8 Ways to Personalize the User Experience
A marketer can barely get through the day without stumbling across at least one blog extolling the virtues of ‘personalizing the online user experience’, but few actually spell out why website owners should do it or how.
Personalization is far more than simply offering a welcoming experience. It’s centred on customizing the user’s experience on your website according to his or her own tastes, preferences and interests.
It’s about speedily directing users to content you think they will enjoy based on their previous online behaviour. It’s also about doing this without being overly intrusive, creepy or stalker-like.
Check out Netflix, a very popular TV/movie streaming website. They look at your previous viewing activities and then offer the shows that they think you will like best. They also make recommendations based specifically on a show you have already watched.
Business benefits of personalization
Offering users easy-to-navigate sites that help them quickly find products and services they are genuinely interested in, without wading through piles of content that’s of no interest whatsoever, greatly benefits businesses too.
Higher conversion rates: Personalizing the user experience allows website owners to target the right audiences and attract genuine prospects. Why waste time flaunting your wares to an audience that isn’t, and never will be, interested in your products or services?
Increased revenue: Attracting real prospects and solid leads will translate into more sales.
User retention: Personalization results in more return visits, helps businesses create a loyal customer base and also encourages word-of-mouth recommendations – the most valuable form of marketing you can get.
Click here for more on the true value of social word-of-mouth marketing.
The human touch: Personalizing the user experience helps replicate the human to human interaction customers enjoy when buying offline, such as in-store or over the telephone.
To offer that sort of personalization, you not only need user data, you need to know what data to analyse and how to use it.
Mining for Data Gold
With 1.8 zettabytes of data on planet earth and counting, it’s no surprise marketers are suffering from data overload.
Reduce the pain by isolating the best sources of user data, I recommend prioritising as follows:
Start with customer purchase records: Chances are high that you already have extensive customer information at your fingertips. Mine that information to find out what they are buying, how often and how they came to your website in the first place – all highly useful data that will help you work out what they value most and how to keep them coming back.
Use website traffic analytics: Google Analytics and other similar tools give you minimal demographic information about your users, largely limited to age and location. It will give you some insight into how people came to your site, which pages they viewed and which demographic segment your business appeals to most.
Access users’ social profile data: Implementing social login on your website allows users to register and sign-in using their existing social network account IDs – such as for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+. Once a user has consented to sharing information, website owners get access to rich and accurate user data.
Depending on which particular social account the user registered or signed in with, businesses can access social data including educational background, age, gender, relationship status, interests, location, friends lists, professional affiliations and check-ins.
Using social data to access accurate information about your customers greatly reduces the chance of mistargeting users.
But, getting hold of quality user data is the key first step to keeping your customer base happy, now you need to use this information to personalize their experience on your website.
8 ways to personalize
1. Enhance the user experience: A 2013 Monetate/eConsultancy Study found that in-house marketers who personalize the user experience – and are able to quantify resulting performance improvements – see, on average, a 19% uplift in sales. Web personalization will increase the usability of your site and the easier it is to use, the happier your customers will be.
Here are four simple ways to improve a user’s interaction with your site:
- Track what users are doing and identify where they spend most of their time on your website.
- Eliminate messages and data that are irrelevant to users.
- Make the navigation and search features on your site easier to use.
- Simplify the payment processes.
2. Localization: Localize the user experience on your website to connect with your prospects and customers more efficiently. Creating different versions of websites and advertisements that are customized to appeal to local taste, culture and currency will help to increase conversion rates. Coca Cola, for example, is a truly global brand with a strong core identity. The company’s Chinese site currently features animation, imaging and icons that appeal to Chinese preferences. Similarly, the German site is almost tabular in format, with clean white space and concise blocks of text that mirror site design and navigation cultural norms.
Some basic ideas for localizing include:
- Display your website in the language that your website visitor understands.
- Make the messages on your website more personal.
- Use localized pricing for each visitor.
3. Personalized loyalty programs: Loyalty programs are a great way to encourage repeat buying behaviour among customers but they are only truly effective if all messaging is relevant, a study by Maritz Loyalty Marketing found. So, personalize your loyalty programs in order to deliver meaningful, relevant communications to an audience that will genuinely be eager to hear from you.
4. Recommendation Engines: With recommendation engines, your customers receive suggestions based on products in which they’ve shown an interest in the past. According to a report by the Aberdeen Group, 41% of leading retailers analyze site search data to personalize the e-commerce experience. Amazon popularized the practice, but the emergence of big data has brought it into the mainstream.
Recommendation systems are widely used beyond the ecommerce industry, with the insurance and finance sector now offering suggestions on coverage plans and investment opportunities. There are also a huge number of recommendation engine softwares available in the market.
5. Up revenue via personalized email: According to Experian’s 2013 Email Marketing benchmark report, personalized emails generate on average 6x more revenue than non-personalized email. Yet surprisingly, 70% of brands do not personalize.
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Today, marketers personalize their email communications in order to provide positive brand impressions, avoid unsubscribes, increase open rates and up conversions. The best performing emails include the recipients name in subject fields along with additional data points – such as location.
Other ways to improve personalization of emails include:
- Segment your subscriber list based on social data like birthday, location, profession etc.
- Test and track the effectiveness of calls to action (CTAs) and repeat successful messaging.
- Keep the email language consistent.
6. Get social networks working for you: Personalize websites by making them social. Offering social login, social sharing and social invite allows your users to merge their social life with your website experience, so empowering them to share their experience with your company. Make use of Facebook Facepile. When a user registers on your site, a notification is sent to their network letting them know, thereby encouraging their friends to check out your site.
As we already know, users are far more likely to consider a new product or service if they have read a positive recommendation posted by someone in their network. Research by SociableLabs shows that a whopping 53% of users who clicked through to a link shared by a friend on Facebook went on to make a purchase.
7. Personalize LIVE chat: Treat your customers as human beings. Just as people hate dealing with automated answering machines that are clearly in place to benefit the company rather than the customer, they also hate being treated like a number online. Include software like Olark and Zopim to engage with web visitors in real-time, helping them to find a solution and also giving you an opportunity to impress them with your high-quality customer service.
Giving users ‘human to human’ contact will give them a better experience, but taking it to the next step and personalizing it will make sure it is fantastic. Having users enter their contact information or inviting them to register via social login ensures your customer support team have all the relevant information to hand, enabling them to personalize their dealings with users. Just by clicking login with Google+ the chat software knows who a user is, can save contact information, and adds a personal touch when they chat with a representative.
8. Responsive design: According to an Emarketer study, mobile usage is set to grow 23% by the end of 2014, as users spend less time online via desktop or other ‘traditional’ media devices. So any business that wants to stay in business needs to ensure all its digital communications are mobile-friendly. Make sure your web offering works just as well on all mobile devices, including tablets and smartphones.
While these tips certainly don’t cover every way you can personalize the user experience, they offer an excellent starting point from which you can begin to reap the rewards of optimizing your web offering. I wish you happy personalizing…
There are plenty of other tips and tricks out there and I’d love to hear from you with any you’d like to add. Just post to our comments page below.
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