Getting customers to your website is hard enough these days with constant search algorithm changes. But once you get them there, you’ve got another challenge entirely. Your task now is to keep them on your site, convert them to customers, and do all you can to ensure they return.
Savvy online business owners are turning more and more towards a technique called personalization to increase conversions. According to a recent study by Adobe and Econsultancy, 52% of online marketers agree that the ability to personalize content is fundamental to their online or blogging strategy.
We sat down with conversion optimization expert Keith Hagan, Co-Founder and Vice President of Conversion at Denver-based ConversionIQ, to uncover what you need to know about the latest in personalization strategies.
Let’s have an in-depth look at what exactly personalization is, ways to personalize, and how personalization might be able to help your business better serve your customers and your bottom line.
What is Personalization?
“Personalization is presenting content on your website in a way that’s tailored specifically to the site visitor,” says Hagan. “It’s been done offline for years by savvy salespeople, but now a website needs to be that same good salesperson. A good website needs to see the customer when they walk through the door and best determine how to service them.”
Hagan advises that businesses start to view their audience in terms of segments instead of one giant customer base. This way, businesses can begin to create personalization strategies that will best serve each of their audience segments, as no two behave exactly alike or have the exact same needs or buying cycle.
How Does Personalization Solve Online Business Challenges?
“The biggest issue facing online businesses these days is customer confidence,” says Hagan. “From data breaches to shipping, consumers have a lot to be worried about. Personalization can instantly boost customer confidence by letting customers know they’re in the right place with a business interested in their needs.”
Personalization also goes miles towards helping businesses address the differences between their audiences. Each business, shares Hagan, has three basic types of customers:
- The first-time buyer: generally spontaneous in their buying practices, no loyalty to the brand, short buying cycle
- The regular: a seasoned online shopper with a low level of loyalty but some brand familiarity, longer buying cycle than the first-time buyer
- The addict: hungry for information, a longer buying-cycle customer, they exhibit a high level of brand loyalty due to rewards systems, membership in a co-op (see REI, Dubli), or trust in a brand’s experts (like Backcountry.com)
Once a company identifies and recognizes the differences between their customer segments, personalization can be used to offer buying incentives at the most critical points of a specific audience’s buying cycle.
“There are a lot of ways to give up margin,” says Hagan. “If you’re going to do it, it has to be targeted and it has to work. You don’t want to offer discounts to people who are already going to buy — it’s wasted margin. Once you figure out who responds to what and when, you can strategically target to increase sales and margin.”
So, how can your business leverage personalization once you know your audience and how they behave? Let’s dive into the most popular types of personalization and see many of those in action.
When you visit the website for nearly any retailer with both a brick and mortar location and an e-commerce component, odds are you’ll see at least some basic personalization. Home Depot and Lowes both use this by helping you choose your local store.
Farm and Fleet even guides buyers to their local store and advises of stock levels in said store, letting the customer know whether to order online and save the trip or run and pick it up:
(notice the “sold out in Montgomery, IL” memo below the shipping info)
Even further, Canadian Tire allows users to personalize by location and language preference (English or French).
Do you ever click through to a website following a search and get frustrated by having to dig around to find what you were searching for? Websites using keyword personalization take this frustration away. If you head over to Google, do a Web search for anti-virus software, and happen to click on the search result for Avast, here’s what happens:
Not only does it plug in the keyword I searched, but it also knows that I was searching on a Mac. This boosts trust levels and lets me know that if I’m looking for Mac anti-virus software, I’m in the right place.
3. Customer History
First-time visitors to a site present a unique acquisition opportunity. As Hagan mentioned above, you don’t want to give up margin when customers are already familiar with your brand and ready to buy.
Rather, by offering a purchase incentive at the critical point of this spontaneous buyer’s cycle, a brand can increase the opportunity to convert them into customers for the long term. Wayfair does just this when you arrive on their home page for the first time:
Under Armour also offer first time site visitors a free shipping incentive, and all thanks to cookies:
4. Referral Source
Are you ever startled that a website seems to know how you got there? Referral sources can increase trust levels as well as providing a better customer service experience. Let’s explain.
When you go to Wayfair and directly search for a lawn chair, you might find one like this:
Here, Wayfair assumes that the customer is more loyal as they’ve come to the site directly. They’re less concerned about that customer bouncing, hence, a minimal on-screen experience showing the chair.
However, here’s what you’d see if you searched for lawn chairs on Google Shopping and came into Wayfair from that portal:
Not only has the product been labeled with “hot deal,” but the bottom of the screen is filled with more similar products. The company is saying hey, that’s not the only lawn chair we have. Please stay and keep shopping.
Other large ecommerce companies with thousands of category pages, like Top Ten Reviews, are in the process of implementing referral sources to give a better, optimized experience for the user.
Tips for Implementing a Successful Personalization Strategy
If you’re fired up about some of the basic opportunities for personalization, fantastic. Here are Hagan’s recommendations for creating a successful conversion optimization strategy through personalization:
- Have a stable site: When you begin personalization, website redesign must come to an end.
- Conduct research and analysis: Learn about your audience and their buying cycles.
- Test, test, test: Successful personalization isn’t a once-and-done effort. It’s achieved through testing and slight modifications along the way.
- Don’t hire marketers for personalization: You need analysts. Data geeks. The data about your audience and their behavior dictates what personalization steps will be most beneficial.
And for additional reading on the subject of personalization, including more personalization techniques and data, here are a few recommended reads for the savvy business owner:
What other personalization tips do you have? Did I miss some?
Read other Crazy Egg posts by Jeremy Page.