Personalization, done effectively, is a lot more than making product recommendations or using technology to welcome a visitor by name. Smart personalization is the process of providing more relevant content and offers to your visitors based on their preferences and behavior.
I call it persona-lization.
Thankfully, today's technologies have come a long way from those that would recommend "customers who bought my book 'Call to Action' should also buy clean underwear."
Moving Beyond Demographics
For over a decade, I've been railing about demographics' limited value. Just because your visitors fall into a certain demo doesn't mean the same things motivate them. Demographics don't reveal motivation.
Customers have individual needs and different reasons to buy. They're at different stages of the buying process. Their motivations, largely driven by their unique personalities, are diverse. To maximize ROI (define), a personalization campaign must address and effectively bucket (or segment), then persuade a visitor based on this data as well. This go well beyond demographics.
One place where demographics can be used effectively with personalization technologies: shipping rates. There is an extreme difference in shipping costs for East Coast and West Coast customers; you can make each demographic a different shipping offer.
Hunting the Bargain Hunter
This personalization is especially exciting because it effectively targeted and engaged a very distinct persona preference type -- the bargain hunter. This campaign went beyond just offering a bargain; it delighted this persona type by actually giving them a virtual hunt. Once this persona type actually hunted for a discount, it was unlikely they were going to abandon it. Many of them completed a transaction and likely told every one of their friends (another common bargain-hunter behavior).
Building a Meaningful Relationship
In these rough economic times, we're all tempted to bend over backwards for bargain hunters (who isn't looking for a bargain, right?), but you shouldn't do it at the expense of the other buyer types.
One is the relational buyer, the relationship-focused decision maker. This persona type wants to build a relationship with those she purchases goods and services from. She wants to know who she's buying from.
Jim Cain, senior analyst at Sitebrand, which develops personalization software for Web sites, tells the story of how the company reached out to relationship-focused customers:
Taking the Offline Online
Let's face it, a significant portion of our visitors simply don't like computers or spending time online. These people aren't luddites; they just live life away from their computers in the offline world. We call these shopping types the spontaneous buyers. This includes buyers with little patience on your site, visitors who won't spend time searching and looking or who won't wrestle with complex online tools and builders. So how do you deal with this type of persona? Improve the online experience not with bells and whistles but with actual help purchasing.
Online fragrance commerce site Scentiments was great at personalization offline, but it had to take it up a notch online. From Howard Wyner, CEO of Scentiments.com:
While this isn't a specific campaign, it is a concerted effort to emulate the offline shopping experience online. Your site should be good at doing what the best of your sales team does offline. After all, the best offline salesperson personalizes their pitch.
Getting Started With Personalization
While the vendors mentioned above are trusted colleagues and friends that I'd recommend, not everyone can afford these types of technologies and solutions. So if you are small or lack budget, or if you want to prove the personalization concept, there are free tools that will help you do just that.
If you want better insight into motivations and your site's current ability to meet visitor expectations, free survey tool 4Q can give you some preliminary data to start segmenting customers based on behavior. BTBuckets is also a free tool for doing personalization by behavioral segments and targeting. Of course, Google Website Optimizer (GWO) will allow you to test your personalization efforts at no cost, and BTBuckets has even worked on an integration for using GWO.
Before this, however, you might want to create a few personas and create specific campaigns designed to speak to their most base motivations. Then create experiences that will exceed their expectations.
Tell us your personalization stories through the comments section below.
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Bryan Eisenberg is coauthor of the Wall Street Journal, Amazon, BusinessWeek, and New York Times bestselling books "Call to Action," "Waiting For Your Cat to Bark?," and "Always Be Testing." Bryan is a professional marketing speaker and has keynoted conferences globally such as SES, Shop.org, Direct Marketing Association, MarketingSherpa, Econsultancy, Webcom, SEM Konferansen Norway, the Canadian Marketing Association, and others. In 2010, Bryan was named a winner of the Direct Marketing Educational Foundation's Rising Stars Awards, which recognizes the most talented professionals 40 years of age or younger in the field of direct/interactive marketing. He is also cofounder and chairman emeritus of the Web Analytics Association. Bryan serves as an advisory board member of SES Conference & Expo, the eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit, and several venture capital backed companies. He works with his coauthor and brother Jeffrey Eisenberg. You can find them at BryanEisenberg.com.
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