We’re All Special Snowflakes Here
As often as people (and not the nice kind) like to tell us that we’re not special or unique, there’s one place where you definitely are – and that’s the internet (insert rainbows and glittery effects here).
And while you may not find many people to pander to your every need in your favourite Reddit forum, there are plenty of other sites that will. These sites are using web personalization to tailor online experiences to visitors based on their unique preferences, as opposed to having a uniform experience for everyone. As brands become more and more conscious of how to use the expanding digital space effectively, personalization is a growing trend that introduces the user to an increasingly observant and intuitive digital salesman.
Brands want to get to know you. They want to learn your likes, your dislikes, and what you get up to on a Saturday night. You’re their cuppycake, gumdrop, snoogums-boogums, you’re the apple of their eye.
(Good luck getting that song out of your head.)
Website personalization allows for brands to provide visitors with the specific content they’re looking for, rather than being inundated with too much irrelevant information (which can often be off-putting to a casual visitor). It also helps brands better address an individual user’s specific needs, and boosts overall site engagement.
The aim of the game is to create a more relevant website for consumers, which leads to:
- Longer visit durations
- More product views
- Boosted site visits
- Increased purchases of relevant products
- Increased sales
These, in turn, result in some key benefits for the brand itself. It builds brand loyalty, nurtures an engaging relationship with users, helps a brand better understand their site visitors (and, by extension, their target audience), assists in converting more site users to paying customers, and makes cross-selling and upselling more effective (by suggesting and linking to similar items while a user is browsing something specific).
Types Of Web Personalization
Different types of sites personalize their user experiences in different ways, depending on brand, target audience, and the preferred call to action they want visitors to fulfil (creating an account, subscribing to a mailing list, buying a product, etc.). There are virtually endless possibilities as to how a brand could customize their websites to unique visitor sessions, but we’ll cherry-pick a few for you.
E-Mail & Social Media
A user identifies themselves to a brand by following them on social media, signing up to a mailing list, or something similar. This allows the brand to engage in targeted marketing to that specific user through email campaigns or paid ads on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter…or basically any other platform you can think of.
This sort of personalization is relatively easy to implement as it involves a minimal technical investment on the brand’s part – since everything is hosted through third-party systems like MailChimp and Facebook. But, like most things in life, the easy way has its pitfalls.
The degree of personalization obtained by this method is constrained by the available user data (which, knowing how most people choose to run their socials, is not very much), and often all a brand will have to work with is an email address. This system typically works better when supported by a form of customer relations. This provides the brand with richer data, but requires the continual creation of new content to engage with users.
Time & Geography
Web personalization has a versatile range of applications and can draw user data from almost anywhere – including a visitor’s geographic location and timezone. Using geography, a site can offer translations of content, or even customize information on existing pages to appeal to a user from a particular location. So no matter if you’re in Oslo or Timbuktu, this kind of site will always be personalized just for you. In whatever language you prefer.
While there is a possibility that a user’s location can be misidentified because of travel (and because some organizations route their web-traffic through servers in different countries – so you might be browsing in Cape Town but the site you’re visiting pitches you something in Arabic), this method of personalization is both pretty easy to implement and is a powerful way to attract international audiences.
Time-based personalization works on a similar system of identifying the user’s region, but takes note of the time of day or time of year during which they are accessing a site and creates a targeted campaign based on that (for instance, suggesting some flirtatious Valentine’s day outfits during the month of February, or wishing visitors a happy Kwanzaa in December).
It may not be as personalized as other methods, but it’s still useful – time-based site customization makes educated guesses about user behaviour at a particular time of the year or day and empathizes with them. This sort of empathy can create a more personal connection between a brand and their users.
Using Account Information
Following the same line of thought as social media and email, a user will identify themselves to a brand by creating or logging in to a site account – the website functionality can then be tailored to their needs based on their preferences or browsing habits.
Related Content Personalization
This kind of web personalization is most commonly seen on e-commerce sites – product recommendations are made based on content you’ve previously viewed, or on the behaviour of other users. So once you’ve finished looking at that really stylish pair of work shoes, the site takes its cue to recommend a whole wardrobe to go with it (often pairing popular items that have been viewed together in the same browsing sessions).
Another application of this method could be to match associated posts on a blog, creating a ‘suggested reading list’ for the user based on similar content. It’s possible to manually identify relationships between articles using detailed tags and categories – no algorithm needed.
This system is very useful for reducing bounce rates and keeping the user engaged with the site content and experience. However, it can be time-consuming to set up and maintain because all of your content needs to be properly tagged and categorized – though this could improve with advancements in machine learning.
Pretty soon, we’ll have computers doing all the hard work for us!
(Just ignore the warnings from the entire Terminator franchise.)
Personalization Is The Way To Go
To sum it all up, website personalization is becoming a big factor in how users engage with brands. If a company invests time in creating a tailored experience to each user, it improves both engagement and brand perception.
With the continuing expansion of the digital sphere, it’s becoming harder and harder to stand out from the crowd. Brands need to find a way to make their voice speak louder than the rest of the impenetrable static – and giving users an experience they’ll be sure to remember is a good way to start.