The growing importance of website personalisation

website personalisation

Personalised content is a hot topic right now as more and more businesses seek to tailor the experiences they create for consumers. Acquia‘s stand at DMexco – on which we’ll be making an appearance – is all about website personalisation this year. Which begs the obvious question: what is personalisation and why has the delivery of personalised content become such a priority for marketers over the last couple of years?

What is website personalisation?

To put it simply, website personalisation is the dynamic delivery of content to a user based on what the website owner knows about that user.

Let’s look at a really simple example. A user based in the UK clicks on a link to retailer’s website. The retailer operates all over the world and has many different versions of their ecommerce website to serve different territories. The UK-based user has clicked on a link which leads to the US version of the site, so, when the user arrives they’re prompted, by a pop-up piece of content, to go to the UK version instead.

Through a fully automated process, the website has detected that the user is based in a different region and, based on that piece of information, has delivered an item of content to make the user’s experience better.

But personalisation can go much further than this. Apart from the IP address there are many, many other bits of information about a user that can be gleaned by website software. These range from the user’s precise geographical location, to the source, campaign or particular ad from which the user was referred, to the device and browser they’re using to view the site. All of which can be used to tailor content to suit the user’s needs.

Bring in cookies and secure log-ins – which can be used to track a user’s behaviour across multiple visits to the site, recording what content they’ve already seen, how they’ve responded to it and what actions they’ve taken – and the possibilities of personalisation start to grow exponentially.

What’s the point?

In the above example, where the user is redirected to the right version of an ecommerce website, the benefits for both user (doesn’t waste time looking at products they can’t buy) and business (user is much more likely to buy something) are obvious. But there are many other ways in which personalisation can be used to improve the experience of the user and help drive them towards completion of goals that are important to the website owner.

More engagement

Suggesting further content to a user, based on what you know about their preferences, can help keep them on your website for longer. You see this a lot with publishers who make their revenue from ad impressions and therefore want the user to view as many pages as possible during each visit. Even something as simple as a ‘Welcome back’ message for return visitors can help reduce bounce rates and encourage users to stick around for longer.

More purchases

Suggestion engines on large ecommerce websites like Amazon’s use the visitor’s purchase and search history to prompt the user to consider products which proved popular with others who had a similar history. This fully automated process can help drive revenue by creating sales that otherwise wouldn’t have happened or which would have occurred on the sites of other retailers. The number of different variables that can be used to guide this process (age of the user, number of children, profession, location, hobbies, time of day, weather etc) is unlimited.

More conversions

Knowing where in the sales cycle a website visitor is can help you deliver tailored content which helps guide them towards converting into a lead or a customer. For example, if you know a visitor has already downloaded your whitepaper on marketing automation you’ll want to display a landing page which takes this into account, not one which assumes they’re completely new to the topic. Tailoring content for users based on who they are and where they are in the buying process can help dramatically improve conversion rates.

More convenience

Web audiences are increasingly mobile and increasingly time-pressured. They expect their digital experiences to be relevant and convenient. By anticipating their needs, and delivering content which serves those needs, you can help your users achieve their goals more quickly, getting an edge over your competitors and building brand loyalty (not to mention repeat conversions) as you go.

This last point is possibly the most important reason to start personalising content for users. As more and more businesses start to tailor content to individuals and create more convenient experiences for their customers, the expectations of users start to change, to the point where unpersonalised experiences start to feel oddly lacking.

A poll conducted way back in 2013 found that nearly three-quarters (74%) of online consumers were already getting frustrated with websites when content (e.g. offers, ads, promotions) appeared that had nothing to do with their interests. At the same time, half of surveyed marketers already saw content personalisation as critical to their digital strategies.

Now that the personalisation genie is out of the bottle, the real question isn’t whether an organisation should personalise website content or not, but rather how can it be implemented in a way that genuinely serves the user and the business, instead of just being a box-ticking exercise.

Getting started with personalisation

There aren’t many businesses with the engineering resources to come up with complex personalisation engines like Amazon or Google. Luckily though, an increasing number of experience management software providers, such as Oracle, Adobe and, of course, Acquia, are now offering personalisation platforms to help organisations deliver web and app content which is tailored to each user.

But before jumping into the deep end with personalised content it’s important to have a clear idea of where you’re going with it. Otherwise you could just end up with an expensive gimmick which does more to creep users out than it does to improve their visit. In the next post on the road to DMexco we’ll share some tips on how to create a personalisation strategy that creates better user experiences, avoids the ‘Snowden effect’ and helps your organisation achieve its goals.

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