Eight Steps for Building an Effective Website Personalization Strategy

April 28, 2020
Hannah Svendor

For website personalization to be effective, you must have the right plan in place. Learn what factors into creating a solid strategy for delivering relevant content and one-on-one experiences to site visitors.

UX & Design

Website personalization. Everyone wants it, but few know where to start or understand the effort it will entail.

In today’s consumer-driven digital world, a one-size-fits-all marketing strategy rarely works. Brands must now deliver relevant content and elevated experiences to win over consumers’ hearts, which is commonly achieved with personalization. Personalization is the process of offering an exclusive, one-on-one experience for each of your site visitors based on previous behavior and engagement.

Marketers can use website personalization:

  • To build brand loyalty
  • To understand visitor needs
  • To nurture and convert visitors
  • To up-sell and cross-sell products

To be effective, it requires having a goal or outcome in mind, an understanding of your audience, the right content and application, and the right implementation and adoption plan.

Step 1: Identify goals and measurables for personalization

What goals do you have for personalization?

Personalization in itself is not a strong enough goal. Start by reviewing what your specific and measurable company or sales and marketing goals are for this year and even this quarter. Some objectives for personalization may already be obvious and top-of-mind for you.

Do you want to increase conversions? Improve engagement? Increase average order size? Increase retention or loyalty?

For example, may you want to increase email sign-ups by 5% or increase repeat buyers by 20%. When you’re clear about your measurable goals, you’ll be able to be more intentional about how you use personalization to get there.

Step 2: Research and define your target audience

Who do you plan to personalize content for?

Successful personalization only works if it’s executed against the right audience. Now is the time to review or research who your target audiences are.

What are their goals? What challenges do they have that your product or service can solve for? What motivates them? How do they like to be reached? Where do they go for information?

If you’re unsure where to start, talk to sales representatives and stakeholders that regularly engage with customers. Look at your CRM, feedback forms, web analytics, and if you have the opportunity, talk to customers yourself. Identify trends in common audience “types” and translate them into personas.

Step 3: Outline the customer journey and understand their intent

What points in the customer journey make sense to enhance with personalization?

Start by mapping out the customer journey of your website through the eyes of your consumer. Your personas goals and challenges become a great lens for understanding how consumers experience and engage with your brand.

Is it to learn more about a product? Place an order online? Manage an order for a client? Request a demo of your product or solution?

By identifying the intent of their visit, you can anticipate and deliver the exact piece of content or experience they expect. Remember, journey maps are only as effective as they are specific. Focus on each stage of the customer experience and identify any touchpoints where personalization can enhance it. And remember, just because an experience can be personalized doesn’t mean it should. Understanding your most important visitors eases outlining and planning your messaging strategies.

Step 4: Create relevant campaign and messaging strategies

Why are you creating content? What do you want to say to your audience?

Understand how your content is relevant and helpful to each audience throughout their customer journey. The way you treat that content will likely be different for each audience (as it should be). Refer back to your customer journey and document existing content where it is most helpful along the map. This will also help you identify any gaps in messages that you should create content for.

Another place for inspiration is to look at what visitors are searching on your site. Google Analytics and Hotjar give organizations greater insight into their user engagement, including what content they engage with and how they engage with it. Content diagnostic tools can also help you identify content that your audience is most interested in.

Remember, quality over quantity! You can have all the content in the world, but if it’s not relevant and valuable to your audience, it won’t do any good. Because personalization is really just an optimization hypothesis, create different variations of messages based on the assumptions you have about your audiences. Don’t feel like you have to personalize something for all of your audiences at the same time, start and experiment with your strongest audience segment first.

Step 5: Identify where personalization will be on your site

What are you going to personalize? How are you going to personalize it?

Use customer journey maps to get granular about the different touchpoints or interactions that could be enhanced with personalization. Think of pages or sections where you can target and promote personalization to connect with different types of visitors.

Several great places to start are:

  • The homepage
  • Category and product detail pages
  • Checkout and conversion-based landing pages

Consider what you will show or change for each audience in those different spots. Depending on the tools you have, this can be done using rules or algorithms. Rule-based is manual – you decide which experience or piece of content is delivered to a segmented group. With machine-learning – tool algorithms sift through data available to pick the best possible option for each individual visitor.

While it can be tempting to personalize a lot of things, one of the biggest mistakes’ organizations make is overdoing it. A little goes a long way, especially when it’s intentional. Plus, personalization needs content to work, and you have to create it all. You don’t need to have the entire strategy figured out right away, either. Start small and test iteratively.

Step 6: Select tools and methods for implementing personalization

What existing tools do you have to facilitate personalization? What functionality or skills do you still need?

Choosing the right personalization-enabling tools to support your digital strategy is key to its ultimate success. Consider what functionality you need to meet your marketing goals and if you have the team or skillset to manage it. It’s not necessarily about having the most powerful tools but, instead, having the most targeted and efficient tools. It’s also not necessary for an organization to build the entire martech stack before it executes any activities.

Set a vision and identify the key use cases that technology must support and can be built on incrementally to reach towards all of its personalization goals. For example, if you want to increase customer conversions by nurturing leads across multiple channels and touchpoints, look for a platform that facilitates multichannel interactions. These use cases can also drive business priorities when it comes to an implementation plan.

Step 7: Get organizational alignment for adoption of personalization

How will the personalization strategy be shared with the rest of the organization? How will it be governed?

Personalization is a strategic process, so you must look at its ecosystem from its entirety – from data management to analytics, to customer engagement and all the way through to measurement and optimization. Having an understanding of how the different parts interact and how to integrate them to support personalization is what differentiates highly successful marketing organizations from poorly performing ones.

Focus on developing the resources, skills, and processes needed for teams to derive value from personalization technology. Buying a best-of-breed platform does not equate to success if you don’t know how to properly use it. Dedicate “digital excellence” roles to drive tool adoption and promote best practices within teams to ensure the benefits of personalization-focused technology can be full realized.

Step 8: Measure and optimize personalization campaigns

How will you measure your personalization efforts? What indicates success?

Finally, you’ll want to measure the impact of each campaign. Like A/B testing, set up a control and a test experience so that you can identify if a personalization campaign works towards the goals or objectives you identified in the beginning. When you have found something that works, continue to optimize it.

Another way to measure improvements from personalization is using conversion funnels – either using your marketing automation platform or Google Analytics. Identify and set up website traffic patterns that lead to your desired goals. First analyze a conversion funnel over a set period time, say a week or month, with no personalization. Then, monitor that same funnel for the same amount of time, but with personalization enabled.

Be patient. Results don’t just happen overnight. It takes consistent reviewing and analyzing of web and visual analytics to capture enough conversions to generate meaningful results.

Over to you

Remember: personalization is a strategic process, not a project. It’s about creating value for your audience through relevancy. To reap the lasting value from personalization, it requires regular review, measuring, reporting, and improving. Small, iterative changes help you to see what works for your visitors, for your products or services, and on your website. To ensure you understand what truly works, don’t make too many changes at one time.

Keep focus on what value and benefits you can provide to customers and identify what information you need to provide a better experience. If you’re interested in learning more on the opportunities personalization has for you, let’s start a conversation.