The essential idea of website personalisation is this: brands not treating customers all the same way. Recognising that different customers have different needs and seeking to fulfil them is key. IRL (that’s ‘in real life’ for those of us down with the kids), brands don’t treat each customer they serve in the same way. So why would they adopt this approach online? Whether a website belongs to a supermarket or hair salon, website personalisation techniques are being exploited to ensure customers receive the tailored service they naturally expect offline.
The idea of website personalisation can sound a bit obvious. Of course you should tailor the content of your website to your users. But, like anything successful, strategic thinking is key and there are a few different options to consider before you take the plunge.
If we have 4.5 million customers, we shouldn’t have one store. We should have 4.5 million stores.
Exploring your options
Accounting for personalisation
Amazon is a great example of successful website personalisation. Their success is built on a closely guarded algorithm and a great deal of technical investment and expense. Just think about your own amazon browsing and purchasing history (let’s be honest now, we all have one). You might not have noticed them, but they’ve got touch points that serve their personalisation crusade. Like if you’re looking at cat food, Amazon will show you related pet products that other cat-owning users have purchased. Or if you linger on a product page before navigating away without converting, you’ll receive an email about the product you looked at. It’ll be addressed to you and persuasive about following up on the item and clicking that classic yellow button.
Amazon is fundamentally smart in the way they use user data to predict behaviour and drive sales, but they have a much larger pool of user data to analyse than most brands have access to.
Ecommerce powerhouse ASOS also employ account-based personalisation on their website and app. Users can save their favourite items to purchase later and this information is used to suggest products they might like. Unlike Amazon, where the suggestions are largely based on loose categories of products, Asos is gives a more carefully curated offering. Saving lots of leopard print clothing will result in users seeing suggestions for more animal-print clothing, tempting them to add more to their items to their basket. The Asos app can also send out sales and discount notifications which undoubtedly drive action. However, creating an app is a huge undertaking, so make sure it’s the best option for your brand before you go all in.
The downsides to this kind of personalisation is that the onus is on the user to create an account and provide the data required to tailor their experience. Something many of us are unlikely to do when there are so many requests for our data online. And, as any Amazon user will attest, the same kind of product will continue to be suggested to you for weeks, regardless of how much food you’ve purchased for your fictional cat.
Instead of one-way interruption, personalized marketing is about delivering value at just the right moment that a user needs it.
Hybrid on and offline approach
Time is one of the most valuable commodities in the modern world. Brands using personalisation are finding ways to combine on and offline aspects to give time back to their busy consumers.
Bombfell and Lookiero do this by offering personalised fashion choices straight from the stylist to your wardrobe. Talk about offering a personalised service. Using a lifestyle quiz, you are offered a selection of clothes you can approve before shipping. Try and buy or send back what you don’t want, and you’ve been saved a trip to town and rooting through jumble-sale style shops on a Saturday morning. A physical product and the gift of time is ever more appealing to users.
Where did you say you were from?
For brands catering to an international audience, using geographical personalisation can make your users feel recognised from the very beginning. If content is personalised by region, you can offer translation of website content or convert prices to a different currency. However, it’s important to recognise that regional profiling has some pitfalls. A user accessing your website in Germany may be a traveller rather than a native, so your website should not automatically translate to German, just in case the user kann kein deutsch. Geographical personalisation is relatively easy to implement, although translation can be time consuming and misidentifying users can result in the exact opposite of helpful personalisation.
For brands catering to the B2B market, there’s a different way to find out where your users are coming from. Identifying users by their IP address can show you which company they’re working for and allow you to target content directly to their needs, but this can be a time-consuming task if different personalisation is needed for several companies. Looking at users’ IP addresses also allows you to see if your competitors are checking up on you! However, it’s not a foolproof system. Many people work from home and can’t be identified by a company-wide IP address. This kind of personalisation is rare, so despite the potential implementation difficulties, it could be a good way for brands to set themselves apart from their competitors.
Kicking it (kind of) old school
No brand is a stranger to email campaigns. They’re an essential way of keeping your audience engaged and giving them updates about company developments and promotions. Although you’re reaching out to your audience directly, email campaigns can be broad spectrum. Personalisation allows you to tailor the content you link your audience to and provide personalised landing pages and calls to action.
A step on from this is automation and email journeys according to actions your user has taken on previous mailshots. This might be old school but there’s a reason it hasn’t fallen out of favour yet. An added bonus is that no technical development is needed for this kind of website personalisation. A quick win is a good win.
It’s getting personal
The main thing to understand is that personalisation isn’t going away. Just like in a luxury brick-and-mortar store a customer would expect a personal, professional and…excellent experience (we ran out of words beginning with ‘p’), digital customers are coming to expect the same. Like many things with digital, that means if you’re not at least considering it, you’re behind. Whatever band wagon you haven’t jumped on your competitor is already aboard and waving to you. This kind of personalisation is something that brands need to consider from the initial stages of a web build. What does your current website already offer? Is it effective? What is your data telling you could work? And how do you want to develop in the future?
Getting it right
There are a lot of decisions to be made when tackling website personalisation. Some options will be more suitable for your brand and others less so. However interesting the various options look, the main considerations must weigh the investment and time personalisation will take, against the improved customer service you’re able to provide.