementation, you’ll need to use Google Analytics or another site analytics provider to collect data.  (If you’re pursuing more aggressive forms of personalization, you?ll want something more robust than GA).  Then you’ll want to comb through the data with the goal of defining audience segments. Once you identify some important segments, you can develop personalized content or features that cater to them.  Then you can work with your IT team to get that content on the screens of the right people.

If manual personalization is daunting at this point, then there are plenty of service providers who will be happy to take your personalization needs on board – for a fee, of course. The advantage of paying someone to complete a user-experience makeover of your site is that they will know precisely what needs to be done, and will have a foundation of knowledge of what types of segmentation works best on what kinds of sites.  That saves iterations and gets your site converting better, faster. Not to mention that, of course, it saves you the headache and the time.

Finally, for certain aspects of personalization – the parts related to browser and device compatibility – you can look to solutions like Yottaa that focus on ensuring your website content is optimized per user.  These services are ongoing, and personalization is performed on-the-fly, so you’ll know your site is always the best it can be.

To kick start your conversion rate optimization process, have a look at some resources here

30 Profit Increasing Things Your Ecommerce Product Page Must Have

The 90 Point Ultimate Split Testing Guide

32 Conversion Rate Optimization Usability Tools: An Evaluation

beyond cdn whitepaper

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