Personalized websites compel visitors to stay longer and show more interest in your products and services. The act of personalization is also beneficial as it forces companies to look deeply into the types of customers they attract and how to best respond to them.
What does website personalization do? It simply changes what each visitor sees by showing more relevant images, text, and other components. Before a website can start to personalize content for each visitor, it needs data about the individual to make informed choices. Once a personalization choice has been made, it may or may not be changed depending on the type of personalization used:
- Implicit: The previous behavior of the visitor determines the content of a web component. If the visitor's behavior changes, the component content may change
- Explicit: The component content is initially determined by a setting or event and the content remains the same until purposefully changed, usually by a third party
- Unpersonalized: The web component will always look the same no matter what
The following are some examples of the data sources used for website personalization:
Based on what you have already purchased the online store will feature products that relate to previous purchases or abandoned purchases. Almost every person has a different purchase history so each experience is different. Other personalization can be based on order size, the number of orders, length of subscription, etc. Personalization is usually implicit. Example: Amazon
Similar to eCommerce stores, these websites feature content that relates to previous consumption choices. Personalization is usually implicit. Example: Spotify
Based on where the visitor is, the website shows content that better targets visitors from that region. This may be offering only products that are available in the visitors country, displaying content in a local language, or showing more culturally sensitive images. Personalization is usually explicit if the visitor stays at the same location. Example: Netflix
Knowing if it is day or night, or breakfast or dinner time is sometimes useful for personalization. By determining your IP address, websites can easily do a time zone lookup and render content that works better for that time of the day. This type of personalization is a great way to creatively change the look and feel based on the time of day. Personalization is explicit. Example: McDonalds
Any time a visitor fills in a web form and submits it, there is an opportunity to personalize the website based on the content submitted. Personalization can be triggered based on multiselection choices, or the entered text can be scanned for specific keywords that trigger different personalizations. Common personalization data sources are:
- Form fields previously completed
- Support issue requests
- Surveys completed
- Essay writing services
Personalization can be implicit or explicit.
If your website has a search feature, this can have a secondary use - to tailor the content based on the search keywords. Personalization is usually implicit.
Of course, you can always just ask the visitor what their preferences are and personalize content based on their responses. For example, you could add three multi-choice questions to your GDPR popup. Personalization is explicit.
Referral Source Based
This can be from a range of places including from:
- Pay-per-click: Personalize content based on the keyword searches
- Email: Embedded links in emails can tell the website that the referral source is an email. Arriving visitors can be shown personalizations based on the email content
- Social: Messages and Social Media posts that direct visitors to the website can be used to show content that matches the social content and, knowing they are socially active, promote content that makes it easy for them to share, like, and tweet
- Display: These are advertisements that link to your website that appear on other websites You are making the investment in display ads - personalize the experience from your display ads by basically making your website a relevant landing page
Personalization is usually explicit.
Many websites have private portal pages that require a visitor to log in to gain access. The user is typically assigned a role, like "customer", "student", "member", or "partner" and this is used to determine explicit personalization. Of course, this can coexist with all the other types of personalization. Example: YouTube
Social Media and Email Based
Websites like Facebook and Gmail show personalized content and ads based on your browsing history, inside and outside of the website, the content you post, and with Gmail, your email content.
A key element to good website personalization is the data that is used to form the personalization decisions.