Is It Time for a Personalization Makeover?

Consumers find a wide variety of sites that use personalization and customization. So many, in fact, that they now expect the sites they visit to use this technology which means they are disappointed when they don’t find these features. It’s time to look around and experience the web as your audience does so you’ll know what they’re accustomed to. Then consider enhancing your site with some of these loyalty-building techniques.

As expectations about web site capabilities rise, there is a greater likelihood that last year’s popular and successful web site can quickly lose audience to others that have added easy-to-use, interactive customization and personalization features.

To see how easy customization can be, take a look at the My Design section at Barbie.com, where you can point-and-click your way to creating a custom “friend of Barbie” from choosing hair and eye color to naming her and assigning her personality characteristics. You can buy the doll you’ve created, or you can save her profile and change it later! Then, mass customization techniques are used to produce and ship the doll.

As consumers experience this level of customization more frequently, they begin to assume that since the technology is available, all sites should be able to offer this convenience.

Now is a good time to review the interactive features of your site to see if it’s time for a personalization makeover. The first step is to do a self-assessment to see how your site stacks up compared to not only your competitors’, but also to popular sites that your audience is likely to visit:

Review popular sites: How does your site compare to the ones on the Media Metrix top 500 for use of interactivity, customization, and personalization? These are the sites your audience sees, and the sites that set your visitors’ expectation level when they come to your site.

Study competitors’ sites: What are the special interactive features of your competitors’ web sites? Which of those features truly enhance the experience?

Analyze your audience: What interactive or personalized features can really help your audience have a better experience and make them more comfortable buying from you?

Survey advisors: How does your advisory group of valued customers or audience members feel about the enhanced features you are considering? These are the people who have used your web site and are best equipped to give you an outsider’s opinion.

Once you have decided which features to add to your site, do a “make vs. buy” analysis to determine which features your team should develop in-house and which should be purchased or outsourced. Many sites link to vendor sites to add shopping carts and discussion forums. That trend continues as sites link to vendors who supply syndicated content, personalized email newsletters, calendars, and a variety of other interactive features.

Since the personalization supplied by outside vendors normally requires profile data, it’s important to make sure you can obtain the data they collect on your behalf. Some of these services store data using one-way encryption, which means it cannot be decrypted and exported in a form you can use. So be sure to include your technical team when evaluating new technology provided by an outside vendor.

It’s always hard to project the ROI of investments like this, so look for ways to link to outside services that will enhance your site. But make sure there is a migration path for those features you may want to bring in-house in the future.

Keeping a site fresh with appropriate interactivity can help your audience anticipate a great web experience when they decide to visit your site.

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