How to embrace personalization in optimization

By Leeban Ali, UX consultant



The Drum Network article

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December 15, 2021 | 7 min read

Personalization and optimization are part and parcel of many online experiences. They help promote online sales. However, they’re too often thought of as distinct concepts, with different teams delivering activity. Personalization works best when used as part of your optimization toolkit, left in its own silo without playing a part in a broader experimentation strategy, may render it void.

Foolproof on how to use personalisation as an effective tool in your optimisation strategy.

Foolproof on how to use personalisation as an effective tool in your optimisation strategy.

Personalized experiences are predetermined based on data about a user – i.e., because they’ve performed an action in the past something changes about the experience in the present. They differ from customized experiences which tend to be determined by the user themselves through their own actions.

84% of consumers say being treated like a person, not a number, is very important to winning their custom. Particularly online, where the human contact you would usually get in store is lacking. This trend has led to an influx (89% of digital businesses) of investment in personalized digital experiences. Those adopting personalization have seen positive impacts on conversion, loyalty and revenue.

How personalization and optimization work together

The main goal of optimization activity is to convert more visitors into customers. Personalization should be thought of as one of many tools used to optimize digital experiences. A website could have a streamlined checkout funnel, been tested and optimized to the nth degree, yet fall down because it doesn’t cater to the differing needs of users i.e. wanted to feel recognized. In this instance, personalization could be that crucial last step in an optimization strategy, helping to elevate user experience and boost conversion.

Enriching the pre-click and post-click experience

Personalization can feed into conversion rate optimization at two main points of the customer journey: pre-click and post-click.

Pre-click personalization and optimization

Pre-click refers to anything before the user has reached the website – this is where personalization in digital marketing can increase visitors to a website. This often takes the form of targeted advertising, where ad content is tailored towards the specific interests and behaviors of online consumers. Companies like TUI have seen success from using personalized dynamic advertisements.

Increasing traffic does not always mean targeting new visitors. An increasingly popular method of communication is the use of trigger-based emails. These are usually sent to previous users who start but don’t complete an online journey. NatWest sends in the region of 250,000 trigger-based emails per month to follow up with customers who don’t complete an application, enabling them to resume where they left off, contributing to an additional 1,000 sales per month.

Post-click personalization and optimization

Once a user has entered a website – the post-click phase of the journey – on-site personalization has the potential to convert visitors to purchasers. One way to do this is using dynamic landing pages, where messaging is altered based on their search terms, browsing behavior or referral domain.

NatWest uses dynamic landing pages that match the content from price aggregators when users arrive from there. This tactic has resulted in a 120% uplift in conversion and contributed to 10-15% of overall customer sales.

Recommendation engines are more advanced methods of on-site personalis]zation. By using data like a users’ previous behavior and those of similar users, algorithms recommend products that a user might want or need.

At Netflix, 80% of what users watch comes from personalized recommendations. Sophisticated recommendation systems aim to predict what a user would want to watch using vast amounts of data at the member-level (previous streaming behavior), context-level (time, device, etc.) and content-level (program meta-data), which then dynamically alters the layout of the homepage.

Key considerations for personalization

Personalization seems like a no-brainer for better optimization and importantly conversion. However, there are three key steps to ensure your personalization efforts result in better returns:

1. Define your personalization strategy

In a recent study, 79% of companies investing in digital personalization that exceeded their revenue goals were found to have a documented personalization strategy. A good personalization strategy has continuous testing and optimization at the center – some forms of personalization may work, others may not – it’s about finding out what works for your users, prioritizing changes and continually improving over time.

2. Understand your user

Users want personalization but avoiding the inclination to pack websites full of personalized features is essential, as it can have detrimental effects on their overall experience.

When thinking about personalization, it’s important to consider whether it meets user needs. Personalization hits the mark when it delivers value. When you understand your users, through a blend of analytics and qualitative research, you can make more informed personalization choices.

3. Invest in data

Customer data is the backbone of a personalization strategy. Without sufficient data, you cannot implement impactful personalization. It’s critical that existing data sources are identified, whether that be offline, real-time or previous behavioral data, and systems are put in place to collect necessary additional data. Key to this is data integrity - targeting users based on out-of-date data can have adverse effects on the experience and brand perception.

To summarize...

Personalization can be an effective tool in your optimization strategy, in an age where users need to feel like they matter. However, it requires a clear plan of action, an understanding of users and the necessary data if it’s to have the intended impact on your bottom line.

Leeban Ali, UX consultant at Foolproof.


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