How It’s Done: Personalize Your Website to Boost Conversions
By Assaf Dudai
Reading time: 6 inspiring minutes
The era of personalization, if you haven’t noticed thus far, is upon us. Actually it’s been lurking for quite a while; an Adobe survey conducted all the way back in 2014 found that one-third of marketers said personalization would be key moving forward. What has happened in the two-plus years since?
E-commerce has embraced personalization.Web shopping is one of the most personalized online experiences. We are offered items that an algorithm deems of interest to us, based on our previous purchases or lookalikes’ behavior. We are identified as males or females and offered items accordingly, we are reminded of previous browsed items; the list goes on.
Email marketing has embraced personalization. When was the last time you received an email campaign that didn’t have your name at the top? And of course personalization in email marketing goes much deeper than the salutation token. The content, the offers, even the graphics are personalized to the brim. And it works: emails with personalized subject lines are 26% more likely to be opened and marketers have found a 760% increase in email revenue from segmented campaigns.
Music services have jumped on the personalization wagon as well. Spotify and Apple Music, the two leading streamers are thriving on their personalization features that curate playlists, radio stations, album and artist recommendations based on direct information solicitation from subscribers during registration, and machine learning.
But the most shining example of personalization, ironically or not, is paid advertisment. Whether on Facebook or via Google’s sprawling ad-network(s), online ads are the true manifestation of the power of personalization. The ads you see, or ignore, while you browse the web are entirely different from the ones I see. Each of us sees ads based on browsing behavior and patterns, sites visited and links clicked.
Who’s Left Behind?
You must feel cramps in your stomach while reading this because you are realizing that your company’s site is not even close to what is described above. Indeed. So, who’s left behind in the personalization fingers race? The content-centric web, and the B2B web.
As much as I love the New York Times, and I do - have been one of their first subscribers since the paywall went up - their site is as personalized as taking a bus. Same goes for The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The Economist and New Republic. And if you think yeah, but all these are ancient print creatures, let’s look at the creatures of the web, the publications that were born and raised online: Huffington Post, Vice, Mashable, Vox, TNW - nothing is personalized about them either. They might be cool and champions of baitable headlines, but in their UX they are as old-school as their print counterparts.
This is just weird to me. In all my time reading the NYTimes I have never clicked any article in either the Sports or Obituaries sections - so why do I still see them? It’s been years! I’m not going to all of a sudden be interested in groups of men running with or after a ball, or dead people for that matter. Just not going to happen.
The other big, black hole of online personalization is the B2B web. That’s you. B2B sites are insultingly generic in the experience they offer visitors. How generic are they? They are so generic that the vast majority of B2B sites don’t even keep tabs if you are a first-time or returning visitor to customize their offering to you.
It reminds me of when my own mobile carrier offered me a special promotion for switching to them.
Why Personalization is Crucial for B2B
Because the B2B buyer journey is long and rocky and many different decision makers take it simultaneously. Let’s explain this.
You know this already: bottom and top of the funnel content is inherently different.
You know this too: different decision makers are interested in different aspects of a product / service.
So visitors arrive to a B2B site with different questions, needs and assumptions. In the B2C web, things are a bit more straightforward; if you sell shoes, all your visitors arrive with the same thing in mind - I want something new on my feet. And still, they are treated to a VIP experience - Very Informed and Personalized experience, whereas B2B visitors - a much more specific, critical, and varied bunch - are all treated to the same generic experience; insert: sound effect of a mind blowing.
Add to that the fact that a B2B purchase exceeds a B2C purchase by many cash folds, so there is much more at stake with every B2B visit.
What is a Personalized Website
Bad news first: we are still a few years from a true personalized website.
My own vision of a personalized website: think Flipboard without the need to define your interests mixed with a face-to-face meeting with a sales rep. It’s not even a “site” as we know it, it’s like the difference between basic cable and on-demand. With one you’ve got fixed programming, with the other you have programs - you decide how to fix them.
So depending on your persona, your browsing history and a future-version ABM, when you arrive to a B2B site it will completely customize itself for you, in real time.
Now let’s jettison boosters and glide back to reality.
A personalized website is, in today’s limitations, one that makes use of dynamic text and is able to match between its visitors and the most relevant content for them.
Dynamic text is an up-and-coming feature that adjusts homepage’s H1 or 2 according to either the search query that a visitor arrived on, or the referral source (like ads.) For example, if I were to Google “best food for fat cats with three legs” the dynamic text feature will make sure that the home page will say “Best Food for Fat Cats with Three Legs” - and I will be thrilled that I found exactly what I was looking for.
Matching between visitors and the most relevant content for them is done by various forms of widgets, sliders or overlays, scroll-triggered or exit-intent, preferably backed by an algorithm (full disclosure: my company, BrightInfo, is in the business of personalized content recommendations). The idea is to try and figure out, as precisely as possible, who the visitor is and recommend relevant content to her stage in the buyer journey and role in the company.
Obviously, if we are dealing with a returning visitor, that either converted or not, we have a lot more to work with. With first-time, anonymous visitors, the situation is much more complicated. But you can actually get a lot of information about anonymous visitors, which is a whole different article, but check the SlideShare right here to learn how to get more intel on your anonymous visitors.
The Power of Relevancy
Personalizing your website visitors’ experience is all about showing your relevant side. Numbers don’t lie - 95% of anonymous visitors leave your website without introducing themselves, meaning, they don’t convert. The reason they don’t convert: they don’t find you relevant. Simple as that. Think about it logically - if you visited a site and realized the product / service they offer can be of use to you, or the content you consumed was informative, insight-rich and actionable, wouldn’t you want to hear more from these guys?
The thing with B2B is that most visitors arrive to your website for a reason. Their searches are more focused and specified, their clicking on referral links is more measured. Once they arrived to your website, it is your conversion to lose. Again, if you are able to prove your relevancy to them, they will convert.
The way to showcase your relevancy to the highest number of visitors possible is by alternating the content you are offering them. For that, you need a diverse content pool to work from, but you also need to recommend the right piece of content, to the right visitor, at the right time. Depending on the RTP (real time personalization) tool you use, this can be configured manually by cross-referencing rules with lists, or automatically by an algorithm.
The Impact of Personalized Content Recommendations
As you can imagine, the impact of personalized content recommendations on engagement and conversion is profound. Here is a quick example from a customer:
This is not surprising. As mentioned before, once you’ve got my attention - you’ve provided me with valuable information, or you’ve demonstrated that your product is of interest to me - I want to stay in touch. Why wouldn’t I? It’s like stopping to watch a really awesome film in the middle. Why would you?
*The writer is Head of Content at Brightinfo