When you think of the Internet, don’t think of Mack trucks full of widgets destined for distributorships whizzing by countless billboards. Think of a table for two.
(The Cluetrain Manifesto, (2001): Levine, Locke, Searls & Weinberger.)
The advent of the Internet and development of ‘intelligent’ websites have changed the face of inbound marketing - forever. All that is required to reach target audiences, is an awareness of who the visitor is, the triggering of a few personalisation algorithms and then the magic happens! The website is now capable of creating a specific user experience whenever website visitors browse a specific page or click on a button or link.
The personalisation of the Internet is not a new phenomenon. This is evidenced by Google Ads or Facebook algorithms that display targeted ads based on websites visited, search activity and preferences. However, the time has now arrived for companies to take charge of their own interactions, and personalise their own websites, in order to ‘set the table’ for a more meaningful user engagement and experience.
So, what is Website Personalisation?
Personalisation: the automatic tailoring of sites and messages to the individuals viewing them so that we can feel that somewhere there's a piece of software that loves us for who we are. (David Weinberger)
As so eloquently described above, website personalisation is best defined as a means to adapt the content on a website specifically to an individual visitor or ‘Persona’. When a visitor firsts lands on the home page, it might offer basic information about the organisation, services and/or products. If they have been geo-located, directed from a specific source or campaign referrer, they may already be served an augmented view. Furthermore, once they click on a certain Call To Action (CTA), or download a specific brochure or white paper, or identify their profession/vocation etc then, “intelligent” personalisation or criteria will display the appropriate content, options and modules.
It is equally important not to confuse personalisation with customisation. Joseph Dickerson, advocate of User Experience (UX) in software and hardware design, author and UX professional at Microsoft, describes the difference as follows:” Personalisation is when the system you are using tailors itself to you and your behaviour. A good example of this is Amazon ‘noticing’ what you are buying and changing their front page to feature similar items. Customization on the other hand, is when the user explicitly changes things - font size, colours, layout, etc.”
Why is it important? The Added Value exemplar
If you want to take your first baby step towards entering the market conversation, torch any brochureware on your site. At best your networked market views it as a speed bump, at worst as an insult.
(The Cluetrain Manifesto, (2001): Levine, Locke, Searls & Weinberger.)
Organisations devote vast amounts of effort and capital, creating Personas and developing campaigns targeted at the countless audiences they hope will become customers or users. Often the efforts stop there.
But, to get ahead and actually make the campaigns work, it is of paramount importance to extend this persona-driven, personalised marketing to the company’s own website, and most importantly the homepage. The homepage is the proverbial shop window of the brand, usually the landing page and where visitors hope to establish who the company is and what they do and what’s in it for them – the reader.
Personalisation supports the ability to deliberately align sales and marketing strategies around a focused selection of criteria and then delivers targeted campaigns or content based on those criteria. The ultimate goal is to engage those accounts turning them into loyal and satisfied clients.
Personalisation can significantly improve quality, type and number of sales leads and transactions, ensuring that the visitor ends up at the correct sales channel and is sufficiently educated about what they are interested in procuring or utilising. It is all about adding value - this company understands me and knows what I like – serving up what I need, not clouding the issue with peripheral noise. In other words, targeted, intelligent, personalised interaction.
How is it best accomplished?
Once the ‘why’ is known, the next objective is to establish who the customer/persona is and what will elicit the desired response. Understanding the ‘who’ is key to the outcome. Some organisations will develop user/buyer personas that most accurately represent their most promising visitors and build different versions of their website that apply to each persona. A lot of effort, but well worth it in the long run, as human beings are multi-faceted, so it stands to reason that websites should be too.
Once the target audience is defined, the next step is to identify what pages and components are needed to be personalised.
Typically, users are graded against demographics (who they are, where they live, industry) and their behaviour (how they interact with the site). The key here is ‘detail’ – the target audience should be differentiated enough to allow for unique experiences.
Examples of great personalised websites include:
- Amazon.com – shows you products relevant to your searches and browsing
- Netflix.com – learns from your choices and presents similar shows and movies
- Google Play Music – recommends music based on your listening history
What challenges are posed by Website Personalisation?
Ideally, websites should be designed with personalisation as part of their DNA – from scratch. However, it is not always possible to do so, so be prepared to overcome certain hurdles to retrofit a personalisation aspect to an existing website.
Personalising a website is also not an absolute. In other words, whilst you can speculate what interests your audience and visitors have and want, based on their engagement and activity on your site, this is not necessarily a direct manifestation of their ultimate goals or interests. Think about the marketer or journalist who spends time searching online for information and who is then served content around these topics, that might not necessarily match their own personal interests.
To do it properly and effectively, it requires ongoing testing, analysis and insight and adaptation. Whether this is delivered by an internal person or a contracted third party, it will require a dedicated resource and additional budget for data analytics to optimise future personalisation campaigns.
Globally, there are now laws and regulations in place that protect people’s private and personal information – this ALWAYS needs to be taken into account.
The technology choice for personalisation is just as important as the design and UX.
KRS is a Progress Sitefinity partner, and recommends this Enterprise CMS with its integrated Digital Experience Cloud (DEC). These products provide the necessary tools to achieve your personalisation goals. In future blogs, we will discuss the mechanics of personalisation using the Sitefinity CMS and DEC.
It’s your personal choice though…