Last year, when I was researching solar panel installation companies online (as one does), I came across a site that greeted me like this:
Seemed pretty harmless, so I entered the digits for my zip code in Somerville, MA, and clicked “Get Started.”
If you’re from the Greater Boston Area, you probably reacted the same way I did. Watertown, nice–that’s just two towns over. Pretty cool! This brand, Sungevity, seems to get me and has presumably been an effective provider for customers in the area. Perhaps I should try to get a more detailed quote.
How Has Sungevity Piqued My Interest?
Sungevity caught my attention by creating a personalized experience for me. In short, the company’s site has implemented personalization.
Sungevity has created a powerful opportunity. Put simply, personalization is the ability or process of leveraging what we know about audiences to 1) talk to consumers like we know them and 2) deliver customized experiences to users. A lot goes into really understanding personalization, and personalized marketing “campaigns” take myriad forms in the real world.
Just for fun, I went back and tried the ZIP code for a couple of towns in upstate New York. Sure enough, I was served testimonials from customers in New York state. At one point, I used a ZIP code where the company doesn’t deliver, and I was instead served a CTA (call to action) to become a “Solar Advocate.” Well played, Sungevity.
This means Sungevity is applying personalization tactics to be both 1) functional by qualifying prospective customers and 2) personal by influencing a prospect’s decision process.
Sungevity is just one example of companies using personalized marketing, and the example above highlights the overarching concepts and value behind a trend that has taken on new meaning and importance in recent years.
While personalization is a tool that Sungevity uses in the company’s selling process, for others, it is more central to their product offering (think of your Netflix and Facebook feeds, both of which give the impression of being effortlessly tailored to your tastes).
And now, on with the benefits.
The Benefits of Personalized Marketing
1. Illuminate and React Effectively to User Context
Try as we may to design tailored user flows, the user experience of any site is going to run into unexpected use cases once the site goes live. Personalized marketing is the missing link to this dynamic puzzle.
Not only is a personalization tool able to talk to users in a variety of ways, it is also a great listener. Having an integrated layer of personalization technology running on top of your content management system (CMS) allows your site to collect implicit and explicit information about your users. This data includes your users’ demographics, online activities, and behavior—both before and after they land on your site.
With the data captured through your personalization tool, the now-dynamic site can determine which content to serve each visitor—even if it’s her first time on the site.
2. Create Lifts in Site Metrics that Impact Your Top Line
When site activities like pages per visit, bounce rates, and time on site impact your revenue pipeline, selecting the right tactic to implement can make all the difference. Personalization as such a tactic can create a customized first impression that captures visitor interests and lowers bounce rates. This can range from presenting a user with location-specific content to customizing your homepage’s messaging based on the search terms a visitor used to find your site in the first place.
For example, a 2015 report from Marketo showed users spending more than 200% above average time on site. What’s more, those same users viewed almost 4x as many pages per visit. VentureBeat and Adobe have both also released stats regarding the sort of across-the-board engagement lifts that brands tend to see with personalization. With these kinds of numbers, it’s hard to argue against the value of a great first impression.
3. Increase Brand Affinity
Though less tangible, another important reason to invest in personalization centers on the lift in your brand’s affinity. Personalized marketing provides you opportunities to continue to flex your brand and speak to different audiences while ensuring your core identity remains protected. In a 2012 consumer behavior report , Harvard Business Review reported that almost two-thirds of brand “loyalists” remain so primarily because they feel shared values with a brand. (Hence why our strategy team’s mantra is, “Talk to me like you know me.”)
4. Build Frictionless User Experiences
In addition to gathering info on users’ context when they first land on your site, a personalization program can further refine experiences as the users continue to navigate and explore the site. This helps reduce the small friction points along the way that can make or break how long a user spends on a site, and whether or not he ultimately converts.
In addition to the specific metrics mentioned under Benefit #2 above, ensuring a frictionless digital experience for users across touchpoints can contribute to moving the needle on big-picture goals as well– traction, Net Promoter Scores, brand engagement, and more. For interviews and true stories about brands that have seen success with this approach to UX, check out our nascent, ongoing Friction-Free blog series.
5. A/B Test On-Site Content
The previous benefits are great and all, but here’s where the rubber meets the road: How can you be sure your personalized marketing content is actually more effective than the standard content it’s replacing?
For this reason, any personalization strategy must incorporate a testing component. We’ll unpack this further in future posts; for now, if you’re familiar with the mechanics of A/B testing on other media channels, like email content or paid digital ads, then you’ll have a solid grasp on how it works within a CMS, too.
A successful personalization campaign involves learning, creating, delivering, and testing the right content for the right person at the right time and place on your website or digital experience. The reality is that while personalization sounds straightforward in concept, managing all of these pieces over time takes a lot of ramping up, including putting the proper processes and resources in place. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as flipping a switch—as much as the rhetoric out there would lead you to believe.
So, What’s Next?
Where can you go from here to really understand the actionable to-do’s of managing a personalization program for your brand? Over the course of the summer, Boston Digital will be releasing posts that include ready-to-use frameworks, strategies, tactics, and case studies to help your team get up and running with our proven methodology.
In the meantime, check out our latest ebook on content strategy.